In the year 1882, there was no Methodist Chapel at Burnt Ash, but a group of Methodist enthusiasts met for worship in a cottage in the area. It was decided to build a Chapel and the stone laying was on 16th November 1882.
In 1883 the Chapel, built on Burnt Ash Hill in the heart of the country, was officially opened. Worshippers came from houses dotted here and there and walked through fields and woods to their Chapel. How times have changed – where are those fields today?
The Chapel, although over 100 years old, still serves our community today. It hosts a wide variety of activities and is now known as ‘The Back Hall’.
Nearly forty years later, in 1925, just after the First World War, plans were afoot to begin raising money for a new Church. A three day Grand Circuit Bazaar took place to help raise some of this money, and on the 19th May 1928, the foundation stone was laid. The new Church then opened later that year.
The opening of the new Church allowed us to become a larger centre of community life, as it was the beginning of the use of the premises by a number of outside organisations. The first to use this opportunity was The Grove Park Infant Welfare Clinic, which started in the early thirties and continued to meet in The Back Hall until 1981. It was also used by the Junior Church (Sunday School), Youth Group, Guide Company (formed in 1925) and Brownies (formed in 1928). In 1932, the 126th London Company of the Boys’ Brigade was founded.
The stained glass window in the church was installed in 1962 and was given in memory of founder members, Mr and Mrs E M Cottell, and features Jesus with hands outstretched to a Boys’ Brigade boy and a Girl Guide.
The faithful early pioneers set the pattern at Burnt Ash for community involvement, drama and youth activities. They persevered despite World War II damage and some members being called up for military service. Many of the old Youth Club members went on to be leaders in the church and led a vigorous church under the pastoral care of various ministers.
Our role in the community was again enhanced in 1965 when ‘The New Hall’ was constructed on the waste land beside the church. It brought in many new people to our premises and great social benefits. A playgroup was soon started by the Minister’s wife.
Now in the present day, we are still playing an active part in the community, both through fellowship and fun combined. For the younger members of our community, until recently, we ran a Junior Church (Sunday School) and Brownies (see below). If you are interested, please don’t hesitate to come down and see for yourself or ask someone. There is still plenty to do. Activities such as exercise classes, drama and singing groups also take place regularly on the premises, or for spiritual enhancement the Church is open for prayer on Wednesday mornings.
Brownies – the first 85 years
The 5th Lee South Brownies were registered on 1st December 1928 as the 13th South Lewisham Pack. Then in 1933 they were re-registered as the 5th Lee Pack, finally changing to the 5th Lee South Pack in 1953.
During the 85 years there were just four Brown Owls. With Pops, Susan Penlerick, Ethel Cornell and most recently Claire Pennycard, but there have been many more helpers along the way to assist. Susan Penlerick was Tawny Owl for Pops, before becoming Brown Owl herself, and Pam Miller was Tawny Owl for Ethel for a long time, before becoming Snowy Owl.
During the 85 years hundreds of girls from the area passed through the church hall doors on a Wednesday night and every girl that passed through those doors was read the Brownie Story, learned her promise and her law and then made her promise in front of the toad stall. Although the Brownie programme, uniform and promise changed over the years, the motto ‘Lend a Hand’ and Brownie Law has not changed.
Sadly the Brownie pack was disbanded in 2022 after Covid.