Church with aristocratic roots is 100

A CHURCH in Uckfield is celebrating its centenary this month.

A CHURCH in Uckfield is celebrating its centenary this month.

The Grange Evangelical Church, in Hempstead Lane, will be marking 100 years of worship over the weekend of September 28 and 29.

The church was formed in the 1890s and for a time held its services in the Assembly Rooms behind the old Post Office. However, it moved to Hempstead Lane in early 1902 when the present location was built. One of the strongest evangelical influences in the district at the time came from the Dowager Lady Portman. The Portman family owned estates in Dorset and at Buxted Park, as well as property in London Portman Square derives its name from the family. St. Paul's Church, Portman Square, was originally the Portman's private Chapel.

Lady Portman was responsible for building several 'coffee halls' in the area and, while these were used during the week as places where young men could play billiards or bagatelle and drink strictly non-alcoholic beverages, on Sunday evenings there would be services with a specifically evangelical emphasis. One of the most successful of these venues is still in use today as the village hall in Five Ash Down. Lady Portman would invite preachers from London, from an organisation known as the Counties Evangelisation Society and the preaching peers, Lords Radstock, Cecil, Congleton and the Marquis of Bath, would often preach at week-end houseparties and events at Buxted House, now the hotel in Buxted Park. Lady Portman wanted her good influence to extend to the northern end of the growing town of Uckfield and provided financial and other support for the building and running of the Grange Evangelical Church.

The church has continued to function under the leadership of elders, who undertake part of the public ministry, together with invited speakers from the congregation and from like minded congregations over a broad area. A communion service is held each Sunday morning and a variety of other services on Sunday evenings and weekdays.

Leading the centenary celebrations will be Scotsman Clayton Dougan, an evangelist and Bible teacher, now based in Vancouver Island in Western Canada. He is the guest speaker at the centenary service at 3pm on Saturday, September 28, as well as at both services on the 22nd and 29th.

Further details of the centenary services and of the regular open meetings of the church can be obtained from Philip Mills on 01825 733601 or Peter Cottingham on 01825 872317.