Bethel Chapel Guildford

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Bethel Chapel
Bethel Strict Baptist Chapel, The Bars, Guildford (April 2014, from Northwest) (1).JPG
The chapel from the northwest
51°14′18″N 0°34′18″W / 51.2383°N 0.5718°W / 51.2383; -0.5718Coordinates: 51°14′18″N 0°34′18″W / 51.2383°N 0.5718°W / 51.2383; -0.5718
Location The Bars, Guildford, Surrey
Country United Kingdom
Denomination Baptist
Founded 14 April 1879
Status Chapel
Functional status Active
Style Vernacular
Completed June 1910

Bethel Chapel, The Bars, Guildford, is a Strict Baptist Chapel affiliated to the Gospel Standard group of Strict & Particular Baptist churches.[1] The Church was established in 1879 and the present building opened in 1910.[2] Bethel still adheres to its original Articles of Faith and worship is conducted much as it was a century ago.[3]

The congregation started in 1878 when a few people left the Old Baptist Chapel in Castle Street, dissatisfied with the liturgy there. They hired the basement hall in the Ward Street Halls to hold services in, and on 14 April 1879, a Church was formed on the basis of the Gospel Standard Articles of Faith.[4]

A few months later the Church obtained a piece of land in nearby Martyr Road where they erected a temporary chapel built of corrugated iron and known as 'the Tin Chapel'. The name 'Bethel' was given to the building. Although several men who preached at the Tin Chapel were asked to become pastor, none of them accepted the call and the ministry was carried on by visiting preachers.[5]

By the early years of the 20th century the church felt the need for a more permanent building. Land was purchased in The Bars, the next road north, where a new chapel was built in red brick with round-headed windows outlined in grey brick. The new Bethel was opened in June 1910, Mr. J.K. Popham of Brighton and Mr. Calcott of Coventry preached at the opening services. The old building was taken over by the Railway Mission.[6]

Due to the enclosed nature of the site most light enters the chapel through a large dormer window above the front door. The whole building has a pleasing arts-and-crafts feeling about it. This building, with schoolroom, hall, vestry and toilets in a sympathetic extension added in 1930, is still in use. The original furnishings, pulpit, pews and so on are all still in place.[7] Recently the dormer window in the front of the chapel has been repaired.

The first pastor of the Bethel was Jabez Wiltshire. Born into a Christian home at Studley in Wiltshire, he was brought into concern for his soul early in life. After conversion he was baptised at Zion Chapel in Trowbridge in April 1914 and began to preach in 1917. In 1925 Mr. Wiltshire accepted a call to the pastorate at Bethel, expressing a desire to remain in his post until death. At last he died on June 12, 1953, at the age of sixty-one. He left four children. There is a small memorial to Mr. Wiltshire in the chapel.[8]

The second pastor at Bethel, Mr. P. Buss, served from 1981 to 1985.[9]

The Risbridger family have for a long time been associated with the Church at Bethel Chapel. The first Risbridger associated with Bethel was Solomon Risbridger, who began to attend Bethel in 1889. He was received into the Church in 1897. For many years he served as a deacon at Bethel, until his death on 12 January 1957.[10] The Risbridger family are still associated with Bethel and Mr. Mark Risbridger is one of the deacons of the Church today.[11]

Although presently without a pastor, services are carried on at Bethel by means of visiting preachers. Until recently singing was unaccompanied and led by a deacon who used a pitch-pipe to set the pitch. Recently an organ has been introduced.[12]


  1. ^ Alan Rayner: 'The Hills of Zion' (Luton, 2006) P.49
  2. ^ S.F. Paul: 'Further History of the Gospel Standard Baptists Vol. 5. Some Surrey and Kent Churches' (Brighton, 1966) P. 116
  3. ^ 'Nonconformity in Guildford' IV (Printed sheet available from Bethel Chapel)
  4. ^ 'Nonconformity in Guildford' IV
  5. ^ 'Nonconformity in Guildford'
  6. ^ 'Nonconformity in Guildford' IV
  7. ^ Guildford Heritage Open Days 2008
  8. ^ Paul, Pp. 122-3
  9. ^ Rayner P. 49
  10. ^ Paul, P.123
  11. ^ Bethel Chapel newsletter 2008
  12. ^ Bethel Chapel newsletter 2006
  • S.F. Paul: 'Further History of the Gospel Standard Baptists' vol. 5 (Brighton, printed for the author, 1966)
  • 'Nonconformity in Guildford' IV. Photocopied sheet available from the Chapel
  • Alan Rayner: 'The Hills of Zion' (Luton, printed for the author, 2006)
  • Bethel Chapel newsletters
  • Guildford Heritage Open days 2008 (Guildford Council, 2008)