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A Brief History


by by
Rev. Donald Elliott Bernard Pike



The provision of musicians for services has been a recurrent issue throughout Trinity’s history. In 1967, the Elders’ minutes record that ‘Miss Inez Davies had accepted the invitation to provide organ music for the monthly youth service, in addition to the duty at morning worship’.  She was later to become Inez Peters, much loved by all, who presided at our organ for over thirty years.

The Centenary of the congregation was marked in June 1969 by, among other things, a presentation involving of recollections by members and friends about the early days of the church. Lila Fraser recorded this compilation and it is still available on cassette tape.  Later that year, the Elders at the Oxendon Church, originally sited in Central London but by now on Haverstock Hill, approached Trinity with a view to uniting the two congregations.  The union service duly took place on 11 March 1970.  From then on, the congregation became officially known as “Trinity Presbyterian Church, Camden Town and Oxendon”. Its combined membership at that time was 103.  The Haverstock Hill buildings were sold and the proceeds held in trust for Trinity.  We are still drawing on that fund.

 Following this, new Elders were inducted on 25 October 1970, namely, Annie Clifford, Molly Johnson, Mrs McDonald, Mrs Violet Woodhouse and Jim Collins.  At this time, Ralph Bharaths was leading a junior boys class on Sunday mornings with Sid Arscott taking the teenagers; he resigned in September 1972.  The Girls Brigade leader was Lily Clifford, but she also resigned in September 1972. 

During this period, the Kentish Town Christian Council was formed. However, a joint pastorate with Kelly Street Congregational Church ‘was not considered practical’ by the Trinity Elders.   

This was also of course the period when the United Reformed Church came into being. The congregation was reported by the Elders to be 80% in favour of the formation of the United Reformed Church. Sarah Reeks became Camden’s first representative on the Thames North Synod of the new denomination.   

Another feature of those days was the holding of a West Indian party organised by Molly Karamath.  There was also in 1968 the first recorded invitation to a Garden Party at 1 Rochester Terrace. Lila and

Lila Fraser with Marion Turner and Bernard Pike in “Elizabeth Refuses” (1964)

Hamish Fraser organised work parties for keeping the church buildings spic and span. Mrs Kate Dixon from the Presbyterian Church of Ghana joined the congregation.

Jack and the Beanstalk’ performed in 1973 with Joel Karamath, Hamish Fraser and Topsy Watts 

After his seventieth birthday in 1977, Patrick Figgis announced that he would retire to make way for 'a younger, more energetic man'. At the farewell, the Buck Street premises were full to overflowing. Patrick and Doris remained on the roll of membership. He was to die seven years later. 

Later in 1977 the Revd Peter Dawes, an English minister who had moved to rural Scotland some years back, was invited to Trinity. Eileen Dawes, his wife, quickly threw herself into the social life of the congregation, revealing herself to be a considerable actress. She also played the organ for the evening services. Peter Dawes undertook to serve with a British Rail Chaplaincy at St Pancras Station.

In November 1977 the Elders discussed various ideas for developing work with young people and a meeting with some of them was mooted.  In particular, it was agreed ‘not to make any move towards a club for the older young people, but to ask them if they were willing to help with the youngsters.  The members of this group were the Beepats, Paul Turner, Martin French, Joel Karamath’.  By September 1979, however, the Junior Club was facing competition from non-church clubs.  These did not have a ‘religious element’ which the non-church members resisted. So, amid ‘great disappointment’, the decision was made to close. 

The URC 1% World Development Appeal was launched within the church by Hamish Fraser and Hector Turner. 

These were the years of further attempts to achieve Christian unity nationally. These were to end in real frustration, not least for the United Reformed Church born to unite with others. The shortage of ministers and the closure of churches also began to surface as issues facing the United Reformed Church in central London.  But the idea of the sharing of a minister within a group of churches was considered a ‘long distant view’ for the future.  There was some discussion about possibly joining up with the Plender Street Methodist Church or being linked with Holloway United Reformed Church. The first was favoured by the leaders of both churches, but not by the Methodist Circuit Superintendent. In due course, the District decided to link Trinity with the Holloway church for ministry.

During that time, there was an approach from an African Christian group, led by the Revd M.M.Sephula, to use the church premises.  This was granted for a limited period.  In 1979, Mr and Mrs Austin of the Mustard Seed bookshop next to the church got the use of the Vestry for ‘a religious meeting’ every Thursday.  The Church of God held meetings at the church on several occasions. Alcoholics Anonymous also met in the premises. 

On 5 March 1979 the Elders drew up and signed a petition against the granting of a new entertainments licence for the Electric Ballroom nearby. Camden Borough Council carried out sound-proofing tests, and ‘no music had been heard coming from the ballroom’. Later, however, it was reported that ‘the volume of noise from the ballroom was even higher than before’, necessitating further sound-proofing.  Eventually, permission was granted for the venue to remain open until 2 am on two nights each week.   Sunday opening was still prohibited.  The church then decided, since it ‘would not be affected by any nuisance’, to take no further action. 

Then in May 1979, London Transport wrote to say that from the beginning of December, ‘there would be unavoidable noise coming from the underground station’.  (An omen of things to come?) 

In February 1980 an Outreach Committee proposed to the Elders Meeting a programme of visitation.  Mr Trevinian of the Mayflower Centre in Canning Town had undertaken to come and advise, and volunteers were to be sought from the congregation.  At the same meeting, however, Peter Dawes announced his resignation as a United Reformed minister, as ‘he could not accept some of the rules within the United Reformed Church’ and because certain criticisms of him were affecting his health.  The visitation programme was ‘postponed’, but a colourful leaflet was prepared by David Ramsay to advertise the church in public libraries and elsewhere.  Mr Dawes stressed the importance of the oversight of people who got ill or in trouble during the coming ministerial vacancy.  Revd Donald Richter then took over as interim moderator of church meetings.