Brief History of Potter Street Baptist Church
This Baptist Church began in 1662, when, because of religious persecution, a group of Christians met in secret in Parndon Woods, Harlow. When freedom of religion was granted, Baptists could meet openly, and a plot of land was acquired here in Potter Street. Following the death of William Woodward the congregation spread its ministry and became two Baptist churches. Harlow Baptist Church is based in Fore Street, Old Harlow and Potter Street.
To date there have been 24 different ministers at Potter Street the first, William Woodward (former chaplain to Cromwell’s army) and the most recent, Alison Taylor, is the first female minister at Potter Street.
Rev. Alison Taylor was also assistant to Mike Weldon before his retirement in August 2008. So also for first time there were two full time ministers at PSBC. As with many churches the congregation numbers have been up and down. There are currently around 140 members. Several of our members have gone on to study for full time ministry and indeed Alison Taylor was one who did and has returned to the church in which she was brought up.
In 2017 we also appointed an Assistant Ministry Worker. Tim West in preparing to go to Spurgeon’s college to continue his ministerial training.
The current chapel was built in 1756. The chapel is one of the oldest meeting houses of its type and was extended backwards a few years later. The rear extension housed schoolrooms on two floors. There was a wide gallery round three sides of the chapel. In 1905 the organ was installed. It was built into the end of the gallery near where it is now. In the 1950’s the building was extensively renovated. The improvements included a new floor, new lower sash windows, electric heating, and a kitchen. A hall was built at the rear in 1962-1964. The work was mainly done by the church members.
In 1970 a new vestibule and annex were built on the left side, store rooms were built at the rear and the interior of the chapel was changed. Because of its Grade 2 listed status the exterior appearance of the building had to be largely retained. The dividing wall between the school rooms and the chapel was taken down and a steel frame fitted to enable the structure to withstand the changes. The side galleries were taken down and a new staircase fitted. The original cramped entrance vestibule was taken down and the old entrance doors closed up whilst retaining their outside appearance. A key requirement was space and flexibility, which the original pews and small entrance vestibule precluded. Thus chairs replaced pews, the pulpit was made movable and the side entrance vestibule was built.