In 1908 the Takeley Chapel celebrated its Centenary in New Buildings and a History of the Chapel to that date was written down.
From this handwritten 1908 account and the minutes contained in the book we read the following.
On January 15th 1812 the Worshippers at the Chapel called themselves a Society of Protestant Dissenters worshipping at Brewers End Meeting, Hatfield Broad Oak, Essex. The Church was established by four members of Hatfield Heath Congregation, Thomas Smith, Elizabeth Smith, William Watts and Elizabeth Humphreys on November 9th1908 attended by the rev Hyatt, Mr Collinson and Mr Harrison.
The first minister was Rev John Hanson of Lowerby Green Yorkshire who was appointed after being dismissed from his church in Yorkshire on December 2nd 1811. The ordination of Rev Hanson took place on January 3rd 1812. The ministers present were
Rev C Berry Hatfield Heath
Rev John Jennings of Thaxted
Rev Chaplin of Bishops Stortford
Rev Stevenson Castle Heddingham
Rev Gaffee of Stansted
Rev Richard Frosh of Dunmow
Rev Corbishly of Abbots Rodding
From this we learn that women had equal rights as members, chapels functioned without ministers and lastly ministers were taken directly from other congregations and though coming into a distinct congregation were recognised by the ministers of other chapels; the more the better.
The first chapel accommodated 250 people and we learn that during its lifetime it was often crowded out.
The Rev Hanson’s ministry continued until 1856. Rev J Taylor assisted him between 1850 to 1854 as did Mr JS Binder in the last year of his ministry. On July 22nd 1850 it was decided to replace the chapel roof and buy land for a stable.
In March 1850 Church minutes started to be taken. The first entry is an invitation by Mr George Smith of Barnstone house to the Rev J Taylor to preach.
In 1851 new trustees were appointed for the chapel who included;
Joseph Dixon Warish Hall
William Glascock Colchester Hall
George Smith Barnston House
Isaac Smith Lower Hall, Dunmow
Moses Baltrop Broxted
It was also decided to charge 10 shillings for common graves and 2 shillings and sixpence for every marriage.
The minutes also include details of church disciplines, names of new members and members moving on.
In 1858 new rules were made that allowed the Society to send Mr G Smith and Mr W Glascock (a deacon) as messengers to represent the church in conjunction with the pastor to the General and District Meetings of the Essex Congregational Union.
Mr Binder succeeded Rev Hanson until 1859 followed by the Rev Henry C Hardiman of Worplesdon Surrey. Mr Hardiman resigned in 1884. Lay preachers carried on the work until 1885 when an evangelist, Mr Shipley took over for a year. It was at this time that a fund was started for the repair and modernising of the original Chapel. From 1868 to 1886 there are no church minutes. From 1886 to August 1887 Mr George Freeman was pastor and the chapel was renovated.
For seven years after this there was no pastor and the preaching was undertaken by students from a college in Cheshunt while a Rev D Grigsby lived in the Manse and carried out weekly duties.
In 1889 Isaac Smith and Thomas Main procured a new trust deeds.
In 1891 there was a growth in the number of members and Broxted chapel started to have meetings every 3 months. There was also regular cottage meetings on Bambrows Green, an extra prayer meeting on a Wednesday evening and a Young Men’s Bible class started. The church was active in Temperance work and tract distribution.
Mr Charles Wall was a wealthy member living at Darley Dale in Hope End, Gt Canfield who took upon himself the renovation of parts of the chapel and proposed the opening of a school room in the chapel with a reading and recreation room.
The rules for the recreation and reading room included no gambling and card playing and
1. That the society be known as the Takeley Recreational Institute.
2. That the objects of the society be to provide a Reading Room with papers, periodicals and games and to arrange for lectures and debates for the instruction and amusement of its members
It was open on Monday evenings from 7 to 9pm and the sub was 1p a week.
In 1894 Mr Percy F Boyd of Lewisham was elected pastor and officiated until April 1901. He was proposed by Charles Wall and was paid £50 a year for his services and charged £10 annually for the use of the Manse. Mr Grigsby whose place Mr Wall had taken as deacon moved on to Bascombe.
In 1896 Broxted was so well used it began to have a monthly meeting.
In 1899 Mr and Mrs Wall transferred to Grays Congregational Church. In 1900 the Broxted Buildings were renovated at a cost of £100 and the Manse was in disrepair. The pulpit was supplied by Hackney College until 1905.
By 1902 the chapel was in a very poor state of repair and by March a new chapel complex was proposed by Charles Wall. Building began in the week of July13th 1902 and was completed by October 15th 1902.
By November 1906 Takeley Recreational Hall was completed. The management committee included C Wall and Isaac Smith, Miss Dainty, Revd C Hempthorne, Messrs W Barker, W Bolden, J Frankham, W Galloway, W Lambert, W Littler, H Nash, Robertson-Scott Scourfield, A Searles, Cooper- Smith and W Lambert.
In 1902 Takeley had decided to join the Bishops Stortford District Free Church Council and from 1906 they submitted a monthly article to the Free Churchman for publication. In 1906 Mr C Wall was re-elected as a deacon but this was rejected by the congregational Union as he was not a member. Also in 1906 Isaac Smith died after serving the church since 1866.
On January 6th 1906 the Conveyance of Broxted from Sir Walter Gilbey was made legal and Mr Charles Wall purchased for the Church two cottages and the land behind the stable. All the deeds were sent to the Congregational Union at Memorial House in London.
On November 28th 1905 Mr D Harries received a hearty and unanimous call to the pastorate. In March 1906 a stipend of £100 a year was offered and 75% of the offering as well as free rent. Mr Harries was given the call again in December of 1906 and accepted in January of 1907. Also in 1907 the stables were rebuilt and a recreation hall built above them. Mr Charles Wall paid for all of this. In 1907 he became Justice for the Peace in the area.
From September 1907 the Chapel had joined with the Congregational Union and submitted articles for publication to the District Magazine.
On February 27th 1908 a new organ was installed and in April the pulpit was moved to a side wall of the Chapel also a report was a made as to the conduct of the members in the Billiard room and Recreation hall resulting in new rules being drawn up for the hall and The Young peoples Guild.
However by September 3rd 1908 the use of the Billiard room was suspended. In 1908 Mr Harries salary came into question and by 1909 he had resigned. In 1909 Mr Wall resigned as treasurer writing off the Chapel’s debt.
The chapel was then supplied from Feb 4th 1909 by Cheshunt College. A Pastor Donaldson from Cheshunt was deacon but was asked to stop preaching on August 1st 1912.
Until September of 1913 there was no Pastor but from September 7th four pastors agreed to take services in rotation. Charles Wall was still signing the minutes of the chapel until 1914 and a Miss Cook was the secretary. She resigned on 27th January and Mr Frank Barltrop took over. Mr Wall also announced that he was finally leaving Takeley for Grays.
In August 1914 the son in law of Mr Wall was invited to be pastor of the Church. Rev J Phillip Stephens BA of Richmond Congregational Church accepted and was installed on September 10th.
On September 17th the Recreation Hall was being used as a recruiting centre for the Great War. On 9th October Charles Wall died.
On December 11th 1916 we read that Mr Burton of Dunmow was being asked to be the minister. By March 9th 1917 Rev Burton was in the chair and on May 22nd 1917 the chapel was asking for the exemption from military service of their Lay Preacher Mr Burton.
In October 1919 the chapel was again in financial difficulties as Mrs Wall left Takeley.
In 1930 the British Legion became leasees of the Recreation Hall and billiard room. In 1933 there were reported irregularities again at the billiard hall.
On November 30th 1933 the trusteeship for the whole property was passed over to the Essex Incorporated Congregational Union.
Miss M Piper became deacon on September 14th 1934 and Mr G Piper treasurer on September 23rd.
On November 1st 1934 the Recreation Hall was licensed as a dance hall and a dance hall committee formed. By January 19th 1935 the committee discussed whether dancing should be ever allowed again because of irregularities. By January 24th they decided 9 to 5 that they shouldn’t, but Whist drives could continue with prizes.
On the 7th March 1935 it was decided not to widen the constitution to allow the Recreation Hall to become the village hall. The British Legion terminated its tenancy on March 30th 1936 and the chapel decided not to be represented on the committee for the New Village Hall.
On September 29th 1938 the Harvest Festival was put into question because of the “National Crisis”.
On 4th January 1941 J Bush became deacon in “war conditions”.
On 14th May 1942 it was acknowledged that the congregation had dwindled and it was proposed that there should be a new pastorate. This however did not happen and it was not until 16th May 1963 the Rev Burton resigned and moved back to Dunmow leaving a very small congregation.
It was on 23rd January 1964 that Pieter Kraay became Lay Pastor for Takeley.
On 3rd November 1966 the Manse was sold.
In 1972 the congregation decided not to become members of the URC as they held themselves to be an Independent Evangelical Congregation and became associates of the Evangelical Fellowship of Congregational Churches (EFCC) taking back the trusteeship of the buildings. The trusteeship for the buildings was passed over to the Fellowship of Independent Evangelical Churches Limited (FIECL) in the early 1980s.
Takeley Chapel congregation is now a partner Church of Rural Ministries and is entering a period of reform.
On the 27th June 2009 Philip Elson lead a meeting to celebrate 200 years of the Chapel and 20 years of the school. Philip gave a history of the Chapel and looked forward to the future of the Christian witness on the site. The gospel was preached powerfully by Philip.
And that is at the heart of the congregational Church witness in Takeley;
Matthew 28:18-20 (ESV) And Jesus came and said to them, All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.
Its mission is to bring this message to the village of Takeley and live the reality of Takeley Chapel being at the heart of the community with a thriving work of God.