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Regent Square Church

Building  From 1827 

Forgive us for the length of this entry. The history of the various buildings is complicated. In 2015 the Buddists very kindly allowed us to look around their building and that resolved most of our queries.

The Regent Square church moved to this site in 1827 and has had four different church affiliations: 1827 - Church of Scotland; 1843 - Free Church of Scotland; Presbyterian Church of England; United Reformed Church. The ornate Gothic building was designed by William Tite, who also designed the Royal Exchange. It was built as a ‘cathedral’ for the Church of Scotland in London. The two tall towers and the whole north side were based on York Minster’s west front.

We learn from the Glasgow Herald, 14 September 1911 that Regent Square Presbyterian Church acquired the adjoining abandoned Baptist chapel, repaired it and altered it to become the Regent Square Institute. It contained a hall, a gymnasium, a reading room and was used for groups such as Sunday school, the Boys Brigade, evening concerts, etc. This must be the church-like building still standing in Wakefield Street and labelled “Chap.” on an 1830 map.

In 1899 the minister at the time, Alexander Connell, built halls for the church in Wakefield Street. On the street and in Satellite view one can see another building to the east of the Institute and south-east of the church. We think that must be the 1899 Halls.

The Institute was damaged by bombs on 21 September 1940. Because of the raids, evening meetings had already been discontinued, and the bomb caused the activities of the Institute to be transferred to the Wakefield Street Halls. We understand the damage was relatively slight and the Institute was repaired.

At some point the Institute and the Halls were integrated together. In 2007 this complex was sold to finance a major remodelling of the church, and is now used by the SGI Buddhists.

On 9 February 1945 a V2 rocket destroyed Church House, killing 10 people, including four high officials of the church (but we don’t which of the 10 names these 4 were). The Halls and the church itself survived but the church was badly damaged (mainly the roof we think) and unusable.

The photograph shows the damage to Church House and repays careful examination. The still-standing north front is clearly the remains of the original Georgian terrace of 2 or 3 houses that was here when the church was built. But the remains of the building behind have some modernist features:  the still-standing uprights on the second and third floors look like concrete pillars, and on the ground floor over at the right there is some modelling that reminds us of art deco ziggurats.   So this is the Presbyterian Church House built in 1938, referred to on the plaque, which occupied what was originally the back gardens of the terraced housing. It had only stood for 7 years.

Following the damage to the church another venue for services had to be used. For 15 years this was the Lecture Hall and then for the next 6 years another smaller hall was used (both presumably being in either the 1899 Halls or the Institute). The financial war compensation received proved insufficient for all the necessary repairs so it was decided to demolish the church (much against the wishes of many including the Victorian Society) and replace it with something smaller. Plans for the church were agreed in April 1964 and construction was complete in 1966.

Meanwhile the rebuilding of Church House was completed by 1956. This is the building now on the corner of Wakefield Street between the church and the Institute/Buddhist centre.

Most of this information comes from Lumen History which also has some pictures of the church.

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Regent Square Church

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Church House WC1 - building

Church House Built 1938, destroyed in war 9th February 1945, rebuilt 1955 - ...

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