The congregation bought the 'Iron Church' (formerly a Baptist Church) in Wellesley Road. It was opened as the Free Christian Church on 11 December 1870. The freehold of the land was bought in 1875.
Subsequently, a new, permanent, church was built on the same site: the memorial stone was laid on 20 April 1883, and it was formerly opened on 17 November 1883. The 'Iron Church' had been moved to the rear of the new building: it was renamed the Social Room, and was put to regular use for soirees, dances, children's parties, etc. The Church attracted a relatively small, educated, middle class congregation, and its early ministers included several capable intellectuals. However, relations between minister and congregation were sometimes turbulent. EM Geldart, after some years as a popular minister, antagonised many of his congregation when he began to preach a doctrine of Social Democracy: the strain affected his health, and he died in mysterious circumstances soon afterwards.
His successor, CJ Street, resigned over differences of opinion with the congregation; WM Weston was criticised for some of his views (notably an address advocating the abolition of the traditional home), and resigned to re-join the Roman Catholic Church; and WW Chynoweth Pope was asked to resign following a difficult period of declining attendances. Only after the appointment of GC Sharpe in 1921 did relations become more consistently harmonious. Among the prominent early members of the congregation were Henry Moore and his family. In 1906 his son, H Keatley Moore, paid an official visit during his term of office as Mayor. The church was badly damaged during World War 2; and this, combined with the town centre redevelopments, led to a new church and hall being built in Friends Road in 1958. In 1960 the Church was renamed the Unitarian and Free Christian Church.
Rev RR Suffield 1870-1877
Rev EM Geldart 1878-1885
Rev CJ Street 1886-1892
Rev JP Hopps 1892-1903
Rev WJ Jupp 1904-1911
Dr WM Weston 1911-1916
Rev WW Chynoweth Pope 1917-1920
Rev GC Sharpe 1921-1937
Rev RPD Thomas 1937-1946
Rev AB Downing 1947-1949
Rev JP Chalk 1949-1961
Rev G Kereki 1961-1984
Rev P Giles 1984-1985
Rev S Dick 1985-1996
Rev V Marshall 1996-1997
Rev E. H. Birtles 1999-2006
For a history of the church, see:
FW Moore, Croydon Free Christian Church: its early days (typescript, 1923) held in the Local History Collection at S70(288)CRO;
Jeremy Morris, Religion and Urban Change (1992), pp97-100
Roger Thomas, The first hundred years of the of the Unitarian and Free Christian Church in Croydon 1870-1970, S70 (280) CRO.
An illuminated address presented to Thomas Mathews, Treasurer and Secretary of the Church, is held at AR69.