Church History

Small beginnings

In 1901, a small group of Christian workers, under the leadership of Mr Oatley, conducted evangelical services on the beach at Clacton-on-Sea. The town was growing rapidly, and several Free Churches had already formed, including Trinity Methodist Church, and Christchurch Congregational Chapel.

That autumn, about thirty of these workers met for prayer and fellowship at the home of Mr Horace Smith in Pier Avenue. Towards the end of the meeting, someone asked whether they would be interested in further such gatherings. A lady, (name unknown), then suggested that perhaps a Baptist Mission might be started in the town, as several of the group were Baptist by upbringing.

From such small beginnings, history grows, and the seed of what became Pier Avenue Baptist Church was sown. The meeting passed a resolution to form a committee to look into the possibility of starting a new ‘Baptist’ fellowship.

Further meetings were held that autumn. By the end of 1901, it has been agreed to form a ‘mission’ in the town. In January 1902, it was decided to establish a ‘Church’, and on 24th January 1902, four of the Church’s founder members were baptised in Christchurch’s baptistery (kindly lent for the occasion) by Rev. JE Martin of Erith. Later that same day, Mr Martin officiated at the formation of the Church, when seventeen founder members committed themselves to the new cause.

The First Chapel

Soon, a plot of land in Pier Avenue was purchased. It was agreed to build a chapel as soon as possible so that regular worship could commence. This would be a small brick building, which (it was envisaged) would be replaced by a larger one in due course.

On 20th March 1902, a stone-laying ceremony was held at the site, followed by a Public Meeting at the town hall in the evening. The first chapel, seating 100, was completed by June. The opening services were held on 4th June and were conducted by Rev Thomas Spurgeon (son of the famous Baptist preacher CH Spurgeon of the Metropolitan Tabernacle). This original building is still in use as our ‘Fellowship Hall’ today.

For several months in the summer of 1902, the Church was served by Percy Clements, a young student minister from Spurgeon’s College in London. Mr Clements was to become the Church’s first minister, and was formally inducted to the pastorate on 5th April 1903.

The Church’s minutes record that the cost of the building scheme, including the purchase of the site was £1,830. This represents approximately £100,000 in today’s money – a tremendous step of faith for such a small fellowship!

Within months, however, the Church began to grow numerically, and the debt was soon reduced. Baptisms were held regularly, and the membership grew under the enthusiastic ministry of Percy Clements. During the summer months, when visitors flocked to the town, the Chapel was too small for Sunday services, and Evening worship was held at the Winter Gardens Hall in Wash Lane.

Ministerial History

Since Pier Avenue Baptist Church was founded on the 2nd July 1902, 14 ministers have been called to serve at the Church.

Rev. Sean Fountain  
The church membership unanimously called Sean to our ministry, confirming to us at PABC and to Sean that this was God’s call. His Induction Service took place on 26th January 2008.Sean is joined in Clacton by his wife, Paula, and children, Daniel and Hannah.Prior to joining us at PABC, Sean’s previous pastorate was at Fleckney Baptist Church in Leicestershire.
Rev. Stephen Biddall  
Stephen was called to serve at Pier Avenue Baptist Church in 1991, having served for nine years at Hainault Baptist Church in Ilford.In 1997, he was elected President of the Essex Baptist Association.With 15 years service, he has been the longest serving minister in Pier Avenue Baptist Church’s history.Stephen left us in August 2006 having accepted the Pastorate of Cecil Square Baptist Church in Margate.
Rev. Leslie Wright  
Served at Pier Avenue Baptist Church 1982 – 1990Leslie’s ministry was cut short by his sudden death from a heart attack in 1990.
Rev. Harry Whyte  
Served at Pier Avenue Baptist Church 1978 – 1981Harry and his family were the first people to live in the Church’s existing manse.The former manse had been sold.
Mr Kenneth Horoborough (Moderator)  
Served as Moderator between 1977 – 1978.Kenneth was Moderator at least five times in the Church’s history and also served as Minister at our Cluster Church in Thorpe-le-Soken.He gave outstanding service as Church Treasurer, Secretary, Deacon and in many other capacities.
Rev. Ralph Stephens  
Served at Pier Avenue Baptist Church 1970 – 1977, before moving to Gloucestershire.Ralph Stephens’ daughter Janet continues to worship at Pier Avenue Baptist Church with her husband and their family.
Rev. Derek Mucklow  
Derek came to Clacton, serving for five years (1964 – 1969) at a time of great social change and upheaval.Derek is still a good friend of the Church, and has served as guest speaker at our Church House Party in recent years.One of the highlights of Derek’s ministry was a baptismal service which was broadcast on Anglia Television.
Rev. David Lewis  
David, a Welshman, served at Pier Avenue Baptist Church for six years between 1957 – 1963.He is fondly remembered by the older generation as a man of great sensitivity and kindness.
Dr T. Wilkinson Riddle  
Pier Avenue Baptist Church approached Dr. Riddle, from George Street Baptist Church in Plymouth, to consider of coming to Clacton during the summer months of 1949 in a largely preaching capacity.Ministered to the people of Pier Avenue Baptist Church during 1950 – 1956.During his pastorate, Dr Riddle was editor of the “Christian Herald”, a task he continued until he was well into his nineties.
Rev. Hugh McCullough  
Served at Pier Avenue Baptist Church 1944 – 1949Hugh was widely known as one of the “Essex Five” – a group of preachers committed to evangelistic outreach in the county.Hugh inaugurated a summer Bible convention in Clacton – which continued until the 1990s.He was elected President of the Essex Baptist Association in 1948.
Rev. Samuel Morris  
Arrived from Liverpool to minister at Pier Avenue Baptist Church 1932 – 1943In 1933, Rev Morris preached a sermon referring to a trend permitting secular entertainment on Sundays – a trend he strongly disapproved of.A trial ensued which received national coverage. In 1935, Mr Morris was finally cleared of all charges.
Rev. Daniel Hayes  
Served at Pier Avenue Baptist Church 1922 – 1931Following a ministry at Shoreditch Tabernacle in London, Daniel and his family moved to Clacton.They moved into in the church’s new manse.The Rose Window at the south end of the church, was dedicated to Daniel, whose energy and enthusiasm were largely responsible for the completed church building scheme; the result was the third and present church building, opened in 1929.

His daughter, Dorothy, served in India with the Baptist Missionary Society in the 1930s.

Rev. A. E. Calver  
Served at Pier Avenue Baptist Church 1915 – 1921In 1920, Mr Calver announced that the church was free from all debts.After a six-year ministry, Mr Calver moved to minister at Emsworth Baptist Church, near Portsmouth.
Rev. Percy Clements  
Came to Pier Avenue Baptist Church as a young student minister from Spurgeon’s College, London.In 1914, after serving in Clacton for eleven years (1903 -1914), Percy accepted a call to the pastorate of Herne Hill Baptist Church.”The active and devoted service of this young minister made a lasting impression on the Church. It became a centre of evangelistic zeal.” Quote from E.W. Warner, 1951.