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The History of River Ministries (Norfolk)
Watton Pentecostal Church - A History
of the Building
Early Days In 1855 the
Congregational Church obtained the plot of land, on what is now Watton
Pentecostal Church. The minister at the time was Rev. Alfred Griffin, and they
were fast outgrowing their current building, what is now Loch House, in the
Dereham Road. The church had formed 38 years previously "to relieve the
spiritual destitution to the inhabitants of Watton." (A Congregational Church
record) in 1818.
Plans soon got underway and on April 3rd.
1856, the Rev. John Alexander of Norwich laid the foundation stone. It would
seem that building was even quicker, because on 10th August 1856 the new
building was opened with a special service! The original trustees of the
building were William Rook, Cook Wright Alexander, Thomas Lane Alexander, John
Edmund Alexander, William Robert Clarke, Robert Clarke, James Greaves, Robert
Ellett, William Pearson, William Meek Burton Watson, James Mattless Harvey and
The church was built in Gothic
style, in common with many Protestant Churches of the nineteenth century. It
was a style associated with religious revival. The exterior walls are black
flint, with Suffolk white brick dressings and the roof is slate. The pointed
arch doorway and windows are typical of this style. The windows are glazed with
opaque leaded glass, with a surround of bright coloured stained glass on the
outside. Inside is a high wooden pointed arched ceiling, finishing on either
side with a series of carved stone archivolts. These are all different and show
carvings of leaves, flowers, fruit and birds. Outside the arches are supported
with brick and flint buttresses.
Rapid Growth to Slow Decline
In 1862, to mark the bi-centenary of the
ejection of "the Immortal 2000" from the Church of England - those clergy and
schoolmasters who refused to confess their consent to everything contained in
the book of Common Prayer, a schoolroom was built on the back of the church.
Further improvements were made eight
years later, when a gallery was erected in the church, because of the increase
in congregation over the previous two years. The access to the gallery was up a
wooden spiral staircase in the tower. The money for this project, and two brass
gas standards, was given by the Alexander family, a family that had much
influence on the church at that time. In spite of this expansion, giving
accommodation for 200 people, at the reopening services on 17th July 1870 it
was so crowded that not everyone was able to get in.
The Congregation Church 1920
Things in the building did not change
much for about ninety years, though deterioration did slowly begin, and in the
1960's the turret on the tower in the southwest corner became dangerous, and
the upper half had to be removed. The balcony probably ceased to be used around
this time too. In the 1970's the Congregational Church became the United Reform
Church, but on Easter Sunday 1976, because of a dwindling congregation, the
church closed down.
A Change of Ownership
In 1977 the Assemblies of God Church
purchased the building, with a mortgage being obtained from Assemblies of God
Property Trust. The Assemblies of God Church was formed in Watton in the
1930's, and had outgrown their meeting place in the "Upper Room" in Middle
Street. The Trustees at this time were Rowland Forder, Ian Austin, Fredrick
Godfrey, David Bilverstone and Orlando Turner.
In the early 1980's the front of the
church was panelled off, and made into a foyer. Another smaller meeting room,
and kitchen were added to the back, making the building more useful for the new
congregation it was serving.
The interior of the church 1991
In 1988 Property Trust became the
Trustees of the building. Over the next decade alterations continued to be
made, the now deteriorating lead work in the windows meant some needed
replacing, sadly the cost involved made this largely unviable. In 1994 the
vestry (formerly the schoolroom) was refurbished, and another toilet rebuilt on
the original foundations. Then in 1998 all the wooden pews and decorative
screening were removed, and the floor was levelled and new chairs purchased.
1999 saw the front iron railings taken out, the entrance, built only for pony
and trap, widened, and the front gardens replanted. Inside the organ was
removed and sold, and a Baptistry built in its place.
A New Era
At the dawn of a new millennium, on 1st
January 2000 Watton Assemblies of God with
Pastor Chris Pye amalgamated with Watton
Community Church with Rev. Roger Pawsey, to be become Watton Pentecostal
Church, retaining its affiliation with Assemblies of God. And so work
continues, to make the building both relevant and inviting to today's
generation, reflected in our continued mandate, passed down by our forefathers,
to meet the spiritual needs of the people of Watton. While not forgetting the
heritage of the past.
Watton Pentecostal Church 2001
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