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Christ Church United Reformed Church

This church is well known in Tonbridge due to the prominence of its building in the heart of the main shopping centre.  It has a long history and is the second oldest existing church body in the town after St. Peter & St. Paul.

The Congregational Church in Tonbridge was founded in 1751.  Meetings took place in a small upper room of a coach house at the rear of the White Hart Inn.  In 1791, a site was found for a new building in Back Lane, alternatively known as 'Workhouse Lane', now named Bank Street.  The new chapel, which was known as the 'Independent Chapel' was completed on 19th March of that year and paid for a week later.  This building remained the place of worship for this church for the next 85 years.  In 1838 some of the members of the church left to hold their own services, later becoming the Strict Baptist Church.  In 1866, the Baptist members of the church left to form Tonbridge Baptist Church.

A new chapter in the history of the Congregational Church began in 1871, when the Rev. David Harding began his ministry there, remaining for seven years.  The need for a new and more convenient chapel became increasingly urgent as the ministry of the Rev. Harding proceeded.  Congregations were growing and the premises were becoming more and more inadequate.

It was originally proposed to build a new and larger church on the same site in Back Lane and for this purpose two adjacent cottages would be demolished.  However, the church decided to move south to the present site in the High Street instead, which was considered to be nearer to where the population was growing.  The centre of activity in the town had shifted away from the castle and market area towards the new railway station and depot.

Exterior of the church built in 1875
Photo © Courier Newspapers

The foundation stone for the new church building (above) was laid on December 1st, 1875 by Samuel Morley, MP.  On 13th March 1878, Rev. David Harding, the much loved minister during the time of rapid growth in the Church, sadly died within a few hours of contracting smallpox while visiting a sick member.

In 1972, the United Reformed Church came into being shortly after the Congregational Church in the town had been renamed 'Christ Church', as it is presently known.  The building remained until 1976 when major rebuilding became necessary.  This was mainly due to the great flood of 1968, which had taken its toll on the old timbers and foundations (below, left).

Interior of the old church during demolition    The present Christ Church building
Left-hand photo © Courier Newspapers

The present church building (above, right) was opened in September 1978.  Nine years later the old hall at the back of the Church was demolished and rebuilt to provide the present Christ Church Centre.  This now provides excellent facilities for all kinds of activities for young and older people alike.  The buildings are open from Mondays to Saturdays as a centre where anyone can call in for a coffee, chat, a prayer or just for company.  The modern buildings are home to many church groups for all ages and provide a good setting for lively worship.

For 250 years Christ Church has served the town alongside the other churches.  Like other churches in the town its buildings are used by various groups in the local community.

Since 2003, Christ Church has been the home of 'Fused', a monthly youth service attended and organised by youth groups from several of the town's churches.  With up to 150 teenagers attending each month, it has become extremely popular, and is also a place that young people feel comfortable inviting their friends.

Web For further information, visit Christ Church's website.

Main content and research © 2000 L. M. Simms and TOUCH 2000 / Tonbridge United Churches
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