chapel was built on the site of the present
Sunday School and opened on 25th September 1808. The next year a
Sabbath School was opened for girls, twenty of whom attended on
the first morning. The school offered an opportunity to learn to
read and soon afterwards a boys' school was established.
In July 1811 the Rev Isaac West
was installed as the first Minister of the Harrold Independent Church,
as it was then known. The Rev George Bull Phillips came in 1828.
Interestingly, his only daughter, Mary, preserved her father's diary
which only came to light after a great grandson, Charles Stewart
of Carlton, died in 1954.
With an increased congregation,
a new building was put up on the same site in 1836. Soon afterwards
an Anglican churchman offered to sell his adjoining two houses and
garden to the Chapel Trustees. The garden was consecrated as a burial
ground. Dr G Dean became Pastor in 1862 and planned the enlargement
of the Church and Sunday School. The tenders were:- for the Chapel
£391/10/8 and for the Sunday School £223/10/-. After seven and a
half years Dr Dean resigned to become Professor of Mathematics at
Spring Hill Congregational College, Birmingham.
From 1851, worshippers were asked
to choose their seating and they paid a quarterly subscription according
to their means (pew rents). Thus with all the seats allocated, the
Church had a stable income. By 1898 more space was needed, so the
Rt Hon Earl Cowper gave land at the rear where four new classrooms,
a new vestry and kitchen were built, costing £620. The opening in
1900 was a great occasion with a marquee in Watch Park, tea, special
singing and speakers. Harrold was then considered to be one of the
best equipped chapels in the area. In 1908 a famous American, Dr
Len G Boughton, preached at the Centenary Celebrations.
The two world wars, the impact
of the internal combustion engine and the deaths of many staunch
supporters made church life difficult. The Rev Raymond Jubb (1955
to 1966) was the last full-time minister and the large manse was
sold upon his retirement. The churches at Harrold, Olney and Yardley
Hastings were grouped together, but in 1978 split up again and went
their separate ways. Harrold members voted to become part of the
newly formed United Reformed Church - a union of the Congregational
Church and Presbyterian Church of Scotland.
In 1981 the Rev Stephen Harris
was appointed one third time Minister. The Sunday School hall and
two classrooms, not being used much, were rented out, thus providing
additional income for maintenance of the buildings. After lengthy
discussions, it was decided to upgrade the old vestry and other
areas, rather than take out the pews in the Church to make it a
multi-purpose building. Special Services were being shared with
the Anglicans in Harrold, Carlton and Odell. More space was needed
again so the unused front gallery was made into a youth room.
When the Rev Roger Whitehead
was appointed on a quarter-time basis in 1994, the caretaker's cottage
at 116 High Street was refurbished to provide a family manse. In
March 1998, members voted to accept the Elders' recommendation to
take out the pews and organ - a fortuitous action as extensive deep-seated
dry rot was subsequently discovered. Eventually, extensive renovations
were made which included disabled facilities, a new kitchen, gas
heating, new wiring and lights, creating a multi-purpose building
which will not need expensive maintenance for some years to come.
The space, thus created, enabled
the chapel to be used for a variety of different functions. It is
now a venue for many village events and is used by many different
organisations The founding fathers of the Chapel would be impressed
by the active use made of the buildings they founded almost two