Celebrating 350 years of Witness 1662-2012

350LogoCelebration 1662

As you will no doubt know, at the passing of the Parliamentary Act of Uniformity in 1662, protestants, who were therefore ejected from, or left the Anglican Church, began to form themselves into churches of their own. Guildford’s history is of particular interest and, in Portsmouth Road, we shall celebrate it throughout this year in many ways.

Our immediate history here is well worth looking at and it was thought an idea to ask people, who have memories of the church in North Street, of the village churches around, and there were many of them, of the Centenary Hall and of the 1965 move to Portsmouth Road, to write some of them down so that they might be included in our magazine month by month.

We do hope you will enjoy reading these very interesting accounts


The chapel was set up immediately following the Toleration Act of 1689 and Cleal’s book on Congregationalism in Surrey tells us that its history dates back to about 1690 when a wooden Congregational Meeting house or chapel was built in what was then Black Horse Lane by John Horsnaille (who had been indicted and fined in 1680 for attending a Nonconformist meeting in the warehouse he tenanted in Artington). The chapel was sold by Horsnaille’s widow in 1723 to the trustees of the Congregational Church movement which had been formed in the meantime. However the popular Revd. John Preddon, minister of the Congregational Chapel, left in 1728 and attendance subsequently declined.

Eventually the chapel was used as a poultry shed and store, the contents of which had to be removed so that services could be held! Finally, the old chapel was demolished and in 1801 a new prefabricated building, with Roman numerals marking the joints, was brought to Guildford by means of the Wey Navigation and assembled on the site of the old building. The new revitalised Congregational chapel opened on June 16th, 1802. The Revd. Stephen Percy was minister there from 1811 – 1859 and was a popular preacher, so much so that a vestry, a rear gallery and then side galleries had to be added to the chapel to accommodate the numbers of people. In the 1820’s Black Horse Lane was renamed Chapel Street, reflecting the presence of the Congregational chapel.

In 1863 the congregation moved to a new church building in North Street.

The old Chapel was reconstructed and used for the Sunday School in 1868 and for “popular lectures of a moral and religious character “for the benefit of the working men of the town and district. The lectures advertised by posters, to be held in the reconstructed Chapel, show an interesting variety of subjects, including talks on Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress and visits to the Holy Land, illustrated by “Dissolving Views.”

The Sunday School moved to North Street in 1884.
In June 1902 a meeting was held in the Mission Hall in Chapel Street to mark the centenary of its rebuilding in June 1802. The hall was remodelled 1912, re-named Centenary Hall and subsequently became a general purpose hall. For over 50 years the 9th Guildford (Congregational) Troop, one of the earliest in the country, met in Centenary Hall.

CentenaryHallNowIn 1965 the hall was sold to Bellaires School of Dance and from about 1971 the hall was part of the Guildford School of Acting for a number of years.

Finally the hall stood empty for decades until it was refurbished and opened in 2004 as a restaurant.