The Story of Zion Congregational Church, Frome
Written by the Late W. J. HARVEY, Deacon & Secretary of the Church.
Harvey & Woodland, Ltd.,
Printers, Frome. 1918.
EVERY history is saddening, even if it is inspiring as well, inasmuch as it brings to mind the personalities whose visible presence has passed from the earth. We specially feel this in issuing the History of Zion, since the writer, our friend, Mr. W. J. Harvey, has himself so recently heard the call to the higher service (March, 1918). But our sense of loss is mingled with much loving pride and a great thankfulness. The following pages record the whole-hearted work of many loyal servants of Christ and His Church, but they do not contain a name which is more honoured in Zion than that of their chronicler. For 60 years he was a member of this Church, and it is no mere form of speech to say that this place was as much home to him as his own dwelling. With the utmost regularity he attended the Sunday and Week-night Services, and many a time when the weather might seem to forbid his coming he was in his place as a matter of course. As well as being Deacon and Church Secretary, he was a great Sunday School worker, with a deep and tender love for children, and both Zion and Rook Lane Schools owe very much to him for his unwearied zeal. He is typical of that splendid type of thorough going Christian, of which this History affords so many examples, and both he and they finely illustrate the truth, “If you would learn the secret of a mighty usefulness it is quite simple: Be perfectly devoted to Christ !”
“God of the living, in Whose eyes
Unveiled Thy whole creation lies;
All souls are Thine;- we must not say
That those are dead who pass away;
From this our world of flesh set free,
We know them living unto Thee.”
The Story of Zion Congregational Church, FROME
Read at a Meeting of the Church and Congregation, February 1st, 1916.
The Church connected with this place of worship dates from the year 1773. It originated with a few Wesleyan Methodists, who, having been influenced by the writings of Mr., Toplady and Mr. Hervey, had gained for themselves among their brethren the title of “The Calvinistic Class”. The most prominent of these were Messrs. John Chapman, John Sinkins and Richard Brittain.
In the separation which took place there appears to have been no heated debate, bitter feeling or unseemly strife; for the Wesleyans allowed these brethren, with other devout men and godly women, the use of their room for worship at certain hours of the Sabbath on condition that their services should not interfere with those of the Established Church; the Wesleyans at that time jealously guarding themselves against the reproach of “Dissent.”
Until this arrangement was made, the new Society met in a little room in Paul Street, for the use of which, including fire, they paid 6d. per week.
The total income of the Society for the first half-year was £1 18s. 6d., which sufficed to pay the incidental expenses, afford some trifling relief to the poor, and leave a balance of 10½d. in the Treasurer’s hands. The mantle of this good man must have been inherited by our honoured Treasurer, Mr. Keynes. At an early stage in their history the fathers of our Church were joined by Mr. Tucker, who resided near Corsley, a respectable farmer and Wesleyan local preacher, and for a short time he officiated gratuitously as Minister of the new Society. Subsequently application was made to Rook Lane Church for permission to assemble in that place of worship at such times as would not interfere with their own services. This consent was granted on payment of £20 a year as an acknowledgment of the obligation. Accordingly, services were held by the new congregation on Sunday and Wednesday evenings.
Shortly afterwards the Wesleyans, having removed to a newly-built Chapel, the fathers of our community secured the room they vacated, which was situated “Behind Town,” near the top of Wine Street, for which they paid a yearly rent of £5. There they met on Sunday-morning and afternoon-and continued to assemble at Rook Lane in the evening.
Encouraged by their success, the leaders of the little Church sent a request to the Countess of Huntingdon entreating her to appoint a succession of suitable young Students from her College at Trevecca to supply their pulpit. The application was promptly responded to, and from September, 1774, to June, 1782, the infant Church was blessed with the services of these zealous students, who accepted no pecuniary reward for their eight years’ devoted labours.
At this time there was a place of worship in the town known as Zion Chapel – then occupied by a small band of Moravians – which was the property of Mr. Timothy Lacy, who, in order to favour the Independents, obtained the consent of these amiable Christians for their Calvinistic brethren to assemble there on Sunday morning and evening; while they occupied it in the afternoon. This Zion was a small building, which occupied a site near our present Infant Class-room and adjoining the small tenements that, at that time, formed the bottom of Chapel Barton. Traces of the old plaster wall and the gallery staircase could be seen at that corner of the old burial-ground when the writer of this sketch was a boy.
About the time referred to a Mr. George Mantle, one of the Trevecca students, was invited to become the pastor of the new Church, and accepted a unanimous call. His ministry extended over only three years, but his zeal and devotion greatly multiplied the members of the Society, and the Chapel had to be considerably enlarged to accommodate the congregation.
Agreeably to the usage at all places of worship in Lady Huntingdon’s Connexion, the Liturgy of the Church of England was used, and Mr. Mantle’s proposal to discontinue it was the cause of his removal. However, under the ministry of his successor, the Rev. Edmund Denham (who was strongly recommended by Lady Huntingdon), extemporary prayer was introduced, and has never since been superseded.
Mr. Denham was a man of great ability and eminent piety, but he was greatly afflicted, and after a pastorate of 15 years he removed to Walworth, where he died.
Mr. Denham was succeeded by Mr. Clift, who exercised the ministerial office at Frome for only a very short period.
In 1799 Mr. John Hyatt became the Pastor of the Church, but resigned that office in May, 1805, to become the co-pastor of the famous Matthew Wilks at the Tabernacle and Tottenham Court Chapel, London. In relinquishing his charge, much to the distress of his people, he said: “Their love and liberality are unbounded. I have been a master, without the necessity of ruling; a servant, without being ruled; and a friend, without being slighted.”
In December, 1805, Mr. Timothy East, a student under Dr. Bogne, of Gosport, was invited to supply the vacant pulpit, and his services proved so accept-able that a call was, in due course, presented and accepted. Great prosperity followed: the congregation became too numerous for the capacity of the Chapel, and it was decided to “arise and build,” so the present Chapel was built, with approaches from Whittox Lane and Chapel Barton, Catherine Hill. It was opened for Divine Service in July, 1810, the famous William Jay being one of the preachers on that occasion.
During Mr. East’s ministry there were many conversions and additions to the Church. He also compiled an “Appendix” to Dr. Watts’ Psalms and Hymns, which was used in the various services.
Mr. East resigned his charge on December 18th, 1817, the principal reasons assigned for this step being that he found three services on the Sabbath too much for his strength and spirits, and that he was apprehensive that his usefulness was drawing to a close, as the attendance at the prayer meetings had been declining.
In the spring of 1818 the Rev. Arthur Tidman was unanimously invited to the pastorate, and he served the Church wisely and well.
During his ministry many improvements were made in the Chapel property. Cottages which stood in front of the Chapel in Whittox Lane were removed and the area enclosed; the staircase, which was formerly within the Chapel, was replaced by two in the lobby. Children’s galleries and a new pulpit were erected, and an Organ (the basis of the present instrument) was purchased. After ten years of faithful service Dr. Tidman removed to the Barbican Chapel, London, and subsequently became widely known and honoured as the Foreign Secretary of the L.M.S.
He was followed by the Rev. Spedding Curwen, his predecessor at the Barbican, a gifted and earnest preacher. Mr. Curwen was highly honoured of God in the conversion of sinners, no fewer than 228 members being added to the Church during his ten years’ ministry. During his pastorate (1837) the cottage in Chapel Barton and the old Chapel were sold to the Trustees of Zion for £800, the adjoining land was transformed into a burial-ground, the old Chapel (which had been used as a schoolroom) was taken down, and a commodious schoolroom was built on the site of the present building, as well as the lobby adjoining and the vestry.
On the first Sunday in May, 1889, Mr. William Fernie, of Highbury College, began his ministry here. There are few now connected with the Church who remember his winning smile, persuasive appeals and pastoral visitations.
Up to February, 1844, the affairs of the Church and congregation had been almost entirely managed by a self-elected and irresponsible committee, the majority of whom were not even members of the Church, and this gave rise to various unpleasant circumstances. At a special Church meeting Mr. Fernie pointed out that the existing management was unscriptural in principle and opposed to the usages and constitution of an Independent Church. He also intimated that he had been led to consider whether it might not be his duty to retire from the pastorate, but before coming to a decision he wished to ascertain the real feelings of the people. Upon the question being put, a majority of nine to one of the assembly expressed their wish that Mr. Fernie should continue to be their Minister; and by an almost unanimous vote the meeting declared in favour of the dissolution of the Committee of Management, while thanking them for their past services. A testimonial, signed by 458 names, was presented to Mr. Fernie.
Of all the Ministers mentioned in this sketch, Mr. Fernie alone was summoned to the higher service of heaven while filling the pastorate. He entered into rest on November 18th, 1850, at the early age of 86 years. He married a sister of the late Mr. Langford, and their only daughter became the second wife of a later pastor, the Rev. Daniel Anthony. A tablet to the affectionate memory of Mr. Fernie was placed in the Chapel near the vestry door, but at the latest renovation it was removed to a position under the left gallery.
In August, 1851, Mr. Daniel Anthony, of Tenby, accepted a unanimous invitation to the pastorate. At his recognition on April 18th, 1852, the Rev. Spedding Curwen and the Rev. Wm. Jay took part. Mr. Anthony was distinguished alike for his genial disposition, his intellectual power, and his spiritual insight. His memory is lovingly cherished by all who knew him.
It was during Mr. Anthony’s ministry that Mr. W. B. Harvey succeeded Miss Cox as Organist. He generously declined to accept any remuneration for his services.
In 1858-1859 an extensive renovation of the Chapel and schoolroom was carried out at a cost of £1,611. During the alteration the congregation assembled for 12 Sundays at the Mechanics’ Hall and afterwards at Rook Lane Chapel.
On January 12th, 1862, the sudden death of Mr. Samuel Gregory (one of the deacons) occurred at a united new year’s Communion service in our Chapel. He bequeathed £150 in 3 per cent. consols, the interest of which was to be divided annually about Christmas among the poor members of our Church whose ages exceed 65 years.
In 1862 burials upon our premises ceased, a dissenting Burial-ground having been provided for the town, adjoining Vallis Road.
On November 19th, 1868, Mr. Anthony tendered his resignation owing to illness, and the death of his first wife, who was the daughter of the Reverend J. J. Freeman, the devoted African Missionary. He was earnestly requested to withdraw his resignation and he did so for a time, but in the following April he felt it imperative to secure a lengthened period of rest and the severance took place in June. Mr. Anthony died at Brighton on Christmas Day, 1904.
For a considerable period the Church was without a pastor, but in May, 1865, Mr. Alfred Rowland, LL.B., of New College, London, accepted the Church’s invitation.
At his ordination on April 10th, 1866, the Reverend H. M. Gunn, of Warminster, read the Scriptures and offered prayers; the introductory discourse was delivered by the Rev. Professor Newth, M.A.; the questions were asked by the Rev. D. Anthony; the late Mr. Philip Le Gros replied on behalf of the Church; the ordination prayer was offered by the Rev. James Rowland, of Henley-on-Thames, father of the pastor-elect; the charge was delivered by the Rev. D. Halley, and the sermon to the people by the Rev. Joshua C. Harrison, of London.
In 1865 there were mortgages on the Chapel and Chapel property amounting to £1,000; and in November of that year the reduction of the mortgage, the appointment of the new trustees, the purchase of two dilapidated cottages and the erection of a new schoolroom were considered; but it was not till May, 1867, that the contract for rebuilding the schoolroom had been signed; the total cost of schoolroom, committee-room and classrooms was £1,165, in addition to the old materials used. At the same time the mortgages on the Chapel property were reduced by £400.
On October 24th, 1869, Mr. John Sinkins, J.P. (the father of Mrs. Le Gros), died. A resolution expressing their deep sense of the loss the Church had sustained was passed by the deacons.
In January, 1870, nearly £500 was raised towards clearing off the debt upon the new schoolroom.
In June, 1872, it was decided to undertake the improvement of the organ and other alterations, the late Mr. Thomas Green having generously offered to bear half the expense, and the whole cost of altering the organ gallery, besides sharing the expense of improving the front of the Chapel. The outlay on the instrument amounted to £841. The cost in connection with the new organ gallery was £110; while the improvement of the approach in Yeoman’s Yard swelled the total expenditure to £640. By the time the organ was opened, a little before Christmas, £592 6s. 8d. had been promised.
On January 2nd, 1878, it was decided to adopt the weekly offering system.
On April 26th, 1875, the Rev. Alfred Rowland tendered his resignation, having received an invitation to become the pastor of Park Church, Crouch End. An unavailing effort was made to induce him to alter his decision. On June 80th, at the last Church meeting at which Mr. Rowland presided, 25 candidates for Church membership were received, to a large extent the outcome of an Evangelistic Mission held in the town by Mr. Spiers. On leaving, Dr. Rowland was presented with a tea-service and a purse of £60, while Mrs. Rowland was presented with a handsome writing-desk, work-table with fittings and a brooch, from ladies of the congregation.
In the year 1858 Mr. Thomas Green had presented the Church with a cottage and garden adjoining the Chapel, and the cottage was fitted up and used for some years as an infant classroom.
In March, 1875, Mr. Joseph Tanner announced his willingness to erect a new infant classroom at his own expense, so it was resolved to pull down the old room, level the ground, and make a new approach fr6m Whittox Lane at a cost of £65 12s.
On September 9th, 1875, it was unanimously resolved to invite Mr. F. W. Clarke, B.A., of New College, London, to become pastor, and on the 80th of the same month Mr. Clarke’s acceptance of the invitation was reported to the Church.
At Mr. Clarke’s ordination in the following April the Rev. A. Rowland, Rev. D. Anthony, Principal Newth, Dr. Alexander Raleigh and others took part.
On October 11th, 1876, Mr. Clarke was presented with a gold watch and a purse of £50 on the occasion of his marriage.
In April, 1881, a portion of the Chapel Barton property was sold, and the mortgage of £600 that existed on the remainder was paid off.
On November 10th, 1881, the death of Mr. Philip Le Gros, J.P., was reported. He had been elected a Deacon in March, 1862, at the same time as Alderman Flatman.
On February 23rd, 1882, the death of Mr. Thomas Green, a most generous friend of the Church, took place. He left a bequest of £1,000 to the poor of Frome under control of the Minister and Deacons of Zion. Mrs. Green (who died in 1868) had left several bequests in connection with the Chapel and related agencies, payable after the death of her husband-viz. £500 to the London Missionary Society, £500 to the Wilts and East Somerset Congregational Union, £100 to the Frome Town Mission, and £100 to the Sick Visiting Society connected with our Chapel.
In the autumn of 1888 an Evangelistic Mission was held in the Chapel, conducted by Mr. George Green, who subsequently settled at Chapmanslade, and upwards of 20 new members were received into the Church as a result.
In March, 1888, a series of much-needed improvements was decided upon. These included a new harmonium for the schoolroom; the renovation of the Chapel inside and out; removal of cottages on each side of the Chapel; the making of a better approach from Whittox Lane; and a further reduction of the mortgage, towards which Mrs. Le Gros generously contributed £200. The external improvements included the casing of the front of the Chapel with freestone, according to a design supplied by Mr. Joseph Chapman, and the two separate doorways for the galleries. The total cost, apart from the reduction of the mortgage, was £1,139 13s. 11½d. Towards this amount £340 2s. 2d. was raised by a bazaar, and by February, 1891, the whole amount had been contributed.
In the early part of 1891 the erection of a caretaker’s cottage was undertaken through the generosity of a few friends.
The property on the North side of the Chapel (Yeoman’s Yard) had been purchased by Mr. Le Gros in 1877. By Mrs. Le Gros’ gift, mentioned in connection with the Improvement Scheme, the mortgage had been reduced to £292 l0s., and in November, 1891, Mrs. Le Gros, in memory of her husband (who with difficulty acquired the property and intended it should be handed over to the Chapel Trustees), gave the trustees a discharge in full. By this generous act the Chapel property was entirely freed from loan charges.
This part of our history would not be complete without a further reference to Mr. William Langford, who was elected a life Deacon of the Church between 1841 and 1844, and who rendered valuable service as Deacon, Treasurer and Sunday School Superintendent for many years. He died in 1905.
On April 28th, 1887, at the annual congregational tea meeting, Mr. Clarke was presented with a purse of £60 as an expression of sympathy for him in his earnest, loving work in our midst during the past 12 years, and our sense of the value of his faithful service and untiring exertions for our spiritual good.
Read at a Meeting of the Church and Congregation on March 27th, 1917.
On two former occasions I have been permitted (shall I not rather say privileged ?) to compile the History of our Church.
In 1892 The Story of Zion Chapel was written and published by direction of the Pastor and Deacons, giving an account of the origin of the Church in 1773 and its subsequent history down to the end of 1891.
Rather more than a year ago the printed history was carefully revised and presented to you at the Annual Meeting of the Church and Congregation on February 1st. At that time the wish was widely expressed that on some future occasion the history should be brought up to date.
This delightful task has occupied many spare hours in the last 14 months. The result I am about to lay before you, with the hope that you will kindly pardon (as you did before) any shortcomings and imperfections that you may discover as I proceed.
You will readily recall the fact that on the last occasion I concluded my paper with some brief references to the worthies who had served our beloved Church as Deacons or in other capacities, but who had joined the Church Triumphant and the higher service of Heaven.
And now to take up the strain once more, I have to begin with the year 1892, when some generous friends (understood to be the late Miss Sewell and Alderman Flatman) defrayed the whole expense of clearing away the old cottages that existed in Chapel Barton, building a new boundary wall, laying out the ground on the opposite side as a shrubbery, and making a new entrance from Catherine Hill, with an archway and suitable gates.
Several events of importance occurred in 1894. In January the death of Alderman Flatman occurred. He was a generous and wise friend of our Church. He had declined to stand for re-election as Deacon in 1887.
In April it was decided to purchase a house in Somerset Road as a Manse.
In June the Young People’s Society of Christian Endeavour was started; and on October 18th an address was presented to Mr. Langford, who had completed 50 years as a Deacon. The address and an admirable portrait of this grand old servant of the Church adorn the walls of our vestry, having been presented to us at his death.
In the following year Mr. W. B. Harvey was presented with a piano at the annual Congregational Tea Meeting in recognition of his valuable services as Hon. Organist, and it was announced that he had given his former piano for general use in the schoolroom.
In April, 1896, the death of Mr. Joseph Tanner, J.P., who had removed to Clifton, was reported, and at the Church Meeting-on the 30th of that month-a resolution expressive of deep sorrow, gratitude and affection was adopted, mention being made of the valuable service he had rendered during many years as Secretary of the Sunday School, Deacon of the Church and Trustee of the Chapel property. Reference was also made to his kindly sympathy, helpful prayers, and many other qualities which endeared him to his fellow-members.
In September at a Congregational Tea Meeting Mr. Clarke was presented with a silver salver and a cheque for £155 5s. 9d. in celebration of the 21st anniversary of his pastorate. Certain persons also guaranteed to defray the cost of introducing the Congregational Church Hymnal, cleaning the Organ, improving the ventilation of the Chapel and other matters.
Before the year closed a ladies’ working party had been started.
In June, 1897, it was announced that Mr. T. E. S. Jelley had bequeathed £1,000 upon trust for the poor of our Church and congregation.
In the early part of 1898 (February) it was decided to alter the hour of commencing our Sunday morning service from 10.30 to 11 a.m.
On June 80th the death of Mr., E. G. Ames was reported. He had served the Church for some years as Deacon, and had rendered valuable professional help in connection with our Chapel property and trusts.
In October a successful Evangelistic Mission was held in connection with the other Free Churches of the town.
At a Church meeting on November 10th the Rev. F. W. Clarke intimated that he had accepted an invitation to become the Pastor of the Congregational Church at St. Helens, his resignation to take effect after the first Sunday in December. He said it was with heartfelt sorrow he had been led to take this step, but he believed the invitation he had received was an indication of the Divine Will. He would never forget the unceasing and unstinted goodness they had shown him. He should always look back upon the confidence and love he had enjoyed so long as one of the chief privileges of his life.
The following resolution was unanimously adopted:
That the Church has received with deep sorrow the resignation of its beloved Pastor, but feels constrained to accept it, as it cannot withstand the conviction expressed in Mr. Clarke’s letter-that he has heard, in the invitation that has come to him from St. Helens, a distinct call of God. The Church would express its devout thankfulness for the privilege it has enjoyed through the faithful teaching, wise guidance and holy life of their Pastor during so lengthened a period. It assures him of its continued love and confidence, and that it will not cease to pray that his ministry in the larger sphere upon which he will enter may be one of much happiness to himself and of blessing to the Church and congregation.”
On December 19th a farewell tea and meeting were held in the Schoolroom. Mr. Clarke was presented with an illuminated address and a cheque for £200, Mrs. Clarke having been previously presented with a handsome china afternoon tea-service by the members of the ladies’ working party.
On December 5th, 1898, Mr. Langford retired from the post of Treasurer, which he had held for 58 years, and Mr. W. Keynes was appointed to the office, and for nearly 20 years has looked after the finances of our Church with fidelity and great sacrifice of time. The Church owes him a debt of gratitude it would be difficult to repay.
1899.-On February 5th Mr. Robert Maxwell Moffat, M.A., of Mansfield College, Oxford, was invited to occupy the pulpit and spend a week in Frome. He had been strongly recommended by Dr. Horton, the Secretary of the Congregational Union, the Bursar of his College, and others. The impression produced by his visit was such that at a special Church Meeting, held in the schoolroom, on Sunday evening, March 5th, 173 members being present, it was unanimously decided to send a cordial invitation to Mr. Moffat to become the Pastor of the Church.
On the following Sunday evening the congregation as a whole were asked to express their approval of the action of the Church, which they accordingly did, rising in token of their approval.
Mr. Moffat accepted the invitation, and intimated that he would commence his ministry on the fourth Sunday in April.
On the 27th of that month a tea and meeting were held for the purpose of welcoming Mr. and Mrs. Moffat. The ordination service took place on Whit Tuesday, when a very large gathering was witnessed, friends coming together from many parts of Somerset and Wilts, notwithstanding the very stormy weather. Dr. R. F. Horton, M.A., of London, presided at an afternoon service. Mr. W. B. Harvey read a statement explaining the steps that had been taken to fill the vacant pastorate. Dr. Horton then gave a brief address and asked the pastor-elect the usual questions.
The ordination prayer was offered by the Rev. F. W. Clarke, B.A., and Principal Fairbairn, D.D., of Mansfield College, Oxford, delivered an impressive charge to the new Minister.
Tea followed, the schoolroom, committee-room, classrooms and vestry being all requisitioned to accommodate the guests, who numbered about 450. At the close of the repast a series of brief addresses was given by the Rev. F. W. Clarke, Rev. J. Turner Smith, Bath, representing the Wilts and East Somerset Congregational Union, Mr. W. Frank Morgan, C.C., of Warminster, Chairman of the Executive Committee of the County Union, and the Rev. D. B. Thomas, pastor of Rook Lane Church. In the evening divine service was held, when there was an overflowing congregation, and Dr. Horton preached a powerful and eloquent sermon from John iv. 23.
On Sunday, May 7th, a resolution was adopted by the Church and congregation expressing deep regret at the action taken by the proprietors of the Daily Telegraphand Daily Mailin issuing Sunday editions of those papers.
During the summer plans for a Minister’s vestry and ladies’ workroom were submitted and approved, the cost being £175. At the same time £125 was spent on a much-needed renovation of the Chapel and existing vestry.
In August regret was expressed that Mrs. Flatman had found it necessary to resign the management of the Sick Visiting Society, which she and her late husband had conducted with singular efficiency during many years, coupled with a warm expression of thanks for her valued service and her sympathy with the suffering poor. The late Miss Hughes was appointed to the vacant office. In March, 1900, the sum of £86 was subscribed for a testimonial to Mr. Percy Ames, who had succeeded Mr. Harvey and Miss Penny (Mrs. Jehu) as Honorary Organist, on the occasion of his marriage. It consisted of a tea and coffee service, and was presented at a “Social” on April 5th.
In connection with the 20th Century Fund, promises of £216 1s. had been received. The cost of our new buildings, as a part of the commemoration, was £223. An appeal was made for additional contributions.
In May of that year the death of Mr. Ernest Chapman was reported, followed by that of his father, Mr. Joseph Chapman, in September, and of Mrs. Chapman in the succeeding January.
Mr. Ernest Chapman was a devoted Sunday School teacher, and Mr. Joseph Chapman was a Deacon for a short period, and the honoured teacher of the Male Bible Class for many years. In Mr. Christopher Chapman, who was first elected a Deacon in May, 1906, we have a valued successor of these worthies. As Deacon, Bible Class teacher, Sunday School Secretary for a short period, and Secretary to the Deacons for some years, he has perpetuated the memory of a name fragrant in the annals of our Church.
Early in the year 1901 another united Evangelistic Mission was held in connection with the Free Churches of the town.
In April Mr. George Ballard expressed his desire to retire from the diaconate, after more than 20 years’ service. He said his department of work had been principally visiting the sick and aged poor members of the Church, by whom his visits had been gratefully received.
At the May Church Meeting Mr. H. C. Porter was re-elected Deacon, and Messrs. S. Brown, H. Cross and A. Newport were elected for the first time.
In June, 1902, Mr. W. B. Harvey announced his intention of resigning the office of choirmaster, and Mr. Percy Ames was subsequently appointed.
The Church recorded its great appreciation of the valuable work Mr. Harvey had done in the capacity of organist and choirmaster for many years. Mr. Harvey said he did not intend to retire from the choir, and he is still actively connected with it ; a fine example of never growing weary in well-doing.
In April, 1902, the death of Mr. Ballard was reported, and a letter of sympathy with the widow and family was sent from the Church.
In February, 1908, it was decided to carry out a renovation of our Chapel premises in anticipation of the visit of the County Union on April 29th and 30th. The cost was £48.
At the end of October Mr. W. B. Harvey retired from the post of Sunday School Superintendent, owing to advancing age and failing health, to the great regret of the teachers, deacons and officers. At a Church Meeting a resolution recording its thankful-ness to God, and its indebtedness to him for the devoted service he had been enabled to render as Teacher and Superintendent during the past 47 years was adopted. A second resolution heartily approved the action of the Sunday School teachers in choosing Mr. W. J. Harvey as Superintendent, and commending his work to God. At a later meeting Mr. W. B. Harvey was presented with a copy of Morley’s Life of Gladstone.
In December the question of improving the lighting of the Chapel and school premises was discussed. Several protracted meetings were held and various reports presented, and eventually the electric-lighting scheme was adopted by 59 votes to 16. It was understood that the cost would be £118, towards which gifts amounting to £40 had been promised, and the remainder was loaned by several friends free of interest.
On Christmas Day, 1904, the death of the Rev. Daniel Anthony, at Brighton, took place. A resolution was adopted by our Church, expressive of feelings of grief, mingled with thankfulness for his long term of Christian service, and recording with gratitude to God his 13 years of ministry in Frome.
In January, 1905, the death of Mr. Langford occurred, and the following resolution was adopted at a Church Meeting on February 2nd: “That this Church would place on record its high appreciation of the valued service rendered by its late lamented senior Deacon, Mr. William Langford, for a period extending to 60 years.”
In March Mr. F. H. Penny resigned the offices of Deacon of the Church and Sunday School Secretary; and subsequently emigrated to Mexico, where he died while in the prime of life.
In the following May the question of appointing new Trustees of the Chapel property was taken in hand, resulting in the following list : Mr. W. B. Harvey and Mr. W. J. Harvey, elected in 1872; Rev. R. M. Moffat, ex officio, Messrs. A. P. Ames, W. H. Cross, C. A. Chapman, A. Newport, H. C. Porter, N. Vincent and T. H. Woodland. Messrs. Ames & Son generously drew up the new Trust Deed free of cost.
During the latter part of 1905 a series of fraternal letters were received by us from other Churches, and other such letters were sent by us to them. A Missionary Parliament, in connection with our Monthly Church Meetings, was started, but did not long continue owing to the difficulty of getting persons to prepare papers. In August 15 young people were received as members of the Church.
In October the death of Mr. John Pickford, of Penarth, a former Deacon and Sick Visitor, was announced.
In July, 1906, the Centenary of our Sunday School was celebrated with a series of special meetings and services of an intensely interesting character.
On Saturday, the 7th, a devotional meeting was held in the Committee-room, Mr. W. J. Harvey (Superintendent) presiding. Interesting letters, written by former scholars and teachers at a distance, were read and several short addresses were given.
The services on Sunday, July 8th, were conducted by the Rev. Alfred Rowland, D.D., LL.B., B.A., of London, and special hymns and anthems were sung. In the afternoon a young people’s service was held, at which the Rev. F. W. Clarke, B.A., gave an address, and there were responses by the various classes. The Rook Lane Sunday School was invited to be present.
On Monday, July 9th, an invitation tea was given to former teachers and scholars, followed by a public meeting in the Chapel, at which Mr. W. B. Harvey presided. The principal speaker was the Rev. F. W. Clarke, but short addresses were given by former teachers and scholars from a distance.
On Tuesday, July 10th, a thanksgiving meeting was held, the Rev. R. M. Moffat, M.A. (pastor), presiding. An eloquent address was given by the Rev. J. D. Jones, M.A., of Bournemouth. The teachers, senior scholars and other friends of Sunday Schools in the town and neighbourhood were present by invitation.
On Wednesday, July 11th, a Service of Song, Hymns and Tunes of Long Ago (compiled by Mr. W. J. Harvey) was rendered by the choir, organ and band. Collections at all the above services (except on Saturday evening) were taken for a Centenary Fund, the surplus of which was devoted to the purchase of new books for the library.
On Thursday, July 12th, a half-day trip to Weymouth was arranged for the teachers, senior scholars and members of the congregation. Tea was provided at the Gloucester Street Congregational schoolroom, kindly lent for the occasion.
On Friday, July 18th, tea was provided for the junior scholars, followed by a ventriloquial and conjuring entertainment for the whole school by Mr. F. Vallance, of Bristol, interspersed with musical selections. The whole series of meetings was successfully carried out and formed a memorable celebration of the important event.
In October a Young Men’s Institute was opened, and, until our premises were commandeered by the military in 1914, it had a very successful career.
In November the death of Mrs. J. T. Allen was reported, and it was stated that her relatives desired to perpetuate her memory by establishing a fund of £50). the interest of which should be utilized annually for prizes for good behaviour among the scholars in our Sunday School, subject to the direction of the Deacons. The Deacons, however, preferred that the amount should be invested for the benefit of the Frome Town Mission.
It was decided in January that a weekly offertory for our Incidental Fund should be taken at all our Sunday Services, and that the amounts should be announced on the following Sunday.
On October 3rd it was announced that Mr. and Mrs. Sheat had been appointed caretakers. The courteous and efficient manner in which they have discharged their duties deserves our warmest recognition.
The question of individual Communion cups was introduced at the end of the year, and in the following April the Deacons were authorised to take the necessary steps for procuring them. The cost was defrayed by voluntary subscriptions, which included £15 for improving the sanitary arrangements in connection with the Infant classroom.
In December it was resolved to introduce a “Vesper” at the close of our Sunday evening services. It was also announced that Mrs. Le Gros and Miss Chester had promised generous subscriptions towards the cost of renovating the Chapel premises and making an emergency exit from the schoolroom. It was decided to consult Mr. P. B. Rigg, architect, as to both projects, the estimated cost being £200. In the following March the renovation, etc., was carried out, and also the rebuilding of the boundary wall of the burial-ground.
In June Miss Strange generously defrayed the cost of a hearing apparatus in the Chapel.
On September 30th the death of Mr. W. H. Penny, a former Sunday School Secretary was reported, after a long and painful illness, which he bore with exemplary courage. In the same month the death of Mr. Alfred Coombs, another former Secretary of the Sunday School and member of the Church, occurred.
At the February Church Meeting in 1910, the sudden death of Mr. H. C. Porter, for 14 years a Deacon of the Church, and formerly a Secretary of the Sunday School for 10 years, was reported.
On April 28th Mr. W. H. Cross was elected a Deacon for the first time, to fill the vacancy caused by Mr. Porter’s death.
On June 30th Mr. Moffat announced that the following Sunday would be the centenary of the erection of our Chapel, and in the absence of any special celebration of the event, he urged a large attendance at the Communion Service on the first Sunday morning in July and at the prayer meeting on the following Tuesday.
On September 29th Mr. Moffat mentioned that Mr. W. B. Harvey, the senior Deacon, would celebrate his 80th birthday, and on behalf of the Church offered him their best wishes and hearty congratulations. He had been connected with the Church for over half a century and was very closely identified with its life and work, especially in connection with the diaconate, choir and Sunday School. They sincerely hoped he would not soon be called away from their midst and that his life would still be crowned with loving kindness and tender mercy. Mr. Harvey feelingly responded.
Early in the year 1911 Mr. Moffat intimated his intention of resigning the pastorate, having accepted a call to the Dunfermline Congregational Church, Scotland; and at the suggestion of the Deacons a committee was appointed to act with them as a selection committee to deal with the vacant pastorate. Mr. Moffat’s last Sunday was March 12th and a farewell meeting was held on the following evening, at which a cheque was presented to Mr. Moffat and a lounge chair, tastefully upholstered, was presented to Mrs. Moffat.
On June 18th the Rev. Alfred Shave, B.A., of Hadleigh, Suffolk, was invited to occupy the pulpit, and his visit met with such universal acceptance that the selection committee invited him again for July 16th. At a specially convened Church meeting on August 3rd it was resolved to send a cordial invitation to Mr. Shave to become our Pastor. At a meeting of the Church and congregation held on Sunday evening, August 6th, their hearty appreciation of the decision of the Church was expressed by resolution.
On Sunday, August 20th, a letter from Mr. Shave was read, in which he stated that “after long and prayerful consideration I have come to the conclusion that in the invitation you have sent me I should recognise the will of God. I am very thankful to our Divine Leader that again He has shown me the way so very clearly. What impressed me most on my first visit to Frome was that it was like a repetition of my first Sunday at my present Church, and my happy relations with the friends at Frome since that day have confirmed this sense of a Divine drawing together.”
Mr. Shave commenced his stated ministry in October, having been previously welcomed at a social gathering by the Deacons and their wives. He had also presided at the monthly Church Meeting on the previous Thursday. At the Sunday services there were large congregations, and the Chapel was tastefully decorated in honour of the occasion. Mr. Shave chose as his morning text Matt. xxiii. 8.
On Thursday, October 12th, Mr. and Mrs. Shave were welcomed at a tea and meeting of the Church and congregation. Mr. W. B. Harvey (senior Deacon) presided, and the following gave addresses: The Chairman, Mr. Keynes (representing the Deacons), Mr. Percy Ames, Organist (on behalf of the choir), Mr. W. J. Harvey (Sunday School Superintendent), Miss Barnes (for the C.E. Society), Mr. W. E. Hams (for the Band of Hope), Miss Strange (for the tract distributors), and Mr. Archie H. Larcombe (for the Young Men’s Institute). Mr. Shave expressed his hearty appreciation of the welcome accorded him and his wife. Songs and part songs interspersed the proceedings.
A “Social” and Missionary Pageant was held in the autumn in aid of the L.M.S. missionary ships and realised £4 11s. 6d.
1912.At the first Church Meeting of the year 18 persons were admitted to membership on profession of faith.
In the early part of April the Zion and Rook Lane Churches entertained the Wilts and East Somerset Congregational Union for its spring meetings.
On July 9th a meeting for furthering the proposal to extinguish a mortgage of £500 on the Manse, Somerset Road, was held, at which the Rev. Dr. Alfred Rowland presided and gave an interesting and genial address. It was announced that Mrs. Le Gros had subscribed £100, three of. the Deacons (Messrs. W. B. Harvey, W. Keynes and A. Newport) £50 each, Miss Le Gros £25, and the late Miss Chester £10. Further promises, amounting to £32, were received at the meeting. At a congregational tea meeting further promises, amounting to £13 10s. 4d., were received.
In March, 1913, the subject of the morning attendance of our young people at the services in the Chapel was considered, and the Pastor gave particulars of the movement known as the Young Worshippers’ League, and it was resolved that an effort be made to secure the attendance of the children at the morning services, and the Church gave the hearty approval to the scheme. Our branch of the League was inaugurated on Sunday, May 18th.
At the Sunday School Anniversary in July it was announced that Mr. W. J. Harvey had resigned his post as Superintendent after nearly ten years’ service, and that Mr. A. E. Laurence had been appointed to the vacant post. Mr. Harvey was presented with a handsome lounge chair, on the back of which was an inscription on a brass plate.
In September the Pastor instituted catechumen classes for those preparing for Church membership.
In February a very successful Missionary Exhibition was held in our Schoolroom and Committee-room in aid of the funds of the L.M.S., arranged by Zion and Rook Lane Churches. It was designed to illustrate the native life, manners and customs in Africa, China, India, Madagascar and New Guinea, and to awaken interest in missionary matters generally. On each side of the schoolroom was arranged a series of Courts, formed by large paintings on canvas and emblematic fittings. In the centre of the room was a stall for the sale of curios, native needlework and metal-work, and beneath the clock was a well-supplied literature stall. A series of excellent mission scenes and tableaux was arranged for each evening in the Committee-room; also a special Pageant, representing the meeting of Stanley and Livingstone.
In July, 1914, it was announced that the debt on the Manse had been entirely cleared, and there was a balance of £27 us. in hand towards the repairs that might be necessary in the future.
In commemoration of this result a thanksgiving service was held on August 5th, with an “At Home” at the Manse on the following evening.
In December a communication was received from the Military Authorities commandeering our School-room, Committee-room and Classrooms, etc., for billeting men of the Royal Field Artillery. It was subsequently reported that there were 125 in occupation.
During that occupation our Sunday School was held in the Chapel.
In April, 1915, after the R.F.A. had left, our premises were found so soiled and dilapidated that extensive renovation had to be undertaken. Eventually we were allowed £47 1 is. 4d. for rent of the premises, and £27 for dilapidations; total, £74 115. 4d. The cost of the renovation was £76 0s. 5d.
On May 5th a letter was received from Mr. Percy Ames resigning the post of Organist and Choirmaster. Mr. Ames was subsequently presented with a silver salver in recognition of his lengthened, efficient and valuable service.
In consequence of the vacancy thus created, Mr. Roland G. White, L.R.A.M., was appointed Organist and Choirmaster. Among the other events of this year the following may be mentioned: Mr. George Green, Pastor of our branch Church at Chapmanslade, had been presented with a purse of £50 on relinquishing that position, mainly through the efforts of Mr. W. B. Harvey in appealing for subscriptions Mr. Obed E. Davies had been appointed to the pastorate; Mr. Shave had been elected President of the Wilts and East Somerset Congregational Union for 1916-17 ; and the death of Mr. James Trotman Biggs, for many years a useful member of the Church and choir.
The year 1916 was memorable for several events of more than usual interest and importance.
On April 4th the County Union Meetings were held in Frome, a sermon being preached in our Chapel by Dr. J. D. Jones, of Bournemouth. At the business meeting Mr. Shave was appointed Honorary Secretary to the Union, in succession to the Rev. J. Turner-Smith, of Bath, who had himself succeeded the Rev. F. W. Clarke, B.A., then Pastor of Zion. In June the four retiring Deacons, viz., Messrs. S. Brown, H. Cross, W. H. Cross and A. Newport were unanimously re-elected. It is only fitting that we should offer a tribute of praise to each of these pillars of our Church. Mr. S. Brown renders valuable service in connection with our weekly offerings; Mr. H. Cross discharges the duties of Sidesman and is a welcome Sick Visitor; Mr. W. H. Cross performs his multifarious duties of Deacon, Sides man, Secretary of the Sunday School and Christian Endeavour Society in a way to merit our admiration; and Mr. Arthur Newport, as co-Treasurer with Mr. Keynes and as the guardian of our Chapel property, renders invaluable service in a quiet way. In May it was resolved to arrange for a “Win-One Campaign in the autumn, in connection with our Church, with the object of winning others for Christ. A Committee was appointed to consider the matter, and then reported that it would be an advantage to secure some outside help, and that the Rev. E. Harland Brine, of Sheffield, had been invited to be the Missioner. In September prayer circles were formed, and special prayer meetings were held to seek the Divine blessing on the effort. The mission was held from October 10th to the 19th, there being Bible Studies on several of the afternoons and meetings in the Chapel in the evenings. Mr. Brine proved to be a devoted and earnest man of God. His addresses were remarkable for insight into the spiritual needs of sinful men and unwavering faith in the love of God in Christ Jesus. A great blessing followed the Mission-in deepening the spiritual life of avowed disciples and securing decision for Christ among others. Between 80 and 90 signed decision cards confessing discipleship. Not a few connected with other Churches shared in the blessing. At the December Church Meeting 23 persons were nominated for membership as an outcome of the Mission, and were received into fellowship in the following month. The expense of the Mission, about £20, was met by voluntary contributions.
Mr. Oliver Brown, a prominent member of the Choir, and for many years a Teacher in the Sunday School, died in August.
The War-time lighting restrictions made it necessary early in October, 1916, to provide for the darkening of the windows of church and school. This involved much time, labour and expense, and thanks were accorded Messrs. A. Newport and A. E. Laurence, who took the necessary steps so generously that there was no cost to the Church and only a small charge on the Sunday School funds.
In 1917, from March to September, Zion lent its Pastor to work among the soldiers at Sutton Veny. Mr. Shave continued to take the Sunday evening service, but in the mornings conducted military parade services in camp, besides helping at the Institute most of the week.
In the course of the autumn it was found absolutely necessary to provide a new heating apparatus for the Chapel. The whole cost was more than met by freewill offerings amounting to £79 14s., subscribed by 71 persons.
The question of necessary improvements to the organ occupied a good deal of attention during the latter part of 1917, involving a cost of about £60. In the midst of the deliberations Mr. Arthur Newport announced that the expense would not fall upon the Church, and it subsequently transpired that he had generously undertaken it himself.
The work on the organ was only a part of a larger scheme, which included the renovation of the Chapel ceiling. As this would mean a considerable outlay, it was resolved that a Bazaar should be held in Whitweek, 1918.
The announcement of this project brings this paper up to date, but there are still many other matters which might be mentioned. Among these should be included the formation of a Probationary Section of the Church for those under 18 years of age; the transfer of the late Mr. Jelley’s legacy of £1,000 from private mortgage to War Loan, which will result in increased interest.
Last, but far from least, is the response made by the men and youths of Zion to the call to arms. It would be misleading to state numbers, for not only have many of our Church members gone forth on behalf of the great cause, but lesser known members of the congregation and senior classes, together with many more or less connected with us, have taken their part on every battle-front and on the sea. And of these some have made the supreme sacrifice, honouring themselves, their homes and their Church.
(The previous few paragraphs were penned by another hand, but this account of Zion’s activities must be concluded in our dear old friend’s inimitable words, which seem to us now only too significant.)
And now my task is ended. Who will undertake the work of historian of our Church in days to come we cannot tell. If I have rendered the Church no other service, I may claim to have rescued-from the oblivion of musty minute-books and the cobwebbed shelves of memory-records of passing interest to the present generation, and I have no doubt they will thrill the hearts of succeeding generations of Zionites.
May I adapt some lines from Dr. Bonar’s well-known hymn as my closing thought ?
Our Church’s history
We gratefully review;
How well it seems to suit her still,
Old and yet ever new.
‘Tis the same story still,
As in the days of yore,
Of grace and love still flowing down
From an exhaustless store.
Not unto us, 0 Lord, not unto us, but unto Thy Name be the Glory.
And what of the intervening century?
Zion, along with its sister church at Rook Lane continued the work of preaching the Gospel to all ages; in the Church; in the Sunday School; in association with the other Free Churches of the town and district through the Free Church Federal Council; through the Sunday School Union, in particular training Young People in Bible Study through the National Sunday School Union annual Scripture Examination. Through also the Ecumenical Forum of the Frome Council of Churches.
In the mid 1960’s, without a Minister, exploratory talks were held with Rook Lane, with a view to some form of union. This resulted in a new church, Frome Congregational Church coming into being by the transfer of membership from the majority of the members of the two churches. The former minister of Rook Lane, Rev Gordon Trowell, became the first Minister. Following his departure, Rev Martin W George, previously a Missionary in the Church of South India took up the role. In 1972 Frome Congregational Church united with most other Congregational Churches in England and Wales with the Presbyterian Church of England, to form the United Reformed Church.