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The Church of Saint Stephen Kempston

Saint Stephen's church in 1925 [Z50/67/134]
Saint Stephen's church in 1925 [Z50/67/134]

Until the middle of the 19th century the growing urban population of Kempston has to walk to All Saints' Church at Church End, in what is now Kempston Rural, to attend divine service, or walk to Saint Leonard's church just over the parish boundary in Bedford. The Church of England set about rectifying this situation in 1855 when the National School at Up End was adapted to serve as a chapel of ease.

Saint John's church opened in Saint John's Road in Up End in 1867 and twenty years later it was felt that a separate mission church was needed for the eastern side of the growing town. Thus in 1887 a new church, dedicated to Saint Stephen, was built in Spring Road to serve the New Town area, including Kempston Barracks. For three months prior to its consecration in May of that year services were held in the nearby Redcliffe Villa. The church was, in fact, a second-hand iron mission room purchased from the parish of West Hampstead [Middlesex], complete with fixtures and fittings for £280.

By the 1920s it was decided to replace both Saint Stephen's and Saint John's with a single, and better, building. This eventually led to the construction of the Church of the Transfiguration which opened in 1940, at which point Saint Stephen's was closed. The building was purchased by Sanders Leather works and was subsequently demolished. Baptisms were undertaken from 1887 to 1940 but never marriages and no burials were ever undertaken.

Most of the notes on the structural history of the church can be found in greater detail in Bedfordshire Historical Record Society Volume number 80 of 2001 Bedfordshire Churches in the Nineteenth Century: Part IV: Appendices and Index, put together by former County Archivist Chris Pickford from numerous sources some held by Bedfordshire & Luton Archives & Records Service and some held elsewhere or published.

Picture of the site of Saint Stephen's Church from October 2007
The modern house is the site of St.Stephen's church October 2007