The first Baptist chapel was built at Sopley by a member of Rev. Miell’s congregation from Wimborne and opened for worship in 1826. A disagreement between the leaders and the owner of the chapel building happened in 1831 and the ministry moved to a chapel in Parley to continue services. In the early 1870s renewal of the lease of the Parley building was uncertain and Rev. Gill, then pastor, decided to build a Baptist chapel of their own in Christchurch.
The Baptist Chapel a few years after it was built in 1874
Land in Bargates, then called West End was bought for £15 and a small chapel estimated to cost £380, the plans for which were only unveiled at the laying of the foundation stone in December 1874. The building was modelled on the “Tabernacle” (Tent) described in the Old Testament of the Bible.
Rev. Gill died suddenly and completion of the chapel had to be put into the hands of the Southern Baptist Association. A committee under the Rev. R. Colman saw to the work and the chapel was opened for worship on 15th June 1875.
Between 1879 and 1892, it is thought that the church was renovated three times, deterioration of the original chapel called for its rebuilding. From plans shared by Rev. Peden in May 1899 at a cost of £1050 the old chapel was rebuilt to a larger size holding 300 people and opened for services on 12th September 1900.
For the first time the new building was called the Baptist Tabernacle. The building of the Christchurch Baptist Chapel from 1875 to 2005 has continued to be used for the vision of fulfilling the Great Commission and anniversary services to celebrate the fulfilment of God’s plans have been held regularly.
Editor: This piece was taken from a leaflet produced by Laurie James for the Baptist church in 2005, as part of its celebration of 130 years of worship. The picture was kindly supplied by Sheila Hawking.