Many church congregations meet in the same place for centuries, but one church in Chesham moved to the other end of the town. This is the story:

From Townfield to Newtown

The Strict and Particular Baptist church in Chesham met at Townfield Chapel from 1820 (see BFP Nostalgia February 16, 2020). Ninety years later the chapel needed replacing, and in late 1910 the pastor raised the question of moving. The problem was they were on the same acre of land as two of Chesham’s other Baptist churches (Hinton and Zion), which had sometimes led to humorous situations of visiting preachers arriving at the wrong church. In 1911 Newtown was selected as a new site because they could get a plot in a growing part of town, and there was no other non-conformist chapel nearby.

Newtown Sunday School 1912

Meanwhile a Newtown Baptist Sunday School started with 8 scholars on September 8 1912, meeting at the Progress Hall Meeting Room (now above Nisa Local), on the corner of Essex Road and Berkhampstead Road. The Sunday School met at 10:30 a.m. and 2 p.m. By the end of the month it had 40 children and young people enrolled.

Newtown Baptist Hall 1914

In February 1912 they bought some land in Berkhampstead Road, which was formerly part of the old Chesham Generals (now Chesham Utd) football ground and next to the Water Works. The foundation stones for Newtown Baptist Hall were laid by Alfred Throne and John Rose Howard of Chesham on May 21 1914, acknowledging them as the largest financial contributors to the project. Bricks were also laid with the names or initials of contributors from a “buy a brick” scheme.

John Rose Howard had been secretary and treasurer of the building fund of the project. The church opened on September 3 1914, and the first service was held on September 9 1914, when the pastor preached, and the Sunday School transferred from Progress Hall.

For a time the church met in both Townfield and Newtown. From April 18 1915 evening services were moved from Townfield to Newtown, with morning services still at Townfield. The last morning service was held at Townfield on Sunday August 8 1915 with a special closing ceremony.

From one end of Chesham to the other

The church had now moved from one end of Chesham to the other. Not everyone was happy with the idea and some members who lived in Waterside who did not want to worship in Newtown transferred to Zion Chapel (see BFP Nostalgia June 7 2020). Others saw it as a visionary opportunity.

Townfield Yard mission

Some of the poorer families from Townfield Yard who had attended the church and sent their children to Sunday School did not want to walk to Newtown. So Mrs Hayes at Hinton (now Trinity) Baptist church used a cottage at 12, Townfield Yard to set up Townfield Yard Mission Hall, which was run by volunteers from the Baptist, Anglican and Methodist churches in Chesham. This was used for services and mid-week boys’ meetings and women’s meetings. This continued until the last meeting in January 1934 after which Townfield was cleared and the families moved to Pond Park, after which some then attended the Friendship Hall (see BFP Nostalgia January 19 2020).

Newtown Chapel

There was always the plan to build a new larger chapel in front of the Baptist Hall, but plans were postponed because of the Great War. In the 1920s these plans were restarted for a new large chapel in front of the hall. After much fundraising, the foundation stones for a new chapel were laid at 3 p.m. on Thursday December 2 1926 by Alfred Thorne, John Rose Howard, Miss Butcher of Tring, (who had all made major financial contributions) and the pastor Rev. Lazarus H. Colls. Miss Butcher represented the Butcher family which ran the Chesham and Tring Bank, who had helped financially. The building was designed by Mr F.G, Faunch and built by Brown & Co. of Chesham. Inside the chapel the original “1820 stone” from the Townfield Chapel was set into wall of above the gallery. The opening ceremony was held on Tuesday June 28 1927, when a memorial plaque marking the move from Townfield to Newtown was unveiled by former pastor Rev Frank Fells. The old hall then became the Church Hall and Sunday School rooms.

First wedding

The chapel was registered for weddings on August 11 1927, just in time for William Birch to marry Cissie Chaney, the first couple to be married in the chapel on August 13 1927. Many more couples have been married at the chapel since 1927.

John Rose Howard

John Rose Howard was born in 1880 in Waterside and joined the church in 1901. He was the main driver behind the move to Newtown. He was a Bucks Baptist Association local preacher and was to be heard on Sunday in the pulpits of many village chapels in the Chilterns. He used to publish some of his talks in the Bucks Baptist Magazine. Later some of the best ones were collected together in a book called “From a Country Pulpit” published in 1936. After he died on April 24 1941 aged 61, a memorial was put up to him in Newtown Baptist Chapel. This lists the roles he had held as deacon, church treasurer and running the Sunday School.

Church today

The church at (now 301) Berkhampstead Road was originally called Newtown Baptist Church, but for a few decades from 1970 it was known as Newtown Evangelical Church. In 1982 the area between the rear hall and the front chapel was filled in with toilets and a kitchen. A loyal congregation has many activities and regular services.


This year the church is marking the 200th anniversary since their original Townfield chapel was built in 1820. If anyone has any stories, information or photos please let me know on or 01494 258328 which I will pass on.