St Paul’s Congregational Church was founded in 1898, largely as a result of a benefaction from Alderman Sir Charles Burt, a leading member of the Vineyard
Congregational Church in Richmond. That parent Church remains active to this day as an independent Congregational Church. The name, St Paul’s, was unusual for a Non-conformist Church, where the use of the word “Saint” was customarily avoided. It was proposed by Sir Charles, who regarded St Paul as the greatest of all the Apostles and saw parallels between his missionary work and the tasks he foresaw for the new Church.
The site in Raleigh Road was chosen as lying in a newly developing area (“New Richmond”), distant not only from the Vineyard but also from existing Churches of other denominations. It was a largely working class area, notable for one of the very first council house estates, just being built in and around Manor Road, where there were also a coal yard and a gasworks. Part of the vision behind the creation of the new Church was that it should be socially, as well as spiritually, active. (The coal yard and gasworks sites are familiar today to the customers of Homebase and Sainsbury’s, respectively.)
Regular Services commenced on 18 December 1898 and the Church then had a relatively uneventful but successful existence until 1 October 1940, when it was hit by an extremely powerful bomb. The bomb came through the roof and exploded inside the Church building. It seems that the building’s substantial structure absorbed the mighty blast and, although itself irreparably damaged, saved the surrounding area from incurring any casualties.
During the remainder of the War, the congregation from St Paul’s was kindly invited to use the Church Hall of the Barn Church (St Philip and All Saints CofE). This continued until 1949, when St Paul’s was able to acquire temporary Government buildings which had been erected in Raleigh Road.
Plans were then prepared for the construction of a new Church, which was completed and opened in 1956, including a splendid suite of halls and rooms intended to benefit the local community as well as the Church.
Unlike the Vineyard Church, St Paul’s voted to join the United Reformed Church (URC) on its creation in 1972, bringing together most of the Congregational and Presbyterian Churches in England and, in the case of the Congregationalists, Wales. In 1995, the congregation of St Paul’s united with the congregation of Kew Road Methodist Church, when the new name of Raleigh Road United Church was adopted to reflect the new beginning.
Methodists had their first meeting house in Richmond in 1773 in the old playhouse, but their first permanent Methodist chapel was in the centre of town on the corner of Eton Street and Paradise road. (Preset Kingsway house) Built in 1830 and used until 1850. After a couple of other venues the first Kew Road site for the methodist chapel was in 1868. This was a chapel on Sunday and day school during the week.
1871 –laid foundation stones for new Wesleyan chapel using a spare building from the school. In 1872 the new chapel was opened.
This chapel was destroyed by fire in January 1881. Due to a very bad storm, and lots of snow, the fire engines could not get through quickly enough to save it. The separate school building was spared and this was used for both services on Sundays and school during the week.
A new church was started that year and was re-opened for worship on April 16th 1882. This was in use until 1937, when it was demolished and the last church on Kew Road was built.
The school chapel was in use until 1961. It had become unsafe and had large cracks in the walls so this was then demolished, but not replaced.
In 1992, the site of Kew Road Methodist church was sold, and is now a block of flats. The Methodist congregation moved and joined with the St Paul’s congregation to form the church we are all now part of, Raleigh Road United Church.
Raleigh Road United Church (Methodist and URC) is a member of the Richmond and Hounslow Circuit of the Methodist Church and the Southern Synod of the URC.