• Winchmore Hill
    • First recorded in a deed of 1319 in which it is spelt Wynsemerhull. In Old English,  ‘merhull’ translates, as ‘boundary hill’.  It might be speculated that the overall title could mean ‘Wynsige’s boundary hill’.  By 1395 the name had been altered to Wynsmerhull and by 1565 the village was known as Wynsmorehull, becoming Winchmore Hill by the time it was mentioned in state papers in 1586.
    • At the heart of the area is Winchmore Hill Green and it is close to this that Winchmore Hill United Reformed Church, ‘The Church By The Bridge’, can be found.  Its history is as obscure as its earliest participants would have had to remain.  The first permanent structure was a modest, wooden chapel, erected on nearby ground then known as Wood Corner over 280 years ago, at the latest in 1742.   However, there are pointers to a secluded gathering towards the end of the previous century. 
  • The Beginnings of our Church
    • Described in a history of the Church written by Rev. W.A. Oyler-Waterhouse (1937-1962), published in October 1953 as a substantial part of the church’s ‘directory’ for the forthcoming year. 
    • John Radford was Deacon and Trustee under the Pastorate of Rev. H. Pawling (1821-1842).  In a fund-raising appeal dated 3rd November, 1840, John Radford explained that the lease of the Chapel land would expire in June 1841.  Mr. Waterhouse added other interesting snippets which lead quite reasonably to the conclusion that the lease would have been for 99 years and that the ‘Old Meeting’ (House) can be dated, speculatively but almost certainly, to 30th September, 1742.
    • Originally it was a little wooden building tucked away in the woods somewhere to the right of the bottom of Branscombe Gardens, and was backed by a burial ground which stretched as far as the old Woodside Cottages on Church Hill.  (Walk along Broad Walk from The Green to the first right turn, at the end of the road is a gate into Grovelands Park.) 
    • By 1785, not only was the forerunner of our church known, in full, as the ‘Independent Old Meeting’ but also as a ‘Conventicle’.  These names hint at a longer history.  It may have begun as a meeting place or simple shelter where those who had separated from the Church of England met in seclusion, as a ‘conventicle’, and were safe from detection by the King’s Officers upholding the (anti) Conventicle Acts of 1664 and 1670. 
    • When the Old Meeting was pulled down and the foundations were prepared for Woodside Cottages, the surprisingly large number of bones of persons who had been buried near it would place the date of its construction at least half a century before the references above; even, perhaps, going as far back as the Conventicle Acts and thus placing our origins into the late seventeenth century.  At that time Winchmore was a village without public amenities or a church and protected by the dense forest of Enfield Chase.  If, later, the likes of Dick Turpin could hide here, then Dissenters could have met discreetly outside the ‘Wood Gate’ to the village. 
    • Our roots, then, may stretch back some 330 years to the time of the Quaker Meeting House, the first place of worship to be established in Winchmore Hill in 1688, if not, as has been suggested in friendly rivalry, before then.  Some of our first members would have been charcoal burners who worked in the woodlands.

This sketch is a copy of one made by Robert Barnes in 1839. 

  • Beginnings of our Church (cont)
    • The original building is most likely to have been built of old weatherboards gathered by the local, dissenting farmers and labourers.  When such buildings became unfit for further use they would be reconstructed.
    • At first it would have been called, simply but enigmatically, ‘The Meeting’.  The other adjectives, ‘old’ and ‘independent’, would have been added as it became more established.    This shows a more substantial building at Wood Corner than the original, as it would have looked when the end of the lease was imminent. 
    • There is an interesting aside in an article in The Recorder for Palmers Green, Winchmore Hill and Southgate on 25th February, 1915.  (Vol.8  No 10).
    • “In 1810 they (the Congregationalists) erected a modest little timber structure in Wood Corner, which served as their place of worship for several years.  The two cottages which now stand adjacent to the entrance to the wood are constructed out of the early chapel, and it is said that the staircase in one of these was originally that which formed the means of ascent to the pulpit.”
  • New Independent Chapel on Hopper’s Lane (now Road)
    • 18th August, 1844 – 30th October, 1869
    • It is said of the Rev’d Henry Pawling, who was called to the Old Meeting in 1820, that he “laboured for twenty years in the midst of people quite incapable of affording him adequate pecuniary support.”  (Waterhouse p 8)  Moreover, “This revered gentleman also conducted a school in Palmers Green.” (Ramsbotham et al p 18)  The church was, presumably, blessed by his energy and independent means.
    • From a letter written by Mrs Yallowley in 1843, we learn that, “The meeting has been supplied during the past eighteen months by Cheshunt (College) students,” and that after their ejection from the Old Meeting (House) the congregation met on private property.  There were financial difficulties for the congregation which are attributed to the ‘Church Party’ which was influential in opposition to the Independent Meeting.
    • It is not surprising, therefore, to discover that when ground in Hopper’s Lane was given for the new chapel, little more than a quarter of the cost of the building had been raised.  Also, although the ground behind the chapel site was adequate for a “much needed” school, the need “cannot be commenced for want of pecuniary assistance.”  However, a white brick chapel was constructed where the railway now passes under Hoppers Road, on the Green side with land backing on to the current premises in Compton Road, near what is now Arlow Road.

The Hopper’s Lane Chapel can be seen on the left behind the trees.

  • Hooper’s Lane Chapel
    • The new Chapel was opened on Tuesday 13th August, 1844 when the President of Cheshunt College preached the sermon.  From then until 1846 it continued to be supplied by the students.
    •  “It was a big building, high with pinnacles of the Gothic variety.  It stood some thirty feet back from the road and its white bricks were faced at the angles with white freestone.  It had long lancet windows on both sides.  There was a gravel path all round building and laurels marking the boundary of the property.  The vestry was at the back and there was a large square of turf on which the children’s treats were given.”  (Henrietta Cresswell)
    • It survived until 1869 when the site was compulsorily purchased under Parliamentary powers by the Great Northern Railway.

The ‘Iron Chapel’: October 1869 – October 1871

A temporary, iron chapel was provided by the railway company, rent free.  It was erected on the wedge shaped piece of ground just beyond the ‘skew’ bridge on the west side of Hopper’s Lane (now Road). 

The plot was opposite where Arlow Road and Arundel Gardens now stand.  It was 20 feet wide, thirty-two feet long with a central entrance porch 6 feet by 5 feet. 

There was no room for Sunday School and so arrangements were made to use ‘Hope Cottage’. 

  • Compton Road
    • A second temporary chapel was rented from October 1871, probably on the present site.  There is no building shown on the 1867 Ordnance Survey and the Minute Books of the period records the ‘re-opening’ of the Church in 1873.  Was this a smaller edifice, temporarily used for worship after the Iron Chapel had been vacated, or was the temporary use of the Iron Chapel extended until the new church was ready?  During structural repairs to the Church in more recent years, foundations have been uncovered indicating the existence of a building prior to the present one.  It seems that our present church building came into use in 1874; by the custom which followed of marking the anniversary on the first full weekend in October, it is assumed to have been Sunday 4th October that year.