A Brief History
Rev. Donald Elliott
UNDERNEATH THE ARCHES
In 1869, William Ewart, an elder from Regent Square Presbyterian Church, London , started a service of Christian worship under a railway arch on St Pancras Road , with seating for 1,000. It was set up mainly for the ‘navvies’ building the railway out of St Pancras Station. Financial help came from Regent Square Church and others. For example, the churches formed a choir which sang outside on winter evenings round a fire in St Pancras Road .At that time, the building of railways was having a profound effect on the area. According to FML Thompson:
The [Buck-Hawley] estate was much troubled by railway interference, first by the East & West India Docks & Birmingham Junction Railway in 1846, and then by the Hampstead Junction Railway in 1853. It is true that the building of these lines introduced the district to the assorted activities and squalor of life in the railway arches, and to the disturbing experience of trains rattling past a few feet from bedroom windows, the coal and cattle trains being particularly clanky and nocturnal in their habits. Nevertheless the railway inquiries established that the area did not suffer from the extremes of railway blight, simply because it had never started from any very elevated position. The architect William Tite gave the most emphatic evidence on this point, all his answers being calculated to convey with as much precision as politeness allowed the exact grade of social inferiority attained by the district. 'The houses on Buck's estate', he stated, 'are not small residences and semi-detached, they are streets of ordinary houses, and there are some villas but I think you could scarcely call them villas.' His view was that 'the line will do no more damage, to Buck's class of property, than the actual injury to houses taken, and overlooked by the line. It will not blight the whole estate,' The full meaning of the qualification, that little damage was to be expected on such a class of property, was brought out when he was asked about the effect on property amenities and values of the noise of cattle trains in the middle of the night, and disclosed that 'I should not like it myself, but there is a great difference between abuse in Lowndes Square, and this class of house.
(from ‘HAMPSTEAD: THE BUILDING OF A BOROUGH 1650-1904’ by FML Thompson (Routledge & Kegan Hall, 1974, quoted with permission of the publishers)
William Ewart sought the use of the school room at the Ebenezer Chapel, which had been built in 1835 on the corner of Kentish Town Road and Buck Street. He found out that the minister and founder, Thomas Gittens - formerly an upholsterer on Camden High Street - was retiring and that the Chapel was to be sold