nlbc: a brief history
|In the year of 1844, a young Baptist by the name of Mr William Stubbings, acting under what he
believed to be Divine impulse, left Retford in Derbyshire and settled down in Northallerton. The
entry reads, “A stranger amongst strangers, his grave demeanour, quiet persuasive talks with people,
sympathetic visits to the sick and dying at all hours of the day and night, soon received him a
circle of friends.”
In the year 1850 he purchased a plot of land at Brompton upon which he built a Chapel, and soon attracted a congregation which filled the small building. Ultimately about 45 baptised believers were gathered. The small square building still stands in Station Road, Brompton, just opposite the school entrance. A plaque high up on the wall is the only clue to its origins.
In 1866 he purchased the old Wesleyan Chapel which is situated on the corner of Friarage Street and East Road, Northallerton, and for 23 years conducted three services every Sunday – one at Brompton, and two at Northallerton. He preached his last sermon on the 6th of June 1889. Mr Stubbings died penniless; his meagre possessions were sold to pay his funeral expenses. Both heavily mortgaged churches were without financial backing and were put up for sale.
There was a probability that the Baptist name would have been lost in the district following his death, but shortly after his decease, the Rev John Haslam, the secretary of the Yorkshire Baptist Building and Extension Fund, was passing by and saw the properties up for sale. He reported this to his association committee and although they were unable to help financially, a number of ministers headed by Mr George Rooke of Rowden College stepped in, and the Chapels were renovated and refurbished. Northallerton was reopened on 7th August 1892 and Brompton reopened as a Mission room on the 25th of March 1893.
That same year Mr Powell, formerly of Spurgeon’s Tabernacle, was invited to take charge of these two stations. And so it was that on the 4th of July 1894 he was installed as Pastor. The church prospered under his care, and regular congregations of 140 in the afternoon and over 200 in the evening were recorded. Interestingly, in that same year Baptist congregations existed in Northallerton, Brompton, Bedale, Masham, Boroughbridge and Dishforth!
DURING AND AFTER THE WAR
The beginning of the Great War in 1914 saw a number of changes in the church’s leadership and committees; one can only assume that many of the congregation were enlisted into the forces and went overseas to fight for their country. Missions continued to take place but attendance at morning services was starting to drop. Several pastors came and went, and in July 1926, twentieth century technology hit the church in the form of electric lighting, which was fitted at a cost of £23.12.6d. The purchase of a new Manse at 35 Quaker Lane in 1927 and the Great Depression brought on by the famous ‘Wall Street Crash’ in 1929 contributed once again to some severe financial difficulties. By September 1938 it was confirmed that Northallerton Baptist Church could no longer sponsor a full-time Minister.
Throughout the war years, the church continued to struggle without a Pastor and with a reduced congregation, but in 1944 the church took on a new lease of life and a new Pastor in the form of Rev Farrah Lunn. Amongst the regular members of the congregation at that time you would have found visiting foreign airmen from RAF Leeming and German POWs from the nearby internment camp.
In 1949, Rev Whitehead came to the church and the small community continued to multiply. In 1955 Rev Whitehead left his position leaving the congregation once again without a Minister. The Church Council continued to serve the congregation, and to their great credit, in an attempt to boost church attendance, took the decision to build a purpose–built chapel in Valley Road. And so at a cost of £7,526.3.2d MoodyBros. built the new chapel which was opened in 1958.
VALLEY ROAD CHURCH
In 1960, a new pastor Rev P Cook arrived and the church’s aim of taking the church to the people was successful in that quite a few residents became new members and the Sunday School multiplied dramatically.
Rev Cook left Northallerton Baptist Church in 1964, when the long serving treasurer, Mr Arnold Sunley, became Lay Pastor. Visiting Ministers regularly assisted Mr Sunley in conducting Sunday Services for the small but strong church; he and his wife Roberta served the Fellowship faithfully during the 1960’s. In 1967 an ex-farmer turned evangelist by the name of George Breckon was enquiring about a venue for a Mission in the town and was advised to go and meet Arnold Sunley. Arnold welcomed George and offered the Valley Road church free of charge. Many people were saved that week and a regular Friday home meeting saw over 30 people gathered. It wasn’t long before the Deacons of the Church invited George and his wife Gladys to be their pastor, the position he duly took up at Easter 1970.
A CHANGE IN STYLE
Pastor Breckon’s arrival saw a different kind of leadership, with emphasis on Charismatic renewal, and the church went from strength to strength. Open-air Outreach meetings, Wednesday evening fellowships, and Friday prayer meetings were regular events. However the growth of the church was not instantaneous.
In 1973 Rodney Breckon, George’s son who had been working for a Christian organisation in Sweden, was invited to come to the church and head up the youth work along with his wife Jeanette. The arrangement worked well, and God blessed their partnership with a steady growth in numbers. Throughout the late 80’s the ministry was virtually shared equally by father and son but by the turn of the decade, with his father’s advancing years, Rodney was taking the leading role. In the early 90’s, Kingsley & Cathy Armstrong also joined the church’s ministry team, although Kingsley also spent a considerable amount of time in itinerant ministry. The congregation by now swelling to around 150, and the accommodation in Valley Road was seen to be a limiting factor.
MOVE TO LARGER PREMISES
In late 1992 due to ever-increasing numbers, a momentous decision was taken to hold the Sunday services in larger premises and so it was that on the 31st January 1993, the first Sunday service outside of the Valley Road chapel was held in the Community Centre. The church continued to expand during the mid 90s, and services were held at various venues including: the Community Centre, the Town Hall, Allertonshire School, Northallerton College and the Recreation Hall of the Friarage Hospital.
August 1995 sadly saw the sudden death of Pastor George, and after serving the church for more than 25 years, his presence was greatly missed. Just five months later, Kingsley felt it was time for himself and his wife Cathy to move on, and they left in January 1996. Later in 1996 a building committee was formed in an attempt to increase the drive for new and more permanent premises.
THE LYRIC CINEMA
During Christmas week of 1996, it was brought to the attention of the church that the town’s Lyric Cinema and Bingo Club was being offered for sale. Early in 1997 an offer was made for the building, and after a long and complex conveyance, the keys were handed over to the church on 29th August 1997 by the previous owners Mr & Mrs Robert Harrison. A thanksgiving service was held in the building, amongst bingo fixtures and fittings, two weeks later on the 14th of September – a service we will never forget! Work on the conversion began in earnest early in October. The structural work was carried out by the building contractors, Tom Willoughby, under their manager and church member Paul Blades, whilst ancillary and decoration work was done by the Church members. The almost impossible opening date of Easter 1998 was set, and with God’s help and a huge effort by everyone concerned the building was opened on Easter Saturday, 11th April 1998.
We are blessed indeed to be able to report that since that time, the church has continued to grow both in numbers and in breadth of ministry. As well as being in use every day of the week, the building has been used for a wide variety of activities including concerts, productions, conferences and training courses. Various community groups have also used the building on occasions.
May God continue to bless us and be gracious to us in the future.