Home of the Foreign Missions Club

Christian Guest House and Conference Venue
+44(0)20 7226 2663

About Us

History

"Then said Christian to the porter, ‘Sir, what house is this? And may I lodge here tonight? The porter answered, ‘This house was built by the Lord of the hill, and He built it for the relief and security of pilgrims." John Bunyan, The Pilgrim's Progress

        In the early 1890’s there was a great need for a residential club in London for missionaries on furlough. Men and women, often with families, arrived in England after years on the mission field. Those were the days when London was frequently shrouded in thick fogs, when horse-drawn vehicles lumbered through the streets, and there were no public telephones. The dreary round of looking for inexpensive apartments after exhausting journeys in third-class railway compartments and Channel crossing, made many a home-coming a bleak affair. It raised the need to do something to alleviate the situation for home-coming missionaries, lonely and often bewildered as they returned to western civilisation from the wilds of Africa and Asia.

        A committee was formed and Rev. George Patterson set to work, which resulted in the launching of the Foreign Missions Club (F.M.C.) with a capital of £2,500. For location two large adjoining houses were acquired in Highbury New Park, north London, and the Club was opened in December, 1893.

        In 1898 Mrs Angus was invited to superintend the place.

Mrs Angus, a warm hearted woman with an outgoing personality, made the Club into a home, a place to which people returned again and again. For many missionaries, out of the country for years on end in the days when communications were fewer and slower than today, the Foreign Missions Club was their only home when they returned on furlough.

        In 1927, Miss Annie Angus took over her mother’s position and Miss Gladys Dawe joined her to manage the house.

       The Second World War, in spite of its bombings and its blackouts, failed to dislodge the F.M.C, which remarkably escaped any serious damage in an area which came in for some heavy bombardments.

        In the early 1950’s because of a Compulsory Purchase Order by the local authority, the club needed to find a property elsewhere. The move into 20-26 Aberdeen Park, Highbury, took place at the end of 1954 and resulted in a vital extension of the ministry of the F.M.C.

        With the increase of air travel after the war, many more missionaries came to the Club throughout the year but for shorter periods. For several years there were almost daily calls from societies working in Africa, booking in their American missionaries travelling to and from the U.S.A. Tourists from Australia, New Zealand and South Africa, who were glad to find a Christian guest house where they could stay, added to the international flavour of the establishment.

        In August, 1974, The Foreign Missions Club came under the management of a married couple. It may be said that Mr & Mrs Cornell came to the work simply because God called them to it. Slowly but surely the appearance of the interior was transformed. Redecoration, TV lounge and so. The life of the Club continued as before, with the same comings and goings and as in former years, into the office would come one and another to share with the Managers some personal sorrow or anxiety or perplexity. Now and then would come one seeking the way of salvation.

        In the early 1978 Rev and Mrs Joseph Hewitt were invited to become managers of the Foreign Missions Club. Under their leadership of the Club continued the tradition of warm and obliging hospitality to the Lord’s people. Missionaries, national and local church leaders and other friends came from all parts of the world. All appreciate the peace and quiet of the house, the walled garden and the international fellowship. This fellowship included the staff, who have come from Germany, Switzerland, Holland, Italy, Singapore, Japan, Uganda, France and Portugal, also Eastern European countries.

        Rev and Mrs Hewitt left in 1988 and Mr and Mrs Littlehales were chosen to lead. In 2003 Mr and Mrs Littlehales took early retirement and their deputy became the manager who is holding the post since then.

        In 2006 The Foreign Missions Club decided to buy the building. Until this time they rented the property from the Panaphur Charitable Trust. After selling the garden flat, taking a mortgage on another local property and with the help of generous donations the Foreign Missions Club were able to buy out the property from its owner.

        The Foreign Missions Club decided to change its name to The Highbury Centre in 2008.

        A major refurbishment work took place in the recent years. The first phase in 2010, the second in 2011, the third was completed in the early 2014 and phase 4, covering the basement area was completed in 2017. Now all of the rooms are refurbished and we have three well-equipped meeting rooms available. Though the Centre is opened to anyone we still have a high number of Missionary and Christian worker visitors so the original mission (place of rest) continues into the 21st century.

       The Highbury Centre celebrated it's 120th birthday in 2013.