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Rushden Churches & Chapels - Overview

Picture of Park Road Baptist Church
Park Road Baptist Church

Postcard of St. Mary's Church 1905
St Mary's 1905
The parish church of St. Mary was built around 1270 and was the only place of worship for almost five hundred years. John Bunyan, who founded his church in Bedford, was released from gaol in 1672 under ‘The Declaration of Indulgence Act’. His church started a branch at Stevington in 1655 and it is from there that non-conformity seems to have spread to Rushden and Northamptonshire. When the Compton Census was compiled in 1676 there were 600 conformists with just 6 non-conformists but by 1723 the Old Meeting Baptist Church was established in Little Street and continued to grow until 1796 when they rebuilt their church and in 1810 began a school.

The first split had come when the Succoth chapel was formed in 1801 and they became the ‘Bottom Meeting’ with the old church being the ‘Top Meeting’. The Bedford Methodist Circuit also drew a few members from Rushden and numbered 15 by 1781. By 1828 Ralph Dearlove had opened a room in his farm at Higham Park as a chapel and it was included in the Higham Ferrers Circuit. A Wesleyan Methodist church was built in 1834 and in 1840 the Temperance movement was started at the ‘Top Meeting’.

A split from the ‘Top Meeting’ occurred in 1848 when the Elim Chapel was founded.

Picture of the Mission Church Wellingborough Road
The Mission Church
Between 1871 and 1901 the population of the town expanded rapidly with the growth of the shoe trade. At the time of the 1851 Religious Census the parish church, Old Meeting, Elim Chapel, Succoth Baptist Chapel and the Wesleyan Methodists saw 149 attending morning services in the town on March 30th out of a population of 1460. As the shoe trade grew and the factory system began the great influx of people brought larger congregations and new churches and chapels were built: the Temperance Hall in 1871, the Independant Wesleyans (a split from the Wesleyan Methodist), the Congregationalists, the Primitive Methodists in 1889 and the Salvation Army Corps was founded here in 1883. These were closely followed by the need for another parish church and in 1895 St. Peter’s was built in Midland Road. At the same time the ‘Tin Tabernacle’ was erected as a Wesleyan Sunday School and almost opposite, the Zion Strict Baptists in 1901.

In the same year the Mission Church was built and a Roman Catholic Church in 1905. Other denominations came during the 20th century, Full Gospel Church, Jehovah’s Witnesses, the Brethen and the Spiritualists.

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