Well Hill Mission is hidden away in a beautiful setting between Well Hill and Firmingers Road. It is part of the parish of St Martins, Chelsfield, and services still take place at the Mission. It is thought to be one of many Missions built to serve the hop pickers in the Darent Valley. The article below giving some of its history is reproduced by kind permission of Joy Saynor. In the later years of the last century, as Parish populations grew, arrangements were made by conscientious incumbents to provide facilities for worship at a distance from the parish church, it being realised that for the less able bodied a four mile walk to church was almost impossible. In [the parish of Shoreham] three Mission Chapels or Mission Rooms came into being, at Otford Lane, in Twitton and in Well Hill. The reason for building two of these chapels – those in Otford Lane and Well Hill - was the new-found prosperity of these two areas of the parish in the 1850s and 1860s – part of the mid-Victorian economic boom accompanied by the second railway line to the touch the area, that of the South Eastern line to Tonbridge, with its station at Halstead (now Knockholt). Much ot the old woodland had been cut down (as later Sales Catalogue in the lost Mildmay papers described) “During recent years, a large acreage of woodland... has been grubbed up and planted with fruit [so that it is] one of the best for fruit growing [with] easy access to the different railway stations”. The railway carried the fresh fruit to not only the London markets but those of the hugely increased northern industrial towns. Workers were attracted from outside the area, many of whom had little connection with the church – another reason for the new chapel. The Twitton Mission Room, the smallest of the three buildings, was opened first, on 9 December 1890. The opening service “would have been perfect had not the room been so tightly packed”, for 75 worshippers together with the orchestra, crowded in, leaving many unable to obtain admission. The decision to build Well Hill Mission Chapel was first taken in April 1889, and the subscription list opened with £20 from Lord Dunsany, f100 from Mr HB Mildmay and 15 guineas from Mr Spencer Chadwick from Highfield, who was appointed honorary architect and had soon found a suitable site in Well Hill, “the Chestnut Copse that abuts on the bridle path leading form Well Hill to Park Gate”, where “a space 80 feet by 45 feet will afford ample room for the erection of the Mission Chapel”. Two years later its commencement was still awaited. The costs, it was found, would be double the sum of money already in hand, and “energetic effort” would be needed to raise a further £150. Announcing a bazaar in aid of the Building Fund, Mr Bullen, the Vicar, commented rather cryptically: “If people value the work that is being done in the parish, they may just be ready to back it up with something more valuable than melted butter.” (sic) When, on June 22 nd 1893 the “pretty and much admired chapel” was opened for public worship, the Building Fund was still short of some £160. The celebrations began with a tea in the Church Army tent, and Holy Communion was then celebrated in the Chapel, but only 28 worshippers attended. Subsequent events to clear the outstanding debt included a sale of work in the grounds of Shoreham Place, when “articles of use and beauty” and “tasteful bouquets and fruit” vied with “the popular 3d. Tea Tent”. This raised some £38, while £14 was forthcoming from a second sale, held at the Flower Show, when “Miss E Broom gave about one and a half dozen pincushions very prettily made from the shell of the large Roman Snail”. Another problem for the chapel arose ”as to the Archbishop’s licence, it being uncertain whether His Grace will approve of a beautiful tapestry curtain to screen the Sanctuary, or whether he will insist on the architecture of the Chapel being spoiled by a solid moveable partition being erected.” The Archbishop won the day and granted his licence only after solid doors costing £15 had been erected as a screen and a debt of £121 was still outstanding and, sadly in the previous December, Spencer Chadwick had died at the early age of fifty-two. 1983 Joy Saynor Parish Magazine Well Hill featured in the Parish Magazines regularly and the following is a typical example of the goings-on in the pre-war period. This extract dates from January 1939. The Rector was keen to ensure that worshippers could not use the state of the path as an excuse for non- attendance!
Chelsfield A Community Archive
Well Hill Mission
Services still take place at Well Hill.
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