A history of Christ Church

There has been a Christian presence on our site for over 240 years and on this page you will find a detailed history of our church and its predecessors.

Zion Chapel

Matthias Peter Dupont, a retired innkeeper from Aldersgate in the City of London, opened his home in Chase Side for worship in 1778. At this time there were only two other places of worship in the Enfield Town area - St Andrew's Parish Church and Baker Street Chapel.

Zion Chapel was opened opposite Matthias Dupont's house in 1780. It cost £362 plus £30 for the land. Among the expenses of the opening service were a Bible, Watts' Psalms and Hymns and a coach and lodgings at the George Inn for the preachers. Zion was a plain rectangular building with high backed pews, a curtained-off pew for the minister and a narrow gallery. It was originally lit by a chandelier which the attendant would pull down during evening service to snuff the candles. Later Zion was the first church in Enfield to adopt gas lighting. Account books showed that the most frequent entries for expenses were rum, brandy and wine 'for vestry use' - perhaps the ministers needed alcohol to sustain them through the long sermons! The congregation stood for the reading of the Church of England prayers but sat down to sing the hymns. Singing was accompanied by a small band led by a bass-viol player, before an organ, played by the minister's wife, was installed and a choir started. At the back of the chapel was a small school room where the Sunday School Superintendent ruled through the cane, and spelling books were used more than the Bible as few of the children had learned to read.

Those who desired to become members were requested to relate to the church the dealings of God with their souls, which proving satisfactory they were admitted. Faults and lapses of members were discussed and dealt with at Church Meetings.

Chase Side and Zion Chapels
Chase Side Chapel (1791, rebuilt 1830) and Zion Chapel (1780) in the 1850s.

Ministers of Zion and Chase Side Chapels

In the days before cars many walked long distances to church, although the more wealthy would come by carriage and a horse drawn chaise was provided for the Minister. The first Minister, Mr Whitefoot, was ordained in 1781. His successor John Ryland had difficulty walking and one Sunday when his coach failed to appear and his servant was unable to catch his pony, the Minister ended up being pushed through Enfield Town to church in a wheel barrow.

In 1791 a proposal to appoint a Mr Chalmers caused a split in the congregation as some thought he was a bigamist! This was later discovered to be true, but not before Chase Side Chapel (otherwise known as The Independent Chapel, Chase Side) had been built on the adjoining site (where the car park is now). However following the discovery of structural problems Chase Side Chapel had to be rebuilt in 1830 at a cost of nearly £1,200. Until 1854 the two chapels had their own burial ground in front of Zion Chapel.

The Revd John Stribling and the Revd Henry Storer Toms

Gaps in the ministry at Zion Chapel were filled by visiting preachers, including students from Cheshunt College. It was one of these, John Stribling, who became Minister in 1832. However by 1871 his health was failing and the two churches voted to unite under the leadership of the Revd Henry Storer Toms, who had been Minister of Chase Side Chapel since 1865. As neither building was large enough for the combined congregation, Zion Chapel was demolished and the present Christ Church was built on its site.

Christ Church and Lecture Hall
Lecture Hall (former Chase Side Chapel, demolished in 1963) and Christ Church in 1900.

Construction of Christ Church

The foundation stone for the Victorian gothic style grade II listed Christ Church Congregational Church was laid by the Lord Mayor of London on 29th June 1874. It was built by Messrs Cook and Green at a cost of nearly £11,000. The architect was John Tarring, who was a well-known designer of Nonconformist churches.

The building has a brick core. It is faced with Kentish ragstone and Bath stone dressings around the doors and windows on the outside and Bath stone on the inside.

When the church was being built the architect asked the children in the congregation to collect leaves and flowers from the surrounding fields. These were incorporated into the designs for the capitals at the top of the columns.

The church was originally lit by gas and convection heating was provided from a coal fired underground boiler. The church is now lit and heated by electricity.

The church was completed when Revd Storer Toms climbed the spire to place the weather vane in position. The church was dedicated on 18 November 1875.

The stone relief carving of the Last Supper of Jesus with his disciples in Jerusalem on the apse wall is a copy of Leonardo da Vinci's famous painting in Milan. It was given by the builders.

The elaborate marble pulpit, the communion table and chair, the organ screen with the words "We praise thee O God" and the windows in the north and south transepts with their floral and geometric pattern decorations, were given by the first Minister's father Joseph Toms. He lived with his family in Clay Hill and established the Derry & Toms department store in South Kensington.

The reading desk was given by Dr John James Ridge, who was Medical Officer of Health for Enfield between 1881 and 1908 and a Deacon at Christ Church.

Late 19th century memorial stained glass windows by the London firm of Ward and Hughes represent Christ the Good Shepherd, Christ the Saviour of the world, the four gospel writers Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, Peter and Paul, three first century Christian deacons Philip, Stephen and Parmenas and the Christian virtues of Faith, Hope and Charity (love).

Church Parlour and manse

In 1885 an extension to the church was constructed. This provided additional rooms including a larger Deacons Vestry, Church Parlour, Ladies Vestry, toilets and kitchen. The Minister and his family moved into a newly built manse behind the church in 1887. The Minister had previously lived in the Chapel House which had been bought in 1816.

Christ Church Hall Mission
Christ Church Hall Mission, now Lancaster Road United Reformed Church.

Mission in Lancaster Road

Following population growth in the Lancaster Road area, Dr John James Ridge and a few friends started holding open air meetings, using an old tree stump for a pulpit. He played a cornet to accompany the singing. A corrugated iron church costing about £100 was then erected. In 1885 the brick-built Christ Church Hall Mission was opened on the corner of Browning Road with Lancaster Road; it cost £998. The iron building was then dismantled and sold to St Luke's Church.

In 1909 the Armfield Road Institute opened with halls used by the Sunday School, Band of Hope temperance organisation, Young Peoples Society, Boys' Brigade, Brownies and Guides.

What is now Lancaster Road United Reformed Church became independent from Christ Church in 1917.

British School
British School (1838) in Chase Side.

Support for children's education in Enfield

Members from Zion and Chase Side Chapels, as well as other Nonconformists, actively supported the establishment of a British School in Chase Side. £350 was raised from voluntary contributions, the balance of £250 being met by a Government grant. The school for boys and girls opened in 1838. The first headmaster was Henry Wakely, deacon and Sunday School Superintendent at Zion Chapel.

Under the 1870 Public Education Act locally elected school boards could be established to build schools for children up to age 13 from public funds. Against opposition from the Vicar of St Andrew's Church, Henry Storer Toms and Deacon George Spicer campaigned until 1894 to set up a school board for Enfield. The British School became the board's first school.

In 1901 a new school was opened in Trinity Street for 1,100 children. Christ Church acquired the former school, which became known as the British Hall and was used for children's and youth activities.

George Spicer was the leader of the Progressives (i.e. Liberals) on Enfield School Board from 1894, becoming chairman in 1897. He was Chairman of its successor, Enfield Education Committee, from 1903 to 1907. Following his death in 1911, a new council school in Southbury Road was named after him in 1912.

The Revd Dr John George James

Henry Storer Toms retired in 1905. Between 1906 and 1913 the Minister was the Revd Dr John George James. He was a talented artist and used his views of Christ Church as Christmas cards.

First and Second World Wars and the Revd Ebenezer Rees

Members from Christ Church served in the armed forces in both world wars and there are memorials in the church to those who died. During the First World War members were active on the local War Refugees Committee caring mainly for the Roman Catholic Belgian refugees.

The Revd Ebenezer Rees, who came from Wales and was a noted preacher, was Minister of Christ Church for 30 years from 1916 to 1946 and was Minister Emeritus until his death in 1966. He took a leading part in the life of the community in Enfield, helping to establish the Enfield Preservation Society in 1936. He became its Chairman and later President. He was also Chairman of the Governors of Enfield Grammar School, Founder and President of the Enfield Rotary Club, a member of the Enfield Charity Trustees and a founder of the Enfield Literary Union.

Christ Church has had a long musical tradition and in 1937 at the instigation of G Vincent Evans, the church organist and choirmaster, the Young People's Society of Christ Church was established with choral, dramatic, orchestral and social sections. From the choral section developed the Christ Church (now Enfield) Choral Society, founded in 1938.

Following the sale of the British Hall, the present Church Hall was built next to the church in 1939 at a cost of about £3,800.

During the Second World War members of the church and Boys' Brigade acted as firewatchers for incendiary bombs. From 1942 the Lecture Hall (the former Chase Side Chapel building) was used as a "British Restaurant" to provide modestly priced meals. From 1947 it was used to provide a school meals service for children.

The Revd Leonard Towers

In 1947 the Revd Leonard Towers became the Minister and moved into a manse in Waverley Road, the previous manse behind the church having been let as a nurses' home since Ebenezer Rees moved to a smaller house on The Ridgeway in 1940.

In 1947 the present monthly church newsletter was started. In 1948 Leonard Towers was influential in setting up Little Church for younger children attending the morning service. The importance of the Christian family was a theme of his ministry. In 1949 his wife Alice started the Friendship Club, initially for young mothers for whom a creche was also provided. It is now largely for retired people.

In 1953 the three-manual organ with electro-pneumatic action was restored at a cost of £950 and the console was moved from the apse to the south transept where the organist George Knott was better placed to hear all the parts of the organ and to see the conductor during choral works with large choirs and instrumentalists.

Also in 1953 the gas lighting was replaced by electric lighting at a cost of £283. This was paid for by Edgar Hosken, the Church Treasurer, and his wife.

In 1960 Little Church was combined with the afternoon Sunday School to form the Junior Church with Will Hummerstone as its first Warden. For many years children and their teachers took part in the annual Scripture Examination organised by the Sunday School Union, which later became the Christian Education Council.

Following the death of Ebenezer Rees in 1966, Leonard Towers was made Minister Emeritus.

The Revd R Vivian Buddle

Following Leonard Towers' call to the Congregational Church at Ross-on-Wye in 1960, the Revd Vivian Buddle was called to the pastorate at Christ Church and moved with his wife Mary and three young children to Enfield the same year. His pastoral care was particularly appreciated and he encouraged a number of young people in the church to become members.

In 1963, following the discovery of serious structural problems the Lecture Hall was demolished, although parts of the wall were retained to form the boundary of the church car park. Dry rot had been discovered in the main church roof in 1956 but its condition had deteriorated and following a fundraising campaign the roof was replaced and the spire was repaired in 1964.

In 1965 Vivian Buddle left Christ Church to become a religious education teacher.

The Revd Kenneth Faulkner

In 1966 the Revd Kenneth Faulkner came to Christ Church with his wife Felicity and five children, who were to play an active role in the life of the church, particularly in the choir.

Later in 1966 the Congregational Union of England and Wales was replaced by the Congregational Church. Having failed to obtain the required majority in 1971, Christ Church had to wait until 1973 to join the United Reformed Church, which was formed from a union of the former Congregational and Presbyterian Churches.

In 1975 Christ Church celebrated its centenary with a re-enactment of the original opening, an exhibition on its history organised by Donald Potter and a dinner and social evening.

The Revd H Roy Martin

Following the move of Kenneth Faulkner to Petersfield in 1979, the Revd H Roy Martin became the Minister in 1980. He brought to Christ Church his experience of working for many years in the Church of South India and his pastoral care was particularly appreciated.

Following Leonard Towers' death Roy Martin was appointed Minister Emeritus.

The Revd Adrian Bulley

In 1988 the Revd Adrian Bulley (who was later to become Moderator of the Wessex Province of the United Reformed Church) accepted a call to the pastorate of Christ Church and moved with his family into the newly acquired manse in Churchbury Lane. Several younger families became actively involved in the life of the church and groups for mothers and toddlers and making banners were set up.

In 1991 Christine Willis was ordained as a non-stipendiary minister and served as an associate minister at Christ Church until 1993.

Interim ministry

Following Adrian Bulley's departure in 1993, Christ Church received valuable ministerial leadership from several interim moderators and three short term interim ministers who were able to bring to Christ Church the benefit of their experiences in other countries - the Revd Joe Pratt (1994 to 1996), who had previously served in the Church of South India, the Revd Egland Graham (1999 to 2001), who originally came from Jamaica, and the Revd Alan Abraham (2002 to 2003) from the USA, who Christ Church shared with Lancaster Road and Ponders End URCs.

In 1995 the Church Parlour and Ladies Vestry were demolished to provide access to a care home built on the site of the former manse behind the church.

The Revd David Atkinson

Between 2004 and 2013 the Revd David Atkinson was the Minister of Christ Church and Lancaster Road URCs, living in the Christ Church manse and normally conducting the morning communion and family parade services at each church.

Among David Atkinson's initiatives was the Every Person Challenge where members were challenged to go for growth through prayer, Bible study and evangelism to build up the church fellowship.

The Revd Henriette Wentink

Following David Atkinson's retirement in 2013, Christ Church agreed to share a full-time stipendiary minister with Bush Hill Park and Lancaster Road URCs. The Revd Henriette Wentink, who originally came from the Netherlands, was ordained and inducted into this new North Enfield Pastorate in 2015 and moved into the Bush Hill Park URC manse.

She was able to bring to the churches her range of experience working with various groups both in Britain and overseas. She challenged members with her ideas for the future of Christ Church. In 2017 a group attended the JustOne event led by the evangelist J.John, who encouraged us to go out and share the gospel with others.

The Revd Mark Meatcher

Following Henriette Wentink's call to serve as Minister at Trinity URC Plymouth in 2017, the three churches in the North Enfield Pastorate were without a minister. As the three churches in the South and East Enfield Pastorate (Palmers Green, Ponders End and Winchmore Hill URCs) were also vacant, ministers were sought for both groups of churches.

In 2018 the Revd Mark Meatcher was inducted to serve as Minister to the North Enfield Pastorate and his wife, the Revd Melanie Smith, was inducted to serve as Minister to the South and East Enfield Pastorate. They moved into the Winchmore Hill URC manse.

Members from all of the URCs in the borough have been able to attend and take part in a wide variety of events and activities. The ministers have brought many new ideas to their ministry in Enfield, including exploring beliefs and bringing the Christian message to where the people are. They have also challenged us on issues such as social and racial justice, fair trade and ecology. Their approachable manner and sense of humour are invaluable assets.

In 2022 Mark Meatcher and Melanie Smith left Enfield, having accepted a call to serve through the Council for World Mission (CWM) as Partners in Mission at the Pacific Theological College (PTC) in Fiji.

The Revd Ruth Dewis

In 2023 the Revd Ruth Dewis accepted a call to serve as Minister to the North Enfield Pastorate. Having recently completed her training at Westminster College, Cambridge, Ruth was ordained to the ministry of Word and Sacraments and inducted as Minister in a service held at Christ Church in September 2023.

At Christ Church, in recent years The Worship Group has conducted a service most months and has introduced new ideas including involvement of members of the congregation. Other morning services have been led by local lay preachers and retired ministers. Special services have been held at church festivals.

The church has also been used for concerts by various organisations including Chase Side Primary School who have held their annual carol concert in the church since David Atkinson established links with the school.

Organisations and activities

When the Church Hall was built in 1939 it had a stage and productions have included many musical works by "Will Kinlock" such as The Battered (sic) Bride performed by members of the choir and plays and sketches by adults and young people including members of the youth club and the uniformed organisations. Musicals performed by young people have included Greater Than Gold, A Grain of Mustard Seed and Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.

The hall has also been used for bazaars (including one opened by a future prime minister, Margaret Thatcher) and social occasions, sometimes with participants in period costume. Recent innovations have included Holiday at Home for those unable to have a holiday, Holiday Memories Evening and a church Christmas lunch.

The hall has at various times been used by sports clubs, the Choral Society, Friendship Club, Sunday School, Little Church, Junior Church, Pilots, Adventurers, youth clubs and uniformed youth organisations - Boys' Brigade, Rainbows, Brownies, Guides and Rangers.

When the hall was not required for church-related activities, lettings have provided a useful source of income as well as serving the community and providing opportunities for outreach.

Relations with other churches

Proposals for unions with St Paul's and later Trinity churches, as well as plans for closer links between Methodist and United Reformed Churches in Enfield and Edmonton did not come to fruition. However, members from Christ Church have taken part in joint services, Bible study groups and other events such as elders days and church weekends with friends from Lancaster Road URC since 2004 and Bush Hill Park URC since 2015 when the churches shared a minister. Since 2018 members have supported events at other URCs in the borough.

Members have also been involved in recent years with ecumenical services and Lent Bible study courses organised by the North West Enfield and Enfield Town and Forty Hill groups of churches.

Christ Church has hosted various Christian groups meeting on a Sunday afternoon including the Pure Word Healing Ministries and the Spirit and Life Baptist Church.

Christian outreach

A number of members of Christ Church have served abroad including, most recently, Sylvia Coombs in the Solomon Islands.

In recent years Christ Church has supported Christian Aid, Shanthigramam haven in India for those who once had leprosy, a Church of South India project for weavers, Goldie College in the Solomon Islands, the Bible Society, Sightsavers, Crisis, North London Hospice, North Enfield Foodbank, Cheviots home in Enfield, suppers for the homeless in Enfield and Khristiya Seva Niketan Hospital in West Bengal, India. Volunteers have also helped with the Homeless Overnight Respite (Winter Night Shelter) hosted by Lancaster Road URC.

For more information see:

History of Christ Church, Enfield by J. S. Stribling 1917

Nonconformist Churches in Enfield by Geoffrey Knight EHHS 1973

History of Christ Church, Enfield by Fred J. Gould and John R. Day 1975

Enfield School Board by Sylvia Collicott EHHS 1985

We the Music Makers (celebrating 50 years of Christ Church/Enfield Choral Society) 1988

A History of Enfield by David Pam EPS, volume 1 (before 1837) 1990, volume 2 (1837-1914) 1992, volume 3 (1914-1939) 1994

Enfield Past by Graham Dalling 1999

The Enfield Book by Graham Dalling 2007

Lancaster Road United Reformed Church 1885-2010 by Revd Roy Eames, Jim Holliday and others

History of the 3rd Enfield Boys' Brigade by Robert Wilson, www.3rdenfieldbb.co.uk

For more information on the stained glass windows, organ and memorials see the Guide to Christ Church URC Enfield (available in the church).

Most of these publications may be consulted at Enfield Local Studies Library and Archives in the Dugdale Centre, London Road. This library also provided black and white drawings and photographs for this page. The History of Christ Church URC Enfield booklet is available in the church.

Much of the content on this page was written by Stephen Gilburt and is correct as of September 2023.

Ministers of Zion Chapel

1781 to 1788 - W Whitefoot
1788 - John Ryland
1788 to 1791 - Mr Oakley
1791 to 1803 - Isaac Nicholson
1805 to 1813 - W. Whitefoot
1816 to 1824 - William MacDonald
1825 to 1826 - Thomas Thorn
1826 to 1830 - John James
1832 to 1871 - John Stribling

Gaps in the ministry were normally covered by visiting preachers. For example, students of Cheshunt College officiated in the pulpit between 1831 and 1832.

Ministers of Chase Side Chapel (otherwise known as The Independent Chapel, Chase Side)

1792 to 1793 - James Chalmers
1794 to 1827 - William Thomas
1828 to 1848 - S A Davis
1849 to 1854 - George Wilkinson
1855 to 1857 - Dr Tidman
1858 to 1859 - W Martin
1860 to 1864 - W Slater
1865 to 1871 - Henry Storer Toms

The Zion Chapel and Chase Side Chapel congregations merged in 1871 and Christ Church opened in 1875.

Ministers of Christ Church United Reformed Church (formerly Christ Church Congregational Church)

1871 to 1905 - Henry Storer Toms
1906 to 1913 - John George James
1916 to 1946 - Ebenezer Rees (appointed Minister Emeritus in 1949)
1947 to 1960 - Leonard T Towers (appointed Minister Emeritus in 1967)
1960 to 1965 - R Vivian Buddle
1966 to 1979 - Kenneth F Faulkner
1980 to 1987 - H Roy Martin (appointed Minister Emeritus in 1985)
1988 to 1993 - Adrian J Bulley
1991 to 1993 - Christine Willis (Associate Minister)
1994 to 1996 - Joe Pratt (Interim Minister)
1999 to 2001 - Egland Graham (Interim Minister)
2002 to 2003 - Alan Abraham (Interim Minister)
2004 to 2013 - David Atkinson
2015 to 2017 - Henriette Wentink
2018 to 2022 - Mark Meatcher
2023 to present - Ruth Dewis