A brief history of the Chapel and Christianity in and about Effingham

We celebrate our 166th Chapel Anniversary in Oct 2020 and 175 years of being a community in the village but the gospel has been preached and lives committed to Christ in Effingham since Saxon times – presumably since AD674, when the Venerable Bede recorded dwellings here as having been granted to the Benedictine Monastery in Chertsey.  There is now no remnant of a Saxon church, although Saxon artifacts have been found locally but the earliest part of St. Lawrence’s Parish church was probably built around AD1260. A continuous line of vicars from 1237 proves an unbroken chain of witness to this day.  

A key date in Free Church history is 1689, when William III (of Orange) promulgated an Act of Toleration permitting ‘Dissenters’ – today we call them Protestants – the right to places of worship if registered by the Anglican Bishop. Methodism, originally a ginger group within the Church of England, had taken root as a separate movement, and nowhere less than in Dorking. Wesley visited Dorking 21 times between 1764 and 1791, preaching to such effect that a meeting house was opened there on 23rd. December 1772. 

It was in 1842 that Methodists first met for services on Effingham Common and in 1844 that a member of the Dorking Society, Rev Aaron Langley, using the format prescribed in the Toleration Act as endorsed by John Wesley, obtained from the Bishop of Winchester’s registrar a licence “that the dwelling of Mrs. Mary Cooke in Effingham be intended forthwith to be used as a place of religious worship by an assembly or congregation of Protestants”. Mrs. Mary Cooke lived at 4, Church Cottages (still there), and after 10 years the flourishing Society built the chapel in which we now worship, in the heart of the village.

Nancy Murrell, also lived at no 4 Church Cottages until she got married and moved to Oreston Lane.  The picture shows the row of cottages where she lived which are only a few yards away from where the Chapel was built. Her father Mr William Pollard lived there until he died in 1966.

Mrs Winifred Pollard was another staunch Methodist directly descended from Rev. James Rogers, one of Wesley’s closest colleagues. You will recognise her name from the memorial tablet in our Chapel garden.

In 1913 “Our Lady of Sorrows” RC church was built in the village through the benefaction of George Pauling, a railway engineer from South Africa.

In 1954 the hall (known in Methodism as the schoolroom) was built on to the Chapel to celebrate our centenary.

Membership of the Methodist Society fluctuated in the 1960’s between fourteen and twenty-four; in these years we find the beginnings of an awareness of our sister churches in the village. United services were undertaken. A joint service was held in our chapel during the week of Prayer for Christian Unity in 1972, with Father Loder, Rev. Leslie Perfect and Rev. Kenneth Vaughan Jones participating. During the late seventies our numbers were so low that we were threatened with closure but the Dorking & Horsham Circuit was persuaded to keep us open as a going concern. With fresh folk joining, the Society was confident enough to embark in 1991/2 on a major modernisation of the premises costing over £50,000, plus a new organ.  During the building work our services continued in the chapel of the Anglican Convent of the Sacred Passion, with refreshments afterwards in the RC hall belonging to Our Lady of Sorrows. In the newly-restored premises, we held our re-dedication in January 1993 in the presence of Wesley’s successor, Rev. Dr. Kathleen Richardson, the President of Conference.

The ecumenical impetus this gave us in the village remains and flourishes to this day. As ‘Churches Together’, a working Ecumenical Forum in Effingham and Little Bookham, we have a 3-monthly shared Holy Communion service at St. Lawrence or All Saints, and all kinds of events including Tuesday Teas, Messy Church and the Connect Group. Effingham churches continue to serve the community on a wide front!

In September 2010 Effingham Methodist Church became part of a local church Pastorate with the Leatherhead Methodist, Christ Church Leatherhead and Cobham United Churches( Previously Cobham URC & Methodist).  The Rev Kim Plumpton looks after the Cobham United and and Effingham Methodist Churches and Rev’d Jan Hofmyer the Leatherhead Methodist Church and Christ Church Leatherhead ( United Reformed Church).  Although the Methodist Churches are still part of the Dorking & Horsham Circuit, we hope this arrangement will strengthen the witness of the local churches and enable us to meet the needs of our local communities well into the future.

 The Dorking and Horsham Circuit celebrated its 175th Birthday in November 2019.

The Chapel also takes part in the National Heritage Weekend celebrations each year.

History by L.J.Rogers with acknowledgements to “W.I. History of Effingham” 1973.