The Church by the Bridge - 100 Years of Good News
(Also known as ‘the Baptist Union Church of Little Kimble’ and ‘Kimble Free Church’).
The following report has been gleaned from various documents including church meetings and newsletters. Dates are not always clear in old documents so as accurate as possible at the time of going to press.
The history below speaks about the history of the various incumbents of the church over the years, yet behind the names always was the committed and passionate drive of these faithful women and men of the congregation, the deacons and the leaders, to share the Good News of the love of our Lord Jesus Christ with the neighbours of this church.
It is apparent from the history below how Jesus' command to 'Go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit' (Matthew 28:19) was taken seriously right from the word 'Go'.
Free Church and Baptist witness in Kimble goes back as early as 1636 when the Goodchild and Hampden families were prominent. It is known that Richard Goodchild of Kimblewick was active among the General Baptists of the Vale of Aylesbury helping form a widely scattered church that often gathered for worship at his farm.
However, it was not until 1860 that a chapel was actually built in Little Kimble.
The original deeds were burnt during the Second World War, but we know that Mr. Thorne and Mr. Eldridge were among those who built it. Unfortunately, they soon had to mortgage it to secure £100 and worship was discontinued.
The church was later revived in December 1875 under the name of ‘the Baptist Union Church of Little Kimble’. There were six founder members: Eli and Maria Simmons, James Beckett, John and Caroline Hailey and Joseph F Castle, who became the first Pastor.
The census of 1881 shows an entry by Joseph F Castle where he lists his profession as ‘boot maker and Baptist Pastor’.
Church records show that Joseph Castle signed his last minutes in November 1890. In the 1891 census he lists himself just as ‘boot maker’ indicating that his position as Pastor had ended.
In 1883 it had been discovered that the foundations of the old chapel were giving way and money had to be borrowed from Mr. Butcher the banker. Baron Ferdinand de Rothschild came to the rescue and the church was renovated at the cost of £20 (of which the Baron contributed £10).
The place was renovated the seats stained and varnished, the doors grained, the walls coloured and the platform carpeted.
In November 1883 the church defined itself as being for use by Baptists and Congregationalists.
After 1890 there is an unexplained gap of 15 years in the church records, until New Year's Day 1905, when the church renewed its covenant and made a fresh start with two members of the old fellowship, Deacon James Beckett and George Rogers, together with seven who gave in their names as desiring to meet together in church fellowship and professing faith in Our Lord Jesus Christ. One of them was Charles Little of Grove Farm whose family would have important significance in the life of the church.
The church joined the Bucks Baptist Association and Mr. T Wright appears to have had responsibility for pastoral oversight from 1905 to 1908. No records have been discovered from 1908 to 1912.
On 20th May 1912 it was announced that Mr. E J Bonnett would be invited to become the Minister of the church which he duly accepted. It is believed he officially started in October 1913 after his membership was transferred from Union Church in High Wycombe.
The original chapel was very hard to find and had been described by Alfred Ellis as a "little building down a side lane, almost inaccessible and undiscoverable". It was neither convenient nor comfortable and church records (from 1972) show that it was being used as a garage storeroom before new houses were built in ‘Old Chapel Close’.
In 1915 the church decided to seek new premises. The present site was bought from the Earl of Buckinghamshire (heir of the Hampden family) for £7.10 shillings (£7.50p) and a building fund was started.
The Great War intervened and so it was not until 1922 that the foundation stone of the new church was laid. Six or seven hundred people saw Miss Megan Lloyd-George, the daughter of the Prime Minister lay the stone on behalf of her mother.
It is understood that there is a bottle deposited behind it containing the names of the 50 members of the church at the time.
The Revd Dr John Clifford who had known and loved the neighbourhood for 60 years also laid a stone in memory of Eustace Little, who had recently died, well into his nineties; Dr. Clifford himself was 86.
The Little family had been, and were to continue to be, greatly influential to the life of the church.
The church building was completed the following year and in celebratory fashion on 9th July 1923, Dame Margaret Lloyd George led the congregation into the church and "gave a fine address". Dr Clifford dedicated the Church and in his sermon he talked about how the church would be a “place of joy and a witness to those who pass by”.
Over 500 attended the celebration tea that followed.
The church’s Minister Mr. Bonnett had completed the work he had set himself nearly twelve years before and just over six months later he tendered his resignation. He presided as Minister until his ‘farewell’ service on February 3rd 1924. It was not to be the last we heard of Mr. Bonnett as he was to return and assist the church on many occasions in the future.
From February 1924 to January 1931, Mr E. Evered (who was a Deacon and Treasurer) presided over church meetings.
On 28th January 1931, the church entered into a joint pastorate with Southcourt Baptist Church in Aylesbury.
Rev’d Henry C Shaddick was appointed and remained Minister until May 1938.
A short interregnum followed until January 1939 when Rev’d Gordon C Williams from Cardiff College was appointed. His pastorate was short and he left on 26th May 1940. It is unclear if the outbreak of the Second World War in September 1939 was significant in influencing his decision.
On 14th August 1940 the church asked Mr. E J Bonnett to return to oversee the church. He agreed to take the role on for three months but ended up providing Pastoral care for the church until 23rd September 1945 just after the end of the war. After that he continued to reside over church meetings along with a variety of other names (C E Jones,
Mr Woolcott, Mr Luckett, Rev’d C P Thomas, Rev’d F G Benskin, Rev’d Maxwell Berry and Rev’d W T Goodwin) who all helped provide experience and insight until December 1950.
On 13th December 1950, John Phillip Ede was inducted into the church as the Minister. He resigned in October 1956 and had a ‘farewell tea’ on 22nd January 1957.
The induction of Sidney G Beecroft took place on 21st March 1957. He was appointed as ‘Lay Pastor’ but had the opportunity to train for ‘full-time’ ministry at Rawden College shortly into his Pastorate. His new role as ‘student Minister’ continued until 12th July 1961 when he moved to a church in Corby.
A remarkable entry was made in the churches minutes on 10th May 1961. A special meeting had been called to discuss the future of the church having received the announcement from Sidney G Beecroft that he would be leaving.
Rev’d Gervan from Wendover conducted the meeting and recalled the events leading up to the ministerial vacancy. After doing this the following is recorded in the minutes; “at this point, Mr Gervan reminded us of a text ‘there was a man sent from God named John’ and assured us that as we are without a Minister God will send someone to us”.
Whether Mr Gervan knew more than he was telling or whether he was speaking a word of prophecy is unknown but four months later on 24th September 1961, the church called John T Chandler from Buckden in Huntingdon to become the churches new ‘Lay pastor’.
Mr Chandler became the Pastor in 1961 and wrote THE first ever Kimble Free Church newsletter published in April 1962. The newsletter was in production until 2016.
In February 1969 the name of the church was formalised to be ‘Little Kimble Free Church’, but remains to this day a Baptist Church affiliated to the Baptist Union of Great Britain.
After a long and rewarding ministry, Mr Chandler resigned in December 1973 but carried on in other capacities within the church until at least September 1975.
Rev’d Walter B Harris was inducted as Minister on 4th September 1975. Sadly his wife died during his Pastorate in 1980 but he continued as Minister of the church for a further two years until he retired on February 28th 1982.
Colin Furse became the churches Moderator from April 1982 to April 1986.
The last meeting of the Girls Brigade that had run for 43 years in the church was on 15th July 1986.
From April 1986 to November 1986 the Deacons ran the church until Frank Garvey was appointed Moderator. He left that position in August 1989.
Dinah Hargreaves became the Church’s first lady ‘Minister’ on September 1st 1989.
She was a ‘student Pastor’ whilst training at Spurgeons College, after which she ended her three-year term at the church as a Reverend and left on 27th September 1992.
From the 10th of October 1992 Fiona Smith from Regents College was the next ‘student Pastor’. She finished her training and pastorate at the church on 30th July 1995 with the title of Reverend.
From August 1995 to March 1997 Frank Larkin acted as Moderator at the church until Rev’d Derek Hill was appointed in April 1997. His induction was on Saturday 14th June 1997. He said farewell to the church on 26th March 2000.
A short Interregnum followed from April 2000 to December 2000 until Rev’d Roger Crawshaw was appointed Interim Pastor from January 2001 to November 2001.
The churches third student Pastor in 12 years was appointed in December 2001. Ray Bayliss special ‘welcome’ service was performed on Saturday 19th January 2002. Ray completed his Pastorate and studies at Spurgeons on September 2004 having received the title of Reverend.
An interregnum followed from October 2004 to August 2005 under Rev’d Steve Smith who acted as Moderator.
Dwindling numbers meant the church membership were asked to consider if it had the funds and will-power to remain open.
After consideration and prayer, the church decided that the church should remain alive and continue to provide a witness in the community.
In September 2005, the church appointed Val Pyper as ‘student Minister’. She completed her course at Spurgeons in September 2008 having secured the title of ‘Reverend’. She accepted a call to be ‘full-time’ Minister of Kimble Free Church in October 2008.
Val moved on to a new ministry at the end of July 2016 having being involved in almost 11 years of fruitful ministry at Kimble.
From August 2016, the church entered a time of interregnum (between ministers) and the leadership team began seeking the person that God has appointed to lead the church in the future.
During this period Pastor Ken Payne was appointed as moderator and mentoring friend to the church, and remained moderator until the appointment of Kai Turck.
It is during this period that the church members had the vision to extend the back of the building by a larger kitchen and modernise the toilets allowing the church Hall to be better used as a multifunctional area.
This project was completed in February 2020.
During the lockdown periods of 2020 and 2021 the church continued with it's Services, sung worship and Bible Studies using Zoom.
In February 2021 Kai Turck was appointed as part-time newly accredited minister (and selling Dental Equipment in the other days).
Kai’s Induction and Ordination to Pastor took place on the 2nd of October of the same year.