History of Guildford United Reformed Church
The present church building was opened in 1965 but the church has been a presence in Guildford since 1662 when the Rector of St Nicolas’ Church left the Church of England because he didn’t agree with a new law saying that all clergy should use the English Prayer Book in worship and nothing else. He didn’t agree with some things in the book and wanted to be free to use other sources.
He and a small group of ‘Nonconformists’ began to meet in each other’s houses and in 1690 built a wooden Meeting House near the High Street. This became a Congregational chapel and the road was named Chapel Street. In 1802 the chapel was re-built and still exists today, now as a Greek restaurant.
Having outgrown the chapel, in 1863 Guildford Congregational Church built a large neo-Gothic style building in North Street which had spacious halls in addition to a large worship area. The chapel continued to be used for a large Sunday School and for the Scouts.
The church grew in membership and founded several other chapels in the district. Some still exist today such as those in Wonersh, Westborough and Stoke Hill (Bellfields), others are now houses.
The North Street church flourished but after 100 years the building needed refurbishment and modernisation and the town centre site was suffering from traffic congestion. The decision was taken to sell this prime site for re-development and build a new church.
The present church opened in Portsmouth Road in 1965. It was built in an octagonal shape with the worship area surrounded by ancillary rooms that could be used for meetings and community activities such as drama and badminton. The high windows of the central octagon reach up like a lantern, giving light to the town. The organ was moved to the new site and is considered to be one of the best pipe organs in southeast England. There was even space on the site for a car park
In 1972 the church changed its name! The Congregational Church in England and Wales united with the Presbyterian Church of England to form the United Reformed Church and the Guildford church became Guildford United Reformed Church (often known affectionately as GURC).
In addition to worship the three storey building continues to be used by people of all ages from the local community and the church is constantly changing as it adapts to changes in society.