On this day … 9 April 1826

A new chapel, built the previous year and named St Mark’s, was officially opened in Pole Street for the Countess of Huntington’s Connexion, one of several evangelical churches that Selina Hastings, Countess of Huntington, and her followers established around the country after splitting from the Church of England. It is now Carey Baptist Church, an earlier Baptist sect having bought the chapel from the Connexion in the 1855.

Does anybody know what happened to the Connexion congregation after it sold its Pole Street chapel?

Baptist Chapel in Pole Street
The Pole Street chapel built for the Countess of Huntington’s Connexion: https://www.flickr.com/photos/rpsmithbarney/4350236390/

Lady Huntington had first become involved in Preston’s religious affairs when she started covering the costs of the town’s Independent Congregational chapel. This would have been before she had established her own ‘Connexion’ church in 1783.

The Independents had started worshipping in Preston in the early 1770s in Back Lane in a ‘a dingy, old-looking, two-story structure’ at the bottom of Tenterfield Street. The congregation had the ground floor and the room upstairs was used for training fighting cocks, which could be heard crowing during services below.

In around 1780, the congregation moved to new premises, a room in a property in the Old Shambles (now occupied by Crystal House) in which one their number, named Light, kept a school. Unfortunately, Light shortly after went bankrupt and all his property in the room, including that belonging to the Independents, was seized by his creditors.

This was a serious blow for the congregation, and services were suspended until Lady Huntington again came to the rescue, instructing one of her ministers in Wales to head for Preston to take over the affairs of the struggling congregation. He resumed services in the Old Shambles room, but had only a short spell as minister, dying some three years after his arrival.

Cannon Street Chapel Preston
Cannon Street chapel on the Guildhall Street/Cross Street corner in the 1950s, shortly after its closure: https://www.flickr.com/photos/rpsmithbarney/5165875818/

Under the direction of one of his successors, the Rev T. Carter, the congregation bought a site at the north-west corner of Chapel Street, where they built a new chapel and small graveyard, which opened in 1790 and gave the street its name.

The congregation remained there until they outgrew it, moving in 1826 to a new chapel at the bottom of Cannon Street. This was enlarged in 1852 to provide seating for over a thousand worshippers. The old chapel was knocked down and shops built on the site.

1840s map of Preston, showing the later position of Guildhall Street
1840s map showing the Cannon Street chapel and the old Grammar School, with the later Guildhall Street shown as overlay

Shortly after the Cannon Street chapel was extended, the property between it and the old grammar school was demolished to make way for the opening of Guildhall Street.

The first minister at the Pole Street chapel when the Baptists took it over was the Rev Alexander Birnie, whose sad demise formed the subject of the 6 April post.

Hewitson’s History of Preston
Cannon Street Chapel on the Cross Street corner: https://www.flickr.com/photos/rpsmithbarney/5165875818/
Pole Street Chapel: https://www.flickr.com/photos/rpsmithbarney/4350236390/

One thought on “On this day … 9 April 1826

  1. According to Anthony Hewitson again, the Connexion congregation ‘collapsed’.

    Extract from his Churches and Chapels writing as Atticus taken from https://mouldingfamilyhistory.com/ebooks/churches-chapels-preston-united-methodist-free-pole-st-baptist:
    ‘About 45 years ago, a small parcel of Preston people, enamoured of the Calvinistic Methodism which the Countess of Huntingdon recognised, worshipped in a building in Cannon-street. In 1825 they built, or had raised for them, a chapel in Pole-street, which was dedicated to St. Mark. At this time, probably on account of its novelty, the creed drew many followers – the new chapel was patronised by a somewhat numerous congregation, which kept increasing for a period. But it gradually dwindled down, and a total collapse finally ensued. In 1855 a number of General Baptists, who split from their brethren worshipping in the old Leeming-street chapel, struck a bargain with the expiring Lady Huntingdon section for their building in Pole-street, gave about £700 for it, forthwith shifted thereto, and continue to hold the place.’


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