To modern eyes, the Trust Deed institutes rules which are far from democratic. Firstly, membership required an annual subscription of 5 shillings. We do not know whether or not this was an innovation, as we have only quotes on objectives from the King Street Chapel Deeds. The lowest paid worker in Sir Philip’s employ, a machine minder, would have received about 20 shillings a week, whilst the highest, a “clicker” (who cut the leather, making a “click” at the end of each stroke) would have earned about 30 shillings. A typical budget for a leather factory worker’s family would have included perhaps a further 10 shillings from his wife, from piecework at home. (This information kindly provided by Mrs. Constable of the Northampton Museum). Secondly, the rules provide that “the affairs of the church shall be managed by a Secretary, a Treasurer and a committee of not less than six members of the Congregation”. Sir Philip and two others “shall during their lives be permanent members of this Committee”. The collective power of the congregation, was restricted, but not denied for the “Congregation may frame Rules for the more convenient management of their “Affairs” (in inverted commas in the text) provided such rules do not contravene any of the provisions of this Indenture” (Trust Deed).
Emphasis on freedom of religious thought was strongly, even dramatically expressed by the Rev. T.W. Freckleton at the laying of the foundation stone. “We claim for religion and for ourselves as religious people, the utmost unchartered freedom of thought and investigation upon all subjects which bear upon religion. In all reverence and thankfulness for what the past has given us, we decline to accept as final any book, or teacher, or church or priest that is, or ever has been upon the face of the earth” “There is no man of any sect in all the churches, who is not welcome to worship and fraternise with us, even to the extent of being a fully privileged member of the community; no Jew, no Mohammedan, no Buddhist, no man of any religion, – Secularist, Agnostic, Atheist, – but shall find our door swing readily to his touch and be met on the threshold with a brotherly welcome”.
Shortly before the opening service, the Rev. T.W. Freckleton returned from a visit to the United States, to find that the word “Free” had been omitted from the title of the church. He accepted the change, but in view of his previous advocacy of freedom of religious thought, sought leave to make a personal statement to the congregation. Agreement on this request could not be reached with the church authorities, so the minister of the new church declined to attend the opening ceremony, and instead circulated a printed statement of his position. Unfortunately the matter didn’t end there. Our good friend and life long member Martin Weiss tells me, that through his family he learnt that, as a result of this dispute, a significant number of the congregation joined the Congregational Church in Abington Avenue. It is possible that there were other causes of the division, such as the change from Christian Unitarianism, which would still have been an issue at this time.