A History of the County of Cambridge and the Isle of Ely: Volume 9, Chesterton, Northstowe, and Papworth Hundreds. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1989.
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Although many leading parishioners had apparently favoured puritanism in the 1640s, (fn. 1)there was little organized dissent until the 19th century. In 1662 six people were failing to go to church, including two couples who would not have their children baptized. (fn. 2)Six or more people in 1679 had been absent for half a year, (fn. 3)while four or five were absent in 1686. (fn. 4)There was only one dissenting family in 1728, (fn. 5)and, although a dissenting minister registered a house for worship in 1744, (fn. 6)only five or six families in 1783. (fn. 7)Robert Robinson, who served the Baptist meeting at Cambridge from 1759 to 1790, settled at Chesterton in 1773, buying in 1775 the later Roebuck House beside the ferry, and occupying a 170-a. farm. Although he preached locally and made a private baptismal pool in his garden, (fn. 8)dissenters were not numerous in Chesterton in 1807. (fn. 9)Houses were registered for their worship even so in 1796, 1803, 1813, and 1815. (fn. 10)The last was probably for the Primitive Methodists, who registered a meeting house in 1821. (fn. 11)Theirs was perhaps the 'regular chapel' reported in 1825, when, however, dissenting numbers had not risen over the previous decade. (fn. 12)
Dissent flourished later, both in the new suburb and in the village. In 1842 the Baptists built a substantial chapel in grey brick west of Chapel Street, with a three-bay front and side windows under round-headed arcading. It was extended eastwards in 1863 to seat 450. (fn. 13)In 1851, when it was called the Ebenezer, it had held 300; its minister then claimed an evening congregation of 250, although only 60 adults attended in the morning, besides 175 Sundayschool children. (fn. 14)From the 1850s probably until the 1920s the chapel was regularly served by resident ministers. (fn. 15)Its membership increased from 45-50 in the 1870s and 1880s to 90 c. 1900, and after a decline in the 1910s had recovered to 95 by 1925. The Baptist Sunday school had up to 200 pupils before 1900, often over 150 thereafter. (fn. 16)The old chapel was sold in 1930, the Baptists moving to a new one off Arbury Road, which seated 290, serving both village and suburb. It had resident ministers from the 1940s to the 1970s, while its membership rose from 138 in 1935 to over 200 from the 1940s to the 1960s before falling to 107 in 1981. The Arbury Road chapel was converted into a church hall when a new chapel seating 270 was opened in 1966. (fn. 17)A Particular Baptist chapel opened by a minister from Cambridge on Bermuda Row in 1867 had been abandoned by 1895. (fn. 18)
The Wesleyan Methodists were preaching at Chesterton by 1857, in the open air and in barns, attracting up to 500 hearers. (fn. 19)A chapel on the high street was opened in 1858. (fn. 20)In the 1860s its Sunday school had 80-150 pupils. (fn. 21)In 1873 the chapel provided two services each Sunday. (fn. 22)The plain grey-brick building with pointed windows, which needed repair by 1881, (fn. 23)was sold in 1904, and at once replaced by a new one built in brick in the garden of Meadowcroft, the home of a prominent adherent B. A. Jolley. After Pyes acquired that house, the chapel was closed in 1942 and eventually converted into a conference centre. The Methodists used the Working Men's Club until a temporary meeting place was put up on a site off Green End Road near the east end of the high street. About 1965 a permanent chapel was built there, in brick on an octagonal plan and roofed in copper. (fn. 24)
The Congregationalists' Sunday school off Victoria Road was said in 1884 to be 27 years old. (fn. 25)Its schoolroom was perhaps the temporary building used in 1880 by the congregation formally founded in 1875. (fn. 26)A new chapel east of St. Luke's church, of red brick dressed with stone, in a Flemish Renaissance style, seating 650, was opened in 1884, (fn. 27)when 950 people were said to attend it. (fn. 28)It still had resident ministers in the 1980s. Its membership, c. 225 in 1888, stood at c. 250 in the early 20th century, and fell to c. 200 from the 1930s to the 1960s, 150 c. 1970, and 117 in 1981. From 1972 it belonged to the United Reformed Church. (fn. 29)
The Salvation Army opened fire in various buildings on Water Street and the high street between 1898 and 1911, but had retreated by 1914. (fn. 30)
A wooden hut was opened for Roman Catholic worship on the high street c. 1938. Originally served from Cambridge, it had a resident priest by 1948. In 1958 the church was moved to a new building in Gothic style, dedicated like its predecessor to St. Lawrence, on the Milton road with an adjacent priest's house. (fn. 31)