Church History

Below is the preface to a document written by two former church members who researched and compiled a Church History. You can download both documents over in our downloads section under the MEDIA tab.

History of Beckenham Baptist Church (Elm Road Chapel) 1883-1983
Leonard W. J. Phillips and Robert J. Gardiner M.A.

‘Man, can these bones live again?’ . . . . .
‘Prophesy over these bones and say to them,
O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord.’ . . . . .
and they came to Life and rose to their feet,
a mighty host.”


Many dusty archives have been perused to produce this history and the joint authors express the hope that they have been able to communicate something of the pleasure they have experienced in bringing to life again those outstanding characters who emerge from the past and the whole host of ordinary folk who together are “the Church.”

The reader will doubtless notice a considerable difference in style between the first half of this narrative and the second half. My partner in this enterprise, Mr. Robert Gardiner, writes as an historian and is sufficiently remote from his period viz. 1883-1933, to be objective in his approach. In dealing with the local history I was equally detached but when writing about the second period viz. 1933-1983, I found this very difficult as I joined the Church at Elm Road in 1933 and I was therefore considering men and women whom I had known and events through which I had lived. My comments will therefore be inevitably coloured by my own observations and impressions and I pray forgiveness if occasions worthy of comment have been missed and souls worthy of mention have been neglected.

We are grateful to all those who have been responsible for the preservation of the Church archives which are particularly rich and full. We are deeply grateful to all the writers of Church Minutes since 1883 – especially those with legible writing!

With regard to the illustrations we would have been lost without the advice and practical help of Mr. Tony Baker AllP who produced new negatives and large prints from photographs dating back as far as the 1880s.

I am also very conscious of the debt I owe to Miss Dorothy O’Dell and Miss Muriel Uglow who kindly checked my grammar, healed my split infinitives and corrected my spelling.

It is also a pleasure to acknowledge my indebtedness to Miss E. Plincke and her staff in the Local Studies Library at the Bromley Central Library, for her advice and for cheerfully hauling up great dusty volumes of The Beckenham Journal from 1883 onwards for my perusal.

In writing the section on local history I was greatly helped by the following works:– “Bromley, Beckenham and Penge 1750-1965” by Bessie Taylor Ph.D. “A History of Kent” by Frank Jessup.

We hope that this small work will give some pleasure, present the truth unadorned and worthily mirror the pilgrim progression of the Saints who have worshipped down the years in Elm Road Chapel.

Leonard W. J. Phillips



Born in 1893, Died 22.07.1916, Age 23.

Family (1911)

Lived at 7 Manor Road, Beckenham.

A son of the Rev Robert Stewart Fleming and his wife Margaret. He had 1 older brother, 3 younger brothers and 3 younger sisters.

Also living with them were 2 servants.

Rev Robert Fleming was the Minister of Elm Road Baptist Church from 1892 to 1929.

John Allister was a Tea Taster.

On the day war was declared all 3 eldest sons enlisted.

Military Service

John was enrolled as a Private in the 28th London Regiment. On 14.02.15 he arrived in France. On 14.08.15 he was then commissioned to 2nd Lieutenant in the Queen’s Own (Royal West Kent Regiment).

He was awarded the Victory, British and 1915 Star Medals.


On 22 July 1915, during The Battle of the Somme, he took part in a night attack on German Lines in High Woods by the French village of Longueval. After the failed attack he was reported as wounded and missing.

As both John and his older brother James were both 2nd Lieutenants in the same Company and took part in the same attack there was, at first, some conflicting reports as to who was missing.

He is commemorated on the memorial at Thiepval.


Extracted from War Diary of 1st Battalion Royal West Kent Regiment

John Allister Fleming was a 2nd Lieutenant in A Company.

22nd July 1916.

On this date A Company was positioned in a trench running along the edge of a road between High Wood and the village of Longueval in northern France. (Map ref: S10b).

Orders were received to conduct a night attack on the enemy trenches on the other side of the road some 500yrds to their North East.

Prior to the attack an artillery barrage would be laid down and during this A & B Companies would leave their trenches and get as close to the enemy as possible so that when the barrage was lifted they could dash in.

Each man carried 2 Mills Bombs and an extra bandolier of ammunition. The attack was to be pressed home at all costs.

A & B Companies left their trenches at 9.52pm and advanced. They met with extremely heavy rifle and machine gun fire and also suffered casualties by shells from their own artillery falling short.

About 30 men of A Company reached the enemy trench and entered it, but were attacked with bombs. They could not hold the position and all the Officers became casualties.

During this time Pte Butlin frustrated an attack from their left by stepping over the enemy bombs before they exploded throwing bombs of his own.

The attack failed. Eventually some 250 men were recovered and returned to their original lines.

The casualties amounted to :

14 Officers

377 Other Ranks.

2nd Lieutenant John Allister Fleming was reported wounded and missing.

John’s older brother James was held back as a reserve Officer.