Maidstone

Accordng to local tradition Methodism was first brought to the town by a man from Strood who came one Sunday morning and held a prayer meeting on St. Faith’s Green, but no one attended. He prayed and visited a few nearby families. Returning a week later, he had one woman as his audience, which encouraged him to persevere. But no date is attached to this.

It is known that by 1791 a small group of Methodists were meeting regularly in a room on St. Faith’s Green, rented for £15 a year and visited by preachers from Rye. This continued until 1805, when the first small chapel was built in Tyler’s Lane (now Union Street) and opened by the Rev.Joseph Benson. Maidstone Circuit was formed in 1814 and a new church was built in Union Street in1823. In September 1868 the Quarterly Meeting agreed to the opening of a house in the present Upper Fant Road for use as a Sunday School and evening services. Three years later a group of local Methodists bought a building in Bower Lane, converted it into a chapel and schoolroom and made it available as a place of worship.

The Bower Lane mission continued in use until in 1880 the site of the present church in Tonbridge Road was bought. Foundation stones were laid on 12 December 1881 and the new church was opened on 6 September 1882. An Infant School building was added in 1888 and a small organ provided for the chapel in 1890, serving until replaced in 1930. The use of the schoolroom as an emergency hospital during an epidemic of Typhoid Fever in 1897 proved a setback for the church with the need to build up numbers when it reopened. But gas lighting was introduced by a new Trust in1902 and gas radiators replaced tortoise stoves in 1907. Interior renovation followed in 1913. The letting of pews continued until the 1930s. Wartime decline was reversed during the ministry of the Rev. Percival M. Despres 1921-1926, supported by a deaconess, Sister Lily. The envelope system was introduced in 1921 and central heating installed in 1924, with the electric lighting of 1913 modernised in 1932, the Jubilee year. World War II saw no loss of life such as had been recorded on the war memorial of 1914-18. A range of activities continued into the post-war years.

Towards the end of the century, a new central front entrance with ramp access and a vestibule were built, the choir pews were removed, the communion area was remodelled and the pipe organ replaced by an electronic one.

Sources
  • Tonbridge Road Methodst Church, Maidstone 1882-1957
  • One Hundred Years: Tonbridge Road Methodist Church, Maidstone: Centenary Souvenir