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Bloomsbury Project

Bloomsbury Institutions


Bloomsbury Baptist Chapel

Also known as Bloomsbury Central Baptist Church


It was built in 1848 by railway magnate Sir Samuel Morton Peto as a Chapel intended for Baptist Christians; unusually for such a chapel, it was built in advance of there being any actual congregation for it (Faith Bowers, A Bold Experiment, 1999)

Flanked by the pre-existing Bedford Chapel to the north and French Protestant Church to the south, it was described as “by far the most ambitious and conspicuous of the three” (‘Bloomsbury Baptist Chapel,’ The Civil Engineer and Architect’s Journal, April 1848)

Designed by John Gibson, it had not just one but two spires, and appeared to mix a medieval Italian style with English Gothic details (‘Bloomsbury Baptist Chapel,’ The Civil Engineer and Architect’s Journal, April 1848)

Its first minister, William Brock, lived in Gower Street; he was succeeded by Rev. Thomas William Handford in 1872, who lived in Mecklenburgh Street, but left the post after a short time because of a scandal (Faith Bowers, A Bold Experiment, 1999)

Worshippers included Samuel Rowles Pattison, who had studied at UCL before becoming a Baptist, and whose son attended UCL School, and Charles Willis Denny, who ran a house decorating firm in Red Lion Street and Passage (Faith Bowers, A Bold Experiment, 1999)

As students Oliver Lodge and Sir Thomas Barlow (University College Hospital and Great Ormond Street Hospital) also worshipped there (Faith Bowers, A Bold Experiment, 1999)

By 1902, according to the Daily News census of London church attendance, the congregation was composed mainly of men, with few children, as this was now not a family neighbourhood (Faith Bowers, A Bold Experiment, 1999)

It became Bloomsbury Central Baptist Church in 1905, and survived both the Blitz and extensive redevelopment of the surrounding area to celebrate its 150th anniversary with a major refurbishment in 1998–1999

What was reforming about it?

Its building predated its congregation; it also had open rather than closed communion, allowing Christians generally to be part of its worship (Faith Bowers, A Bold Experiment, 1999)

It was also the first Baptist church not to be hidden away: instead it boldly fronted the street and was clearly designed as a place of worship

Where in Bloomsbury?

It was built on Bloomsbury Street, just south of the newly-erected New Oxford Street

In 1901 the congregation opened Bloomsbury House at 10–12 Queen Square as a home for various social activities and hobbies (Faith Bowers, A Bold Experiment, 1999)

Website of current institution

http://bloomsbury.org.uk (opens in new window)


Bloomsbury Central Baptist Church, Shaftesbury Avenue

Books about it

Faith Bowers, A Bold Experiment (1999)

There is also a condensed version of this history on the Church’s website, contributed by Faith Bowers, at http://bloomsbury.org.uk (opens in new window)


This page last modified 13 April, 2011 by Deborah Colville


Bloomsbury Project - University College London - Gower Street - London - WC1E 6BT - Telephone: +44 (0)20 7679 3134 - Copyright © 1999-2005 UCL

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