Back in 1840, open-air services were held on Epsom Common by a lay preacher, not an ordained minister. When the weather was cold and wet, the services were held in the tiny cottages on Epsom Common and the children had a story time in the parlour.
During the week, meetings were held in the cottages for bible study and prayer. These meetings were called "class meetings" - a name still used today. All the time numbers were growing. More and more people wanted to attend and know about the bible and Jesus.
The nearest Methodist Church with a minister was Sutton, and some of our members used to walk from Epsom to Sutton, about seven or eight miles, to hear the preacher, before walking home. The enthusiastic group meeting in the cottages on the Common started getting restless. They wanted something bigger. They wanted their own chapel in which their ever-growing numbers could meet to worship and praise the Lord.
They had a vision and faith and for seven years they worked hard and saved their money. Then in 1847 they purchased a barn - right in the town centre. In those days, much of the current town centre was still fields, open land or farms. Therefore, the first Methodist chapel was given the name "Pretty Rustic Chapel"! Being surrounded by farms and fields, there were occasions when a chicken would stroll down the aisle and one morning the service was stopped because a donkey tried to get in.
However, it did not matter. There was much rejoicing at the first chapel, with worshippers wanting to share what they knew. However, very soon the barn became too small for all the adults and children, and it became necessary to look for another site.
Yet again, a site was found in the town centre, quite close to the present railway station. In 1863, the second chapel was opened at a cost of £1,300, which was a fair amount in those days. It had meant a lot of hard work, but all the time numbers continued to grow. In addition, by 1900 they had reached 150 adults with as many children in the Sunday school. The second chapel was no longer large enough, and so once again there was a lot of talk, a lot of prayer and the decision was made to look for another site.
They did not have to look far because this site, here in Ashley Road was an empty field. Another area right in the town, so with faith and confidence the site was purchased. What faith, what a vision for the future. So a new church was built, which cost £7,700 and this church was opened in 1914.
In 1944 during the Second World War, a bomb fell next door, and we lost all our windows, but two remained. The large window up there in the front and the lovely rose window behind.
In addition, membership continues to grow and grow and grow ... 200, 300, 400, 500 and on. Because of the large numbers and all the activities, especially with young people, the Church hall was built in 1959. I just do not know how we managed without the Church hall for so many years. In 1962, we built the transept, and in 1968, we made the front porch larger. Then in 1984 we built the Church office and Ministers office in front of the Church hall
One hundred and fifty nine years ago those early Wesleyan Methodists had a vision. Equally important they had their faith. Without their dedication, we would not have these premises today. On this Church anniversary, we give thanks for all the hard work, love and prayer, and we are so grateful.
We now look forward to the future with exciting plans, and trust that we have that same sense of dedication as we plan for the future. And for all those who will follow to serve the Lord and witness to those around us, as they did all those years ago to make this place of worship possible."
Therefore, what is next?
We shall pray that for three main objectives:
We shall all be granted the same vision for a Redeveloped Church open, welcoming and rebuilt and refurbished for all the people of Epsom, Ashtead and beyond.
The design will be right and reflect God’s wishes for EMC.
The money will be found.
May each and everyone’s prayers and personal decisions fulfil God’s wishes for the future of EMC