A Timeline of Harpenden's places of worship from The Reformation

St Nicholas church – c.1800. Copy of print in LHS archives

To set the context of the Local History Society’s exhibition on “The History of Harpenden’s Churches” on 1 September 2018, a timeline was constructed, mainly derived from Vol 3, Church and Chapel of WEA series on Wheathampstead and Harpenden, 1975. 

1537    Henry VIII charter

1538    Parish registers to be kept – Harpenden’s date back to 1562

1545    Chantries Act – inventory of Harpenden church property

1553    Queen Mary attempts to restore Catholicism

1558    Queen Elizabeth restores Protestantism

1564    Wittewronges arrive from Flanders to escape persecution of Calvinist Huguenots (living in London)

1571-4 Two Church bells cast in Harpenden by an itinerant founder, John Grene

1593    Compulsory church attendance required

1611    Richard Bardolf cited for not attending church for 10 years

1628    One Catholic recorded in Harpenden

1635    Harpenden curate John Barker recorded as having Puritan leanings

1656    Documents for separating the parishes of Wheathampstead and Harpenden were drawn up but not implemented

1660    The State Arms in Harpenden Church replaced by the King’s Arms – the Restoration

1662    Act of Uniformity makes the Prayer Book compulsory

1665    The Five Mile Act bans non-conformist Nathaniel Eeles from Harpenden

1679    William Gawen named a ‘Recusant’ (i.e. Catholic) and a warrant issued for his arrest

1689    Toleration Act legalises meetings of dissenters in people’s houses

1711    First dissenting meeting house in Harpenden of which there is any record – Anabaptists in dwelling house of John Gooding at Coldharbour

1723    Baptists at house of Jeremiah Downes – last recorded Baptist meeting house in Harpenden (Baptists met in St Albans, Kensworth…)

[1772   John Wesley preached at Luton Methodist church – Harpenden people probably heard him there)]

1774    Harpenden churchyard enlarged

1790    Licence granted to Samuel Coplestone for (Methodist) meeting house on West Common (house and barn of Thomas Tomalin, then Thomas Robinson’s cottage

1802    Independents recorded as meeting at the house or chapel of Susan Tomalin/John Humphry

1818    Rev Maurice Phillips establishes School for Dissenting Boys at Blakesley’s (Harpenden Hall)

1819    William Vigis’ house registered for Protestant Dissenters in January – with addition of the house of Rev Maurice Phillips appended in May – chapel in house or grounds of Blakesley’s (Harpenden Hall)

1820    Creation of Methodist congregation at Kinsbourne Green (house of John Lock)

1839-40 Independent chapel built in Amenbury Lane

St Nicholas church – Norman nave c.1830s. Copy of print in LHS archives

1839    Methodist chapel built in Leyton Road

1856    Methodist chapel at Kinsbourne Green opened

1859    Separation of Harpenden and Wheathampstead parishes

1860    Anglican Mission opened by Canon Vaughan in a cottage in Coldharbour Lane (All Saints)

1862    Demolition of Norman nave and rebuilding of the the nave of St Nicholas church

1864    Anglican Mission hall at Bowling Alley opened – for church services and school

1865    Anglican Mission at Kinsbourne Green – in Mrs Crip’s kitchen (beginning’s of St Mary’s)

Primitive Methodist Chapel, Wheathampstead Road, South Harpenden, c.1900. Credit: LHS archives

1865    Primitive Methodist chapel built in Wheathampstead (now Southdown) Road – previously met in a house in Grove Road)

1868    St Mary’s church and school at Kinsbourne Green opened

1876    New Bowling Alley church/school built (old Mission Room retained alongside)

1884    Batford Methodists met in the home of Mr and Mrs Smart, Coldharbour Lane – corrugated iron (tin) chapel built at northern end of Coldharbour Lane

1885    First meeting of Harpenden Corps of the Salvation Army in a field in Crabtree Lane; moved to Welcombe Hall in Heath Road (Mrs Tyler)

1886    New Methodist chapel in Leyton Road built

1887    St George’s School built by Mr Wix, with temporary iron chapel

1888    Sunday school added to Methodist Chapel in Bowling Alley

1889    Anglican Mission at Coldharbour – All Saints church built

1891    St George’s School chapel built and consecrated

St John’s Church, Wheathampstead Road, c.1900, destroyed by fire in 1905. Credit: LHS archives – Salisbury family collection

1890s   Bamville Mission established in a barn of Bamville Farm by Leyton Road Methodist church (John Fensome)

1895    St John the Baptist church built at corner of Crabtree Lane – former church-school at Bowling Alley became a school only

1897    Congregational Church built in Vaughan Road – Amenbury Lane chapel retained for Sunday school etc)

1899    Primitive Methodist Sunday school hall (‘the Tin Hut’) built opposite the chapel in Wheathampstead (now Southdown) Road

Bamville Mission, Bamville Farm barn. Credit: scan of cutting in LHS archives

1904    Congregational Sunday School opened in Victoria Road

1904    Salvation Army bought Independent/Congregational church in Amenbury Lane

1904    Batford Methodist Church Foundation stone laid

1905    St John’s church, Crabtree Lane destroyed by fire – congregation moved back to Bowling Alley school

Catholic temporary ‘tin church’, Rothamsted Avenue, 1905. Credit: LHS archives

1905    Batford Methodist church built and opened on Lower Luton Road

1905    Father Martin built Catholic ‘tin church’ in Rothamsted Avenue

1908    New St John the Baptist’s church built in St John’s Road

The United Mission, West Common, just before the move to Crabtree Lane. Credit: scan of cutting in LHS archives

Congregational ‘tin’ chapel, next to The Old Bell, Luton Road. Credit: scan of sketch in LHS archives


1908    United Mission, 18 West Common, established by trustees representing Primitive and Wesleyan Methodists and Congregationalists

1910    Baptist Mission in Luton Road (tin chapel next to the Old Bell) taken over by Congregational church

Luton Road Mission near the Old Bell, initially a Baptist chapel, sold to the Congregational Church in 1910. Credit: LHS archives

1913    Highfield Oval (National Children’s Home) chapel consecrated

1922    Trustees of the Methodist Church (Leyton Road) bought The White House in the High Street (former brewer’s house for Healey-Mardall-Glover’s brewery)

1922    Batford Methodist church Sunday school hall opened

1925    Society of Friends (Quakers) met in a room at the Red House, lent by Sir Halley Stewart

1927    The Brethern met in a room at 41 High Street (Harpenden Music School) – later moved to United Mission Hall, West Common

1928/9 Our Lady of Lourdes church built and consecrated to replace the ‘tin church’

1929    Foundation stones of High Street Methodist church laid

1930    Opening of High Street Methodist Church

1931    Kinsbourne Green Methodist church hall built

1932    Union of Primitive, Wesleyan and United Methodists established

1933    Closure of United Mission Room in West Common

1933    Society of Friends purchased and converted the former Harpenden Institute in Southdown Road

1936    Separate parish of St John the Baptist created

1951    Rebuilding of chancel at Kinsbourne Green Methodist hall to replace the old church

Crabtree Lane Hall, 1954. Credit: Crabtree Church

1954    Crabtree Hall in Crabtree Lane built for the Brethern

1955    Dolphin Smith gave riverside meadow at corner of Station Road for a church to replace Coldharbour Lane Anglican Mission (All Saints)

1955    St Mary’s Kinsbourne Green became church only, as school moved to Roundwood Park

1957    Closure of Bamville Mission

1963    Harpenden Evangelical church met in old Public Hall (now Park Hall)

1965    All Saints. Station Road consecrated

1966    Salvation Army citadel on Leyton Green opened

1968    First extension to St Mary’s Kinsbourne Green dedicated

1969    Harpenden Evangelical Church opened in Vaughan Road

1997    Flora Humm rooms opened, (off North transept of St Nicholas church)

2002    Closure of Kinsbourne Green Methodist church

2008    Extension and bell tower added to St Mary’s, Kinsbourne Green


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