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A Short History

Salway Evangelical Church was built in 1932 on the site of the 18th Century Salway House. Salway Hill was named after a rich merchant, Richard Salway, who lived in Salway Lodge opposite the Cricketers. Sir John Laing purchased this estate in 1930 for property development and the estate was named after him. Sir John was a devout Christian and offered a site to local Christian Brethren members some of whom had been meeting in the Wilfred Lawson Trust house. Salway Hall, as it was then known, opened on 31st December 1932 at a service shared by five speakers. The Trust Deed dates from then, dealing with Trustee appointments, church doctrine and practices. One of the elders was Montague Goodman who was a close friend of Sir John Laing as well as his solicitor. He was a widely respected speaker, led a Crusaders youth group in his own home and wore a monocle, sometimes being described as ‘a bit of a toff’.

Some members of Prince’s Road Evangelical Church in Buckhurst Hill joined Salway, including the Holts and Herriots, which led to some friendly rivalry. The Second World War saw many members called up but services continued throughout, sometimes in the two basement rooms with a hatch in between through which communion was passed. Contingency plans were made for the use of the hall for special purposes in the event of an invasion, possibly as a blockhouse. A small bomb fell on the footpath outside the entrance from the High Road in 1943 but only slight damage was reported, although the Air-raid Warden’s post at the top of Forest Approach must have been shaken.

Mrs Clark donated the organ, a 60 pipe 2 manual model, in 1955 when she moved from Ripley Grange in Loughton after they retired to Bournemouth. The large pipes are in the main hall but it was a tight fit with only 3 inches of clearance with the ‘swell’ organ pipes in the roof and sound coming through a ceiling grid. Two small round ones on either side replaced the central window to commemorate Montague Goodman’s two sisters. Salway became known as the ‘Cathedral’ of Brethren churches, possibly due to this organ or perhaps due its well-known speakers.

Various extension phases followed with the ‘Montague Goodman Memorial Hall being added in 1958, a new kitchen in 1977 (replacing one below with a dumb waiter) and the Church Lounge with an extended basement underneath. The visit of the Mayor and Mayoress on 27th March 1977 may have been to commemorate this occasion. The name of the Church was changed in this period to become Salway Evangelical Church.

The increasing pace of life led to the appointment in 1979 of Stuart Pascall as our first full-time worker. The early Brethren always maintained that clergy were unnecessary and that all believers were equal so Stuart was officially an evangelist. He went on to teach at MoorlandsBibleCollege and is a regular speaker at major events. He was followed after a 2-year interregnum in 1986 by Richard Thomas who introduced Rachel Garood as our first full time pastoral assistant/youth worker in 1987. Rachel commenced a Salway tradition of getting married, and in fact married her successor, Andy Mugford. Richard was succeeded by Alastair in 1998 and Jonathan in 2002.

Missionary involvement has always been strong at Salway, the Leggats served in Argentina from 1943 to 1971 before retiring due to ill health. Dr Betty Holt and her sister Joan spent many years at a Christian hospital in Narsapur, India and at present Phil & Martina Jolley are working in Madrid. Colin and Rosemary Lovell are also supported in their mission in Dublin as well as a number of others.

Youthwork has always been a major part of Salway, from the early days of Sunday school in the main hall on Sunday afternoons, together with Crusaders meeting in Montague Goodman’s house. The Government, worried by vandalism, set up youth clubs during the war and many young people attended those at Salway learning various crafts and skills. Youth work continued under the Covenanters with separate groups of each sex and age meeting in the evenings. These groups were eventually amalgamated into the present Energise, Spotlight & Focus according to age but there is also a pre-school nursery, teddy bear club and Sunday teaching.

Music has also played a large role in life at Salway as well, from unaccompanied singing in the early days to the organ accompaniment, to the present band with a strong flautist section. The Salway Singers were formed after some ladies, who were singing in the kitchen, asked for some tuition and this has now grown to some forty singers from a number of local churches. The BBC broadcast a morning service on 27th August 1961 of which a record still exists.

A major extension of the main hall took place in the summer of 2002 increasing the capacity to  220 people, as well as meeting rooms and stores cupboards. This was followed by an overhaul of the gardens under the direction of Katrina from Earthdesigns.

Salway is a small, independent and friendly Church with a strong youth element and as such can look forward to its future here in Woodford.


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