The History of Handcross Chapel

The following account is based on a history of the chapel published many years ago. 

Handcross has a small red-brick Baptist chapel standing well back from the main road, and almost hidden by the shops and houses. About the year 1775 the Holy Spirit was at work in this village, calling out a people for the Lord. After a while these seeking souls began to find one another out, and started holding meetings in one cottage or another for prayer and the reading of the Word. They do not appear to have had any minister or teacher, but received their instruction as the Holy Spirit opened their understandings and applied His Word to their awakening hearts. Those were hard and rugged days; people were very poor, consisting mainly of woodmen and farm labourers. Their well-thumbed Bibles were in most cases their only books, and many could not read at all. Yet they spent many precious hours around the Word of God.

Handcross was not then the village that we know to-day, for it was little more than an isolated stop for the daily stage-coach which plied between London and Brighton. But these anxious seekers after truth decided to arrange some meetings for the purpose of discussing the possibility of forming a New Testament Church. So they gathered on three separate occasions, seeking for the Holy Spirit’s guidance, in order that they might make a right decision in relation to the nature of the church which should be formed.

They had not come to form a church of their own conception, nor had they any desire for a mere denominational existence: they wanted to know what the Holy Spirit said on each question. They were anxious to be constituted a New Testament Church - but what kind of church was that? Was it a church practicing infant sprinkling, or a church baptizing by immersion? Was it to be a congregational church or one of the presbyterian order? Each question was considered openly and without prejudice, and after three meetings they arrived at the conclusion that an independent Particular Baptist Church, was the nearest to the New Testament model. Here was one fixed desire - to have nothing but that which was clearly revealed in the Word of God - no party, no denomination, as such, but that which was right in the sight of God.

As soon as a decision was made, steps were taken to constitute such a church, and in May 1778 it was decided to ask the pastor of the Baptist Church at Sevenoaks and the pastor of the Baptist Church at Wivelsfield to form the community at Handcross into a Particular Baptist Church. In 1780 Thomas Humphreys, who had been the leader in the course of their enquiries, was chosen as pastor of the church.

The first chapel at Handcross was built in 1782 on the same site as the present building, and was a simple wood and plaster structure, a drawing of which is hanging in the vestry of the present chapel. Worshippers came from East Grinstead, Dormansland, Edenbridge, Crawley and a number of the surrounding villages and hamlets.

After sixteen years of service Thomas Humphreys received a call from the church at Brighton, and in June, 1796, with the prayerful consent of his people at Handcross, removed to what was then a little fishing town. The next pastor to be chosen was William Fuller, who ministered from 1797 to 1829, a period of thirty two years. During his pastorate a Sunday school was commenced which continued for many years.

By 1885 the old wood and plaster chapel, after over a hundred years of service, was beginning to show its age, and a new building was becoming a necessity. In 1887 the Trustees met to consider the matter, and encouraged by a donation of £50, they resolved to proceed with plans for a new building. The work was carried out and completed in 1888.

Since that day the church has continued in the worship of God, and in maintaining a witness to the truth in the village and the wider area. Our fixed desire still is to hold fast to the Bible, the Word of God, and that souls may be brought to the knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ, to His glory and praise.