The Martindale Centre has stood in our village and at the heart of most villagers
lives for many years.
In the past it has been used as a church, meeting hall, scout hut,
doctor's surgery, play centre as well as a meeting place and continues to be an ugly,
although useful village asset.
After the second world war a large corrugated iron hall was built at the back of the main hall to be used as
additional accommodation. You can read the leaflet that was handed out later
on this page.
On Wednesday February 24th. 1909, The Daily Chronicle published
the following article which gives an insight into how the Martindale centre was
conceived plus a little of Mrs. Martindale's character. All punctuation
(and a couple of errors) have been left exactly as published.
The Daily Chronicle Wednesday February 24th. 1909
WOMAN AND THE MINISTRY:
MISS H. BAKER AS PASTOR AT HORSTED KEYNES
This small village in Sussex is one of the few places in England where a
woman has been accepted as minister. Miss H. Baker having
occupied that post for some fifteen months. She is not the first
woman to have enjoyed this honour, for Miss
Gertrude von Petzold was minister of a Unitarian church at Leicester;
recently she accepted a call to a church in the United States.
Miss Jane Brown was called to the pastorate of Brotherton, a mining village
in Yorkshire, in which she officiated for some years. I am also informed
there are women pastors in Wales. When Mrs. Martindale, late of Horsted
Keynes a few years ago, she found no Congregational places of worship. She
is devoted to “Independency”, the sect to which two of England’s greatest
men, Milton and Cromwell, adhered, and after a time she decided that a
Congregational hall in Horsted Keynes would have a field of usefulness.
As the Liberal women of Brighton know, when Mrs. Martindale decides that a
thing requires to be done, it is done, sooner or later. The money was
collected, largely from her friends and family; amongst the former should be
named. Mr. W. A. Hounsom, J.P., who contributed very generously. The hall is
a beautiful little building, admirably adapted to village needs,
substantially built and tastefully furnished. It cost £1,873, and was opened
in June 1907 free of debt.
Equality of the Sexes.
It is one of the many cases where the fine French adage, cherchez la femme
verifies a woman’s brain, not to lay undue stress on the shekels contributed
to its realization, it was a right and proper thing that from the very first
there should be absolute not theoretic equality of the sexes, even in the
conduct of the services. This was laid down as a formal condition. Most
people are aware that women vote in the business meetings of the
Congregational Church just as men do; so far, no Mrs. Humphry Ward or
Countess of Jersey has ever arisen to rebuke them for exercising a right
that both sexes regard as simple and elementary.
Mrs. Martindale relates that as she was reflecting how best to attain the
ends she sought, she cam down to breakfast one morning to find two letters
on her plate. One was from a lady who had often preached by invitation and
who indeed has very considerable gifts for preaching, Miss Harriet Baker,
offering to take some of the services at the new hall. The other was from
the authorities of Hackney College, Hampstead, to say that they would be
glad to have the new hall as a practicing field for the students.
Miss Baker takes up the Work.
Both offers were accepted. Miss Baker, besides preaching, had formerly
conducted large and successful Bible classes at Brighton; one of these has
developed into a Pleasant Sunday Afternoon gathering and was a distinct
success. It is admitted on all hands that she is a cultured and attractive
speaker; nor are her gifts lessened by careful preparation.
It was arranged that Miss Baker should now reside in Horsted Keynes, taking
alternate Sundays with the students of Hackney College. She also takes the
week-night service, besides conducting cottage meetings, and in the summer
open-air services in the neighbouring villages of Birch Grove and Danes’
Hill. [sic] She also gives lectures frequently , having had great experience
and a long list of acceptable subjects. The hall possesses an excellent
lantern presented by a friend, and the lectures are generally illustrated by
I wend down to Horsted Keynes for the express purpose of hearing Miss baker
preach. Her style is refined, the matter well arranged and thought out. The
sermons lasted each half an hour, and were fully equal to the high level
usually found in the Congregational Church. I was struck by the relatively
large number of heads of families (Horsted Keynes is only a small village)
who listened to Miss Baker’s soft melodious voice and excellent delivery
with the closest attention. I have heard American women preach, so that for
me it was not a new experience. I simply had confirmed an opinion formed
years ago: That to have a woman in the pulpit is becoming and decorous; I
know it is in accord with the practice of the early Christian Church. From
the pulpit-cushion hung down an embroidered scroll, “Holiness becometh thine
House”, and the holy lives of women whose lips and hearts have been touched
by the living principle of religion become that House also. As I listened to
Miss. Baker’s excellent sermon, there floated into my mind a little scene
from an American book read many years ago. A working man who attended a
church under a woman pastor was being chaffed by his comrades. He replied
something like this: “There ain’t so much o’ the woman on’t as you’d
suppose. She just gives the word, and we hear it. And she works on them
growin’ lads something wonderful; they now come to church reg’lar. The
marriages too seem to hold; you can’t get out of them any easier because a
woman’s tied the knot!”.
Wider Sphere Probable.
Most people with whom I have spoken have the same feeling about a woman
preacher as about a woman lecturer. If the necessary gifts, culture, and,
above all, the call to the work, we should beware of permitting prejudice to
assume the mastery over reason.
In the pulpit Miss Baker wears a black gown and cap. She has already
baptized some of the youth of Horsted Keynes. She presides at the communion
table, and on the very day of my visit, a paper was being signed by the
householders as a preliminary step to enable marriages to be solemnized in
the hall. It is well known that Congregationalists usually pray extempore.
Miss Baker possesses a gift for prayers, and led the devotions of the little
church with dignity and reverence.
Her services at Horsted Keynes have been highly appreciated, but perhaps a
small village is not the best field for her talents and it is thought that
before long she may find a wider sphere in a large town.
There is little doubt that churches of every denomination are suffering
from a lack of cultured, spiritually-minded men offering themselves for the
ministry. The older men are there, but there is a shortage in recruits. The
other day the Rec. Stephen Drew, Mr. Gladstone’s son-in-law, complained that
for the last five years he has been unable to find a curate after diligent
seeking. A London daily pointedly inquires what is the salary. It is certain
there is nothing like necessity for breaking down prejudice. We can hardly
expect that the sacerdotal Churches of England and Rome will yield easily to
innovation. In both these communities woman has a relatively poor position.
But the Free Churches who have fought a good fight for liberty and human
dignity are constituted differently; the weight of the centuries, of custom,
is less burdensome, and besides, several have already conceded the point.
Probably the post of assistant minister to some hard-worked, broad-minded
man, who has prayed and practiced that in “Christ is neither male nor
female, bond nor free”, will prove to be the best field for the energies of
a woman who is called to the great honour of the ministry.
Large Field of Usefulness.
Afterwards I accompanied Mrs. Martindale over the institute, connected with
the hall. Here are several class-rooms for the meetings of all kinds, the
nucleus of the new (and first) village library. Below the church is a
club-room, to assemble in which the village slate-club has already abandoned
the public-house, a stable for the convenience of those who come by trap
from a distance, a bicycle shed and a kitchen. The founder has foreseen the
day when there will be a demand for cookery and laundry instruction; the
equipment is already there.
the New Church Hall 1 July 1950
Thanks to Bob Fry we can now reproduce a complete copy of the leaflet
that was handed out on the opening of the new hall at the rear of the
Martindale. Some say this was built on the foundations of a wartime hut
used for emergency supplies. Either way the foundations still survive.
Reproduced here is the text from the centre pages of this
AN OUTLINE OF CONGREGATIONALISM IN HORSTED
KEYNES - 1906 - 1950
AS we reach another milestone on the road of
Congregationalism in Horsted Keynes, it is well to pause awhile and look
back in thankfulness to Almighty God for His many blessings at all
times, and particularly for His guidance and encouragement in days of
adversity. In gratitude, too, we remember the children in our
retrospect, for the story of our little Church, is to some extent the
story of the work among the children.
More than half-a-century ago there were attempts to establish
Congregationalism in the village, but none were successful until 1900.
It was in this year that Mrs. Louisa Martindale, of Cheeleys. Horsted
Keynes, then 67 years of age and a woman of strong will and purpose and
of striking personality, made known her desire to satisfy a local demand
for a place of worship on Free Church lines. Her leanings were towards
Congregationalism, and she enlisted the support of a Mr. W. A. Hounsom,
J.P., who purchased, for £160, the delightful site on which our
buildings stand, and conveyed it to the Sussex Congregational Union.
Mrs. Martindale was a member of the well-known Spicer family, and a
sister of Sir Albert Spicer. With her friends, she set about raising the
necessary money, and in the following year the "Congregational Hall and
Institute," which altogether had cost £1,875, was opened free of debt.
It was one of the first Institutional Churches in the country, and as
such was intended to be the centre of the village life.
Regular Sunday services for Divine Worship were planned and a Sunday
School was started, and from the very nature of the building it will be
seen that weekday activities were also catered for. A wall of the main
Hall was specially made as a screen for lantern lectures, and ante-rooms
and the basement provided facilities for dressmaking and cookery
classes, a Slate Club, a Public Library and so on. There are still men
in Horsted Keynes who belonged to the old Village Band, which had its
headquarters at the Hall, and many residents, no doubt, who attended the
Band of Hope meetings held there. The grounds, themselves, were
sufficient to permit the erection of a building for worship only and
even a manse, but circumstances have not so far developed that way.
Mrs. Martindale's dynamic leadership continued to influence the work
until her death in 1914. Then the main responsibility fell upon a
faithful few, and hard times were experienced between the two Great
Wars. A stage was reached when, in the words of one of the few, " we
were just people who went to church and hoped there would be a
preacher." At this time we were grateful for the help afforded us by
the. Rev. Gwillyrn Thomas, then Minister of Cuckfield Congregational
Church, who welded us together and sustained us until the Rev. J. M.
Nicholson arrived in 1936 as Minister of the new Lindfield, Ardingly and
Horsted Keynes Group of Congregational Churches. Shortly afterwards Mrs.
Nicholson and Miss W. Bowrey, our present Church Secretary, started a
Children's Church, with only eight young people. This number gradually
grew and, with the advent of the Second World War, was destined suddenly
to soar to the large total of 80 by the influx of London evacuees, some
of whom bad never before been in a church. The open arms extended to
these young guests created a tremendous amount of goodwill towards our
Church, as was to be evidenced at the end of the war when the evacuees
began to return to their homes. The local children we had gained
remained with us, and we are still some. 50 strong—all village children.
We started, back in 1939, with a week-night service for children, from
which grew the graded club gatherings for the development of body, mind
and spirit. Our Women's Meetings originated from the desire to
provide for the lonely mothers of the evacuees, and our Guild of
Friendship is also mainly composed of parents of our children. In the
last few years we have developed a Red Cross Link for the young people,
who have found in this another source of social activity as well as a
channel for serious effort in their Health Courses. We have also, at
various times, given hospitality in our premises to campers who, in
summer time, have come from Brighton and London.
In this way we have done our best to make the Hall and Institute a
centre of village religious and social life as the founder intended, but
the time came when, towards the end of 1948, a Church Meeting decided to
implement a desire which had been felt for some time, namely that we
should retain the sanctity of our building for Divine Worship and
accommodate our weekday activities elsewhere.
So it was that we began the uphill climb to this new milestone. We
decided upon a new Church Hall, and engaged Mr. D. Adshead Grant, B.
Arch., A.R.I.B.A.. to draw up the necessary plans. We met with no
objections from the Planning Authorities, who even congratulated us on
them. We wish to express our appreciation of the fine work of Mr. Grant,
Mr. Spurgeon (a descendant of the famous Dr. Spurgeon), Mr. K. ,]. Davis
(the builder) and his team of workmen. We found, too, a ready generosity
among our friends, for which we are grateful, and with the Hall Fund
mounting to £400 last year, plus the support and encouragement of the
County Union, we put the building work in hand. The result you see
to-day in the realisation of a venture which is going to cost us, in
all, something over £1,300.
In looking back we cannot forget those ministers and lay people who
have, with God's good grace, led us through the years. The first
minister was a Miss Harriett Baker, who sustained the pastorate for at
least 18 months, from .January, 1908, sharing her work with students
from Hackney Theological College, London. She was followed in 1910 by
the Rev. W. G. Howe, who incorporated Horsted Keynes with Ardingly until
April, 1918, when Mr. Cyril N. Turner (known to-day as Church. Secretary
at Ardingly for more than 30 years) commenced a short lay pastorship
which lasted until March, 1919. In that month Horsted Keynes and
Ardingly again became combined, this time under the ministry of the Rev.
A. L. Walker, M.A., an arrangement which terminated in 1927. At, this
period our cause in the village was at its lowest ebb, but New College
students and laymen bravely struggled on until 1033, when the Rev.
Gwillym Thomas came to our aid at a critical time. After he left we
were, for a period, without a minister again, and then the Rev. .1. M.
Nicholson came to the Group which was to remain under his care for 10
years. During his time we were blessed with two splendid Student Pastors
in the Rev. J. K. Antrobus and the Rev. Harold Johnson. It was in
November, 1947, that the Rev. A. D. Trinder came to our Group and took
up residence in Horsted Keynes. We are thankful for his leadership and
for the inspiration he gives us, and with him we express our gratitude
for the continued help of the laymen, outstanding among whom is our good
friend Mr. W. Corbett Cooke, who comes regularly each month from
We believe that God put it into the mind of Mrs. Martindale to begin our
work in Horsted Keynes on Free Church, principles, and by His good hand
this Witness has continued in season and out of season. We believe we
still have a Witness to make in the village, and we look forward to the
future with joyful faith that He will lead us on to greater work and
(Text reproduced from original
leaflet has been carefully checked but if you find any obvious errors
please let us know.)
to the top of the page)