St. Andrews - Timeline
There is some evidence that a group of farm labourers were worshipping God on this site as far back as 1850.
03.10.1900 - Mr Albert Edward Peter purchased Great Fish Hall. The property included Great Fish Hall, a lake with an island, a park, and a farmhouse called Little Fish Hall. It included 300 acres of agricultural land. Deeds to this property have been kept in the family.
Mr Peter was a devout Christian and encouraged his workers to worship God. In the summer they met in the orchard and in the winter or inclement weather they met in the hall of the lodge of Great Fish Hall.
1901 - Daughter Gertrude, aged four years, while skating on the ice on the lake, fell through. She was rescued alive but unconscious and suffering from hypothermia. Great prayer was made for her and that prayer was answered. She made a full recovery.
1908 - The Peter Family moved to Brighton, but retained ownership of the Great Fish Hall Estate. Mr Peter decided on the move to the coast because of his wife's health.
1908 - In gratitude to God for the deliverance of his daughter, Mr Peter found a disused chapel in Brighton, purchased it, had it dismantled and taken to Hadlow Road Tonbridge. There he allocated a section of land in his orchard and had the building assembled as a permanent place of worship for his farm workers.
1911 - The building was erected and opened. Mr Julian Brown, current Patron of St. Andrews and great grandson of Mr Peters, has a diary written by Mr Peter, which includes reference to his having worshipped regularly there before 1916. Miss Gillian McClare, a worshipper at St. Andrews, was certain the date was 1911.
There is also evidence that The Revd. Sinclair Howard Monypenny, Vicar of St. Mary's Anglican Church from 1908 to 1951, led Services there, and there is a plaque dedicated to him in St. Andrews.
History also records that while Fish Hall was in the status of a Free Church, Lay Pastor Mr Douglas Vinell ministered at the church from 1918 to 1939, assisted by his wife Edith, to whom there is also a plaque in St. Andrews Church.
However, an entry in the 2004 "Tonbridge Parish Newsletter" states that the building was actually opened in 1926. This was also suggested by another worshipper at the Fish Hall Church, Mrs Dora Sibley, now deceased.
1916 - Mr Peter sold the Great Fish Hall Estate, with the exception of the land allocated to the Fish Hall church and the building itself, which was retained by the family.
1918-1939 - Mr Douglas Vinell, (see plaque on wall on right side of church), became the Lay Pastor of this little Free Church.
1926 - The other date suggested as the year the church was opened.
1944 - The building was seriously damaged by shock waves from a flying bomb, which landed in the orchard. It was closed for repairs and fully restored by 1947.
26.02.1947 - The Free Church became an Anglican Church and part of the Parish of St. Mary's Church Hadlow.
The church was dedicated by the Bishop of Rochester, Rt. Revd Dr Chevasse.
1948 - The Parish Boundaries were redrawn and effectively this placed the church within the boundary of Tonbridge Parish Church of Sts. Peter & Paul. Parish meetings were held and there is a record of the minutes of these meetings included in these documents. The matter was vigorously discussed, as can be seen. Agreement was finally reached that the church should become part of the Anglican Church of Sts. Peter and Paul, Tonbridge.
1954 - Fish Hall Mission Church became part of Sts Peter and Paul Church, Tonbridge. Services were held as follows:
First Sunday of month Holy Communion at 9 am All Sundays Morning Prayer at 9. 45 am
Sunday School at 3 pm. Early Leaders were David and Valerie Barrows and Joe and Ellen Yatesround. I/C childrens work Miss Gill McClare.
1990/91 - Fish Hall Mission Church became St. Andrews Fish Hall, soon shortened to St. Andrews, this first under the leadership of the Vicar, Revd. Michael Perry, then by Revd Stephen Seamer. Ministered by Reader Brian Adams, later non-stipendiary curate, and finally curate. He was succeeded by Reader Peter Chaffin.
2002 - Present Reader Terry Collins succeeded, authorised by Revd. Stephen Seamer. This has been confirmed by the present Vicar, Revd Mark Brown.
I must express my gratitude to the following people/organisations who have assisted me in my investigation: The Ordnance Survey Maps, The National Maps of Kent, the National Archives, the Office of National Statistics, The Cambridge University Historic Society, the Cambridge University Library, The Bodleian Library of Oxford University, and the Leadmall website, David Archer, (Historic Maps).
I have taken into account the sources of information listed below:
The notes provided by Mr Julian Brown, LLB (Hons), LLM, FRGS, Barrister, and Patron of St. Andrews, plus copies of notes by Mr Albert Peter
Entries from Tonbridge Free Press 1939
Tonbridge Parish Magazine March 1981
The Courier Newspaper Tonbridge Edition, April 2010
Julian Brown's letter dated 29th March 2010, recording that his
Grandfather's diary has an entry mentioning Fish Hall Mission Church, prior to 1914.
The record of NW (Douglas), Vinell's service as Lay Preacher to the Fish Hall Mission Church from 1918 - 1939.
At 1215 hrs on Friday 25th March 2011, the Bodleian Library of Oxford University telephoned to say they have found a 1 inch to the mile map of 1920, which definitely shows the existence of the church on this site. Details will be emailed to me.
In the face of these facts, I believe the entry in the Tonbridge Parish Magazine for November 1964 to be in error.
I recommend that it should be concluded, the evidence from the Bodleian Library, and taking into account the appointment of Douglas Vinell as Lay Pastor specifically for this church from 1918, is that the building was in existence from 1911 and that therefore, this year is its 100th year on this site.
Terry Collins, March 2011