In 1891, a group of non-conformists met together for worship at 'Ingle Neuk' in Harold Road under the leadership of a Mr. Langham, a missionary who was spending an extended holiday in Frinton. A member of that original group was Mr. George Cooper (who later formed a partnership with Mr. Blowers, for form Blowers & Cooper), through which there is a remarkable link with Frinton and the Free Church.
To that small pioneer band of believers came Rev. William Crombie, to oversee the growing church and it was soon apparent that a more permanent home was necessary for this young church. In 1896, the bold move to purchase part of the prime site where the present church is situated was made, and was reflective then as it is now the ongoing worship and witness of the Free Church. Within just six weeks, the Lecure Hall was built.
Two years after the Lecture Hall was built, Rev. William Crombie died. His successor, Rev. F. T. Passmore, a London City Missionary trained by Charles Haddon Spurgeon, sought to link the church to an evangelical denomination. In 1899, the property was transferred to the trusteeship of the Baptist Union Corporation. In 1903, Rev. S. Hamil Wilkinson, another 'Spurgeon's college man' from Putney, took over and the church continued to grow. This gave rise to the vision for a larger, more permanent building, worthy of the church and town and in 1911, the stone laying ceremony took place. It was an ambitious project, costing the equivalent to £3m today, which opened in 1912.
The outbreak of World War I shattered the hopes of clearing the church's building debt within a few years and saw residents move away from the town, visitors were but a memory of the past years and the military took over houses, shops and hotels. In 1915, the minister was commissioned as a Chaplain to the armed forces, so the church was without its minister, its membership scattered far and wide and its building taken over by the military.
In 1925, a Primary Hall was erected for the growing Sunday school. The tower was added in 1935 and In 1955, Under the pastorate of Rev. Edgar Wright, the old lecture hall was replaced by the large hall we have today. In 1965, the leadership embarked on plans for development of a place of worship on the then new housing estate, Homelands, as the membership at Connaught Avenue was increasing. Rev. Don Bridge took over in 1972 and this project continued and was completed in 1976.
Throughout its history, Frinton Free Church, or The Free as it’s commonly known, has retained its independence and pioneering principles. It has a strong history of risk taking, pioneering, faith walking, generosity and sacrifice.
We believe in an every person ministry, that everyone has a role to play and a valuable contribution to make. Our duty extends to the wider community, and we pledge to reach out and fully engage with everyone who needs help or guidance, locally and globally.
Our church building also has an interesting story to tell. Situated at the end of the main shopping street in Frinton-on-Sea, Connaught Avenue, it was built at the beginning of the 20th century by architect William Hayne.
A resident of Frinton from 1895, William Hayne designed many fine houses in the area – in fact the Essex Record Office shows that from 1901 to 1940 he made over 300 applications to build properties in Frinton, Kirby Cross and Walton, and as older applications are not recorded, it is entirely possible his body of work is much larger.
He also completed numerous churches in Essex and beyond, as well as the post office on Connaught Avenue (now a sorting office), the Queen’s Hall (now the Roman Catholic church) and a shop (now ‘The Lock & Barrel’). Our church was described as his ‘magnum opus’ by acclaimed art historian Sir Nikolaus Pevsner in his The Buildings of England – Essex, first published in 1954. And we can see why – it’s a lovely grand building!
Although it has a great history, the important thing about our church today is that it is set up to be used for modern worship. We have special themed rooms for our children’s Sunday groups. We also have space for discussion and activity groups to meet, a youth centre next door and the Oasis Cafe.
Our aim is to create a venue that is welcoming to all, inspiring, and genuinely useful to the community. Please feel free to visit at any time and meet the team.