Our History

colonial_costumesThe earliest mention of the congregation known as the West Nottingham Presbyterian Church dates back to 1724.  The first mention of the congregation is in the New Castle Presbytery records of March 23, 1724, at a meeting held at Pencader.  The minutes read as follows:

“Ordered that Mr. Houston supply the people at the mouth of the Octoraro the fifth Sabbath of May and Mr.. Thomas Evans the third Sabbath of April”

After many part-time pastors and stated supply pastors, the Rev. William Orr accepted a call and was ordained and installed as West Nottingham’s first full time pastor in the year 1731.

In March of 1740, the Rev. Gilbert Tennent, a leader in the revival party, preached his famous sermon at West Nottingham entitled “The Dangers of an Unconverted Ministry” from the text Mark 6:34 which became known as the “Nottingham Sermon”.  In 1740 the famous George Whitefield preached at Nottingham to an estimated 8,000 people.

In 1741 the Presbyterian Church in the colonies divided due to a split concerning the new evangelism which came to be known as the new side-old side controversy.  The wedge of division was driven through the congregation at Nottingham.  The new side group separated from the congregation at this time and called as its first pastor, the Rev. Samuel Finley.  The Rev. Samuel Gayley, pastor of the congregation in the middle of the nineteenth century wrote the following concerning the two congregations:

“The new side meeting house which was erected at once, stood on the west side of a little stream at the foot of the hill on which the other meeting stood…They were in full view of each other and but a few rods apart.  Each congregation could hear the other sing.”

boy_in_stocksThe new church was designated the second Nottingham and the old the first Nottingham.  Dr. Finley, pastor of the second Nottingham Church, was an able scholar and he established a school, later known as the West Nottingham Academy.  Many men of importance during the colonial and revolutionary period were educated at the Academy, two of which were Richard Stockton and Dr. Benjamin Rush, both signers of the Declaration of Independence.

In 1761 after the death of his wife, Samuel Finley left West Nottingham to become president of Princeton College in New Jersey.  In 1790 after the old side-new side controversy ended, the two congregations were reunited and in 1800 the congregation agreed on the new site for the church building, which is now the present site of the congregation.  In 1803 they were authorized to institute a lottery to raise funds for completing the building by the Maryland Legislature.  The congregation has existed at this site to the present day serving the community.

West Nottingham Presbyterian Church does has a rich history.  Although there are records that were kept through the years, our beginnings were not recorded entirely by the Session of that time.  We have numerous inquiries looking for information on family members.  Please contact the Presbyterian Historical Society for any inquiries dating from the 1800’s through the mid-1990’s.  Their contact information is: 425 Lombard Street, Philadelphia, PA 19147-1516; phone number 215-627-1852.

For inquiries of cemetery records, please click on the link below: