Finchley Presbyterian Church was inaugurated in 1893 and was situated in Ballards
Lane at the corner with Redbourne Avenue. It took the name of St Margaret’s in 1932.
Church End Finchley Congregational Church was founded in 1906 and the Church was
built in Victoria Avenue the following year.
In 1969 the two congregations came together as Union Church Finchley Central worshipping
at Ballards lane. When, in 1972, the formation of the United Reformed Church brought
together in national union the Congregational and Presbyterian Churched in England
and Wales, the Church took the name of St Margaret’s United Reformed Church and moved
to Victoria Avenue, the present premises.
World-wide, the United Reformed Church shares in missionary enterprise through the
Council for World Mission. It is linked with other Christians of the Reformed and
Congregational traditions in the World Alliance of Reformed Churches. Locally it
is one of the 36 churches making up the Central and North Finchley London District
in The Thames North province of the United Reformed Church.
Early days at Ballards Lane
In 1893 Finchley was just changing from village to suburb and the population was
growing rapidly. Ballards Lane was a wide tree-lined road with trams to the West
End. There in 1891 three men from the Church Extension Committee of the Presbyterian
Church of England had clambered through a hedge, paced out a site on the corner of
Redbourne Avenue, and arranged its purchase for £587. They were already aware of
the local need for a church and in 1893 the Lecture Hall was built, followed in 1897
by the church, a landmark on Ballards Lane for 75 years and a source of inspirational
worship and mission to the praise and glory of God.
Those were enterprising days. An 1893 account says: “They came as a good New Testament
Church… they desired to gather a congregation which was self-sustaining; and … be
a missionary centre doing its best to uphold the banner of the Cross… “.
In July 1893, Revd Henry Crombie, a student was invited to be the first Minister.
The call was signed by 22 members and 43 adherents. The early church was outgoing.
In 1898 a Mission was started in Hamilton Road, and the young ladies of the Church
formed a working guild for the purpose of “helping the poor” in the neighbourhood.
In 1900 Revd Henry Crombie moved to Liverpool, and in 1901 the Revd James Peddie
came from Birkenhead. In 1906 the church was stunned to learn that he passed away
in his sleep. It says much for his ministry that membership grew from 185 to 273
in that short period. The Revd David Annal was inducted the following year and ministered
for 23 years.
How can one capture the spirit of a young church before the two World Wars? Did it
live up to early expectations? Was it a beacon for Christ in neighbourhood? Church
magazine accounts indicate a confident YES showing it grew in mission and fellowship
and was an active influence in the community – as it was for all the period up to
the Diamond Jubilee in 1953 and still is today.
Early Days in Victoria Avenue
Church End Congregational Church was formed by a group of local residents on 23 May
1906 at a meeting in Hamilton Hall, Hendon Lane. 73 accepted the first Covenant and
Declaration of Faith. There had been plans for 20 years earlier to form a Congregational
Church but these had not then come to fruition. The new congregation quickly established
itself in January 1907 after a service held in the hall of Christ’s College, the
Foundation Stone of the present building was laid. By October of that year it was
It was 1908 before the first minister, the Revd R Baldwin Brindley, was called, but
under his leadership and that of his successors years of growth followed, both spiritually
and socially, interrupted by World War I but resuming in the 20’s.
Like other suburban churches it was for much of its history the centre for worship
and for social activities of its members and the neighbourhood. Flourishing uniformed
organisations, tennis and youth clubs, women’s meeting, fairs and bazaars: all worked
together to strengthen the fellowship. Some members offered for full-time service
and mission work overseas.
Financial and practical support was given for the needs of others – overseas mission,
housing, outings for the lonely from Islington. And holiday clubs for children where
helpers ranged from teenagers to the elderly and provided stimulation and exercise
(and a welcome respite for mothers) during school holidays.
Midweek services for local office workers ran for several years and the nurturing
of children in the Christian faith was always a high priority. In common with other
churches, large afternoon Sunday Schools and regular church parades gave way to morning
Junior Church in a desire to integrate children into the life and worship of the
Talks with St Margaret’s Presbyterian Church whose growth and extent of activity
had largely run in parallel culminated in union in 1969. Together both churches started
a Lunch club for the elderly and ran second-hand bookstalls raising considerable
sums for the Feed the Minds literacy campaign.
Change is the essence of life: The Union
From 1963 the two churches strengthened the ties already existing between them and
in 1966 set up a steering committee with six groups covering the main areas of work
– youth, choir, women, etc. – to attract organic union, a constitution was thrashed
out. It had the interesting (pre national unity!) clause that any elder on a committee
of the wider church should remain a serving elder whilst that commitment lasted.
This recognition of the need to keep in touch with the church at large has served
Henry Francis Lyte’s hymn Abide with me has the line “Change and decay in all around
I see”. Change, not necessarily decay, certainly characterises Finchley over the
past one hundred years. The spread of London suburbia ate into the green open spaces;
familiar landmarks have gone – and are still going! Our community now mirrors the
world, truly multi-racial, multi-cultural and multi-religious.
St Margaret’s extends a warm Welcome to all who wish to share in worship on Sundays
and in fellowship, and gives an open invitation to all who love the Lord Jesus Christ
in sincerity and truth to take part in Communion Services.