Littlehampton, W. Sussex

Methodism was introduced early in the 19th century by military personnel stationed in the town. In 1809 Littlehampton replaced Arundel in the Brighton Circui records and the following year was included in the newly formedChichester Circuit, wih 9 members. A room was opened for services by a boat-builder named Stow. Services were held by ministers from Chichester at the home of a Judith Hutchings in a court off Church Street. In 1820 a large upper room was hired for preaching at 1 Montague Row in the River Road area occupied by Charles Farndell. The arrival of a young local preacher name Hore gave fresh impetus to the work and led to the building of a chapel in Terminus Road in 1825, despite his early death from consumption. The chapel was not registered as a place of worship until 1854. At the tme of the Religious Census in 1851 its accommodation was reported as 116 free and158 other seats. Attendances were given as: Morning 137 plus 82 scholars; Afternoon 54 plus 60 scholars; Evening 216.

In 1866 the chapel was enlarged for the second time, when it was reseated and renovated at the expense of William Ballard, landlord of the Dolphin Hotel, Chichester. Later the side galleries were removed and the pulpit replaced by a rostrum.

With the rapid growth of the town later in the century the chapel was sold and St. Saviour’s Church, built in New Road in 1877 by the Free Episcopal Church of England, was bought in 1896 and the nearby Jubilee Hall, renamed ‘Wesley Hall’, in 1907. In 1909 half the cost of a new pipe organ in the church was contributed by the philanthropist Andrew Carnegie.

Prominent among the Wesleyans for much of the century, both as a teacher and as a local preacher, was Henry Lock (1806-1895).

In the 1930s William E. Sangster, later to become famous as minister at Westminster Central Hall,, was stationed in Littlehampton as a probationer.

In 1875 the Primitive Methodists launched their Littlehampton Mission (becoming the Worthing and Littlehampton Mission in 1879, with a church, seating about 150, opened at Wick the following year. Despite requests in both 1889 and 1905 that Littlehampton be transferred to the Worthing PM Circuit, this was declined and the society remained in the Chichester Circuit. By 1904 membership was down to 18 and by 1925 to 11. Following Methodist Union in 1932, the Wick and Rustington societies came under Chichester Circuit in 1937 and in 1968 the Wick Chapel was sold and demolished as part of a road-widening scheme.

In 1977 talks began with the United Reformed (formerly Congregational) Church, opened in 1861, which resulted in 1980 in the union of the two congregations as Littlehampton United Church in the URC church premises at the junction of Arundel Road and High Street. The former Methodist New Road premises were demolished.

Quotations

'Some of [Sangster's] duties a young probationer he must have found very difficult. His own church at Littlehampton was divided on his arrival by a serious quarrel between two women. He talked to each alone, and then to them both together. He pleaded for a reconciliation and attempted to cement it in prayer, so the three knelt down in the chapel vestry. All went well until one of the two women added a line or two of prayer in a helpful way; her rival interpreted what she said as a deliberate violation of the treaty that had only just been ratified, and the minister had to jump to his feet to prevent murder. He was, fortunately, very agile in those days. One inhabitant of Littlehampton recalls seeing him leap over the back of an open moving car into a seat, in order not to miss it.'

Paul Sangster, Doctor Sangster, p.61

Sources
  • Littlehampton Methodism 1800-1980
  • Jill Belchamber, History of the Littlehampton United Church (2013)
  • The Widening Way: the Story of Methodism in Worthing, Shoreham and district 1820-1970 (c.1970)