Growing up at Old Lodge Lane – Some Memories
Brenda Lord (née Lock) looks back with affection at the inspiring characters and vibrant church life at ‘the Lane’ in the Sixties and Seventies
I will be forever grateful for the positive Christian influence that God blessed me with through the people at Old Lodge Lane Baptist Church during my formative years. I was a very shy child but they really helped me to build some confidence and develop my gifts. They provided me with a strong foundation for my adult years.
This mostly covers 1959 – 1974 when I left for university but my parents were still there until my dad died in 1981 and my mum moved house in 1983. I returned for a year when I did my PGCE and it was Bill Mumby who walked me down the aisle when I got married in 1986.
In June 1958, aged two, I moved into 14 Somerton Close with my parents Bill and Joyce Lock and my sister Hazel who was to be born in the September. The house was brand new along with the rest of the estate and I can remember the flats opposite the church in the process of construction and Reedham Park Avenue having a rough path rather than a pavement.
The new council estate was the pride of Surrey County Council but town planning was slightly lacking in the 50s and so the matter of shops, a school, a community centre or a playground had been overlooked. (There were over 44 children in my Haynes Primary School class. The Wattenden School didn’t open until January 1968.) There was a small plot of land which was to be allocated for either a pub or a church.
Due to the Vails and other folk from Purley Baptist who were more than happy to support a church plant, Old Lodge Lane Baptist Church was constructed at roughly the same time as the estate. A good number of Purley Baptist members moved to the Lane either permanently or for a few years in order to help it get established. They were a great bunch of gifted and dedicated people.
My earliest memory of it is being held by my dad in the vestibule as the church was packed for a big event. It may have been a Christmas service or it may even have been the opening, I am not sure. Another early memory was of an open air service on the green in Wontford Road with Hedley playing the accordion.
As everyone knows, the church first began with the Sunday School that was held at the home of Mr and Mrs Vail in Old Lodge Lane, so Sunday School moved to the church building once it was ready for use. Children started attending at the age of four. It was on Sunday afternoons and was so large that it had three departments and a staggered start.
The Beginners section was run by Mrs Large for many years, helped by teenager Carol Hockley (now Russell) among others and met in the vestry which was two rooms with a partition behind the pulpit area, next to the kitchen. We learned choruses such as ‘Jesus Loves Me This I Know’ and ‘Wide, Wide as the Ocean’ – which had some very long words in it that I never understood, but the actions were fun. A weekly highlight was playing with plasticine after the story. At Christmas, a few of us were taught all three verses of ‘Away in a Manger’ which we sang on the platform at the carol service.
Mrs Joyce Aldridge ran the Infant section which met in the main church, followed by the Juniors led by Mr Harry Marriot who was also the Sunday School superintendent for about 15 years, even after he returned to Banstead Road. Mr Marriot sometimes gave us the opportunity to enter the annual Scripture Union Bible competition. One year we marked this by planting some autumn crocuses in the lawn in the corner nearest the front door.
Classes were divided into age groups with boys separate from girls and we had the same teacher every week for a year. Each summer the class would be invited to tea at our teacher’s house and going up a class was a big annual event. This was good for building relationships across the generations. When I was allowed to go to one of the special adult services such as Harvest or the candlelight service, there were adults there who I knew would acknowledge me. I am fairly sure that it was former Sunday School teachers who later interviewed me for church membership when I applied in my mid-teens. Of course I could not vote until I was 18 but I was allowed to contribute to discussions.
An even bigger annual event was the Sunday School outing. I remember one picnic outing when I was very young to Farthing Down, but soon the ‘pilgrimage’ to Littlehampton became a highlight of the year. We paid in weekly instalments and it was open to the children, their families, their teachers and virtually anyone who wanted to go I think, so that some years we needed two coaches.
We would rendezvous at the 234A bus terminal which was then at the bottom of the path from the woods between Colescroft Hill and Whitefield Avenue. The morning was always spent on the beach, then we would go off to the funfair and finally have tea. So many churches used Littlehampton for their outing that there were large tearooms especially for that purpose. I suppose it ended when Sunday school numbers fell as families were able to afford cars and went out on a Sunday instead of sending their children to the church. It is interesting that many churches have almost come a full circle with the popularity of Messy Church on Sunday afternoons.
Holiday Bible Clubs
Geoff Richards was great at children’s talks and it was he who instigated holiday Bible Clubs. Geoff and Ann Richards were with us from February 1964 to February 1967, and in the first year they invited a team from SU to lead it with help from church volunteers. It had a nautical theme and to promote it on the estate, they decorated a car or van as a ship and went round the streets with Geoff on a tannoy, which we found very exciting! It was great.
We had a session in the morning with quizzes, stories, memory verse and building things out of cardboard. Favourite songs included ‘There’s a Grand Highway’, ‘Marching Beneath the Banner’ and ‘Do You Want a Pilot’. For one Dressing up as a Bible Character competition, mum dressed me as Pharaoh’s daughter and my visiting school friend as the widow of Zarephath. In the afternoons, we did activities like going to the ‘Rec’ (the recreation ground in Higher Drive), scavenger hunts or playing ‘Hunt The Leaders’ who were wandering the streets in various costumes. Geoff dressed up as a road sweeper one year. In the evenings, which were intended for the 7-11s, we watched a filmstrip of Pilgrim’s Progress and were introduced to Bible reading notes.
Once I was secondary school age I was allowed to be a helper. This led to my first opportunity to lead a small group. I was teamed with an adult called Clive to cover the Bible reading notes activity. Having been reading Quest notes for a year, I asked ‘Shall I take them?’ Looking back now I am surprised that I offered to do this as I was a very shy child, and surprised even more at his response which was to suggest that we split into two groups with him taking the boys and me the girls.
And so I led my very first small children’s group sitting on a small grassy hillock outside by the fence. I was 12 and they were only five or six, but I was probably better at relating to five-year-olds then than I have ever been since! As I grew older I became even more involved with the holiday clubs. How we managed three sessions a day I do not know as it was quite exhausting! I loved it though.
The Small Hall
The church was soon being used every night of the week and it wasn’t long before an extra hall was needed. I remember the men of the church rallying to put the concrete foundations in place, but as the weeks went on my dad noted that it was often only Bill Aldridge who faithfully went over on a Saturday to build it. It wasn’t given a name, just the ‘small hall’ but I always think of it as the Bill Aldridge Hall!
The holiday Bible clubs led to a weekly children’s club in the evenings with some great Bible talks as well as games. One leader, Jean Thomas, later became one of our missionaries going out to Borneo for some years. This club ran for a while but was replaced with separate clubs for boys and girls.
This was to be the start of something much bigger. Two men gifted at youth work and with a passion for reaching the boys on the estate with the gospel were Hedley East and John Fox. The boys club grew into three clubs on a Thursday and the girls into two on a Monday.
The boys’ club was called Endeavourers and the girls’ club Discoverers, although normally we simply referred to it as ‘club’. They were not affiliated with national groups and they worked really well for some years. It was mostly games, especially for the boys, and always with an epilogue at the end. I remember seeing all the Endeavourers’ football kit hanging out on the line regularly as Mrs Arneal from No. 9 Somerton used to wash it.
Although the church always looked smart on a Sunday for services, no one had any qualms about allowing the kids to play ball games in the main hall during the week. However we discovered that it was a good idea to put a plastic dome over the clock and on club nights hang wire grids over the windows. I still managed to break a light bulb one evening though. Had we remembered that it was a plastic one for the fluorescent lights and not the old glass ones, we might have attempted to catch it rather than run!
It was a sad day indeed when Geoff and Ann Richards moved on, especially as we then had two long interregnums in quick succession. But they left a strong legacy and the church still thrived due the commitment, enthusiasm and gifts of a good many of its members. The Lane has never been a large church but it certainly has had its strengths.
The boys’ club leaders started doing summer camps in North Wales as John loved the mountains, and thus a large number of boys had the chance to experience the healthy outdoors and think about the gospel in a peaceful environment.
The idea of buying a plot of land in North Wales to make the summer camps easier to run turned into a project to buy a cottage. And so Minafon in Rhyd Ddu, Caernarfon, was found and some enthusiastic fundraising and borrowing was started.
My main memory of that was of an overnight sponsored walk from the church to Charing Cross Station and back, a distance of 30 miles. I was about 11 and was pleased to get all the way up there and part of the way back. My mum did the whole walk and my sister did the first half. My dad on his motorbike acted as a lookout patrol riding up and down the length of the walkers to see that everyone was OK.
Minafon was in easy reach of one of the paths to Snowdon and other mountains, as well as some sandy beaches and Caernarfon with its castle and souvenir shops. A trust was set up as the official owners and other groups were able to hire it also.
John Fox was the warden and spent each summer up there. He was a university chemistry lecturer which allowed him the time. Previous owners had run a café which made for the perfect dining area for the groups. It was first used in the summer of 1968. There were three boys’ camps and one girls’ camp which I attended. That required a good number of leaders but we managed it and several of us became junior leaders as older teenagers.
Apart from my first trip, I had to put up with my mum and dad, Bill and Joyce, coming as leaders but they behaved themselves and the other girls found it fun to also call them ‘mum’ and ‘dad’ to confuse people on the beach into wondering how large this family was! One Easter we had a mixed camp when we also painted the café. It happened to snow the night before April Fools Day which led to an amusing prank involving Bill, John, snow and sleeping bags!
The Women’s Friendship Hour
On a Tuesday the ladies had a social group with a short epilogue. They invited speakers on various subjects, held Bring and Buy stalls especially at Christmas when my mum would make Christmas decorations to sell, had outings such as going to the local telephone exchange, and saved up for an annual dinner outing – it was the Post Office Tower one year! It was the Lane’s way of reaching out to the ladies on the estate and it ran for many, many years. They briefly tried a men’s night on a Friday but it wasn’t quite as successful.
I had made a couple of commitments after hearing the gospel from the children’s leaders but it never came to much until I was about 11 years old. In fact I only discovered what a Christian was after I became one! I decided that I wanted to start going to church on a Sunday evening. The service was only an hour and afterwards, the young people would go to a local house or pile into a couple of cars and go to Hedley’s house in Chipstead Valley Road. There was no regard for safety as we sat on laps to fit in as many as possible. It was called Hi-Y’s and later there was Lo-Y’s as well. We didn’t like that name but couldn’t agree on an alternative so we were stuck with it. (One suggestion – ‘the jolly ram jam club’ caused much giggling and was vetoed!) My mum would make scones for it when they came to us.
Although Hedley focused on the boys’ clubs, he also ran a mixed young people’s Bible study on a Wednesday evening. About nine of us met regularly either at our house or the Orpins in Whitefield Avenue. We always started with jokes and had a good laugh but oh we learned so much, with Hedley taking us through the New Testament letters mostly. It was a great for someone like me who had become bored with Bible stories as I thought I knew them all!
I guess that Hedley may have started it as a follow-up from the youth camps. My mum remembers Duncan Green coming to the adult Bible study as a young teenager when that met at our house. The numbers there had grown so big that we had to take the dining door off its hinges on a Wednesday and improvise seating by putting planks on top on barrels. There was always a great atmosphere and people preferred to meet at our house rather than the church, until a new leader arrived and moved it.
On 5 July 1970, five of us from that Bible study group were baptised by our moderator, John Pearce. When we finally had a minister again with the arrival of John Maile in 1971, Hedley handed the group over to him for a few years. John Fox also led some interesting Bible studies for us, mostly in Sunday morning’s senior group for 11-14s.
Autumn 1970 saw Hedley organising the first youth weekend away, though ‘youth’ had no upper age limit. It was led by his wife Di’s brother, Robin Talbot, who was one of our missionaries (Thailand) and we stayed in a lovely old building in Fittleworth. Robin and Celia taught us about the Holy Spirit and the weekend had a great impact on many people who had their first experience of being filled with the Holy Spirit.
I was interested but too shy to let anyone pray with me so I just prayed for myself and didn’t feel right away that anything had happened. However I came home with a quiet assurance that God had answered my prayer and found my prayer life completely transformed. I had no interest in praying in tongues or anything like that until many years later. It was a turning point for many people and they started a 9.30am prayer meeting on a Sunday which filled the two vestry rooms for many months to come. The Lane never became wildly charismatic but always had a real life about it.
These weekends became an annual event for a while using venues in Frinton and Capel Bible College. The teaching was always excellent. Hedley also introduced us in 1973 to Capel Bible Week which was an early forerunner of the Bible weeks of today such as New Wine and Spring Harvest. My friends and I camped there in 1974 after our A-levels. All such events cost much less back then.
Sunday School Teaching
The Sunday School had moved to a morning slot with the Juniors meeting at 10am in the small hall and going into church for 15 minutes before going home or back into Junior Church.
I was secondary school age by this time and Mr Marriott asked me to help out with setting up and so forth. When I was 15, he gave me my own class of eight-year-old girls. We also switched to starting in church at 10.45 for 15 minutes and then taking them down to the Wattendon School for the main part of Sunday School.
When I was 17, some of us went to a SU training day in London where I learned story telling skills – a great help and it really changed my lessons. There were also workshops on art and music. A primary music teacher named Joyce led the music session and showed us how to put the story of Elijah and the Prophets of Baal to the Planet Suite track Uranus by Holst. I have used that several times over the years.
A Great Teacher
John Maile took over the role of pastor in 1971. He was an excellent teacher which was why, after three years with us, he was head-hunted by Spurgeon’s. We all benefited a great deal from his easy-going way of teaching theology. He was popular with us teenagers with his long trendy hairstyle and gentle ways.
We met at his flat across from the church for our Bible study group. I remember how we were all impressed with his library of around 1,000 books! He surprised us by liking ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’ which was regarded as dodgy by many Christians back then.
A new church cannot afford a manse but Surrey County Council was happy to make housing available for our ministers. The Kingdons lived in Wontford Road and the Richards in Roffey Close. Mr Sleeman declined to live on a council estate and had to bus to the church from outside the area as he did not drive.
By the time John and Barbara Maile arrived, the area no longer came under Surrey but under the London Borough of Croydon who were more reluctant to be so helpful. When they agreed to offer a flat to the couple, they made it clear that this was the last time we could expect preferential treatment.
From that time, we started to save for a manse and it was great to be able to buy the house in Haydn Avenue in time for Bill and Joyce Mumby to move in when they arrived in 1975. As it was some distance from the church and Bill wanted an office in the building, we made some adjustments to the back rooms.
Bill came and ‘preached with a view’ around Christmas 1974. His sermon was about Joseph being a man of integrity which is how I remember it was Christmas! Although Bill was officially part of the Purley Team Ministry under Frank Cook, it was the members of Old Lodge Lane who voted to invite him to be our minister. Purley Baptist had by now realised that we needed to choose our own ministers as not everyone understands the needs of a church plant on a council estate. In fact when John was appointed, he was warned by some people that the Lane was a difficult church! In his farewell sermon he told us that we had not been difficult at all, in fact just the opposite. As Bill and Joyce were both from the East End of London, they were ideal.
Children’s Choirs – Joybells
Nothing lasts forever, especially with youth work. People move on and change happens. Hedley was so involved with life at the Lane, not just with the youth work but as a deacon, choir leader and an amazing pianist, that finding time for family was difficult. In 1975 he moved to Reigate and did not become involved with his new church for some years until his children were older.
The youth clubs started to struggle. But the Lane was a place that played to its strengths.
Joyce was a primary school teacher who specialised in music. Joyce had not visited with Bill initially, so it was only later that we discovered that our new minister’s wife was the lady who had led the music session at the training day! Once settled, Joyce started a children’s choir called Joybells as an outreach venture. It was a great success and grew into two choirs. She had a strong belief that anyone could learn to sing!
For many years, the Carols by Candlelight service was absolutely packed with local people with standing room only. One year when my dad was on steward duty and helping people to find seats, he remembered about some benches in the toilets. So from halfway down the aisle he shouted out ‘Are there any seats in the ladies?’ To which John White wrily responded, ‘Surely it hasn’t come to that.’ (But he knew about the benches!)
Both the adult and the children’s Christmas parties were great fun. Some years earlier my dad had rescued an ex-ice show pantomime reindeer which was being thrown out. It had lost its antlers but we painted the nose red and called it Rudolf. I remember it being used for a couple of children’s parties at the Lane with my dad in the front and Bill Aldridge in the back. Mum and dad wrote short scripts between them and Joy Aldridge was Rudolf’s ‘friend’.
Decorating the church for these events was great fun. Mum would take us up to the woods beforehand to find foliage for decorations. It is remarkably difficult to find holly with berries in those woods. We tried every year. In spring she cut beech leaves and preserved them in glycerine for the year. The woods also provided fuel for the autumn bonfires, which were really tall. My dad, on finding himself with a garden for the first time, took to growing dahlias as well as vegetables. At harvest, we could fill the church with flowers as well as doing two local flower shows.
These events were also a chance to involve the Sunday school which encouraged shy children like me. I progressed from singing a carol, to doing readings and my mum would take me to practise in the main hall, teaching me to speak so that I could be heard by the deaf people in the back row and to read with expression. It proved to be a valuable opportunity.
Another asset was that the Youth leaders, Pete and Hilary Brand (née Crix), were great at leading youth services to which I could unashamedly invite my teenage friends without fear of embarrassment.
Also of interest
Graham Kendrick visited us a couple of times, including the Junior boys’ camp, as his sister Gill Lewis was one of our members. Dave was one of the boys’ club leaders and they both went on the camps.
I remember the excitement when it was announced that Frank Cooke’s daughter-in-law Tina Heath was to be the new Blue Peter presenter.
I have portrayed something of a glowing picture as my memories are happy ones but of course the church had its difficult times as well. But we have an amazing and faithful God and Old Lodge Lane Baptist is a testimony to what He can do in and through a small church and the lives of ordinary people such as us. I still remember to pray for the Lane sometimes and for everyone who went through the clubs and the camps.
Duncan Green, who grew up in Roffey Close, was later ordained into the Anglican Church focusing on youth work for some years. From 2007 he oversaw the Church of England’s involvement at the London 2012 Games. On retiring as Archdeacon of Northolt, he and his wife Janet (neé Orpin), also from Old Lodge Lane, moved to Suffolk.
Geoff Richards, Old Lodge Lane’s second pastor, died on 11 February 2019 at the age of 84.at Byars Nursing Home in Caythorpe, Notts. After his time here he moved in 1967 to Hinckley Baptist Church in Leicestershire. He later served at churches in Nottinghamshire and Grimsby.
After teaching at Spurgeon’s for several years, John and Barbara Maile wanted to return to ‘normal church life’ so he became the minister at West Wickham Baptist Church until he retired and they moved to the Midlands to be near family.
Bill and Joyce Mumby moved from Brighton to the Isle of Wight where Bill was minister at Sandown Baptist until his retirement. Sadly he died of cancer shortly afterwards but Joyce still lives in Cowes.
Hedley and Di East left the lane in 1975. Hedley worked for Thames Water for many years but later accepted a post as Youth Pastor at St Luke’s Church in North London. On retiring, they moved to Barcombe in Sussex and he continued his involvement with youth and children’s work right up until he was diagnosed with motor neurone disease aged 74. I have never seen so many children and young people at a thanksgiving service, May 2005. The local school closed that morning so that the children could attend if they wished. The order of service even included a colouring sheet and quiz. Di still lives in Barcombe.
Carol Russell (neé Hockley) still lives in Coulsdon and is a member of Purley Baptist in Banstead Road. She has done much youth work, especially with Guides and the Red Cross. Carol would have many memories of aspects of life at the Lane.
Hilary Brand has had several Christian books published.
I ran the History department at a Christian boarding school called Clarendon for eight years, also teaching some RE. I later returned to doing children’s work with 7-11s and then older ones. By 1995, my experience was broad enough that I was able to enjoy the opportunity to set up a training course for the new Religious Education section at a university in Slovakia. I have continued to be involved with youth work over the years although I currently focus mostly on writing up the resources that I have written for various groups over the years which I post on my website, soulspace1014.com. I’m also on Facebook.