Tumultuous Times

Union Chapel faces two world wars and the threat of demolition.

  • 1899
  • The end of the 19th Century

    Union Chapel was absolutely thriving - Services were still incredibly popular and the Sunday School had 2,522 children attending regularly.

  • 1914
  • Union Chapels First World War memorial

    1914 - 1918

    World War One

    The First World War, undeniably a major world event also had a huge impact on people's every day lives. Even though non-conformists usually take a pacifist stand, 37 members of Union Chapel and another local church gave their lives for their country. We don't know exactly what happen to each one of these men, but what we do know is below.

  • 1915
  • 24 October 1915

    Henry Woodland Erleback

    Henry joined Union Chapel in 1904 when he moved to London to stay with his Uncles - who had been members of our congregation for some time. He was wounded by a piece of shrapnel to the leg at the Battle of Langemarck in Belgium and passed away four days later on the 24th October 1915. According to a letter from a friend 'His last thought before being removed by the stretcher-bearers was for his section, as he said. 'If any parcels arrive for me, tell the boys to share them up'". The Battle of Langemarck was the second Allied attack at Ypres; it succeeded in the North, however the southern front faced extreme backlash from German troops. He now rests in a cemetery near Ypres, Belgium.

  • 19th December 1915

    N.B. Dobell

    Chapel member N.B. Dobell lost his life on 19 December 1915 during the first phosgene gas attack on British troops. This attack took place in Ypres, Belgium and it was the first time British troops ever experienced chemical warfare. German troops sent gas shells via parachute into British trenches. The attack lasted from the 19th December to the 21st of December. His final resting place is at Highgate Cemetery.

  • 1916
  • 21st May 1916

    Anniversary of the Sunday School

    The amassed students of Union Chapel's hugely popular Sunday School. The Sunday School here was at very active - as well as studying they went on various excursions - including one in 1904 to Brickett Wood.

  • 24th August 1916

    Arthur Nickless

    Son of Mr. and Mrs. Nickless, of 97, Turnpike Lane, Hornsey, London. Killed at the Battle of the Somme, aged 29. His name is featured on the Theipval Wall of Remembrance as well as on our memorial at Union Chapel but his body was never identified.

  • 14th September 1916

    Sydney Chatten Roswell

    Son of Charles James and Kate Roswell, of 168, St. Paul's Road, Canonbury, London. Killed at The Battle of the Somme and buried at Connaught Cemetery, Thiepval.

  • 1917
  • 30th November 1917

    Henry Herbert Sweetland

    Henry Herbert Sweetland lost his life at the Battle of Cambrai in France. His name is featured on the Islington Cemetery and Crematorium Wall of Remembrance as well as on our memorial at Union Chapel. The Battle of Cambrai is notable as one of the first times tanks were used successfully in combat, on a large scale, by both British and German troops.

  • 1918
  • 4th April 1918

    Archibald Walter Lillington

    Archibald Walter Lillington, Husband of Nellie Dorothy Lillington, of 24, Goldsmith's Place, Canonbury, London, lost his life at the Battle of the Avre in France. The Battle of the Avre was the last attack the German troops made on Amiens. British and Australian troops were able to hold the German troops at the south-east corner of the town, causing the Germans to surrender. His name is featured on the Pozieres Wall of Remembrance as well as on our memorial at Union Chapel but his body was never identified.

  • 3rd July 1918

    Arthur William Whitebread

    As the war drew to a close Arthur William Whitebread, aged just 20 lost his life in Germany. He is buried in Niederzwehren Cemetery in Hessen, Germany.

  • 1919
  • 1918 - 1939

    Inter war decline

    The number of church members falls to just 100. Trains, Trams, bicycles, tubes and by this point the car meant that people were moving increasingly to the suburbs of London. It also opened up a whole array of activities, such as trips to the sea side to compete with Church on a Sunday.

  • 1940
  • Reverend Ronald Taylor


    The Reverend Ronald Taylor is appointed Minister

    He remained at the Chapel until his death in 1980. Ronald Taylor was appointed during the height of the Blitz. In fact during his interview at the Chapel he and the deacons were forced to retreat to the basement to sit out an air raid. He was also famed for knocking out a man attempting to loot the Chapel silver – he had a fine left hook!

  • 1944
  • highbury corner plaque

    12.46pm, 27th June 1944

    Highbury Corner destroyed by a V1 flying bomb

    The bomb killed 26 people, injured 150 and badly damaged Union Chapel. The Chapel acted as a shelter and first aid point for those that lost their homes and for the 127 injured in the blast.

  • 1950
  • 1950s - 1970s

    The Congregation steadily declines and the building is neglected…

    After the second world ward the population of Islington fell from 500,000 to 175,000. This had a huge impact on the numbers of people coming to Church. it became harder to look after the building as fewer members meant fewer donations, The damage done to the building in the war was repaired hastily and incompletely, in fact damage done to the tower was only properly repaired in 2009! There was still a lot going on here though – the Chapel was home to a thriving Scout Troop and a nursery school.

  • 1981
  • 1981

    Union Chapel is scheduled for demolition

    The plan was to demolish the Chapel and replace it with a smaller facsimile of the original 1806 building. The rest of the land would have been sold to develop into offices. The Victorian Gothic style was rather unfashionable at the time and the Chapel was considered by some to be a blemish in the clean lines of Georgian Compton Terrace. Thankfully this plan never came to fruition but many of Cubitt’s other Churches were not as lucky and were demolished in the 20th Century. Union Chapel is one of only three that remain.

  • Explore more of Union Chapel’s History

    Continue Reading