Bellingdon is a village about 3 miles from Chesham. It is a Chiltern ridge village and people worked locally at farms or brickworks. D.H. Lawrence, the famous author, briefly lived in Bellingdon in 1914.

Bellingdon Baptist

For centuries Bellingdon did not have its own church, so the locals went to Chesham or Hawridge for their baptisms, weddings and funerals. In 1817 a non-conformist meeting was registered at the upper end of the village. This was started by Chesham’s Congregational (now URC) church but was run with the help of the Lower (now Trinity) Baptist church, and is mentioned in the 1851 Ecclesiastical Census.

Great Mission

All the different churches of Chesham united for a great town-wide mission in March 1875, culminating in special services at Easter. House to house visits, factory and mill visits, prayer meetings and special services were held around the town and in the villages. St Mary’s Anglican parish church had a system of volunteers who visited houses in the villages of Chartridge, Bellingdon and Hyde Heath. These men were Thomas Batchelor, Robert Wright, Harry Ruggins, George Culverhouse, James Smith and Charles Fussnidge. The mission led to something of a revival in the Chesham area and resulted in the start of 3 new churches: Chesham Gospel Hall, Hawridge Mission Hall and Bellingdon Mission Church.

Church services

From March 1875, St. Mary’s parish church in Chesham rented a cottage called Sunnyside, opposite Savecroft Farm in Bellingdon. This was called the ‘mission room’. An evening service was started on the ground floor which had a low ceiling, and was stuffy when oil lamps were burning. At first the congregation consisted mainly of George Hodgkison and his family from Savecroft Farm. The services were simple and from the prayer book. The church was run by Rev J.S. Pratt, his curate Rev J.B. Russell, and volunteers from Chesham, called lay workers, who would read sermons from a book called ‘Cottage Sermons’ by Rev. Ashton Oxenden, published 1853. The harvest festivals, which in villages often attract many more people other than the usual congregation, were held in a barn the second Sunday in October.

Sunday School

The upper floor of the cottage was used on Sunday afternoons for a Sunday School, which was open to anyone of any age. In the days when Sunday Schools also taught illiterate families to read and write they also sometimes included adults, and one man aged 55 is recorded receiving a Sunday School prize in 1879. The Sunday School was run by volunteers from Chesham. In the 1950s and upto 1961 Len Riley used to cycle from his house in Botley to run the Sunday School at Bellingdon.

Tin Tabernacle 1901

In 1901 Mr William Lowndes gave a piece of land for a mission church on the corner of The Pheasantries off Chesham Road in Bellingdon. Rev C.E. Boultbee, vicar of Chesham, bought a flatpack corrugated iron church kit which could seat forty people. It was put up at the site and lined with matchboard. Iron church buildings were often called ‘tin tabernacles’. The new iron mission room was opened 120 years ago, on Saturday July 6, 1901 with a prayer meeting. The first service was on Sunday, July 7, 1901. The local council heard about the new iron church and the surveyor asked the clerk to contact the vicar, who seems to have not been aware that they needed to submit plans for permission before building. In November 1901 the council surveyor inspected the Bellingdon Mission Room and reported that it was in accordance with the by-laws, and it was allowed to remain.

Mrs Luckett who lived next door was appointed the mission room caretaker. Mrs Elliot from Bellingdon Farm started a women’s group about 1910. From 1905 to 1939 different captains from the Church Army were employed to look after the mission church at Bellingdon.

War Memorials

On February 9, 1921 a memorial was dedicated in the church to four men from Bellingdon who died in the Great War: Frank Brown, Cecil Stanley Eldridge, Ralph James and George Ewen Sills. Eldridge is buried at Chesham cemetery. Beneath the memorial is a Roll of Honour for 22 Bellingdon men who served but returned from duty. Later another memorial was added for the Second World War.


By the 1920s the building was too small. The main building was extended by a third and a side vestry was added. It was built by Rust and Ratcliffe in the style of the rest of the church. At the same time some coloured glass, formerly at Emmanuel Church in Chesham was adapted for the new building. A special service of dedication was held on Tuesday, September 13, 1927, when the history of the church was recalled.

First Christening

The first christening to take place was on Sunday August 26, 1956. This was of Jane Margaret, the nine-month old daughter of Mr and Mrs Len W Edmunds, who were both organists at the church.

Renamed St John’s

In 1957 a garden party was held at Huge Farm, which raised £300 for the restoration of the church. In March 1958, Rev Eric Arnold, arranged for a group of three stained-glass windows, rescued from a former chapel in Liverpool, to be put in at the end of the building. The central one was of Jesus’s crucifixion. The two smaller side windows showed Mary, Jesus’s mother on the left, and John, Jesus’s disciple on the right, who are pictured kneeling at the foot of the cross. In April 1958 Bellingdon Mission Church was then renamed St John’s because of this window.

The church today

St John’s church at Bellingdon is still a branch of St Mary’s Anglican church in Chesham, and part of the parish of Great Chesham. The congregation meet every Sunday at 10 a.m. to worship God. The church’s minister, is Rev Tim Yates. During the coronavirus lockdown services have been held online and can be viewed on YouTube.