|Waddington Street church was built as a Presbyterian church. Prominent local Presbyterians can be found in Durham as early as the 16th century. With the passing of restrictive Acts of Parliament in 1662, Presbyterians, in common with others who were “non-conformists”, met in secret by night or at early morning, or between the hours of public worship in the parish churches.
A group of the people met secretly in the house of a shoemaker in Claypath, and were prosecuted. However, greater toleration by the authorities led to a group being licensed to meet in a room at Claypath in 1672-3, and the first regular Presbyterian chapel in the city was built in 1750 (which was later converted into church halls when the Claypath Congregational Church was built in 1860).
The church at Waddington Street was built in 1872 in what was then the outskirts of Durham. There were 55 members, mostly expatriate Scots. They were described as “not a wealthy congregation but, by sincerity, devotion and determination, faced often with great difficulties, they stood together.”
The building originally seated 250 people. An organ was installed in 1895, the church hall was built in 1911 and a home for the minister (known in the Presbyterian church as a “manse”) was purchased in 1919 at 37 The Avenue, Durham.
In the 1950s the church building was totally reconstructed. In the sanctuary the ceiling was lowered, so that the gallery was no longer visible, and the Rose window was hidden from the inside. The lighting was also transformed and modernised.
In 1972 the Presbyterian Church in England and the Congregational Church in England and Wales came together to form the United Reformed Church. The name indicates the union of the churches, and the fact that both churches belonged to the Reformed “family” of churches, which trace their history back to the 16th century reformers Martin Luther, Ulrich Zwingli and (more particularly) John Calvin. Subsequent to 1972 there have been further unions with the Re-formed Association of the Churches of Christ and the Congregational Church of Scotland.
The inauguration of the United Reformed Church was hailed by all the denominations as the first step towards full union of all churches. The United Reformed Church remains committed to unity, and to working with other Christians wherever possible. Waddington Street’s relationships with other churches and congregations in Durham have always been very cordial. Today the church is an active member of Durham Churches Together and welcomes other congregations to use our premises for their own meetings.
Throughout its history the Waddington Street congregation has been well represented in the field of service to the city and the community. Several members have served as Mayor of the city of Durham, most recently in 2011-12.
Some information on this page about Waddington Street Presbyterian Church has been found in History of the Presbytery of Durham by the Revd FH Hawkins (1973)