Fishergate Baptist

This building was once a Baptist church, on Preston’s Fishergate. It is rather European in its style, which I would describe at Italianate or Romanesque. It would not be out of place in Florence or Milan, though I dare say it has become an established feature of the greyer, Preston townscape. Now I’m a fan of architectural flourish. A former generation which bequeaths us an interesting building offers us favour beyond compare. There will be few in the centuries to come who will look back at our own building sprees with the gratitude we ought to have for the Victorians.

Yet. Yet there is something not quite right here. Why would that mid-Victorian congregation of Baptists build their chapel in so grand a style? Why lavish money on an Italianate clocktower? Why construct three rose windows?  I know I contradict myself here. I like interesting buildings, but I despise frivolity among God’s people. For whatever reason, the Fishergate Baptists left behind that chapel in 2011. Was it too dear to heat and maintain? Were parking spaces too few? Did a lukewarm gospel attract too few hearers? The church’s last pastor was on record saying:

"It is disappointing that we really can't sustain such a really beautiful place anymore”.

Their Victorian forbears bequeathed them a beautiful millstone, a heavy weight, a financial blackhole.

And now, God has given it over, as a restaurant serving continental food. How appropriate. The revenues of commerce can sustain so florid a building; plain-preaching, gospel folk cannot. I thank God that our own building, though not unattractive, was given no ornate flourishes which we would now have to maintain. Had the Victorian Baptists of Preston designed and funded a preaching station, it might still have been in use. Instead, they opted for a basilica, a testament to wealth, which is now no church at all.