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The Succoth Baptist Chapel

The Church in High Street about 1950
The Succoth Chapel in about 1950
Photograph by Peter Butler of the Succoth Church taken shortly before demolition in 1969.
Succoth Baptist Chapel shortly before the
1969 demolition -
Photo by Peter Butler
In 1800 a breakaway group left the Old Baptist Meeting and started a new chapel following more strict Baptist principles.

They built a new chapel in the middle of the High Street in 1803/04 and it became known as the “Bottom Meeting”, the old church being then called the “Top Meeting”.

A young Charles Drawbridge, just 21 years old, came to speak at the Top Meeting in 1826 and was afterwards invited to become pastor at the Bottom Meeting. He accepted and was their pastor for over 40 years. It was rebuilt and enlarged in 1862 and during the rebuilding the meetings were held in a large barn on the site where the Railway Station was later built.

After the death of Charles Drawbridge there were several short pastorates, including James Crook. Whilst he was pastor, there was a dispute with the Trustees and the Sunday School leaders (see report below) which eventually resulted in a court case in August 1900. Soon after that James Crook took a group of worshippers with him to form the Zion Church and the Succoth congregation declined gradually until the church closed in 1957. The building was demolished in 1969.

Listen to Betty Smith talking about the Succoth Chapel and its Sunday School

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Ministers Charles Drawbridge, George Pung, G W Morley, W E Palmer,
James Crook (who took a group to form the Zion Chapel),
Ernest Roe, J H Lynn, F J Harsant & B W Clover.

This plan shows the alterations made to the front of the chapel, when the High Street was widened.

Wright's Directory 1884
Succoth (Particluar Baptist) Harmonium - John Shortland

Chapel Keeper - William Sanders

Wellingborough News, 4th October 1884, transcribed by Kay Collins

SUCCOTH BAPTIST CHAPEL—At a church meeting held in the above chapel on Sunday last, it was decided by a large majority to invite Mr. W. Belcher, of Millwall, London (who is now acting as a supply), to become the pastor. Mr. Belcher will enter upon his active duties in November.

Wellingborough News, 18th February 1887, transcribed by Kay Collins
SUCCOTH BAPTIST CHAPELThe probation of Mr. Wallace Morley, who for the past six months has been officiating at this chapel with a view to the pastorate, having reached its term, a church meeting was held at noon, on Sunday last, when Mr. Morley was unanimously offered, and cordially accepted, the pastorate of the church.
Wellingborough & Kettering News 24/05/1889, transcribed by Peter Brown

Succoth Chapel—We are pleased to note that the friends connected with this place of worship have at length secured a leader in the person of Mr. W. E. Palmer, late of Zion Chapel, High Wycombe, Bucks, who has accepted a six months engagement with a view to the pastorate. Mr. Palmer will enter upon his duties the first Sunday in July.

The Argus, 6th Dec 1889, transcribed by Kay Collins

Local Intelligence
Succoth chapel young-people's class — The above class held their usual meeting on Wednesday night, when the subject tor discussion was "The courage of Joshua" introduced in an able paper by Mr. F. Kilsby.
The Argus, 13th December 1889, transcribed by Kay Collins

Notes of the Week - Social Gathering—At the invitation of Mr. W. White and Miss M. White, of Higham Ferrers, who are both teachers in Succoth Baptist Sunday School, the scholars of their respective classes and a number of friends partook of a capital tea in the schoolroom on Saturday afternoon, and after tea, games and refreshments were provided, and a pleasant evening spent, A hearty vote of thanks was given to the donors for their kindness.

The Argus, 13th December 1889

Notes of the Week
Succoth chapel young people's class
The usual weekly meeting of the above was held on Wednesday. The subject for discussion was, "Theatres, is it consistent for Christians to visit them" and it was introduced by Mr. W. Desborough, who took the negative view. The discussion afterwards was warmly taken up by the members. The attendance was good.

The Argus, 20th Dec 1889

Succoth chapel young people's class — The usual meeting of the above class was held on Wednesday, the programme for the evening being short articles written by members. Five articles were read as follows: —
"Purchased blessings" by
Mr. E. Clarke;  
"Natural religion" by  Mr. J.
"Physiology" by  Mr. B. Vorley;
"Arctic expeditions" by Mr. B. Ladds ; and
by Mr. W. E. Palmer.   
The papers  were much
appreciated by those present.

The Argus, Friday 4th April, 1890

Rushden Local Intelligence
Independent Wesleyan Band of Hope — The Succoth Band of Hope paid a visit to the above Society on Wednesday. The Rev. W. E. Palmer, presided, and a good programme was well rendered, after which a hearty vote of thanks was accorded the visitors.

The Argus, Friday 24th September, 1897

Rushden Local Intelligence
Succoth Band of Hope – The annual meeting of this society was held on Tuesday last, and was presided over by Mr. F. Vorley. The secretary's report showed that 11 meetings had been held, and a satisfactory year was the result. The treasurer's report showed a balance in hand of 19s. 7d. The election of officers resulted as follows: President, Mr. F. Vorley: vice-presidents, Messrs. J. Bennett, W. Desborough, and F. Webb; secretary. Miss E. Underwood, Pratt-road, Rushden; collector, Miss Constance Howard: and a committee of six. It was decided hold the first meeting on October 19th, when Mr. B. Vorley will give a lantern lecture with the Jubilee slides, and a programme committee of the following was appointed: Misses E. Underwood, E. Lickerish, and C. Howard, and Messrs. W. Desborough and J. Kilsby.

The Argus, 29th December 1893

Rushden Notes
Succoth Baptist Chapel—On Thursday last the friends at the above place held a tea and special service, the services of Mr. E. Marsh, of Wellingborough, being engaged as preacher. A good number of friends sat down to the tea.


The Succoth Baptist Chapel at Rushden, originally known as Bottom Meeting, was the second Baptist church in the town, in the High Street, dating from 1800. During the late 1890's, a disagreement began between the Pastor and the Sunday School teachers. It came to a head in August 1900, and ended with a breach that could not be healed.

Crisis was reached on Sunday, 5th August 1900. After morning service, a meeting took place, in which the Pastor, J. Crook, accused the Sunday School superintendent, Zerah Newell, of impeding him in his Christian work, and inciting others to do the same. By a vote of 24 to 6, he was expelled, some abstaining. Zerah Newell still had a voice in the management of the Church because he was a Trustee, one of the permanent managers. The constitution did not allow his removal.

A meeting of the Sunday School teachers was called, which voted unanimously to support Newell. As they left, it was noticed that the rules of the school hanging on the wall had been altered. Some names, including that of Newell, had been erased.

The Church Secretary, Charles Toms, circulated a letter, stating that the Deacons had appointed the Pastor, Crook, as superintendent of the Sunday School. On Saturday, 18th August, a lock was placed on the School door by persons unknown. One of the Trustees removed it, and the teachers entered. The same evening, a lock was placed on the gate leading to the Chapel, and a bolt was fixed to the side door of Chapel, intended to prevent the deposed superintendent and the teachers getting in to hold the usual Sunday School the next morning before the morning service. The teachers arrived to find all the doors locked. One of them got through a side door, by means of a key provided by one of the Trustees. The bolt on the inside had been left unfastened.

Friends of the Pastor had taken other steps to try to prevent the Sunday School taking place. They had been round to many of the parents and informed them that no school would be held that week. However approximately thirty scholars did arrive, so a school was held, albeit with a reduced attendance. The school was all set to start, when the Pastor arrived. He expressed his disapproval of the proceedings. When more scholars arrived and attempted to come down into the schoolroom, he barred their way. He stood in the doorway and sternly asked them their business. "I shall not, by any means, allow you to enter".

Zerah Newell and the teachers told him that they would not go away without holding their usual session of the school. There was a great altercation. One of the church members used his shoulder to thrust Mr. Crook away from the door. Words became even more heated, until finally, the Pastor left. The school then proceeded.

At the morning service, the Pastor made some mild remarks about the incident, but otherwise nothing further was said about it that morning. However, at the evening service, towards the close of his sermon, Mr. Crook mentioned it again. There were disapproving interruptions. The Pastor shouted, "The business of the Sunday School shall no longer be conducted by one family!" A teacher shouted, "It is not!"

"It is! You know what I say is true". "Half of what you say is untrue!"

The Pastor was drowned out in the general shouting that ensued. There was an abrupt conclusion of the service with the singing of the Doxology.

Nothing was said in public about this matter for a week, though we can be sure that much was said in private by both factions.

A circular dated 13th August, was addressed to the Sunday School teachers but evidently intended for all Succoth members.

Let Truth and Justice Decide!

Succoth Baptist Chapel - To the teachers of the Sunday School

Dear Brothers and Sisters - I am requested to inform you that we have appointed our Pastor, Mr. Crook, as Superintendent of the Sunday School connected with this church, for the time being, and that you must not transact any business in connection with the school, or elect any officers, without his consent. Signed on behalf of my brother deacons, CHAS. TOMS, Secretary".

The teachers issued a statement in reply:

"We the undersigned teachers of Succoth Chapel Sunday School, hereby resolve to carry out the rules of the school, and claim the right to choose our officers in accordance therewith... A lock was put on the schoolroom door, and a female sent round to the parents telling them the school would be closed for several weeks".

Mrs. Crook gave a statement to the press, which was really her husband's version of the dispute, beginning with the confrontation of 5th August.

"My husband went down to the chapel, a little after ten, and was naturally very surprised to find children and teachers in the school. He said he should not allow them in the chapel. It is the custom for the elder scholars, after a short lesson in the school, to take part in the chapel service. Some rough words were said, and one or two of the teachers endeavoured to throw my husband out. He told me afterwards that there were eight men there, and two of them tried to throw him out. Our son happened to go down to see what was happening, and he flew at one of the men. They turned on him, and he was knocked down. A policeman who had been standing outside was called in, but he declined to interfere. He said he had no authority, unless personal injury was done. The presence of the policeman did have a beneficial effect."

The Rushden Echo, 27th May, 1904


  For one hundred years now the Succoth Church, belonging to the Strict and Particular Baptist denomination, has been closely identified with the history of Rushden, the chapel having been erected in 1803. The building, the original cost of which was £208, occupies a commanding position in High-street.

  The centenary of the church has been celebrated this week. From the available sources, an interesting account of the church has been compiled, and this was read by Mr. J. Bennett at Tuesday night’s public meeting. After dealing with the erection of the building in 1803, he proceeded to state that the well-known Mr. Charles Drawbridge was invited to preach at the chapel, and ultimately became its minister in 1826. Mr. Drawbridge did not receive a fixed salary, and one person found him in lodging, another in meat, and another in bread. He resided at Wellingborough during most of his life, and drove over to Rushden to preach morning and afternoon, many coming from the surrounding villages to hear him, and often he would drive back to Wellingborough for the purpose of giving a lecture. In due course the building had to be enlarged, and in 1856 a believers’ baptism was held in an overflowing house. The congregation rapidly increased, and it was found necessary to make other enlargements, which were carried out in three months, the services meanwhile being held in a barn where the present Midland Station stands.


died on November 26th 1871, after over forty years’ work for the cause, and on November 30th he was buried in Wellingborough cemetery. The account also gives details of the formation of the Sunday school, and at the present time there are 77 scholars and 19 teachers.  No fewer than 1,664 scholars have passed through the school since the schoolroom has been built. During the ministry of Mr. Palmer the imposing entrance to the chapel was erected at a cost of £400.

  The Pastor (Mr. E. Roe) preached on Sunday to good congregations. “The faithfulness of God” and “The protection of God over His Church” were the respective subjects with which Mr. Roe dealt in the morning and evening.

  Mr. J. E. Flegg, of London, who is connected with the denominational journals, took part in the centenary celebrations on Tuesday. In the course of his address in the afternoon, Mr. Flegg said that they must notice the progress that had been made when they compared the blind


of the priest of the past with the pure and simple Bible worship they now enjoyed. To-day there were those who would sweep away the truths of the substitutionary death of Christ and the fact of the resurrection, but his hearers must hold fast these truths.

  Tea was provided in the schoolroom, about 100 guests being present.


was held in the evening, Mr. Roe presiding.

  The Chairman said that would be a red-letter day in the history of the chapel.

  Addresses were given by Messrs. Hazelton (St. Neots), F. C. Burgess (Clifton), Flegg, and B. Cox.  The latter, who is pastor of a large church at Little Rock, U.S.A., left Rushden 23 years ago, and is visiting Rushden on his return from the World’s Sunday School convention at Jerusalem.

  Last night Mr. Cox gave a most interesting lecture.  Through pressure on our space we are compelled to hold over our report until next week.

Rushden Echo & Argus, May 1904

The Succoth Chapel, High Street, Rushden, celebrated its centenary. The cost of the original building in 1803 was £208.
Extract from Obituary of Miss E M Packwood 1919

Her father, Mr. John Packwood, was for half-a-century a deacon of the Succoth Baptist Chapel, under the ministry of the late Mr. Drawbridge, and was one of the founders of the present building.

Rushden Argus, 20th February 1914, transcribed by Kay Collins

Lost - Two Rushden Children's Night's Lodgings

Two Rushden children passed a very unpleasant night on Friday, and were released from their involuntary prison-house at eight o'clock on Saturday morning in a very distressed condition.

The children, named respectively Willie Ayres, aged four years, of 6, Dell-place; and a little girl, named Rockingham, aged five years, of 7, Dell-place, were reported to the police as missing on Friday evening. Search was made in various directions, but no trace of the missing little ones could be found

About eight o'clock on Saturday morning, however, Mr. Ayres, who is the caretaker of the Succoth Baptist Chapel, and father of one of the missing children, heard cries of children coming from the lavatory of the chapel, which he had looked on the previous evening. On opening the door he found the two missing children, partly undressed, and crying pitifully.

The little ones were quickly restored to their homes, and comforted as soon as possible.

Rushden Echo & Argus, 12th October 1956

Rushden Co-op buys Succoth Baptist  Chapel

Succoth Baptist Chapel, founded in 1805, has been sold to Rushden Co-operative Society and will be pulled down from its commanding position in High Street.

The tall chapel, almost opposite the Palace Cinema whose sale made recent news still contains the pulpit from which Charles Drawbridge, the eccentric Wellingborough divine of last century preached to the local congregation of Strict Baptists. An inscription on the stonework shows that it was enlarged in 1825, rebuilt in 1864 and again enlarged in 1893. Membership has declined to about 12, and for the last few years the future of the building has been the subject of speculation.

Negotiations with Rushden Co-operative Society have been in progress about five or six months, and a contract for the purchase has been signed this week.

No Service

It has been stated that the congregation will hold future services at the Rochdale Rooms, which belong to the purchasers, but Mr. Ernest Hobbs, who has acted for the sellers, could not confirm this today. He said there will be no service next Sunday, but added that until the negotiations are complete there is nothing to stop the members using the chapel.
Mr. Hobbs said the trustees had accepted "a reasonable offer". They would retain the money for the present, but if at any time the congregation disbanded it would go to the Charity Commissioners for distribution among the needy churches of Northamptonshire.

Office Use

The pulpit and some of the pews will go almost immediately to a new Strict Baptist chapel at Northampton, and other pews will probably go to another church. The portable organ, if not required by the members, will go to a chapel at Carlton, Beds.

The rear portion of the building connects up with existing Co-operative property at the Rectory Road car park, and this part of the premises will be adapted by the society for temporary use as additional office accommodation.

Mr. Ralph Griffiths, managing secretary of the society told the "Evening Telegraph" that the property would ultimately be pulled down leaving what was regarded as a likely site for a radio and television shop that the management had in mind.

Rushden Echo, 7th March 1969, transcribed by Kay Collins

Succoth Chapel Makes Way for Supermarket

Take a good look at the Succoth Chapel (above) in Rushden High Street. It is probably the last time you will recognise it as it has stood since the last time it was rebuilt, in 1864.

The chapel, which during the last two decades or more has been unused for the purpose for which it was built in 1805, has, over the years, become more and more of a general eyesore with its general disuse.

But this week work on demolishing the old building started, and Mr. R. R. Griffiths, managing secretary of Rushden Co-operative Society, told the ‘Echo’ that the pulling down job should be finished by the end of the month.

As soon as that job is completed work will start on replacing the chapel with a modern supermarket and men’s clothing store.

This new giant store is planned to take over the Succoth Chapel and neighbouring former Gramshaw property sites and will also include at the rear, a special department for coal and fuel.


This should provide a fitting end to what could be generally described as a “religious white elephant”.

However, although the chapel has long been obsolete as a place of worship, it did enjoy a startling heyday. It was the meeting place for the Strict and Particular Baptists, a group which left the more formal Baptist movement. They became known as the bottom meeting.

The man who enabled the Succoth Chapel to be built was a young London preacher, Charles Drawbridge, who attracted a wide following. He was a man with Calvinistic beliefs who was not above using personal abuse and gross vulgarity in the pulpit.

Drawbridge died in the late 19th century but the Strict and Particular Baptists continued to flourish during the early days of this century.

People living in Rushden today can remember the time when the Succoth was so full that chairs had to be used in the aisle to accommodate the congregation.

As Victorian and puritanical thinking was left behind so the Strict Baptist following dwindled. Almost as quickly as it had grown up, the Strict and Particular Baptist movement in Rushden declined.

Congregations at the Succoth Chapel became steadily smaller and smaller. And in 1958 it was sold to Rushden Co-operative Society.

Now, 11 years later, the masses could be thronging back to that same, but very different, site.

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