This brief history is, if you like, a work in progress. Over time we will add supplementary pages, which will open as separate pages in your browser; there is a list of these separate pages at the bottom of this page: here. We will also be adding some much needed photos. History is written over time, so bear with us!
If you wish to have a more detailed written history, covering Baptist life in Darlington from the early nineteenth century until the 1990s, we can send you a copy of “Still in the Midst”; all you need to pay is the postage and packing (£2.00 within the United Kingdom). We have a separate page about Still in the Midst – click here.
In the beginning, from early in the nineteenth century, the Grange Road Baptist Fellowship occupied a variety of meeting rooms! An initial chapel was constructed in Archer Street (1845); this now part of the local Masonic Hall. During the following 25 years, various factions were created and splits in the fellowship occurred. As a result, groups of Baptists met successively in the Livingstone Buildings (on Northgate), the Railway Institute (the corner of Whessoe Road and North Road), Leadenhall Street (Northgate again) and, finally, the newly erected chapel in Grange Road (1871). The original building comprised what is now the front (west) half of the church, the part built of stone. The rear half, in brick, was added shortly before the First World War. Thankfully, the new building in Grange Road led to a reconciliation between factions, resulting in a new unity among the Darlington Baptists which has endured to this day. Apart from inevitable gaps as ministers leave, we have maintained an unbroken line of ministers at Grange Road (click here for a list), something that we very much intend will continue, despite the current economic pressures that we share with everyone else.
During the latter part of the Victorian era, industries involving railway engineering, metal forging, steel rolling and wire manufacture and bridge building swelled the town’s population. One result was the need to ‘take the Gospel to the people’! Members from Grange Road began a ‘tin hut’ mission to railway and metal workers and their families in Corporation Road. This outreach resulted in the construction and formation of a ‘daughter’ Baptist Church (1904) on the corner of Corporation Road and Easson Road. It is at this point that we ‘lose’ the Baptist Tabernacle in Corporation Road and what follows is about Grange Road – at least until the final paragraph. The history of the Taberacle from 1904 until 2017 is on one of those yet to be written pages!
Following the General Strike (1926) and a period of Depression, fresh groups of workers invaded the town in search of work in the local linen mills and knitting woollens industry. This time, some church members moved across to the Geneva Road area of the town to, again, ‘bring the Gospel to the people’. During the mid-Thirties a generous gift allowed for another ‘daughter chapel’ to be built in Geneva Road – the Geneva Road Baptist Church. Like Grange Road, the church at Corporation Road, known officially as the Darlington Baptist Tabernacle, remains with the Baptist Union. The Geneva Road fellowship is now a Free Evangelical Church. Both Geneva Road and Corporation Road continue to serve their respective local communities well.
Despite suffering building occupation during World War Two and reduced attendances afterwards, a welcome numerical resurgence came in 1958. The many terraced houses to the east of the church provided families who were keen to swell the Junior Church and Youth Club. This mission to the people was extended further afield, on to the Skerne Park Estate, following its construction in the early Sixties. The post-war decades also saw a period of Uniformed Organisations (Scouts, Cubs, Guides, Brownies and Boys Brigade) based at the church, featuring particularly strongly during the 20 years from 1950 to 1970.
The Uniformed Organisations have now gone and the people on Skerne Park are served more directly by other churches nearer to them. Since the early ‘Nineties’, the fellowship has developed a strong Gospel and pastoral witness to the Darlington community through its distribution of emergency food and basic household supplies (bedding crockery, pots and pans and the like) to the homeless and others for whom day to day living is a struggle. The church has also become a base or venue for charitable and similar organisations, such as the 700 Club (who have now moved elsewhere), Positive Life Choices, Conductive Life Service and the Alzheimer’s Society.
It was in the present decade that conversations began to take place about a possible merger of the two churches in Corporation Road and Grange Road. In July 2017 “Darlington Baptist Church” was formed. In a sense, we have come full circle. Grange Road and the Baptist Tabernacle, in a technical sense, will become history, but their legacy will live on in our new church. It is going to be an exciting future, in God’s hands, and we have the privilege and responsibility of helping write the first pages in the new book.