Answers to Questions


John Campbell, The Tabernacle, Redbourn, 1870-1884

November, 2010




Fiona Barker (mansfieldbarker @t of Nottinghamshire writes: The Rev. John Campbell went to St. Albans as an evangelist in 1870 going on to become the Baptist minister of Redbourn Tabernacle and then returning to Scotland in 1884 (Source the Baptist Union History Society). The Tabernacle is no longer a Church would the church records for this period still exist and if so where?

Redbourn Tabernacle, circa 1910

From The Geoff Webb Collection, Hertfordshire Memories


The picture also appears in Redbourn through time together with a picture of the house now on the site.


A group photograph, taken in front of the chapel, also circa 1910, appears in The Character of Redbourn.



I am uncertain of the location of the records of the Tabernacle for the period you are interested in but according to Access to Archives some records for 1896 to 1958 are held at Redbourn Museum. (The contact details on A2A index appear to be out of date.) The Museum may be able to let you know where any earlier records are. Failing that HALS may be able to help.


The records for the relevant dates were available in 1962 as The Story of Redbourn includes a quotation from them:

The tablet to Smith's memory, over the chapel rostrum, gave him his due, however, for he had "served his own generation by the will of God". If the mid-nineteenth century saw the Congregationalists at their nadir, the Wesleyans were near their zenith. But after Smith's death visiting preachers revived the local Independent congregation; between 1849 and 1862 three ministers served as pastors. The congregation increased, the chapel was repaired and a gallery built. A schoolroom was opened; in 1854 one hundred children were on the Sunday School books; by 1856 the number had reached 120. A small adult School, a pioneer venture, was opened. In 1862 the Rev. David Richardson became minister; he retired from the pastorate in 1871 but continued to live in Redbourn until his death in 1888-89, playing an active part in church life and business. Richardson collected almost £250 between 1863-66 for an enlargement and improvement to the Chapel, which was carried out in 1865. New members were regularly admitted into the church and their membership carefully recorded. Successful Bible classes were conducted, the Sunday School register reached 128, and a Clothing Club was established.

Then in 1869 a new conflict broke out: at a Church Meeting in June "the conduct of some of our members was noticed; irregularities were referred to the Pastor (who) was advised to write to them respecting it". What was happening is revealed in the Register Book of the Tabernacle, the Baptist Chapel in Crown Street:

"A friend applied to Mr. Spurgeon for a student to preach in the Assembly Room on Sunday --. Mr. H. Dunnington was sent, and on the first Sunday he, with several friends, went from door to door inviting the people to come and hear the Gospel preached in the Open Air. They got about 300 to hear them. They were invited to the Assembly Hall at night, the number being about 150. The next Sunday they did the same, in the evening the Assembly Hall was quite full, and continued to be so till they moved to the New Tabernacle. On September 6, 1869, the first eleven names in this book were formed into a Church by the Rev. F. M. Cockerton ... Mr. H. Dunnington was chosen as its first Pastor, and commenced his Pastorate from that date."

Dunnington then asked the Fish Street congregation to "dismiss" those of its members who had formed the new church. The Congregationalists replied, rather sourly: "We feel that we have no power to dismiss persons from our connection who have themselves broken that connection".

The new congregation were Particular Baptists, "but of Open Communion Principles, that is to say, none but Baptized Believers shall become its members, but members of other churches shall be permitted to sit at their Master's Table". The Tabernacle Church Register takes up their story: "The Church now met with opposition, and expected to be deprived of the Assembly Hall at Xmas. It was either build a chapel or the work must cease. Seeing God had so greatly blessed them, and having an average number of 250 hearers, and, many promising to come to the new chapel, the friends determined to build". The Chapel was opened on Good Friday 1870; the total expense was £555 Is. 9d., of which £60 was the cost of the ground. "Mr. Spurgeon lent the Church £200, payable in 10 years without interest, in two half-yearly instalments of £10 each." Another £200 was borrowed on mortgage at 6 per cent.

A marginal note in the Register is of special interest to the historian: referring to the records of the Sunday School, opened with an attendance of eighteen in the morning and twenty-five in the afternoon, "it was thought wisest to write them in a Book, separate from this. They are to be kept with this Register continually. Upon the Pastor leaving the Church, he must give up this Register, and Copy of Trust Deeds, to the senior Deacon, who must deliver them up again to the next Pastor". Oh, that more organisations had been so precise about the care of their records with each change of officeholders! ... ...

The Redbourn Report by the Hertfordshire County Councilís Archaeology Section in conjunction with English Heritage, reports that "The Tabernacle closed in the late 1950s and was partly demolished; the rest was converted into a house, no.3 Crown Street."


I could only find three references to Rev. John Campbell. You will undoubtedly already know that he is recorded in the 1871 census living in Bernard Street, St Albans, (described as a 26 year old Missionary born in Scotland) with his wife Isabella and family, while in the 1881 census he was a Baptist minister living in Redbourn High Street.


The Rev. T. Watts also spoke.  See WATTS, St Albans, 1865-1880s and cutting.

In addition Rev J. Campbell spoke briefly at a ceremony held on 1st March 1884 (reported in Herts Advertiser, 4th March, 1884) to mark the laying of the top stone on the Baptist Tabernacle, Victoria Street, St Albans.

If you can add to the information given above tell me.

November 2010   Page created