Previous Ministers

Rev. Roland French.

Rev. Roland French
(1907 - 1910)

Born: 1876, Branscombe, Devon.
Spurgeon’s College.
Middle Wall, Whitstable, Kent, 1907-1910.
W.745 Leytonstone Road, Leyton, London, 1910-1914.
W.309 South Street, Greenwich, London, 1914-1927.
Bethesda, Ipswich, Suffolk, May 1927-1946.
Died: 14 November 1965 aged 89, Ipswich Hospital, Suffolk.

The Rev. Roland JW French’s first church was in Whitstable. Records show that “in January 1907 an invitation was given to a young student from the Pastors’ College. Mr. French served the church in a difficult time for three years with much acceptance. He had a love of open-air work which, before long brought him in conflict with the Police. The common meeting place at that time was the cross, at the junction of the High Street and Harbour Street; it was here that the Baptist friends held their services, but for some reason objection was made and the friends told to move on. Feeling the injustice of the act, especially since other gatherings were allowed there, the Baptists continued as hitherto to make their witness with the result that a summons was served upon them to appear at Canterbury Court. About thirty to forty friends attended, some giving evidence; the result was one day’s imprisonment for the leader, which of course meant instant dismissal (I presume of the case - not the minister!) The services afterwards were carried on at Reeves’ beach.”

A full transcript of the case, as reported in the Canterbury Herald of 15th August 1908, may be seen here.

The church grew during Roland French’s ministry. Between 1908 and 1910 the Sunday School premises were extended. As the records state: “it may be some indication of his exceptional preaching powers that our church had to be extended the year after he left...” so in 1911 the church was extended by the addition of an entrance vestibule and a gallery doubling the seating capacity to 350.

“The work progressed well under the Rev. Roland French; and it was a keen disappointment to all when he tendered his resignation, and later in May 1910 bade farewell to Whitstable for Leytonstone.”

We are indebted to Mrs Gladys Sutch, a distant relative of Rev French, for much additional information which can be found here.

© Tony Harris 30/04/2013