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Bedford Moravian Congregation

St Peter’s Street, Bedford

Later called St Luke’s Church and then St Luke’s United Reformed Church  

Z1306-11-51-1 Moravian Church

The Moravian Church in St Peter’s Street, c.1910 [Z1306/11/15/1] 

Work in Bedford commenced in 1738 under the London Congregation until they were officially recognised as a separate unit in 1745. Jacob Rogers was the first labourer (minister) and services were carried out in a converted barn behind the home of Francis Okely, son of Ann Okely also known as Mother Okely (5-7 High Street, Bedford).   

On 14 June 1751 the foundation stone for the first church on a site in St Peter’s Street, Bedford was laid and it was consecrated by Brother Peter Boehler on 28 November 1751 with 100 Communicant members. The burial ground was consecrated on 27 November 1751 and the first internment was Sister Mary Sherman.   

Further development took place at St Peter’s Street: 

1752 Brethren’s House completed 

1757 Sisters’ House completed (24 St Peter’s Street) 

          Minister’s House completed (26 St Peter’s Street) 

          Congregation Hall completed 

1761 North Wing of Sister’s House completed 

1801 Brethren’s House converted to a boarding school (Moravian Ladies’ School) 

          Bakery converted to Sunday School for Boys 

1832 Organ purchased 

1847 New Sunday School building erected for girls 

1857 New Sunday School building erected for boys 

1864 Foundation stone laid for new church 

1865 New Church opened 

          Church Hall added 

1870 Organ re-opened 

1882 Enlarged Church Hall replaced vestry on the east side 

1888 Apse built at northern end providing for enlarged organ and choir stalls 

1891 New south windows added 

1914 Moravian Ladies’ School given up as official Moravian establishment. Closed in 1921 and bought by Bedford School 

1937 Church shortened at the south end to form room below the gallery 

1945 New gates and railings erected to replace those removed during Second World War 

1961 Church Hall built 

         Lamb and Flag window re-sited  

In 1895 the name St Peter’s Moravian Church was adopted in order to distinguish it from the newly founded church in Queen’s Park. In 1952 the Bedford Congregation of the Presbyterian Church of England and the Moravian Congregation began worshipping together at St Peter’s Moravian Church due to the falling numbers of both congregations. The two congregations were unified in a formal relationship in July 1960 and formed St Luke’s Church. Records of the Presbyterian Church can be found in MO/12. 

Falling numbers again made joining with another church a necessary option to ensure their survival. The Howard Congregational Church in Mill Street Bedford was founded in 1775, but with its closure in 1970 they sought to join with St Luke’s which they did, becoming a constituent member of the new United Reformed Church in 1972. The union of the two churches to form St Luke’s United Church took place in 1984 once the new structure had been agreed and St Luke’s United Church was formally constituted. Records of the Howard Congregational Church can be found in references Z521 and X420. 

The church on St Peter’s Street closed for the last time as a place of worship in October 2008 and was sold to Bedford Modern School. In the summer of 2015 the building was opened as The Quarry Theatre.