Matthew Copus, genealogist, genealogy researcher, private indexes

Countess of Huntingdon's Chapel, Tunbridge Wells

Lady Huntingdon's chapel, Tunbridge Wells Many years ago, I began to transcribe the only available register of the Countess of Huntingdon's Chapel (later succeeded by Emmanuel Church), Mount Ephraim, Tunbridge Wells, held at The National Archives under the reference RG 4/1112. This covers baptisms, 1786-1837, but after carefully copying the baptisms up to 1806, I called a halt on discovering that all the baptisms in this register had been indexed by the LDS Church in its International Genealogical Index, now online at www.familysearch.org. This does not include the only two burials listed (both in 1794) as such, although a search in the IGI for at least one of the two persons in question (Daniel Austen or "Austin") does turn up some personally submitted details which appear to refer to him and which are of considerable interest if correct. The register is now also available on www.bmdregisters.co.uk and the online database on this "official" website does include the two burials, but oddly, each of them is stated there to be a "Baptism". An image of the original page (folio 26 according to TNA) can also be accessed through this website for a small fee.

When, in 2006, I was asked to do some research on a family who were members of this Church, I made an internet search to see if any more registers had become available since my earlier unsuccessful attempts to locate any such other records. Rather sadly, this simply revealed that "Huntingdon Hall", East Grinstead (the former headquarters of the Connexion, to which I wrote in about 1976 when attempting to locate any other surviving records of this Chapel), had been "abandoned" in 1978 and has now become Zion Baptist Chapel. See for instance the passing mention of this on the website of the Copthorne Chapel of the Countess of Huntingdon's Connexion. The Connexion itself now has a website at www.cofhconnexion.org.uk which has some useful notes and links, but they are unable to help with family history queries. As they say, "Unless the church in question is still open, we generally do not have any records."

I did discover that brief details of some of the gravestones which were removed from Emmanuel Church's graveyard by 1973 (following the church's closure in 1969) are available at TNA under the reference RG 37/155, and I was able to obtain a photocopy of this short list and of some associated correspondence. Unfortunately, as many as 18 gravestones are simply noted as having been "illegible", while the details given of those which were legible are not at all full, only (at best) years of death being given, not exact dates. Two of the entries even indicate that "Others" - unnamed in this list - were mentioned on the same gravestone as the given person, which is perhaps still more unfortunate. See below for brief details of all the burials and MIs in RG 4/1112 and RG 37/155. I can supply slightly fuller details of these entries (all those available; plus my own annotations), as Excel files, for 5.00 for the whole.

The accompanying correspondence in RG 37/155 includes the statement, in a letter of 5th April 1973, that "57 bodies have been exhumed from Emmanuel Churchyard, Mount Ephraim, Tunbridge Wells, and are interred at the Tunbridge Wells Cemetery & Crematorium, Benhall Mill Road, Tunbridge Wells. None of the bodies was identifiable, but I enclose a list of the decipherable names which were found on tombstones in the churchyard." This letter was from the Deputy Group Secretary of Tunbridge Wells and Leybourne Hospital Management Committee. It was unfortunate that the Kent and Sussex Hospital was built next to the Church and this led to its demolition in 1974, simply in order to improve access to the hospital. A small plaque is now the only evidence of the existence of this "New" Chapel.

Memorial to George Whitefield, preaching 1769

Above the plaque is a small monument (now looking sadly neglected and slightly damaged), as can be seen in the photo, this being the only surviving trace of the first Chapel on this site. The inscription reads, "Near this spot stood and preached that eminent servant of God, George Whitfield*, at the opening of the original Chapel built by Selina, Countess of Huntingdon, July 23rd 1769." (*Sic - an error for "Whitefield".)

The other illustration is taken from a contemporary picture of the "New" Chapel mentioned on the plaque. As stated in Brian and Lorna Bailey's "History of the Nonconformist Churches in Tunbridge Wells, Tonbridge and Southborough" (n.d., circa 1970), this new Church was built and opened in 1867, at a cost of as much as 5,000, to replace the old Chapel, and had "a stone spire 140 feet high, a conspicuous landmark in the district".

The Baileys' book (available at Tunbridge Wells Reference Library) has useful bibliographical notes for each of the Chapels discussed. It is itself mentioned in turn in "Researching Royal Tunbridge Wells - a bibliography of historical sources", by Susan Brown (Royal Tunbridge Wells Civic Society Local History Monograph No. 2, published 2003, ISBN 0 9545343 1 X). This bibliography details sources of information on Emmanuel Church and other Churches and Chapels in the town, available at Tunbridge Wells Reference Library or elsewhere.

1794 Daniel Austen RG 4/1112
1794 Ann Card RG 4/1112
1811 Sarah Payne RG 37/155
1813 Jane Bullen RG 37/155
1815 Anne Budgen RG 37/155
1816 Thomas South (?) RG 37/155
1819 Jane Budgen RG 37/155
1835 David Gotty RG 37/155
1840 Elizabeth Cartwright RG 37/155
[1840-1850] Samuel Knight RG 37/155
[1840-1850] Mary Knight RG 37/155
1843 George Lidbetter RG 37/155
1844 Ann Latter RG 37/155
1848 Selina Shelton RG 37/155
1848 Selina Shelton RG 37/155
1850 Hannah RG 37/155
1851 Frances Cheesman RG 37/155
1851 Isabella Cooper RG 37/155
1852 Charles Palmer RG 37/155
1853 John Murch RG 37/155
1854 George Lidbetter RG 37/155
1854 John Latter RG 37/155
1856 George Budgen RG 37/155
1857 Philip Jones RG 37/155
1857 Elizabeth Bullen RG 37/155
1859 Delia Lidbetter RG 37/155
1861 John Bullen RG 37/155
1861 John Payne RG 37/155
1864 William Jones RG 37/155
1864 Hannah Beaumont RG 37/155
1867 Anne Baguley RG 37/155
1870 George Herbert Young RG 37/155
1871 John Baguley RG 37/155
1874 Sarah Jones RG 37/155
1888 George Jones RG 37/155
[Year "?"] Richard Neal RG 37/155

Matthew Copus
307 Dale Street
Chatham
Kent ME4 6QR

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