Bedford Moravian Congregation
St Peter’s Street, Bedford
Later called St Luke’s Church and then St Luke’s United Reformed 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.