Barnard Castle URC

That we work, worship and witness so that we may make and sustain disciples of Christ

The History of the Church

Barnard Castle United Reformed Church is the descendant congregation of "The Independent Congregation of Protestant Dissenters" or Puritans, which came into being in the 17th Century. At The Time in Barnard Castle, worship was held in private houses and served by visiting preachers. Early puritans in the area (In the 16th Century) included members of the Bowes Family of Streatlam Castle. Margery Bowes was the first wife of John Knox, and her mother was also part of Knox's household.

One of the ministers serving in the area was John Rogers, who was sent here in 1644 by Parliament. He was the grandson of John Rogers, who compiled the English "Matthew Bible" and was Martyred in the reign of Queen Mary, for this work. Oliver Cromwell was welcomed to Barnard Castle in 1648 by local Puritans, who were encouraged by Lord Wharton.

In the mid 18th century, an independent congregation was established in Cotherstone by the Revd. Luke Prattman. His son, also the Revd. Luke Prattman, planted a new church in Barnard Castle. The younger Prattman had married a lady with coalmines of Cockfield, and his sufficient money by 1811 to build the congregation's first church in Newgate. Soon, a new church was needed. A Sunday School was constructed and open on 13 September 1836. This is now the Church Hall. The Church itself opened on 1837.

During the 19th Century, the national body of the church took the name congregational church. They were known as the "Congo's" in Barnard Castle. In 1972, the congregational church merged with the Presbyterian Church of England to become the United Reformed Church.

The exterior of the church building is unaltered from 1836, when construction began. It has the traditional, simple box shape of all the early "meeting Houses" in Barnard Castle. It was the latest in date, and is the last still used for worship. The interior used to have a high, centrally placed pulpit and a curved balcony, to accommodate 400 people. It was totally and very successfully redesigned in 1999-2000 by John Niven Architects, West Auckland. Fire regulations limit the capacity to about 80 people.

In 2007, the United Reformed Church shares it's building with the independent Barnard Castle Christian Fellowship. The activities of the two fellowships dovetail to provide worship, bible study, prayer opportunities and varied youth work throughout the year. The Church hall is used by several local secular organisations for meetings. Saturday Coffee Mornings provide a welcome and introduction to the church’s activities, for the whole community and visitors. A Church magazine is published monthly. Both Fellowships are members of the Churches Together in Barnard Castle and Startforth.

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