A Bit of History

On 14 November 1927 the foundation stone of the Stanborough Park Church was laid by the British Union President, Pastor W.H. Meredith. At that time Stanborough Park took in all of the area now occupied by the Kingswood Estate, North Watford Cemetery, Purbrock Avenue and Spring and Holland Gardens and extended beyond what is now the North Orbital Road as far as Leavesden High Road.

At that time the Park was home to the Stanborough Press, Granose Foods Ltd., Stanborough College (a theological college which later relocated to the midlands and the building eventually became home to Stanborough School), the Voice of Prophecy Bible School, the British Union Conference of Seventh-day Adventists offices and Stanborough Hydro, a sanitarium.

It was Dr.Rubel of the sanitarium who was the driving force behind the building of the church. He led the band of members working with forks, spades, pickaxes, shovels, saws and hatchets as they cleared the ground for what would become 'The Church in the woods’. After the foundation stone was laid all who had paid a shilling to do so laid a brick.

The church was dedicated, free of debt, on July 22, 1928. Just three months later Herbert Barham was the first person to be baptised there and the first funeral to be conducted in the church was that of the first minister, Pastor McAvoy. The first wedding held there was that of Daisy Cash and Wilf Proudley on July 30, 1931 after the church was registered to hold weddings.

The church’s Male Voice Choir won the shield at a large music festival in the Archway in London in 1938. In 1942 three members began a Sunday School in the church and in 1947 Master Guide classes were instituted.

Long-standing member Alf Kelly was the driving force behind the hospital visiting bands which were formed in 1955 and the following year he began services in residential homes in Watford. In 1960 he began Bible study groups in the Nurses’ Home at the Peace Memorial Hospital in Watford for the young Adventist women undertaking their nursing training there.

In 1961 the first Christmas Toy Service was held in the church, a tradition started by Alf Kelly which continues to the present day. Mr. Kelly was also involved in setting up many charitable schemes in the locality. He was awarded the MBE for his services to the people of Watford shortly before his death in 1996.

To meet the needs of the growing church an extension and galleries were added to the building and were dedicated on December 22, 1962. However,
following the fire at the Stanborough Press on January 2, 1964 many members moved with the Press when it was re-located to Grantham in 1965. The demolition of the San and the relocation of Granose Foods further depleted the church congregation. However, Stanborough Park Church was still able to plant two other churches during the 1970’s in St. Albans and Hemel Hempstead. In 1984 the Sabbath morning service was recorded by the BBC and broadcast on Radio 4 bringing the church to the attention of a wider audience.

With the membership growing ever larger additional space for church activities was needed. The new millennium saw the construction of the adjacent Stanborough Centre with its variety of rooms meeting not only the needs of the church but also of the local community. Finally, July 2014 saw the beginning of an ambitious project to extend and refurbish the church to meet the needs of the 21st century which was finally completed in October 2015 with an official opening ceremony performed by the elected Mayor of Watford on November 6th.

Flower Festivals have been held in the church since 1981 and over the years have raised in excess of £140,000 for local charities and ADRA. The young people and Pathfinders have undertaken mission projects in Pakistan, Poland, Albania, Lithuania, India, and Derry. Members also serve at a Special Needs Camp every year.

The Archive Photo Album Section

Stanborough Park was purchased, along with Margrath Villa (renamed Sheepcote Villa) in December 1906 and the following year saw the training college for ministers setting up in the mansion soon followed by the construction of buildings to house the food factory and printing press along with denominational offices. (A copy of 'The Messenger' commemorating the centenary of the purchase of 'The Park' is included in this section.)


At first the college chapel was used as a church but in 1910 the college moved into purpose-built premises (later used at Stanborough School) and in 1911 the Watford Town Church was built. The mansion was now extended and used as a sanitarium and an increased need for an on-site church became apparent although some two decades had elapsed between the purchase of 'The Park' and this becoming a reality.


The archive section starts with students from the college experiencing difficulties during World War 1 having been classified as conscientious objectors (some of that group have descendants still worshipping at the church). Reference to the construction of the church has been discovered in a copy of 'The Missionary Worker', the denominational journal - a forerunner of 'The Messenger' - and there are early photos of the church and Stanborough Park  which were found in the late Agnes Poulton's collection, a member who died in 2012 aged 104 - most of them taken by her.


This collection also contained photographs of the interior and exterior of Granose Foods, the health food factory where she spent her working life, along with other buildings and some general views of 'The Park'. There was also a copy of an insert contained in a 1954 copy of 'The Missionary Worker'  which featured current missionaries serving abroad at least half of whom had connections with Stanborough Park Church, some having descendants still worshipping there.


Also contained in the archive collection are general views of 'The Park' , the Press fire and the demolition of Granose Foods and the school. Some show the area now occupied by Cedar Wood Drive, Aspen Park Drive and Ash Close. The houses built for ministers, known at 'Holy Row' also feature. There is also a photograph of Kingswood House which was part of the Kingswood Estate and was used to house workers.


In addition there are photos of the late Alf Kelly MBE and some of Toy Services dating back to his era as well as more distant photos of church workers, one inside the church building featuring a young Gillian Willoughby (now known as Gill Huzzey) a church children's concert which took place each year during the 1950's in the Estate Hall and the Male Voice Choir referred to in 'A Bit of History'.

View the Historic Photo Album.