Church-goers have celebrated 350 years of congregationalism in Wellingborough.
The United Reformed Church, in High Street, recently marked the landmark occasion by holding a special service.
The Rev Martha McInnes said: “It was 350 years ago when the Church of England banned non-conformists.
“Traditionally the non-conformists didn’t use the Church of England style of prayer and they were told they had to leave.
“There was a church in Rothwell which people from Wellingborough used to walk to. They would go there to hear a certain style of preacher – that was important to them.”
Congregationalism began in Wellingborough in the 1660s. An independent congregation, originally part of the Rothwell church, became autonomous in 1691 and 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 methodists.
A church spokesman said: “In 1812, following protests about the introduction of an organ, a group broke away from the Cheese Lane congregation to build a chapel in Salem Lane.
“As the meetings in Salem Hall and Cheese Lane had outgrown their buildings, they decided to re-unite. The ideal site was an area of more than 2,037sq in High Street.
“By the spring of 1874 the foundations had been laid. The total cost of the building, together with the organ by William Hill and alterations to Salem Hall, to provide better facilities for Sunday School, was about £12,000. By the time the first minister climbed the pulpit steps the Wellingborough Congregational Church, in High Street, was finished.
“During the 19th century, both the Doddington Congregational Church and Little Irchester Mission Church were united with High Street.
“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 and people with no church, they firstly built a school and then a church, which we now call Victoria.
“It remained a subsidiary of High Street until 1918 when it gained independence. 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 Street, Great Doddington and Victoria became a group with two ministers. Over time the Victoria building became less used and in 1979 the remaining members allowed the building to be adapted to become the Victoria Centre we have now.”