Rev. Donald Elliott
THE EBENEZER CHAPEL
According to John Richardson in ‘CAMDEN TOWN & PRIMROSE HILL PAST’ (Historical Publications, 1991), Thomas Gittens had ‘first broadcast his own brand of Christianity above a carpenter's shop in Bayham Street when the regular preacher failed to appear one Sunday’. Or, as Gittens himself put it, ‘….by the voice of the people, and the movements of God’s providence, I was brought into the work of statedly preaching the gospel among the people at Camden Town. This took place about the beginning of the year 1834’. He went on
‘The room would seat about one hundred. It became filled: then crowded. It was sometimes calculated that two hundred were pressed into the place. It was not very substantially built, and I have occasionally trembled for the safety of the people. I had supports put under the main timbers, but the place beneath being occupied by other tenants, the supports were frequently removed either by accident or for the convenience of the occupiers; and often when the service ended and the people rose from their seats, and pressed towards the centre of the place to go out, I have feared greatly for its safety. But happily no accident ever occurred.….
‘Very much deliberation took place among the friends, and earnest prayer was made to God for direction in this matter. When the ground upon which the chapel now stands was brought under their notice, it was then all an open field, and Hampstead could be seen without interruption from the adjoining terrace (Union Terrace), which at that time was one of the most open and pleasant parts of Camden Town. Negotiations were opened and concluded. The land was taken for 99 years, at £10 per year - the full rent to commence the fourth year. So far it was a matter of joy and thankfulness. The friends then immediately met to consider the size and character of the intended building, and to make the needful arrangements for its construction. The surveyor employed gave us plans, and finally it was determined to build a place 36 feet wide by 50 feet deep, and of sufficient height to admit of galleries at any future time should they be needed. The place was small; but large compared with that in which we were then worshipping. It was extremely plain, as the strictest economy was studied….’
[from ‘EBENEZER CHAPEL, CAMDEN TOWN’ by W T Gitten, 1853]
A poster in the Heal Collection of the St. Pancras Public Libraries announces the sixteenth anniversary of the Ebenezer Chapel on 3rd September, 1851, when in the course of the day, three sermons were preached by visiting ministers, at 11 o'clock, half-past three and half-past six, such was the stamina of church goers of the time.
(from ST. PANCRAS JOURNAL, VOLUME 16, No. 1 MAY 1962)
The church building now marked as “Trin’y Ch Pres”
On the retirement of Thomas Gittens, many were interested in the site of the old Chapel, but William Ewart raised a mortgage and quickly bought the Chapel, renaming it ‘Trinity Presbyterian Church’. Its entrance was opposite the hospital on Kentish Town Road. The vestry was on the right, the schoolroom on the left, remembered as ‘long and depressing’.
UNITARIAN views were held by many Presbyterians in the nineteenth century and this may account for the frequency with which we find the name "Trinity" given to orthodox Presbyterian churches.
[from ST. PANCRAS JOURNAL, MAY 1962]
In 1874 William Ewart was inducted as minister and served until 1879. He was one of the first preachers to get a stand in Regents Park (by the fountain statuary, near the S-E corner of the zoo). There he would preach on a Sunday, with the choir leading a procession back to Buck Street to draw people into the church. This activity continued into the ministry of James Fraser.
William Ewart died in 1878 and was succeeded by the Revd James Lamont (1879-1881) and then by the Revd Charles James Fox Whitmore (1882-1887). Mr Whitmore, the father of twelve children, never took a college theological course, but studied Hebrew with a Jewish rabbi. He was known as a missionary to the secularists and rationalists. He was a prolific writer, for example co-editing the ‘Sword and Shield’ a penny monthly in Somers Town.
He was succeeded by the Revd David Connan (1887-1902) and the Revd A F Munro (1903-1907). In October 1907 the Revd W F Holt was inducted, who died in May the following year, the last minister to serve in the old building.
Five boys aged from 7 to 12 were again brought to Marylebone Police Court on the charge of being concerned together in breaking and entering Trinity Presbyterian Church, Kentish Town Rd., and stealing there from a dulcimer, 1 1/2 lbs. of wax candles, a pocket inkstand and case, a small wooden box, a padlock and key and two books – the property of the trustees and congregation. They then wrecked the harmonium which cost £15.15s, broke open the alms boxes, lit a fire in which they burned a number of books and a quantity of music, broke open the library, committed other damage, and drank all the unfermented wine. The mothers of the boys having been questioned by Mr de Rutzen as to their characters, he remarked that it was a most serious charge, but it would be inadvisable to send all the boys to an industrial school. The eldest boy, Charles Foster, would be sent to Feltham till he was 16 years of age; the other four boys would be discharged.
[from the WEEKLY REVIEW, September 28, 1878]