Our History

Southwick circa 1930, original church in centre of picture
Southwick circa 1930, original church in centre of picture (click for bigger image)
Methodism in Southwick was born among the wharves.  In 1865 Southwick was just a seafaring village.  The men were fishermen, oyster merchants, sailors or captains of the sailing ships, mostly owned by Mr R. H. Penney, which sailed in and out of the harbour with timber and coal from the north.

In 1865 a few missionary minded Methodists from Shoreham came to Southwick and started a Sunday School, and it was Mr Penney who lent them a sail loft in which to meet.  A Methodist Society was soon formed, and another room was built on top of the sail loft for the growing congregation.  During the period of construction the Society met in a Corn Store (otherwise known as the ‘rat store!’) on Penney’s Wharf.

In July, 1875, the building of a chapel, vestry and schoolrooms commenced in Albion Street; the premises were opened in February 1876 by the President of the Wesleyan Methodist Conference, the Revd Gervase Smith MA.  Mr John Lund of Worthing was the architect, and Mr Oxley of Steyning the builder; the total cost was £1,350.  It was still, to some extent a ‘sailors’ church’ with a large proportion of its members belonging to the seafaring community; the large clam shell brought home and given to the church by Captain Glazebrook is still used as the Baptismal Font.

During both World Wars a Canteen for soldiers was run in the schoolroom; in 1939 the Sunday School was more than doubled by evacuees.  For several months in 1944 the congregation was kept out of the church when the front was sealed off.

Over the years Southwick began to develop to the north, leaving the harbour and wharf area more and more to industry.    Congregations in Albion Street dwindled and repair costs for the building escalated.  By 1943 the idea of acquiring a plot in the newly developing area was approved and eventually the Roman Villa site was purchased.

A Manse was erected in 1954, and the following year saw the building of the Hall and Classrooms, which were opened by Lord Reith on 3rd September; the architect was John Denman and the builders Messrs. Keith Andrew and Co of Worthing.

In June 1965 a Dedicatory Service led by the Superintendent Minister, the Revd David Ball and the resident Minister, the Revd G. L. Holdsworth, and the Foundation Stone of the new church was laid; in a cavity under the stone a number of articles were placed representing the period in which the church was built.  The panel built around the Foundation Stone was formed in flints salvaged from the original Albion Street Church when it was demolished for coast road developments.  The architect for the present church was Mr. W. J. Thrasher FRIBA.  The church was opened on 4th June 1966 by the Vice-President of the Conference, Miss Pauline Webb, BA and dedicated by the Revd Cyril Wainwright, BA, BD, Chairman of the London South West District.  The Preacher was the Revd Dr. Harold Roberts, Ex-President of the Methodist Conference and Principal of Richmond College.