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Westgate Church before 1978

WESTGATE CHURCH HISTORY

Westgate Church (which has now become Westgate New Church) was originally a "Countess" church, founded in 1780, but subsequently joined the Congregational Union, then in 1972 when Congregational and Presbyterian Churches joined together it became part of the United Reformed Church.

 

Countess of Huntingdon’s Connexion (“Countess” Churches)

In the eighteenth century the law strictly controlled appointment of ministers of religion and establishment of preaching places. However, as a peer the widowed Selena, Countess of Huntingdon, was able to appoint evangelical clergymen as her “chaplains” and build chapels.  In this way a Calvinistic evangelical connexion was established, with the Countess of Huntingdon as it’s first leader. Today, in other parts of the country, some “Countess” churches still exist; however, many others including the Wood Street Chapel which developed into Westgate Church in Peterborough joined the Congregational Union when it was established in 1832.

 

 

Congregationalists

Congregationalists - known earlier as Separatists and then Independents - go back to the 16th century; but were particularly important in the 17th century Commonwealth Period, under Oliver Cromwell. After this time legislation discouraged “Dissenters” by debarring them from public office and higher education, but in the 18th Century a general revival of evangelical religion benefited Congregationalists as it did the new religious group known as Methodists.  Eventually many Congregational churches - including Westgate - joined with Presbyterians to form the United Reformed Church, in 1972.

 

KEY DATES IN THE HISTORY OF WESTGATE CHURCH PRIOR TO UNION WITH WENTWORTH STREET

 

1776

Rev Craddock Glascott, of the Countess of Huntingdon’s Connexion, lodged at a house in Westgate and held house meetings, also preaching on the steps of the Guildhall

1780

Opening of a small and plain Meeting House for Dissenters in Wood Street; at this stage a “Countess” church

1809-1877

Foundation of village chapels in the area around Peterborough

1832

The chapel was first lit by coal gas

1833

Establishment of the Congregational Union

1836

Chapel extended, to allow addition of a Sunday School

1850

Side galleries were added to the chapel.

At about this time, evolution of the national railways network first made Peterborough an important centre.

1853-1882

Ministry of Rev Alexander Murray

1859

Building of a new church on the present site, in Westgate, to seat 675.  At the stonelaying a “time capsule” was buried in the building in a bottle.

1882-1911

Ministry of Rev William John Butler

1891

Church destroyed by fire; and rebuilt within six months

1892-1911

   et seq.

PSA (Pleasant Sunday Afternoon) Adult Bible Class,  established at Westgate by William Butler, a significant influence on the life of many Peterborough Non-conformists.  Other church organisations, such as Boys and Girls Brigades, Christian Endeavour, Temperance organisations, choir, also contributed greatly to the active life of the church and our city.  A peak period for church attendance and influence.

1914-1918

1939-1945

World Wars and the intervening period of Depression adversely affected church life as they did the whole life of the nation.

1959

Centenary celebrations followed a period of refurbishment of church premises.

1972

Congregational and Presbyterian churches united to form the United Reformed Church

1978

Locally, Westgate United Reformed Church and Wentworth Street Methodist Chapel united to form Westgate Church.

1983

Westgate Church interior again destroyed by fire but refurbished.

 

 

 

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Fire in 1891

 

 

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  Fire in 1983