These are extracts from a letter by Mrs. Rapley of Crowborough to Mrs. Marion Pont in response to an enquiry about Knockholt chapel.
The brick built building known as Providence Chapel was situated on the right hand corner of Burling Lane. It was a square structure where I attended each Sunday with my parents during my school years. The land on which it stood was owned by a Mr. Constable as were a few cottages close to it (now demolished). The chapel was in a rapidly deteriorating condition.
I remember there being a row of clothes pegs on one inside wall. During one Sunday service a fair chunk of the ceiling fell hitting the peg on which hung my father’s bowler hat causing the peg to pierce through it. One of my aunts attending the service was so amused that she felt it right to leave the building.
A corrugated iron chapel was erected in the mid 192Os by the side of grandfather’s bungalow and shop almost opposite to the entrance of Burling Lane. Services were held here each Sunday until shortly after Grandmother died in 1945. It was later used as a grain store until the family sold the land, bungalow and shop. The new owners demolished all of the building. New property has been erected on the site and all trace of the old buildings has now gone.
The congregation of Providence Chapel came from quite a wide area: Westerham, Brasted, Tatsfield, Edenbridge and Dunton Green walking a considerable distance and for many an uphill climb. I remember the families of Crane, Friend, Martin, Wells and West as well as our own family.
The ministers also came from a distance. My father would often need to meet a train at Knockholt station by pony and trap. I remember the names of some of the preachers: Mr. Borer, Mr. Brockeys, Mr. Brooks, Mr. Charman, Mr. Harmer, Mr. Lane, Mr. Pearce, Mr. Pond, Mr. Pool, Mr. Pounds, Mr. Tandy and Mr. Warren. I remember my father speaking of Mr. Hazelrigg and Mr. Hemmington. (Some of these names may be slightly wrongly spelt.)
A Mr. Collings presided over the services until his death when Grandfather took over himself. A tuning fork gave the pitch for singing the hymns. There was no musical accompaniment to my knowledge. Between morning and afternoon service each worshipper ate a meal which they brought with them, often sharing. This was a time of godly fellowship.
My father (also a George Chilton) often recalled an occasion at the end of Sunday worship when Grandfather walked what was intended to be ‘a little way home’ with Mr. Tandy, the day’s minister, but they were so blest in sweet spiritual communion together that after some distance Mr. Tandy decided to walk ‘a little way back’ with grandfather. This ‘two way fellowship’ continued until around 2.00 am. the following morning. Mr. Tandy returned for the remainder of the night staying with Grandfather and Grandmother.
I do agree with your reference to the godliness of dear Grandmother. She was much loved by those living in the area. During the years of the last war with Germany an exploding bomb in the area shattered the windows of her little cottage. It was not easy to obtain glass at that time, however a sizeable landowner in the district sent one of his staff to replace the panes that were broken and made the comment that he would not wish to feel that dear old lady to be in need of window repairs.
I am the only remaining grandchild of George Chilton and being in my 89th year there are no doubt other interesting points of history that I have forgotten.
Marion Pont to whom the letter was written adds that her grandfather who used to preach at Knockholt told her that he was staying with Mrs. Chilton on the Saturday night prior to preaching when the bomb dropped and caused damage. The old lady who was rather deaf thought it was workmen and called out ‘Tell the workmen to go away, we don ‘t have workmen in on Sundays!’
Does anyone have any more information on Knockholt? One of the current local ministers thinks that the Chilton family opened more chapels in the area. Does anyone know about this?