Wellingborough United Reformed Church is a significant building in the local community, which due to it's shape is affectionately known locally as the 'Pork Pie Church'!
The first rough draft of the plan, was the work of Caleb Archer (1840 - 1923). It was an original and daring experiment in Free Church architecture. The architect Edward Sharman (1829 - 1914) saw the genius of the work and accepted it. No modification of the first draft was necessary.
The walls are 35ft. (10.5m) high, inside length 87ft. (26.5m) and inside width 70ft. (21m). With the gallery and very much more modest original choir pews, the building provided seating for 1250 people.
The construction was in the shape of an egg in order to allow everyone to see. Coming from four centres, each seat could be set at right angles to a line drawn from its centre to the pulpit.
The ground floor slopes downwards towards the platform. There is a drop of approximately 4ft. (1.2m.) at the rear of the church from the wooden floor level to the base of the building. This tapers to approximately 2ft. (.66m.) at the front of the church.
The original oak pulpit was built by Barfield's of Leicester. It stood on a semi-circular platform 20ft. (6m.) in diameter. The acoustics are excellent.
The outside walls are faced with brown Duston stone buttresses and quoins. The column shafts are red Mansfield and dressings are of Bath stone. Hems of Exeter did the carving. The ornamental wrought iron work was by Reynolds of Harrowden. John Boddington of Wellingborough was the builder.
In 1899 the choir stalls were moved to face the body of the church (as they are today) to allow extra seating. The organ was reconstructed, with Binns introducing pneumatic action and additions to the pedal organ, it being moved to below the pulpit and between the newly-created choir stalls. (The console was moved to its current position in front of the stage in the mid 1930’s.)
When renovation took place in 1913 the architects suggested an organ case on either side of the arch, to match the existing one. The work was carried out by J.H.Compton.
The War Memorial in the vestibule in the main entrance of the church consists of a Shrine of three panels on which are inscribed the names of the Fallen from both World Wars, surmounted by the figure of Peace. It was unveiled at a Service of Commemoration on April 8th in Easter week of 1920.
In the late 1990’s the Minister’s and Choir Vestries were refurbished. At the same time, the organ blower was lifted into the loft space above freeing the ground floor. This area was converted to provide toilet facilities for the disabled and a baby changing station.
In 2005 the fixed choir pews within the balustrade were removed and replaced by loose chairs. The aperture to the stage was widened by the removal of two carved panels, one of which was incorporated in the new Lectern. The steps up to the stage were made deeper and the steps on the stage were made a continuous sweep. The curved handrails were also added at this point. To the front left of the church three pews were removed and the floor lowered in order to provide an area easily accessible to those in wheelchairs. The provision of loose chairs in this area has made a very versatile space. On the opposite side, similarly the floor was lowered and electrical and sound sockets installed for the use of music groups. These adaptations were carried out by members of the church and all agree that they have greatly added to the beauty and flexibility of our church, such that worship in different styles, and concerts mounted by various local bodies, can easily be accommodated.
In 1812 a number of the congregation at the Cheese lane Chapel were so affronted at the suggestion of introducing an organ that they left and built a new Chapel in Salem Lane. However, some years later the two congregations settled their differences and joined together once again at Salem Lane.
Soon after this, a decision was made to build High St and following its completion in 1875 Salem Chapel was converted for the use of the Sunday school.
During autumn 1977 and spring 1978 Salem was upgraded to include a lift to the first floor hall, kitchens and a coffee lounge.
Salem Hall is now used throughout the week by various church and community groups, along with other short and long term lets.
There are four rooms available for short or long term hire, of which three are on the ground floor and suitable for groups of between 15 -30 people. Then there is the large hall on the first floor, which can accommodate up to 180 people.
There are also facilities on both floors for preparing and cooking food, along with an area on the ground floor for serving tea and coffee.
Access to all rooms is gained through the main entrance via a small car park off Salem Lane, including the hall on the first floor which has access by stairs and lift.