Grantham Civic Society Column: The history of Grantham’s Congregational Church

Ruth Crook, of Grantham Civic Society.
Ruth Crook, of Grantham Civic Society.
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In 1819, a small group of Independent Protestants began worshipping in a cottage on the south side of a field where Sainsbury’s now stands.

Two years later, Mr James Mountford arrived in Grantham, and preached in a barn on Wharf Road and a house in Spitalgate. So many people were attracted to his services, that it was decided to build a permanent church. Mr Mountford went from door to door collecting money and finally land was purchased on Union Street. A chapel was built there for £600.

Chapel Street church group

Chapel Street church group

In July 1823, the denomination was officially recognised and it became a church of the Independent or Congregational order. The congregation only worshiped there for a few more months, until the building again became too small. The building still exists, as Union Interiors.

A garden was purchased on the north side of the Mowbeck, on what was to become Chapel Street. The new chapel and schoolroom were built and opened in September 1823 at a cost of £2,300. The then vicar of St Wulfram’s said that he thought it to be far too large.

Within 50 years, the congregation was again outgrowing the church, and there were complaints that the pews were narrow and uncomfortable. They attempted to buy more adjacent land, but were unsuccessful, so a site was again sought to build a new church.

The then enthusiastic minister was Rev William Goldie, a native of Elgin, who instigated the purchase of the land for the new church, after the demolition of Cheney House in 1867. The foundation stone for the new church was laid on October 28, 1869, on the corner of what is now Avenue Road and Castlegate.

Chapel Street

Chapel Street

The old church was vacated in August 1870 and was sold to the Free Methodists for £700. Lady Thatcher, then Margaret Roberts, worshipped there many years later. Chapel Street was eventually demolished, because it was considered to be too narrow. It is now part of Brook Street, adjacent to Premier Court.

In the interim, until the new church could be built, services took place in the High Street Hall. The new Congregational Church was officially opened on October 13, 1870. It was known for many years as St Peter’s Hill Congregational Church. A schoolroom was also built and later extended.

In 1972, many Congregational churches in England and Wales joined with Presbyterian Church to form the United Reformed Church. In 1981, the URC united with the Re-formed Association of Churches of Christ and in 2000 the Congregational Union of Scotland. In 2008, the Grantham congregation joined with that of the Central Methodist Church on Finkin Street, to form a Local Ecumenical Partnership, a joint United Reformed Church and Methodist Church called ChristChurch.

In 2011, the United Reformed Church building on Castlegate was sold to Alive Church, and the ChristChurch congregation moved to the former Central Methodist Church premises on Finkin Street, where it continues to flourish today.