History of Eltham Reformed Church
Towards the end of the 18th century, Eltham was little more than a long narrow, unmade street bordered by an assortment of cottages, stores, almshouses, the parish church and larger more affluent homes at the western end. Preachers form the Greenwich Branch of the London Itinerant Society came, at first, to a cottage thought by some to be in Elm Terrace and this was the arrangement for about 50 years.
In 1799 a small chapel was built at the bottom of Sun Yard which lay behind the Rising Sun which served for about ten years before closing. The Greenwich Association of Congregational Ministers encouraged the seeking of a new site. In 1839 a new chapel in the neo-classical style was opened at a cost of £1,200 where the Arcade stands today.
Until July 1879 all our ministers, except the first, Mr Price, had been older experienced men. Then a 24 year old straight out of Hackney College, Edwin J. Penfold was called. Eltham was his only pastorate and he was still there 40 years later.
In 1972, after many years of talking, the Congregational Church in England and Wales united with the Presbyterian Church of England to form the United Reformed Church. Eltham Congregational Church voted to join the URC. Many Eltham Congregationalists found it hard to relinquish the much prized independence of the local church to Districts and Synods but there were gains in strength and support from being part of a much larger denomination. In 1981 the Reformed Association of Churches of Christ also joined the URC.
In 1985 The Revd Clifford Charlton was called to be the minister. He served until his retirement in 2003.
|On 7th April 1993 Avery Hill United Reformed Church united with Eltham.The Avery Hill church started its life in 1860 as Deptford Church of Christ and like the Eltham church the search for suitable premises was a constant headache. They had various homes in Deptford and Lewisham. In 1957 a plot was found on the new Avery Hill Council Estate, Eltham. The following year a new purposely built church was opened.
By the 1990s the membership was declining and getting older. Maintaining the property was becoming more difficult. The two churches united and formed a new church but kept the name Eltham United Reformed Church.
Since Rev Harry Lanham’s departure at Easter 2012, Eltham United Reformed Church has been in a period of ministerial vacancy.
Commencing April 2012 the Rev Robert Draycott has been firstly Interim Moderator before being invited to be the Interim Minister.
(We are grateful to Geoff Terry – this history was extracted and adapted from his book “Independent Eltham”
and to the creators of the tapestry cushions which depict the church in different years .)