Watton Pentecostal Church is
part of River Ministries (Norfolk)

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About Watton Pentecostal Church

The History of the Building

Early Days
In 1855 the Congregational Church obtained the plot of land, on what is now Watton Pentecostal Church. The minister at the time was Rev. Alfred Griffin, and they were fast outgrowing their current building, what is now Loch House, in the Dereham Road. The church had formed 38 years previously "to relieve the spiritual destitution to the inhabitants of Watton." (A Congregational Church record) in 1818.

Plans soon got underway and on April 3rd. 1856, the Rev. John Alexander of Norwich laid the foundation stone. It would seem that building was even quicker, because on 10th August 1856 the new building was opened with a special service! The original trustees of the building were William Rook, Cook Wright Alexander, Thomas Lane Alexander, John Edmund Alexander, William Robert Clarke, Robert Clarke, James Greaves, Robert Ellett, William Pearson, William Meek Burton Watson, James Mattless Harvey and Benjamin Chaston.

The church was built in Gothic style, in common with many Protestant Churches of the nineteenth century. It was a style associated with religious revival. The exterior walls are black flint, with Suffolk white brick dressings and the roof is slate. The pointed arch doorway and windows are typical of this style. The windows are glazed with opaque leaded glass, with a surround of bright coloured stained glass on the outside. Inside is a high wooden pointed arched ceiling, finishing on either side with a series of carved stone archivolts. These are all different and show carvings of leaves, flowers, fruit and birds. Outside the arches are supported with brick and flint buttresses.

Rapid Growth to Slow Decline

In 1862, to mark the bi-centenary of the ejection of "the Immortal 2000" from the Church of England - those clergy and schoolmasters who refused to confess their consent to everything contained in the book of Common Prayer, a schoolroom was built on the back of the church.

carved stone archivolt

Further improvements were made eight years later, when a gallery was erected in the church, because of the increase in congregation over the previous two years. The access to the gallery was up a wooden spiral staircase in the tower. The money for this project, and two brass gas standards, was given by the Alexander family, a family that had much influence on the church at that time. In spite of this expansion, giving accommodation for 200 people, at the reopening services on 17th July 1870 it was so crowded that not everyone was able to get in.

congregational church 1920
The Congregation Church 1920

Things in the building did not change much for about ninety years, though deterioration did slowly begin, and in the 1960's the turret on the tower in the southwest corner became dangerous, and the upper half had to be removed. The balcony probably ceased to be used around this time too. In the 1970's the Congregational Church became the United Reform Church, but on Easter Sunday 1976, because of a dwindling congregation, the church closed down.

A Change of Ownership

In 1977 the Assemblies of God Church purchased the building, with a mortgage being obtained from Assemblies of God Property Trust. The Assemblies of God Church was formed in Watton in the 1930's, and had outgrown their meeting place in the "Upper Room" in Middle Street. The Trustees at this time were Rowland Forder, Ian Austin, Fredrick Godfrey, David Bilverstone and Orlando Turner.

In the early 1980's the front of the church was panelled off, and made into a foyer. Another smaller meeting room, and kitchen were added to the back, making the building more useful for the new congregation it was serving.

The interior of the church 1991
The interior of the church 1991

In 1988 Property Trust became the Trustees of the building. Over the next decade alterations continued to be made, the now deteriorating lead work in the windows meant some needed replacing, sadly the cost involved made this largely unviable. In 1994 the vestry (formerly the schoolroom) was refurbished, and another toilet rebuilt on the original foundations. Then in 1998 all the wooden pews and decorative screening were removed, and the floor was levelled and new chairs purchased. 1999 saw the front iron railings taken out, the entrance, built only for pony and trap, widened, and the front gardens replanted. Inside the organ was removed and sold, and a Baptistry built in its place.

A New Era

At the dawn of a new millennium, on 1st January 2000 Watton Assemblies of God with Pastor Chris Pye amalgamated with Watton Community Church with Rev. Roger Pawsey, to be become Watton Pentecostal Church, retaining its affiliation with Assemblies of God.

Watton Pentecostal Church 2001
Watton Pentecostal Church 2001

And so work continues, to make the building both relevant and inviting to today's generation, reflected in our continued mandate, passed down by our forefathers, to meet the spiritual needs of the people of Watton. While not forgetting the heritage of the past.