History of Northampton Spiritualist Church

There has been a group of Spiritualists in Northampton since the 1880’s and there is reference to this in the first edition of  The Two Worlds published on 18th November 1887.  Under “Passing Events” by Pilgrim were accounts given of Church events throughout the country.  It stated: “The cause in the Midlands has never been as strong as in the more Northern Counties but we notice that the wave of progress which has passed over the country has influenced the work in Nottingham, Walsall, Birmingham and Leicester .  We rejoice to see that our Northampton Friends have united to carry on the public movement.  There are many Spiritualists in the town.  We would advise them to see to it that they are not behindhand with their neighbours in promulgating the Truth.”

That was obviously the embryonic Northampton Church, but it was not until  27th October 1917 that Northampton Spiritualist Church joined the Spiritualists’ National Union.  The Lyceum was begun in 1925.   Meetings were held in many rented rooms in Langham Place and Guildhall Road, also in Brunswick Place and 65, Colwyn Road from 30th April 1921.

During the war years, meetings were held in Unity Hall, Market Square at least until 1942.  In 1946 they were meeting in the Labour Rooms in Charles Street. Later the meetings moved to the Friends’ Meeting House in Wellington Street, where there were many happy memories over the 12 years that rooms had been hired for services,
In 1962, Minister Raymond Barden had a dream of a phoenix and, waking early one morning, had the thought “A Church will arise”.   He contacted a friend, Douglas Barham, who was an estate agent to ask if there was any land in the centre of town where there had been a fire as “fire”  had also been given to him.  Nothing was immediately available except properties at too high a price but one day he received a call from Mr Barham involving much secrecy – “Could he be in St Michael’s Road at 2.30pm where he would see a man he knew.”  Mr Barden went as requested and there found a Mr Archie Turvey, President of the Mormon Church who he knew and who was manager of the local Insurance Company with whom he had the  Fire Insurance of his business!   It transpired that the Mormons were buying a large house to be demolished and on which they wished to build a new temple for the area.   They had applied for planning permission but did not wish news of this transaction to become known in case the local orthodox Churches raised objections.  They currently occupied 89 St Michael’s Road and Mr Barden and Mr Turvey shook hands on an agreement that the building would be sold at an acceptable price because they wanted it to continue as a Church and not be used for industrial purposes.   The news eventually broke and the SNU became involved.  Permission to go ahead was obtained from Mr Tom Henwood,  Minister of the SNU.  The price was £2,250. After all the arrangements for finance had been made, the Church was officially opened on Saturday 23rd October 1965 by Tom Henwood, Alderman W. Lewis JP, Deputy Mayor, with Sally Ferguson taking the Special Evening Service.  This was a day to remember and spirit was thanked for the guidance given.  

Whether it was known to Mr Barden at the time is uncertain, but it is fascinating that at the 40th Birthday celebration of the Church in it's occupation of 89 St Michael's Road in October 2005,  Duncan Gascoine, President of the Spritualists' National Union, produced a cutting from the Two Worlds  magazine of October 9th 1903, which had a short piece called "Progress in Northampton".  This showed a photograph of the same premises currently occupied (see above) which had been purchased by members of the Northampton Spiritualist Society for £360.   It was subsequently enlarged by building out into the garden, making it capable of seating 130.  The alteration to the front cost £45 (presumably a re-modelling of the front door and the construction of the door surround). It was then said that it could seat over 200.  As we can only seat about 80 comfortably, they must have been squashed up sitting on wooden forms!   Then, no doubt, one would step straight into the hall from the street, whereas at present the Vestibule and Library take off approximately 12 feet from the original space. 

How remarkable that we should return to 89, St Michael's Road in October 1965 after Spiritualists had worked so hard to establish their Church there some 60 odd years previously!  

It is also worth noting that on 3rd May 1871, Mrs Emma Hardinge ( later Hardinge-Britten) spoke at the Mechanics Institute in Northampton, her talk entitled The Ministry of Angels.  So Northampton Spiritualists go back a long way!

The Church Committee hope to find larger, more convenient premises in the future, but there is no doubt that when that day finally comes, 89 St Michael's Road will have served the cause of Spiritualism very well over a great many years in Northampton. 

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