Frank Thomas

Lay Preacher


Frank spent many years as a Lay Preacher and visited a number of "Independent" Chapels in the central part of East Sussex. Frank first preached at Ringmer Chapel, some of the Chapels included East Hoathly, Halland, Lewes Jireh Chapel, Newick, Heathfield, Dallington, Chailey, Wivelsfield, Barcombe, Mount Hermon near Heathfield, Five Ash Down, Jarvis Brook and Crowborough where Pastor Delves who married him was based. Others were Uckfield Baptist Church, Grange Hall Evangelical Church, Golden Cross Chapel, Newhaven, Wivelsfield Green, Nutley Hall and Forest Row. He cycled to Chapels in the early days of his preaching, later he travelled on his moped and subsequently in his three wheeler car. When I first knew him he had graduated to a four wheel car!


His dedication is recorded in "One Hundred Years Gospel Witness at Halland 1886 to 1986" Halland Chapel East Sussex. A History by Harold J W Legerton.



Many valuable facts about Frank and his close involvement with the Halland Chapel emerge from the detailed history in this interesting book. Thank you Mr Legerton! As has been previously mentioned Frank worked for Mr Pryke after his war service. There is a mention on page 10 of the book of land being purchased from Mr Pryke for the eventual use of construction of a Hall and car park. The Hall and car park certainly were "eventual" as the deed for purchase of the land was signed on 5 August 1929. It was many years before this was built. By the time Barbara (my wife) left the area in 1966 it was still not built. It was erected 10 years later.


As is mentioned on page 9 "No minutes or other records have been preserved prior to 1932, but Mr James Pratt kept a diary in which he noted the events of the Chapel." These notes were used in the book. Mr James Pratt, Pastor Pratt was Pastor at Halland Chapel from 1933 to 1960.


Previously on page 8 the paragraph below is the second to last one on the page. "One of the scholars who had attended the Sunday School was a lad, James Pratt by name, the son of Mr Richard Pratt of Bentley's Farm who was associated with the Cause from the beginning. James was to become Mr Mathews' successor as Pastor."


Frank's mother Kate Pratt lived with her father (Richard Pratt) at Bentley Farm before she was married to Frank's Dad Archibald. Pastor Pratt was Frank's Uncle. James Pratt was appointed as Pastor at Church meeting on 22nd March 1933.



A picture of Pastor Pratt appears after page 13 in the book.


Crockstead Farm is mentioned often in the book as is the Starnes name. Bert Starnes senior was James Pratt's brother-in-law via his wife Annie. Frank's wife's sister Kitty married into the Starnes family and lived at Crockstead with her husband Bert Starnes junior after Bert senior died. "Crockstead" was involved with the youth side of the Church. In his diary August 17th 1937 Pastor Pratt wrote "S. S. (Sunday School) outing ........ The next year's treat was at Crockstead we had 90 to tea, about 40 children......"




Above and below are pictures of the Sunday School Outing Tea at Crockstead in 1940



Frank is included in a "thank you" on page 13. "Special reference was made to the Young Protestants Endeavour at the 1947 Annual Church Meeting, Chairman said that Ruth Starnes, Philip Starnes and Frank Thomas were doing useful work." Pastor Pratt was a very important person in Frank's life, not only was he the Pastor but also an Uncle and someone who had taken part in his wedding ceremony. When Pastor Pratt died in 1960, Frank was present at his funeral. The image below is an excerpt from page 14 of the book. The third to last sentence is relevant.



Frank continued his association with Halland Chapel. In the chapter entitled THE WORD OF FAITH WHICH WE PREACH Harold Legerton starts the text by saying "With the decease of Pastor Pratt the office was left vacant for some time, the pulpit being filled by Mr P Starnes, Mr F Thomas and visiting preachers....."


Pastor W H Cherry was appointed in 1971. Later on in the year a decision was made to appoint  elders and deacons. page 18 records that "...... the first elders appointed by the Pastor were Mr Philip Starnes and Mr Frank Thomas. Later in that chapter the comment "A very great loss to the work was sustained in 1981 by reason of the resignation, after many years of laudable service, one of the elders, Mr Frank Thomas and his wife Nellie."


Frank was very proud of his son Richard gaining a Theology degree and becoming a Minister. His son Joel (Franks grandson) gained a First Class Honors degree in Sociology at Bath University, his end of degree research is entitled "Conviction, Conversion and the Chaplain." It is an investigative study of the possible roles of prison chaplains in shaping prisoners identities.  



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