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Delayed service marks 100 years since merger of Brixton and Surrey Tabernacles

March 2021 | by Martin Humphrey

Dr Matthew Hyde
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Towards the end of 2020, we held our delayed anniversary service to mark the centenary of the merging of Brixton and Surrey Tabernacles.

The Surrey Tabernacle was the largest Strict Baptist church and chapel there has ever been, and was started through the preaching of one man: James Wells. Born in Alton, Hampshire, in 1803, he was converted in 1825 and immediately started open air preaching in The Broadway, Westminster.

He was a dynamic preacher and quickly gathered a congregation. The congregation grew, and a church was formed near St James’s Square in 1830.

In 1831, Wells took over the Surrey Tabernacle in Borough Road. Soon too small, it was completely rebuilt and enlarged, but could still only accommodate 1,500 people.

In 1865, a new chapel was built in Wansey Street, where Wells continued preaching to over 2,000 people. This was similar in style to the nearby and newly-built Metropolitan Tabernacle.

Ernest Roe became pastor in 1917. During his pastorate it became apparent that renovation work was needed, and this led to a meeting in 1919 with Thomas Sapey, pastor of Brixton Tabernacle. It was agreed that a merger of the two Tabernacles should occur, and the Surrey congregation duly transferred to Brixton Tabernacle.

Roe left in 1931, and sadly since then there has been a decline in attendance. At the merger in 1920, there were twelve deacons, which is twice the entire current membership.

At the commemoration service last October, Dr Matthew Hyde preached from 1 John 5:7.

A recording of the service is available at Brixton Tabernacle’s website, together with a fuller version of the church’s history.

Martin Humphrey

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