STROAT Evangelical Church (formerly Stroat Mission) has been referred to as ’that busy little place down on the A48’, a reference to the many cars often parked at the roadside.
Opened in November 1889 it has held a prominent position in the local community for 120 years, an anniversary which it celebrates this Saturday and Sunday.
The gates and entrance to the church were originally the gates and driveway to Stroat House, the drive snaking across what is now an open field. Coaches were kept in the coach house, now the Powerhouse, a room currently designated for the children’s work, and the current manse was the coachman’s two-roomed cottage. The land was purchased from Stroat House in 1888.
In the 1880s Tidenham House was occupied by a devout Christian family called Morgan. They were evangelical in their outlook and Mrs Morgan took a keen interest
in the spiritual welfare of the people who lived at Woodcroft. Similarly, one of the daughters of the house, Miss Emily Morgan was concerned for the people at Stroat. As the parish churches were some distance away from these locations they were keen to invest their energies and money to help the ordinary people of Stroat and Woodcroft on their road to God. Stroat and Woodcroft missions were to remain linked for many years.
About this time a retired clergyman, Rev. Fielding Palmer, held meetings at the Chase School, and subsequently gave £500 for the building of Chase Church. A lady with
the rather appropriate name of Miss Churchyard donated the land and all the stone to build Chase Church, and her friends and relatives provided the furnishings when the building was complete.
Emily Morgan was keen to make similar provision for the people of Stroat. Wibden fruit farm (just along the A48 on the Chepstow side of Stroat) was to become the original meeting place as Emily Morgan hired a room there on Sunday afternoons especially for mothers with small children.
In 1888 she then provided money for the building of Stroat Mission which then became known as The Iron Room. Regular Sunday services took place at the new mission hall from 3.30pm
-4.30pm to avoid clashing with the services at Tidenham Parish Church. Sankey hymn books were used, some of which remain to this day.
Monday was a very busy day in the schedule when a fortnightly mothers’ meeting was held in the afternoon, and then, during the winter months boys under 18 were encouraged to meet from 6.30 to 7.30 and over eighteens from 7.30 to 9.30. Bagatelle, chess, draughts and other games were provided – Happy Families is reputed to have been a great favourite with the younger boys and keen competition at draughts was enjoyed by the older boys and men. Newspapers were also provided, with sewing and knitting classes for the girls.
Evangelical meetings were held every Thursday at 7.30 during the winter and in very cold weather a soup kitchenwas held every Friday. One lady was renowned for carrying the soup home in a large jug carefully balanced on her head. This same lady – a Mrs Palmer – is also reputed to have carried trestle tables in a similar manner from High Hall farm at the same time as carrying a trestle in each hand.
A caretaker, Sarah Croat of Boughspring, walked in all weathers to Stroat several times a week.
A special Christmas supper was held annually for the working men and boys of the district – although no such provision seems to have been made for the girls and women!
Up to 120 men and boys would sit down to a feast.
The menu included:
4 large joints of beef weighing 20 lbs apiece,
Potatoes, greens, parsnips and horseradish sauce;
Christmas pudding with custard,
Apple tarts, blancmanges and jellies, washed down with vast amounts of non-alcoholic beverages.
•A spokesman for the church says of the weekend’s celebrations: “We would love to see anyone who has association with Stroat in whatever capacity to join us for our celebration evening on Saturday (November 14) at 6.30 and at our services on Sunday (November 15) at 11am and 6pm.
Taken from The Forest Review 11th November 2009