The history of Congregationalism in Wellingborough began in the 1660’s following the ejection of the vicar Thomas Andrews. Originally regarded as Presbyterian the congregation first used a meeting house in Silver Street. The house in Silver St was superceeded in 1746 by a building in Cheese Lane and is now buried under the Swansgate Shopping Centre.
An Independent congregation was formed in the late 17th century. This congregation, originally part of the Rothwell Church became autonomous in 1691 used a meeting house in Crown Yard. This meeting house was replaced in 1734 by another in West Street. In 1868 the church was disbanded and the building conveyed to the primitive methodist’s, now converted to a residential property.
In 1812, unrest broke out within the Cheese Lane congregation following the introduction of an organ. This led to a group braking away to build a chapel in Salem Lane.
The foundations of High St
As the meetings in Salem Hall and Cheese Lane outgrew their present, and in some cases dilapidated, buildings, they decided to re-unite. In 1873, a group of young men travelled to Northampton to purchase the land fronting High Street. This covered an area of over 2,437 sq.yds and had to be purchased at a cost of £1,200. Pooling their resources, these young men managed to pay the deposit. By the spring of 1874 the foundations had been laid.
The total cost of the building was £12,000. This included the organ by William Hill and alterations to Salem, to provide better facilities for Sunday School.
By the time the minister James Ervine, climbed the pulpit steps, Wellingborough Congregational Church was finished and almost paid for. Following a series of opening services £110 was still owed – a large amount when all had already given to the limit of amazing sacrifice. The offertory taken did not meet this total so the worshippers literally emptied their pockets. The last few shillings being made up with postage stamps. The Dedication Service took place on Thursday December 9th 1875, led by Dr Henry Allom and Dr R W Dale.
During the 19th century, both the Doddington Congregational Church and Little Irchester Mission Church were united with High Street.
High St extends it’s reach
This wasn’t enough for our ancestors, who looked at the area of the town around the railway station. In 1880 seeing children brought up untaught, with no church, they firstly built a school and then a church. This is the building we now call The Victoria Centre. It remained a subsidiary of High Street until 1918 when it gained independence and the right to call its own minister. In June 1972 a bill was passed by the House of Commons allowing a union of the Presbyterian Church of England and the Congregational Church in England and Wales to form the United Reformed Church. Following this, High St, Gt Doddington and Victoria became a Group with two ministers.
The history of congregationalism in Wellingborough has been depicted in a mural painted on a wall in Salem Hall. This mural, painted by Marjorie Radford was completed in 1979. It is composed of 9 sections, with each section relating to a different era in the life of the church.