The New Congregation: King Street Chapel

The new Society, met first at the Fountain Inn (later the Criterion) at the corner of Bradshaw Street and Silver Street. A former Wesleyan Chapel in King Street, was soon purchased for the sum of £500. It was described at the time as “a neat building, centrally situated which, with the Galleries would seat 300”. There were however no pews or pulpit and a new floor subsequently became “indispensible”. Gas lights and other fittings were also necessary at a cost of £ 253 / 2 / 11d. It was said that “all ostentation had been carefully avoided.” This would have been very much in keeping with the Unitarian wish for simplicity, in buildings as well as in theology and forms of worship. The following extract from the trust deed gives a broad idea of the theology of the new congregation.

“The said Meeting House shall be forever used for the public worship of God, by Christians of the Unitarian persuasion, in and about the town of Northampton, who shall agree on the adoration of God, the Father Almighty, as the only supreme object of religious worship, and the belief of the Divine Mission of his son, Jesus Christ”.

The “Divine Mission” of Jesus, was the preaching of repentance and to save souls. The first service in the Chapel was held on 21st September 1827 and in November of the same year, the first minister, the Rev. Noah Jones was appointed. He was young, active, capable and a great success. A report of 1832, mentions three services every Sunday, with an average attendance of 200, a Church library, a Sunday School with 33 boys and 50 girls and a Day School with 16 girls. All augured well for the future but in the same year, on his way back to Northampton after giving a “charity sermon” at the New Meeting in Birmingham, the Rev Noah Jones was severely injured. The horses on his stagecoach took fright and one of his fellow roof passengers was thrown over the side. Mr Jones tried to stop his fall, but lost his own balance, fell and sustained a compound fracture to the leg and head injuries. He was never the same man again and retired in 1834. The Rev. J. C. Meeke was appointed minister in 1834 and remained until 1841. At present nothing more is known of him except that after leaving Northampton he became minister at Westgate Chapel, Lewes, Sussex, for a few months and his wife played the organ there. A few years later, in the 1840s, the Rev. Henry Ierson, Pastor of Princes Street Baptist Church, became increasingly involved with the Unitarians and in 1848 left, to become minister, of what is now the South Place Ethical Society in London. His congregation joined the King Street Chapel.