Sydney Black

The monument stands just outside where the Dissenter’s Chapel used to be – as is fitting for an important figure in Nonconformism.

Evangelical preacher and social reformer, founded Twynholm Hall at Fulham Cross, named after the village of Twynholm in Scotland.


When you enter the cemetery from Fulham Palace Road, the first monument that you come across on the right hand side after the Lodge is that of Sydney Black and his parents, Robert Black and Sarah Ann Wallis.  Sydney was an evangelical preacher and reformer, whose legacy is still evident in Fulham today. 

Sydney’s father, Robert, was born in the village of Twynholm in Kirkcudbrightshire, Scotland.  In his youth, Robert travelled to London where he found employment as a draper's assistant and he soon established his own business in Knightsbridge.

In his early years in London, Robert met another draper, James Wallis of Nottingham, who was a leader of the Church of Christ and editor of its monthly journal, The Christian Messenger and Reformer. James Wallis’s daughter, Sarah Ann, helped him compose the journal and this is the same Sarah Ann that Robert married in 1852.  Together Robert and Sarah Black had at least eleven children. Four of the children died in infancy and are buried in Brompton Cemetery.

Sydney Black, their eldest surviving son, was born in 1860. Although he too was initially a draper’s apprentice, at the age of 23 years old, his father, who by then had sold his profitable business, supported Sydney financially to devote his life to evangelical missionary work.  Sydney was a compelling orator whose fame spread and in 1891 he left England for two years to preach in Australia, New Zealand, South America and the United States.

On his return, Sydney focussed his attention on Fulham, identifying it as a place where “it was a long struggle to make ends meet and there was no certainty of security for the morrow.” He took over the ‘Queen Anne’, a coffee house at the corner of Lillie Road, turned into a school room and soup kitchen.  In the yard he built an assembly hall which he named after his father’s birthplace, Twynholm Hall, the building that is today the Twynholm Baptist Church. He later established the Twynholm orphanage.

Under Sydney Black’s stewardship Fulham Cross became the largest congregation of the Churches of Christ in Great Britain.  Sydney’s work attracted attention far and wide. He was befriended by the future Prime Minister, David Lloyd-George, who frequently addressed assemblies at Twynholm Hall and was a regular visitor at the Black family home in Harley Gardens, Kensington.

Sydney fully encouraged the participation of women in the work of the church. He argued that the churches were losing “incalculable blessing and power” by insisting that Christian women should be confined to traditional roles.  No doubt he had been inspired by the work of his mother, Sarah Ann, who is said to have tended day and night to the poor and needy of Fulham. She was also a regular correspondent with missionaries across the world and took a leading role in the Women’s Temperance Movement.

In or around 1902 Sydney succumbed to kidney disease.  Feeling ill, he left Twynholm Hall and never stepped through the door again, and died a year later, aged just 43. At the funeral Lloyd George spoke of Sydney’s sacrifice for social and civic justice. There were over a thousand people at the graveside even though rain was falling heavily,

After a public appeal, funds for a memorial to Sydney were realised and 18 months after he had been interred, the red granite monument that can be seen today was unveiled. The monument stood just outside the Dissenter’s Chapel, which sadly now no longer exists but would have stood approximately where the ‘waiting room’ is now.


Fulham Cross in the 1890s

From Sydney Black biography:

At the corner of the Lillie Road, there had stood for thirteen years a large and imposing building, originally intended for a Gin Palace, but, owing to the licence being withheld, used as a Coffee House and known in the neighbourhood as the "Queen Anne." This building was offered to Mr. Black for the sum of £2250, and, as it was eminently adapted by its position and accommodation for the purposes of the proposed Mission, it was promptly purchased by him.

Rear of Twynholm Hall

Inscription: 1894 • Everybody Welcome

Photo: 2024. Today it forms part of the Twynholm Baptist Church. 

From Sydney Black biography:

The one-time "Queen Anne" was re-named "Twynholm House" after the little Scottish village in which the father of Mr. Black was born. The premises were largely altered, the basement re-arranged to admit of its being used as a School Room and Soup Kitchen, and, on what had been originally designed for a brewer's yard, there was erected a handsome and commodious Assembly Hall, capable of seating 500 people.

Twynholm Hall, London, 1896.
The poster says "Mr. Sydney Black preaches the Gospel of Christ here every Lord's Day at 7 p.m. and every Wednesday at 8 p.m. 500 seats free: no collections."


The Twynholm Mission at Fulham Cross on Lillie Road, London.


Twynholm Baptist Church, 2019

Source: Google Street