No. 324 - The Former United Church at Sidmouth

The Sidmouth United Church stood at the junction of the B73 road to Batman Bridge and Spring Hill Road. It was demolished in 1995, approximately 90 years after it was built. The exact date of the church’s establishment is unknown. The earliest press report about it refers to “the first wedding solemnised” at the church in April 1909.

The church had a close association with various denominations in nearby Beaconsfield, including the Anglicans and the Salvation Army. The “annual united church sports” held at the Sidmouth sports ground was a significant feature of church and community life for many years.

An interesting aspect of the United Church was its close association with supporting servicemen during the Great War. A report in the Examiner from June 1918 is one example of many ceremonies held at the church for returning servicemen:

“A welcome home was given to Privates C. Forbes and J Williams on Thursday night in the United Church. There was a large attendance, the church being packed. Ensign Ward, of Beaconsfield, presided. The S.A. Band was present, and a number of enjoyable items were rendered… Privates Forbes and Williams were presented with gold medals, which were pinned on their coats by Mrs. Forbes and Marjorie Tiffin. The music was supplied by Mrs M Tiffin, Ensign Ward, and the Salvation Army Band. The church was tastefully decorated with flags and ferns by the Red Cross ladies, who also provided an excellent supper”.

Six men from Sidmouth lost their lives in the war. In June 1920 a committee was formed at the church to raise funds for a memorial to be erected in the grounds. This was unveiled in March 1921 at a ceremony was recorded by The Examiner:

"One of the largest assemblages seen in the district gathered together in front of the Union Chapel, Sidmouth, on Saturday, for the unveiling of the soldiers' memorial. Councillor Charles B. Brady performed the ceremony, and in doing so spoke enthusiastically of the part the small village of Sidmouth had taken in the great war. The speaker pointed out that every eligible man in the township had enlisted. All the men had done well, and some had made the supreme sacrifice. The women of the district had done nobly, and the monument would be a lasting reminder to the coming generations of the work done by their forefathers in war…. The monument consists of a draped urn, supported on a carved pedestal, the whole being constructed of white marble”.

When the church was demolished in 1995, the memorial was removed to the Sidmouth Hall. The memorial was once more in the news in 1917 when it was restored with funds from the W D Booth Charitable Trust. The memorial records the names of the six men from the district who lost their lives in the war: I.W. Kelb; G.E. Wright; E.L. Wright; F.G. Clarke; A.J.E. Evans and N.B.L. Saunders.



Detail of original photograph below

Source: Ehive collections - object 783167 
Source: The Examiner Tuesday 14 March 2017



Sources:

The Daily Telegraph, Wednesday 21 April 1909, page 7
The Examiner, Thursday 10 December 1914, page 6
Daily Telegraph, Tuesday 11 June 1918, page 7
The Examiner, Friday 14 June 1918, page 7
Daily Telegraph, Wednesday 28 January 1920, page 6
Daily Telegraph, Thursday 11 March 1920, page 4
Daily Telegraph, Thursday 24 June 1920, page 2
The Examiner, Tuesday 15 March 1921, page 7
The Examiner, Wednesday 31 October 1923, page 10
The Examiner, Tuesday 14 March 2017


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