Our History - Emsworth
THE EARLY HISTORY OF WATERSIDE UNITED REFORMED CHURCH
At the beginning of the nineteenth century, there was only one place of worship in the Emsworth area —the parish church at Warblington. Many poor people were reluctant to indulge in the long walk or to pay the required pew rent; so a local woman, Olivia Holloway, organised meetings, which were probably at first in her own home, in the building now occupied by the Rowan's Hospice charity shop. Soon the group was able to found an independent Congregational chapel in Nile Street that opened in 1808.
But things were not easy. Traditional Christians believed that no woman should ever attempt to preach in a church, so a campaign was waged against her and her chapel. On one occasion the objectors broke into the chapel and lifted the pulpit and dumped it in the town pond. She was often pelted with stones or spat at as she crossed the square to go to preach. One night the objectors planned to spray her with blood that they had obtained from the butchers and concealed in the fire pump. However, they had not bargained for the blood congealing overnight, and so the plan backfired. Had they been successful, Olivia would have looked a sorry sight indeed, as she always went to preach dressed in white from head to foot.
Just a few years later she met and married the Rev. T. Helmore, and moved away. But by this time she left a flourishing congregation behind, who carried on worship at Nile Street, and called a new Minister. Over the years the congregation had its ups and downs, but continued to worship in the chapel, in spite of the founding of St James, Methodist, Baptist and St. Thomas R.C. churches. By the 1920s the congregation felt that the Nile Street premises were no longer adequate for their needs, so a new church was built on the present site on the corner of Bath Road, and dedicated in 1929.