By , November 24, 2009

Where did it all start?

Like all Reformed Churches, the United Reformed Church claims continuity with the Church catholic. The origins of religious dissent (Protestants who dissented from the Church of England) in Highgate go back to the Act of Uniformity, 1662, when those who could not in conscience conform to its episcopal and royalist and liturgical strictures refused to opt into the Church of England and were thus ejected (known as ‘the Great Ejectment’). Following this, the Five Mile Act of 1665 decreed that Ministers ejected from the Church of England had to live at least five miles from city, borough, or town boundaries. Highgate is just over five miles from Charing Cross. Highgate was also at the far reaches of the parishes of St Pancras and Hornsey, thus, far enough away from the religious and political establishments to become a gathering place for religious dissenters and political parliamentarians.

In 1662 William Rathband, graduate of Emmanuel College, Cambridge, who had been ejected from his church in Essex, bought a “Great Howse” in Highgate (probably on the High Street) in which dissenters probably met. The first documentary evidence of a dissenting meeting dates from 1672, when another graduate of Emmanuel College and ejected Minister, John Storer, was granted a licence for a “Presbyterian Meeting” that had to be confined to “his owne house in the Towne of High Gate.” The congregation would later become Independent (when the Presbyterians became Unitarian) and then Congregationalist.

In 1887 a new Presbyterian Church was planted in Highgate (Cromwell Avenue) which, in 1967, united with the Congregationalists to form Union Church, Highgate. In 1972 it became the United Reformed Church, Highgate, when most Congregationalists (in England and Wales) and Presbyterians (in England) united.

The long and fascinating history of our congregation can be found in summary form in the second leaflet below, and more fully in Highgate Dissenters – their history since 1660 by John Thompson, £9 plus postage (to order a copy Email).


Our present building: the Pond Square Chapel

Built in 1859, it is now the only functioning nonconformist chapel of historic religious dissent (Presbyterian and Congregational) in Highgate. There are two antecedent buildings still standing in Highgate: one in Southwood Lane is now the Library for Highgate School; the other in Cromwell Avenue has been converted into domestic apartments.


Who built the Pond Square Chapel?

George Carter to the design of Thomas Roger Smith. The Minister who launched the appeal was Josiah Viney, also a local philanthropist. He had built, for example, twelve model houses for poorer people in Highgate, which are still standing today in North Road.

Click on the downloadable guide and history, designed to be printed double-sided on A4 and folded into an A5 leaflet.

Pond Square Chapel Guide

United Reformed Church Highgate History

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