When was Latchett Church founded?

When is any church founded? Any community of Christians sharing in worship and loving support is part of the universal church, regardless of a founding date. It is not surprising therefore that the earliest beginnings of Latchett are not well documented. What we do know is that in the early decades of last century a group of like minded Christians were meeting in homes and, later, in a hired room at the Wilfred Lawson Temperance Hotel (Woodford Green). One of the elders was Horace Sydney Smith, whose large family formed a significant part of the fellowship.

As the fellowship grew it hired a small hall in Primrose Road (South Woodford) and eventually on September 25th 1933 Latchett Hall was purchased from the Baptist Church for £400 and the fellowship settled there. So in terms of a permanent ‘home’ the church as we know it today was established in 1933 and recognised formally as a ‘Registered Place of Worship’ in 1935 for ‘Christians not otherwise designated’! Sadly Horace Smith had died in 1929, but the work had progressed under the leadership of two of his sons (aged 25 and 30) together with other elders who had joined over the years. A third son joined the leadership in the 1940s.

By the mid 1940s the work was well established and growing. The youth work and children’s work were overflowing and in 1950 a 10 year plan of rebuilding was commenced. The Maybank building was completed in 1952 (£4000), then the rear link building (£2000) and finally the present Hall in 1961 (£9000). The tin hut, built in 1911, and with bomb damage, was considered ‘somewhat of a reproach’ and ‘soon will become unsafe’. The records from 1958 indicate a membership of about 120 people. Funding for the 10 year plan was assisted by loans from Sir John Laing, and all were repaid ahead of schedule.

Whilst the church was meeting in Primrose Road a Scout leader from Bow in east London had brought his troop of boys out to camp in Essex. They had all very recently become Christians and were actively involved in visiting small churches and village greens to share the gospel in a very innovative and youthful way – by singing ‘spirituals’ and (later) playing hand-bells! The leadership in Primrose Road boldly welcomed this group of young men – still wearing shorts! – and helped them in Christian teaching and musical outreach. They later became known as the Gospel Song Team and were led by the much loved ‘Skipper’ Reginald Pinchback. Many of this group of young men married and moved into the Woodford area and became key members in the growing work at Latchett Hall.

In September 1961 the new Hall was opened by David Smith, the first Trustee, as a multi-purpose Hall adaptable both for youth activities and for more formal worship. The church continued its ministry amongst all ages in the community, but meanwhile David Smith went on to plant new churches in Woodford Bridge and the new Hainault estate.

Throughout the 40s, 50s and 60s there is no doubt that the children’s and youth work was the most striking feature of the fellowship life – with young people from many other churches in Woodford migrating towards Latchett on a Sunday evening. Another distinctive feature, both then and now, has been the weekly sharing of the Communion together in a simple, informal but reverent way. Also, every year the church funds have ended in credit without asking anyone outside of the fellowship for money and every year at least 20% of the Church’s income has been donated to Mission activity, here and overseas.

In 1983 the Trustees were concerned about succession and in May 1983 the freehold of the premises was conveyed to Church Growth Trust (then UKET) who then moved into the first floor classrooms (above the kitchen) and converted them into offices, as their own HQ. UKET’s work increased significantly and they moved to new offices in Loughton in May 1995. The Epping Forest branch of Youth for Christ then moved into the first floor. In 2009 a two-year sub-lease for three small offices above the Maybank Room was let to Community Healthcare Innovations who operated community related youth and counselling projects.

The church continued as a tenant until October 2019 when The Bridge Church took the lease on the buildings.

Throughout its life, the church at Latchett has been blessed with good Bible teachers who have not been afraid to investigate debate and even argue, but above all to declare the truth of God’s love as revealed in scripture.

At the end of September 2019 the Trustees relinquished their tenancy of the buildings, which were taken on by The Bridge Church. A celebration event was held to give thanks for the Latchett past and to pray forward the work of The Bridge Church.

In terms of the Church’s ministry, many initiatives and affiliation to various organisations have come and gone – and come again! Below is a snapshot of what has happened over the years:-

66 Club Assembly Suppers

Book Club Candle Club

Caritas Choir Coffee Corner

Computer Club Computing and other Courses

Courses & Seminars Covenanters and Girl Covenanters

Easter & Christmas Carol Services Harvest Services

Healing Rooms HM Forces Canteen

Homemakers HOPE Concert

ID Club (teens) Key Club

Latchett News Magazine Life Exhibition (with EYfC)

Listening to God Group Messy Church

Midweek Groups Monthly Prayer Meetings

Mums 'n' Tots Neighbourhood Visiting Team

New Year Suppers Open Days

Pastoral Carers Team Prayer Chain Phone

Prayer Ministry Team Retired Men’s Friendship Club

Sponsored Youth workers Street Parties

Summer Children's Holiday Clubs Sunday Morning Healing Services

Sunday School The Christianaires (Jazz group)

Toddlers Club Under 5s Club

Wait and See Club Weekend Away (biennial conferences)

Women’s Meeting Woodford Festival Events

Youth Fellowship

Basic Christianity Courses Teaching Seminars

Christianity Explored Course