The church at Temple Ewell can trace its beginnings to the early nineteenth century. While few detailed records have been kept, the records of the Eyethone Baptist Church reveal that it was during the ministry of the Rev. John Giles from 1793 to 1827 that the work at Ewell (Temple Ewell) was started. And in 1843 when the Rev John Webb was the minister he used to visit Ewell once a month and it was agreed at a deacon's meeting that the 'Pastor should be allowed the expenses of a gig (cart) for that purpose'. It also records in 1924 that Temple Ewell was a flourishing branch of the Dover Baptist Church.
Originally the Temple Ewell Fellowship met in a house opposite the current building.
A cursory glance will reveal that there is not one building but three separate parts joined together. Each is on a different floor level and could therefore be described as High Church and Low Church. This two storey section may have originally been an outbuilding of the “George and Dragon” public house which was built before 1740, and had stables for which a groom was required. The present “George and Dragon” was rebuilt in 1904.
The middle section, now used to hold services, is built of flint walls. In the mid 1870’s Miss Caroline Fector provided the church with this room to meet in. Caroline was the spinster daughter of Mr John Minet Fector who owned Kearsney Manor. The Fectors were of Huguenot descent. Caroline’s brother was a Member of Parliament for Dover. Her grandfather, Peter Fector, purchased the old Baptist meeting house in Eythorne in 1804 and gave it to the Baptist Church.
Caroline continued in the family tradition, and gave the Mission Room to the Baptist Church in 1883. She also made over the interest on £750 of stock for its upkeep. The gift was on condition that the doctrine taught should be that taught by C.H.Spurgeon, the great christian preacher.
Attendance and enthusiasm were variable. In 1914 the church decided to try the idea of a resident Pastor and a man named Henry Dobson was appointed and stayed for seven years . A Sunday school had been started many years before and under the guidance of Walter Holyoak (minister at Salem), this was reorganised and a 'proper system of class teaching' began. This seems to have had excellent results, so that by the time Dobson leftthe school was outgrowing its buildings . Howard Bailey and his wife were appointed Superintendents in 1921 and had been there only two years when the church opened a new 'institute' at the back of the chapel for the use of the Sunday School and other groups that met during the week.
The room was used in the week by Temple Ewell school as a schoolroom until 1963. A well has recently been uncovered in the rear garden which presumably could have been used for Baptising new converts or disposing of naughty schoolboys.
There was an adjoining house called”Dovedale House” which was given to the church by Charles Edward Ashdown in 1894 but this has since been demolished.
Howard Bradley was appointed as Superintendent to the church which was also attended by his mother and brother David. David was owner of the dry cleaners “Jarman and Watts” in Dover.
Howard noticed that people were standing around in the village with nothing to do. This was in the 1920s when the nation was in the depths of a recession and Howard wanted to provide local employment. He arranged for the village men to build a side hall extension to the church. There is still a plaque inside the hall which reads “The Institute” and forms the third section of the church.
The church then continued as a subsidiary chapel from Salem and a Superintendent led the fellowship. This format continued until 1990, when the Dover Church considered closing it down as it seemed non-viable. The congregation at Temple Ewell, although small in numbers, wished to carry on and a team was sent from the Dover church to lead the Fellowship and see if it would grow.
Two couples from Salem offered to take over the leadership at Temple Ewell and several other families who lived in the River and Temple area were willing to leave Salem entirely and and go out to give all their support to the village. It would leave a gap in the fellowship at Salem but it offered a new impetus at the chapel and gave hope that it might one day become an independent cause. These couples, Liz and Alan Hibell and Pat and Arthur Clipsham, would not be called Superintendents but together with Derek Donne the treasurer, (who already worshipped there regularly) would become a 'leadership team'. They were commissioned at Salem on 16th June 1990 and were given £2000 to allow the work a fresh start.
The team spent several years thoroughly renovating and re-decorating the chapel to make it more attractive to worshippers. A Bible Group was started and the single Sunday afternoon service was changed to a morning service with an evening ‘prayer and share’ meeting. A mission was held and efforts were made to reach the villagers. Then they started a children’s club and the children from the village primary school not only came enthusiastically on Friday afternoons but also brought their parents to Special services on Sundays. This situation continued for many years until Rev Nigel Booth (minister of Salem) encouraged The Fellowship to think about becoming an Independent church. This would be a big step in the life of the Church and became a serious matter for thought and prayer. In March 2012 the Fellowship at Temple Ewell celebrated becoming an Independent Church within the Baptist Union promising to “Seek to be obedient to God’s direction as we share His love in our Community.
The history of the Baptist Church does however precede the building. The term “Baptist” can in itself be misleading. The Baptists are not followers of John the Baptist but followers of Jesus Christ. They do not believe that any change takes place when Baptism takes place. It is however an important public declaration of the real change that takes place when Jesus enters into the life of that person. The baptism is by completely going under the water which is symbolic of dying and then rising up, cleansed from our sin. We prefer not to leave anyone under the water!
Temple Ewell Baptist Church does owe its existence to Eythorne Baptist Church. In 1550, a very brave lady called Joan Boucher was burnt at the stake in the reign of Mary 1 and is listed on the Martyrs Memorial outside Canterbury Cathedral. She was a wealthy lady who had been in the court of Henry VIII. While she was burning a bishop was trying to convince her of the error of her ways. She said to him “You lie like a rogue. Go read the Scriptures”. Joan was connected to Eythorne Baptist Church and had teaching from their minister Master Humphrey at what was described as “Quiet Eythorne”.
During the early years of the nineteenth century Eythorne Baptist Church had over 200 members under the leadership of John Giles. Members were sent to form new churches in Deal, Canterbury, Dover, Eastry, Barnswell and Ewell. The latter was founded in 1805 when Admiral Lord Nelson was teaching the French a lesson at Trafalgar. It was joined to the Dover Church in 1878. A wooden building was erected in 1869 which then was conducted by Wesleyans and bought by them in 1871. Seven years later they let it to the Baptists at a nominal rental of one shilling with liability for upkeep. This site is now occupied by Lorna’s Barber shop.
In 1883 Miss Caroline Fector handed over the mission to four Baptist Trustees. There was a school in existence in 1886 with 18 scholars but it stopped soon afterwards and re-commenced in 1904.
The church continues to look to the future and we are currently altering and modernising the exterior, kitchen and toilets as well as the main worship hall.