The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
Address: Buckthorn Ave, Stevenage SG1 1TN
Coordinates: 51.8947° N, 0.1903° W
Started: 24 March 1962 806F808F1
Completed: 21 February 1965 807F809F2
Dedicated: February 1967 808F810F3
With provision for various community needs in Stevenage new town, several sites were designated for churches. The congregation of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was able to purchase a very satisfactory piece of land for their building.
This church claims the same organisation as instituted by Christ when He was on earth. It has been established in the United Kingdom since 1837 and congregations met over the years in mostly rented halls or rooms, shared with other groups, usually not conducive to a spirit of worship. Typically debris from Saturday-night revelries had to be cleared away on Sunday mornings before services. Some congregations were more fortunate to be able to meet in purchased and converted properties. It was not until the 1960s that an ambitious programme to build custom-built chapels in the United Kingdom began.
They would be built primarily with voluntary labour. An experienced building supervisor, usually American or Canadian, would direct the entire project. He was assisted by building missionaries. These were young men from the United Kingdom, mostly in their teens and early twenties. They left their homes for up to two years. Most had no building experience. As well as learning all facets of construction on the job, they matured and gained valuable life-skills. Only specialist work would be done by contractors.
Each congregation would be responsible to pay 20% of the total cost. This could be done in two ways. Donated labour had a monetary value, so that hours worked by members were deducted from the debt. There were many and varied fund-raising efforts. Members also contributed by giving meals and lodgings to the building missionaries.
A ground breaking ceremony was held on 24th March 1962, using a special shiny silver shovel. The first earth was turned by Donald Hemingway, President of the London Stake (Diocese).
Newly arrived at Stevenage, Building Supervisor Sidney Hayward promised the members “When this chapel is completed the one who has contributed the most will be the happiest.”
Sidney came from American Fork, Utah, with his wife Grace and teenage son Bruce. Another son, Sidney Jr. joined them as a building missionary in January 1964 when his schooling was finished. Apart from the construction work, the Hayward family made a huge contribution to the congregation through filling many assignments and showing a constant example of practicing Christian faith.
There was some excitement on the site late one evening. Soon after the notorious “Great Train Robbery” in August 1963 which netted £2.6 million, police swooped in to investigate suspicious goings-on. All they found were church members digging trenches, but no buried loot.
One morning a huge crane had been ordered to be on site to get the laminated beams set in place. At 7 a.m. it was raining heavily and a high wind was blowing. Sidney Hayward led his church building missionaries in kneeling prayer and asked that the elements be tempered. Then the local lay minister was contacted and asked to have members come to help. It took until 10 a.m. to set the crane in place and just then the rain stopped and not another drop fell until the last beam was in place. Although it continued windy, making handling more difficult, it dropped sufficiently to make the job manageable.
The Thanksgiving Service held on Sunday 21st February 1965, was a dream come true for the branch’s oldest member Abigail Cox who was 105 years old. She had been baptised over 60
1 British Area, Groundbreaking, Stevenage Chapel, London Stake, The Builder, Vol 2 No 5 (1962) p 14
2 Stevenage Chapel, The Builder, Vol 5 No 4 (1965) p 32/33
3 Completed Projects, The Construction Era, 1971 p 12
5 British Area, Groundbreaking, Stevenage Chapel, London Stake, The Builder, Vol 2 No 5 (1962) p 14
6 Stevenage Chapel, The Builder, Vol 5 No 4 (1965) p 32/33
years previously with her husband and children. Four generations of her family were present.812F814F7
After the debt was cleared, the dedicatory service was held in February 1967, conducted by Bernard P Brockbank, a General Authority of the church815F8
Church Building Missionaries during the course of construction were Raymond Botterell; Michael Carlin, David Muir, Sidney Graham, William Roberts, Raymond Yoward, Frederick Carpenter, Thomas Kirk, Hugh Gibson, Brian Jones, David Eliot, John McKenzie, James Perry, Colin Mason, John Harper, Paul Watson and Sidney Blaire Hayward, Jr.
7 Reports from the Projects, The Builder, Vol 5 No 5 1965 p 47
8 Completed Projects, The Construction Era, 1971 p 12