Crabtree Church

from its origins in the United Missions Chapel on West Common, to 139 Crabtree Lane

The United Mission, West Common, just before the move to Crabtree Lane
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The old chapel, converted into a house, 1987
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Crabtree Lane Hall, 1954
Crabtree Church
Crabtree Church and Hall in the former church building, 2005
Crabtree Church
Crabtree Church, new building in 2005, replaced the old hall at the rear
Crabtree Church

This history of Crabtree church was included in the exhibition on The History of Harpenden’s churches on 1 September 2018.


Crabtree Church has origins in Harpenden which go back over 100 years. One member remembers his grandmother going to an Assembly meeting (Brethren) just before the first world war circa 1914. The Assembly had already been well established then. This was on West Common, near Pimlico Cottages, in a small hall known as The United Mission, then later as West Common Hall; it is now a private house.

Between the two world wars, numbers increased to 20-30. But it was after the second world war the congregation at West Common grew. With interest generated by Billy Graham’s Greater London Crusade in the early 50’s, the West Common Hall became too small making it necessary to search for bigger premises.

The move to Crabtree Lane

At the time, a plot of land on the new estate being built on Crabtree Lane was designated to be a Baptist Church in Harpenden. The Baptists declined the land and it was then offered to the Assembly in West Common.

The Assembly received many gifts and also raised some of the money by selling some of the adjoining land and the Laing Trust provided the rest of the money. Jack Dennis & Co. of St. Albans (in photograph) built the new building which was opened on 27th November 1954; it became known as Crabtree Lane Hall, a Brethren Assembly.

Shortly after the second world war, the West Common Assembly had begun a Sunday School on the old Prisoner of War Camp in Batford. With the opening of the new building in Crabtree Lane, the work on the Batford estate also moved to the new site at Crabtree Lane.

The new church had a purpose built baptistery installed in the building, at the time it was the only baptistery for full immersion in Harpenden; the first people to be baptised were David Watson and Maisie Tiller, the leader of the girl Crusaders. Youthwork continued to be a focus with a girl Covenanters group starting in 1956, followed by a boys group in 1958.

Further expansion

The need for space became acute and what was meant to be a temporary porta cabin was built behind the front building in 1961. This building lasted until 2004 when it was replaced by the new building on the site.

In the early 1970’s two members started a playgroup three mornings a week for young children aged 2-4. Partly for their own children and for local parents to drop of their children between 9am -12pm in the morning. This ministry has been going for over 40 years and is better known today as “Noah’s Ark”.

In the mid 1970s a “mum’s and tots morning” started once a week; where mums could come with their 0-3 year olds and enjoy a cup of coffee and chat with each other while their children play in a safe space. Mum’s and tots is now known as “Little Fishes”, meeting on a Friday morning and is used not just by mums, but dads, grandparents and carers also come for a time to relax and have safe play for their little ones.

Replacing the temporary hall

In 2004 the church decided to build a new bigger back hall. With a significant financial contribution coming forward from church members, the old back hall was knocked down and the new one opened on 2nd July 2005.

Originally a Brethren Assembly, Crabtree Church has retained some of its Brethren heritage. Team leadership is very important and the preaching and teaching of the bible is every Sunday. But over time some of the other Brethren distinctives have gone: women are in leadership and take part in every aspect of church life; communion is held monthly rather than weekly; the name was changed in 1993 to “Crabtree Church” to reflect a more modern approach. Perhaps the biggest change is the decision to appoint a pastor who leads the team of Elders. Crabtree’s first fulltime pastor was Bernard Cartledge in 2010, the current pastor is Steve Morley who came in 2015.

Today Crabtree is an independent evangelical church. Sunday Services are at 10.30am, all are welcome. Crabtree continues its ministry in the community with its preschool called Noah’s Ark and Little Fishes for parents/carers and tots. Crabtree Church’s vision is to lift Jesus up in all aspects of its life and to serve the local people by being a haven and safe space for members of the community.

  • Crabtree Church, 139 Crabtree Lane, Harpenden, AL5 5RD
  • Phone: 01582 622959
  • Email:

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