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Former Baptist Chapel

A Grade II Listed Building in Bolnhurst and Keysoe, Bedford

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Coordinates

Latitude: 52.2557 / 52°15'20"N

Longitude: -0.4288 / 0°25'43"W

OS Eastings: 507347

OS Northings: 263105

OS Grid: TL073631

Mapcode National: GBR G0P.DG3

Mapcode Global: VHFPP.JK6N

Entry Name: Former Baptist Chapel

Listing Date: 8 September 1977

Last Amended: 10 February 2012

Grade: II

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1114791

English Heritage Legacy ID: 36223

Location: Bolnhurst and Keysoe, Bedford, MK44

County: Bedford

Civil Parish: Bolnhurst and Keysoe

Traditional County: Bedfordshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Bedfordshire

Church of England Parish: Keysoe

Church of England Diocese: St.Albans

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Summary

Former Baptist Chapel built in 1741 and converted to residential use in 1979.

Description

MATERIALS: Red brick with brick dressings and clay roof tiles.

PLAN: Square with a small, single-storey projection on the south-east corner. Attached to this is a late C20 garage and conservatory which are not of special interest.

EXTERIOR: The building has a hipped roof with two hidden valleys and a brick dentilled cornice. The main (east) elevation has a central front door under a flat-headed portico supported by two columns, added in the late C20. This is flanked by tall, multi-paned, round-headed sash windows, on a higher level to the centre, which formerly lit the pulpit. The left window has its original glazing bars and glass, but all the other windows are late C20 replacements. To the far left is the two-bay, single-storey projection, and to the far right on the ground floor is a multi-paned, timber cross casement under a cambered head. The three-bay south elevation has the same fenestration on the ground-floor, and the second floor is lit by horizontal sash windows with glazing bars, positioned under the eaves. The four-bay west elevation is similar, except all but the second bay have French windows with timber panels between the top and the cambered heads. The three-bay north elevation has the same fenestration as the south.

INTERIOR: The front door opens into the double-height hall, around which the former gallery has been converted into bedrooms. The bressummers which supported the gallery are still partly visible, as are the four structural, double-height timber columns with their square chamfered capitals from which extend four carved brackets.

History

Baptist Nonconformity had been established in England in 1607 when John Smyth, an ordained Anglican minister, separated from the Church of England and introduced the Baptism of adult believers as the foundation of Church membership. The first Baptist chapel on Risely Road, which was known as the Brook End Church, was built in 1652 during a period when dissent from the Church of England grew significantly. The period of the greatest expansion for Nonconformist denominations was from the mid-C18 up to about 1870, as non-Anglican worshippers were gradually freed from constraints on their civil liberties. In Bedfordshire, the number of Baptist foundations accordingly rose from ten in the C17 to forty-three by 1851, with the result that there were twice as many Baptist chapels as Anglican churches. The church in Brook End was replaced by the present building in 1741, an indication of the strength of Baptism in the area at the time. In common with most other Nonconformist chapels of this period, it is characterised by its rectangular plan and its plainness and simplicity of design. There were two entrances for men and women on the west elevation, indicated by the survival of a boot-scraper (segregation was common in Baptist chapels), whilst another boot-scraper on the south elevation marks the former entrance to the vestry. Photographic evidence shows that the interior fittings of the chapel included the customary prominent pulpit surrounded by galleries on three sides with box pews on the ground floor. The pulpit was positioned in the centre of the east wall, lit by the large flanking windows. The burial ground was located to the south of the chapel and a Sunday School (Grade II) was built to the east in the C19. As a result of the declining congregation, the chapel was converted for residential use in 1979, and the interior fittings were removed. The organs and some of the pine benches were sold at auction, but the pulpit, front panelling of the gallery, and most of the pews were purchased by the Baptist Union for use elsewhere, although their whereabouts is now unknown. A front door under a portico was inserted where the pulpit had been, and on the west elevation the two doors and window were replaced with French windows. Internally, the four structural, double-height timber columns were retained, and a central staircase was built to provide access to the former gallery which was subdivided to form bedrooms. A garage and conservatory have been added to the north-east corner.

Reasons for Listing

The former Baptist chapel, Keysoe, is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:
*Architectural interest: it is a good example of a mid-C18 Baptist chapel which has a typical simplicity and plainness of design with characteristic plan form and features. The bressummers and double-height columns which support the former gallery are important expressions of the building’s original purpose.
*Historic interest: the chapel was built during a period when Baptism was becoming increasingly strong in the area. Together with the associated burial ground to the south and the former C19 Sunday School to the east, it illustrates the key role of Baptism in the educational and spiritual life of the community.
*Group value: it has group value with the adjacent Grade II listed former Sunday School.

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