Due to its shape, High St is known locally as the ‘Pork Pie Church’. It's size, shape and relevance the building holds within the local community warrants its significance in the Wellingborough.
The first rough draft of the plan of the building 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. From four centres, each seat is 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 and 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 by J J Binns of Yorkshire who introduced pneumatic action and additions to the pedal organ. At the same time it was 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. This work was carried out by J.H.Compton.
In 1920 a war memorial was commissioned and placed in the vestibule of the main entrance to the church. Consisting of a Shrine of three panels inscribed the names of the Fallen from both World Wars. The shrine is 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.
The first three pews on the far left and right front of the church were removed and the floor lowered. On the left an area easily accessible to those in wheelchairs was created. The provision of loose chairs in this area has made a very versatile space. On the opposite side, electrical and sound sockets installed for the use of music groups. These adaptations, carried out by members of the church greatly add to the beauty and flexibility of our church.
The Hub Project – this is probably our biggest project so far to provide:
- an ease of access ramp to the main entrance of the church.
- glass doors at main entrance.
- sensitive lighting to highlight the war memorial.
- internal glass partitioning to provide a number of multi-use rooms.
- a fully equipped servery.
- lower the flooring to provide a surface across the area of the Hub.
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 to build 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. Following its completion in 1875 Salem Chapel was converted for the use of the Sunday school.
Starting in 1977, 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. 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.
Both floors have facilities for preparing 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. Access to the first floor hall is gained by stairs or lift.