In 1662 the Revd Jonathan Paine was deprived of his living at Bishop’s Stortford, having refused to conform to the Book of Common Prayer. It is recorded that Paine laboured greatly among the non conformists in Essex and, three years after his ejectment,gathered a congregation at Saffron Walden: this congregation formed the basis of the Abbey Lane Meeting.
Around 1692 a plot of land called Froggs Orchard was purchased for £18 and the congregation built a Meeting House which was to be ‘A House of Religious Worship, following the form of Divine Worship of Independent Paedo Baptists’.
In 1811 a new Meeting House (the present church) was constructed. The earlier Meeting House had resembled the domestic architecture of its time. The new 1811 building is a typical Calvinist chapel, austere yet built to a high standard and with fine interior furnishings added later in the 19th century.
By the 1851 census Abbey Lane recorded 545 worshippers at its morning service and 609 in the evening. Total seating was reported as 850.
‘Why are women not eligible for election to the Diaconate?’
These words appeared on a ballot paper in a 1913 election for deacons and by 1919 Abbey Lane had decided that two deacons could be women. The first step in the emancipation of women at Abbey Lane had occurred during the ministry of the Revd William Clayton (1809-1832) when the church Meeting agreed that women would be allowed to sit with the men during communion. Abbey Lane’s first woman minister, the Revd. Margaret McKay, was inducted in 1991.
In 2010 Abbey Lane and Newport joined together to become one church on two sites ‘Abbey Lane & Newport URC’. The building in Newport has been retained as a centre for pastorate activities and the garden as a Quiet Space for the community.
Following the closure of the Methodist Church, Abbey Lane invited Saffron Walden’s Methodists to join them ‘in association’ and in 2014 Abbey Lane & Newport URC linked with Water Lane URC, Bishops Stortford, Stansted Free Church and Clavering Local Ecumenical Project (LEP) to form the West Essex and Bishops Stortford (WEBS) Pastorate.