Cambridge St Peters Street Primitive Methodist chapel

unprincipled officials betray trust and a previous chapel was lost to the connexion

Primitive Methodism in Cambridge
Christian Messenger 1912/362
Cambridge St Peters Street Primitive Methodist chapel

What turns out to be the second of three Primitive Methodist chapels on the same site   in Cambridge St Peters Street opened on January 3rd 1864 and the events around the opening are described in the Primitive Methodist magazine of 1864. It was the fore-runner of the Castle Street chapel built on the western part of the same site, and facing onto St Peter’s Street rather than Castle Street.

Here is the account:

New Chapel, Cambridge.—This town is situated on the banks of the Cam, and has a population of 30,000. Its chief at tractions are its colleges and the beautiful wardens and walks connected with them. The colleges form a University which has obtained a world-wide reputation. Here Sir Isaac Newton, Cowper, Milton, Wilberforce, Martyn, and other remarkable men studied, and thereby received a preparation for the important duties to which providence subsequently called them.

Cambridge was entered by the pioneers of our connexion in the year 1820. They laboured hard in preaching services and family visiting, suffered much in the way of privation, and experienced something of the persecution common in those days. But they did not spend their strength for nought . Their endeavours were accompanied by a power, a Divine power—a power which overcame prejudice, conquered enmity, reformed character, and won many souls to the Lord Jesus. These saved ones formed the nucleus of a society which, after a while, succeeded in erecting a commodious chapel in an eligible situation. This step was adapted to consolidate the infant society, and its real friends regarded it as the point from which continued prosperity might henceforth be dated.

But alas ! unprincipled officials resisted the discipline of the connexion, and betrayed their trust ; the consequences were, the chapel, which had cost £800, was lost to the connexion, and members and hearers were so seriously grieved that many of them withdrew from the society. But the few members who remained faithful to the connexion took shelter in a room for several months, and then in a kind of granary, which had been used by a company of theatrical performers. This place they occupied six years, and employed such means as were likely to revive the sinking cause.

True, they had many conflicts and struggles to preserve their connexional existence; but God was with them, and, under the guidance and labours of the Rev. J. Langham and others, the congregation increased, sinners were converted, and the little society received many additions to its fellowship.

Favoured with a return of prosperity, the people again resolved to build a house for God, and, accordingly, St. Peter’s street chapel was erected, under the superintendence of the Revs. TV. Kirby and W. Wainwright. The building of this chapel, capable of accommodating 200 persons, incurred an outlay of nearly £400, which was no trifling sum for individuals in their circumstances. Having lost one chapel, the raising of necessary funds for building another in the same neighbourhood required very strenuous and determined efforts on their part, but the results of twenty-two years have fully justified the undertaking.

During those years, however, nothing more than what is usual to a working society occurred until 1857, when a few officials and private members withdrew to worship in a chapel in Fitzroy street. This movement, made solely for the purpose of extending the work of God in the town, weakened the cause at St. Peter’s-street ; but in three or four years it had regained its wonted position in every respect, and at length the increase of the congregation and Sabbath school occasioned the cry, ” Give us room that we may dwell !” The cry, “Give us room that we may dwell,” continued to be reiterated in the ears of the trustees and the authorities of the station until they were constrained to regard it as an imperative call to immediate and decisive action. But there being no spare land on which to enlarge the chapel, and its walls being only nine inches thick, the making of any alterations or improvement equal to the emergency was altogether impossible. A new chapel, therefore, became the desideratum.

Happily, at this juncture a site adjoining the chapel was offered us for £90. We purchased it, and having made necessary arrangements for taking down the old chapel, and building a new one with three galleries and a school-room underneath, the people went to work right heartily. They prayed much and fervently, gave liberally, and begged, as best they could, in dependence upon the Divine blessing for success. Nor were their efforts in vain.

On Tuesday, October 13th, 1863, the foundation-stone was laid with the customary formalities, the street being closed, by order of the Mayor, against all conveyances during the service ; and the opening services were held on Sunday the 3rd, Tuesday the 5th, Sunday the 10th, and Thursday the 21st January, 1864. The following ministers and gentlemen officiated :—Revs. J. W. Howell, of Leicester ; R. Robinson, of Grantham ; R. Howchin, of Rockland ; G. Bell of St. Ives ; T. C. Finlayson, Independent ; W. Brailey and M. C. Osborn, Wesleyans; W. Robinson and J. Keed, Baptists ; the circuit ministers ; J. Livett, Esq. ; and H. J. McCulloch, Esq., of York. The latter gentleman laid the foundation-stone, and presided at two large and enthusiastic meetings held in the Guildhall. Each meeting was preceded by an excellent tea, gratuitously provided and largely attended. Among the guests were many members and hearers of other denominations.

The preaching services were well at tended, the sermons excellent and impressive, the addresses good, interesting, and calculated to forward our interests, and the monetary raisings amount to £390 to wards an outlay of £850.

On Sunday, February 7th, the school room, which is underneath the chapel, was formally opened. The school contains 26 teachers and 160 scholars, under the superintendence of Mr. John Head, who has for many years evinced unflinching attachment to the Connexion, and laboured indefatigably to extend it in the town and the surrounding villages.

Our grateful acknowledgments are due to H. J. McCulloch, Esq., of York, whose liberality enriched the building fund £27 ; to 6. E. and C. F. Foster, Esqs., for £10 each ; to H. T. Foster, Esq., W. K. Bird, Esq., W. E. Lilley, Esq., W. Johnson, Esq., E. Foster, Esq., R. Sayle, Esq., and Miss Cotton, for £5 each (with this class of contributors might be named ten of the trustees) ; to C. Vinter, Esq., for £3 3s. ; to Mrs. and Miss Gotobed, for £3 ; to A. Swinton, Esq., and C. C. Warren, Esq., for £2 2s. 6d. each ; to K. Peters, Esq., W. Collins, Esq., and E. Foster, Esq., for £2 2s. each ; to G. Livett, Esq., T. Bond, Esq., T. S. Watts, Esq., and J. Lee, Esq., for £2 each ; and to all our other subscribers downwards to the lowest donor. Our thanks are likewise due to Mrs. Barton for a beautiful chandelier of sixteen burners, with reflector; to the friends who provided trays for the teas ; to the Independents for the use of their school-room on Sunday evenings for four months ; to the Baptists, St. Andrew’s-street, for the use of their chapel for one of the opening services ; to the Mayor for kindnesses at different times, and to all others who have in any way assisted in rearing this house of prayer. We should very imperfectly discharge our duty if we did not tender a meed (sic) of praise also to Mrs. Porcher, Miss Brown, Miss Osborn, Miss Clarke, Miss Redman, and others as collectors.

The chapel is 45 feet long, 35 feet wide, and 25 feet high from the floor to the ceiling, and will seat about 500 persons. May the chapel and school-room answer the purposes of their erection. Thomas Swindill.


Primitive Methodist magazine of 1864 pages 306-308


Comments about this page

  • The 1845 Primitive Methodist magazine (page 125-126) contains an account of the reopening of the Primitive Methodist chapel in Cambridge after the addition of a gallery with “80 sittings”. It cost £39 all bar a shilling and Mrs Chapman and Miss E Thompson “laboured praiseworthily to obtain subscriptions” £30 was raised.

    It re-opened on October 27th 1844 when the preachers and at the following tea meeting included J Phillips, Rev Roff (Baptist minister).S Thoday (Independent), H Battiscombe, Mr Walker

    By Christopher Hill (24/04/2022)

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