History Of Our Dojo Building

The history of our Dojo building:

An Uphill Struggle by Brian Joyce
Readers familiar with Chatham Hill will be aware of the martial arts centre part way up on the south­west side. What they perhaps don’t know is that the site was used for religious purposes for about two hundred years.

In the early nineteenth century, the families living on the Hill had a dubious reputation. Looking back in 1873, the Chatham Observer felt that: “there has always been…a moral element on Chatham Hill very difficult to subjugate; a wild, fitful, bohemian sort of spirit, often breaking out unexpectedly and requiring a large amount of tact and patience to deal with it”.

Some of the more respectable residents of Chatham felt that the people of the Hill were in need of salvation. In 1812, the daughter of the Reverend Slatterie of the Ebenezer Congregational Church, together with like­ minded friends, rented a room in a cottage on Chatham Hill with the aim of setting up a Sunday School to civilise the area’s children. Their efforts prospered, and they were soon in need of more space.
A meeting of prominent Congregationalists in 1813 decided to build a chapel on Chatham Hill. Congregationalist businessmen donated timber and iron for the new building. Others gave money. The new chapel was dedicated in July 1813 on land that some claimed had been used by followers of the prophetess Joanna Southcott some years before.

Forty years later, the Religious Census of 1851 revealed that the Sunday School was also used for adult worship in the evenings. Thirty­two people attended on census day. Earlier that day, sixty scholars attended in the morning, and seventy­three in the afternoon session.

By 1873, this chapel had become dilapidated and uneconomic to repair. A new building was required, and it was the Young family – prominent Congregationalists who lived in a large detached house on Luton Road, that provided the wherewithal.

Joseph Young was a High Street grocer. His younger son had died in 1868, leaving £35 10s to the Chatham Hill Sunday School. Another son was an architect who drew up the plans free. One of the Sunday School teachers was Young’s daughter Annie, an important local feminist.

The brick built chapel stood more or less on the site of the previous one. It cost nearly £500 to build and furnish, nearly half of which was still outstanding when the building opened in 1873. It was constructed by the builder William Ruby of Chatham. A large ground floor room that could seat 200 people was used for the Sunday School and adult worship. Underneath was a classroom for infants. The building contained an additional two classrooms.

The chapel of 1873 proved to be more than adequate for the needs of the area. It continued as a Congregationalist place of worship with the Ebenezer as its parent until the mid 1950s. By then, there was a general decline in non conformism. Additionally, many of the congregation had moved away. For those who remained, the increasing motor traffic on Chatham Hill was becoming intolerable during worship.
The decision was made to sell the site. The remaining worshippers could use the Ebenezer. The money raised would go towards building a new church, the Emanuel Free Church, at Weeds Wood. The former Congregationalist Sunday School was eventually taken over by the Jehovah’s Witnesses who renamed it the Kingdom Hall.

The former Sunday School on Chatham Hill is still used for teaching purposes. Since the Jehovah’s Witnesses left, it has become the Shi Kon Martial Arts Centre, teaching both adults and children the art of self defence.

Source: https://btckstorage.blob.core.windows.net/site1152/MedwayChronicle/MedChron13a.p

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