The first Baptist church in Bury St Edmunds was Ebenezer Chapel, which opened in what is now Lower Baxter Street in July 1800. Thomas Ridley, the pastor, baptised 10 people, and they became the founding members of the church. Ebenezer grew slowly over its first two decades, and by 1823, membership had risen to 49.
In May of that year, Cornelius Elven—a 26-year-old leather cutter and tanner—was named the new minister at Ebenezer. He served in this role for 50 years, and the church experienced significant growth throughout his tenure. Membership rose to nearly 650, and more than 1,500 people were baptised.
During Rev. Elven’s ministry, Garland Street was active in taking the gospel to towns and villages throughout East Anglia. Members planted churches and established smaller preaching stations in dozens of locations.
By 1833, Ebenezer Chapel could no longer accommodate the growing congregation. The church purchased a piece of land in Garland Street for £200 and paid £1,000 for the construction of a new building. The chapel opened 11 May 1834 and originally had seating for 1,200 people.
When Charles Haddon Spurgeon became pastor of Waterbeach Baptist Church at the age of 17, Rev. Elven became a friend and mentor to the young minister. Rev. Spurgeon twice spoke at Garland Street, in 1856 and 1859. Since Rev. Elven’s death, 13 pastors have led the church.
Over the years we have seen many changes, and our journey has had many ups and downs. As we face the challenges of life in the 21st century, we're committed to helping followers of Christ grow in their faith and to taking the gospel to men, women, and young people in the town, across the country, and around the world. If we are faithful and obedient to what we believe the Lord is calling us to do, and if our hearts’ desire is to allow God to work in and through us in extraordinary ways, we’ll be blessed with an extremely exciting future!
For a copy of a book on the history of Garland Street, published by one of our previous deacons in 2020, please contact email@example.com