The former Soho Baptist Chapel

From Wikipedia:

“Mercer Street is a street in the Seven Dials district of Covent Garden, London, England.

Mercer Street runs south east to north west from Long Acre to Shaftesbury Avenue, crossing Shelton Street. About two-thirds up, it meets Seven Dials, where it intersects with Monmouth Street, Earlham Street, and Shorts Gardens.

The street takes its name from the Mercers’ Company, who owned much of the land next to the seven acres of Covent Garden purchased by the Earl of Bedford in 1552.

Originally, the name Mercer Street was only given to the section between Long Acre and Shelton Street; the section from Shelton Street to Seven Dials was called Little White Lion Street, and the section from Seven Dials to Shaftesbury Avenue was called Great White Lion Street. In the 1930s the name Mercer Street was given to the whole street.”

“Soho Baptist Chapel is a church at 166a Shaftesbury Avenue, London, on the corner with Mercer Street. Originally a Baptist church (which relocated to North Finchley now called High Road Baptist Church). It is now the Chinese Church in London.

The church was built in 1887–88 to a design by the architect William Gillbee Scott for a Strict Baptist church that had been formed in 1791. In 1916–17, it was sold to another Strict Baptist church, after their 99-year lease on a chapel in Gower Street came to an end, and became the Gower Street Memorial Chapel.

It is now the Chinese Church in London, Soho Outreach Centre.”

From the website of the UCL Bloomsbury Project:

Gower Street Chapel:

It was a Christian place of worship; according to the Survey of London, it was “erected in 1820 by seceding members from William Huntingdon’s Providence Chapel” which had been “rebuilt in 1811 in Gray’s Inn Road”. It opened on 9 July 1820, predating the building of houses on this part of Gower Street, which was then known as Gower Street North.

The hymn-writer Henry Fowler was its Minister from July 1820 until his death in 1838, when Edward Blackstock took over, but his inconsistent views on communion led to much defection; a few of those disaffected met in other locations and eventually (on 25 May 1843) became a proper church at Eden Street, Hampstead, with William Hale as Deacon, and strict Baptist views.

In the meantime, Blackstock was still at the Gower Street Chapel, with fewer and fewer attending his services, and eventually the mortgagee foreclosed; the Chapel was sold to born-again preacher Rev. Arthur Triggs in 1848 for £1700 and enjoyed a brief resurgence.

By 1854, however, Triggs was looking to sell the Chapel, just as the disaffected and now Baptist congregation was looking to move, having outgrown its Hampstead premises; they bought the chapel back for £2200 in 1854, and the congregation returned with the first service on 7 January 1855. It ran Sunday School services from 1866.

It was typical of the evangelical Protestant churches of the nineteenth century, involved in passionate disputes about key aspects of Christianity and how it should be practised. In 1860 some of the congregation denying the divinity of Christ; this had to be enforced as an article of faith by the other members. It was located between 141 and 143 Gower Street (as renumbered, having previously between nos 1 and 2 Gower Street North). The lease of the building in Gower Street was granted on 30 September 1820 to run for 99 years from 25 March 1820 at a cost of £4000 (with a mortgage of £1400) from Sir W. Paxton.

The remainder of the lease of the Gower Street Chapel building was sold to Maple & Co. in May 1917 for £250, and the building was later demolished.

The lease expired on 25 March 1919; planning and fundraising for a new building began in 1911, and the congregation purchased Soho Chapel, Shaftesbury Avenue (on the corner of Great White Lion Street) for £4000 in 1916.

The last service at the Gower Street Chapel was held on 24 April 1917, and the congregation moved to Shaftesbury Avenue in 1917, calling the new chapel the “Gower Street Memorial Chapel”. The Baptists also eventually sold their new premises, the Gower Street Memorial Chapel, to the Chinese Church in London in 2004, and it became their Soho Outreach Centre.

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