The new building at Westbury Gardens was opened in 1981 to replace the church at Furthergate, which closed under a compulsory purchase order to make way for a proposed motorway. The new church was officially opened and dedicated by the former Moderator of the North Western Province of the United Reformed Church, Revd Douglas Stewart, on Saturday 3 October 1981.
In 1847 the members of James Street Congregational Church, Blackburn, saw the need for a Sunday School in the Furthergate district. They rented a lumber room over a wheelwright’s shop for 1s 6d a week. Eventually a school was built followed by the formation of a church in 1874. The church building was opened in 1878.
The 150th anniversary of the Sunday School was celebrated at Westbury Gardens in October 1997. Many former members and friends returned to the area to attend the special service and share in lunch and a time of fellowship which included a dramatisation of the Sunday School in the 1840s and 50s written and produced by Ann Townsend, our Minister’s wife.
In August 1972 the church at Furthergate learned of the possibility of a compulsory purchase order being placed on the church because of the proposed motorway link from east Lancashire to the M6. It took nine demanding and challenging years before the church was able to move to the new site and building. During that time houses around the church were demolished and the church became an isolated island.
The church was grateful for the leadership of the minister, Revd Tom Marsh, and for the commitment of the Elders and those who faithfully worshipped at the church and supported it through those challenging years. Without them there would not have been a congregation to move to Westbury Gardens.
To have a new building in an area where there would be new housing was exciting and members at Furthergate worked hard to raise money for many additional items, including the Compton Makin organ, carpets and other furnishings, to make the buildings as attractive and as suitable for purpose as possible.
Our time in the buildings at Westbury Gardens has been challenging. When we moved in we welcomed many people from the local area, and we had large congregations. The area has changed over the years with a significantly Muslim population living in the neighbourhood; local involvement in worship has decreased. The building has suffered from many serious acts of vandalism in the past but the Minister and members of the church have worked with the local Police and various groups in the community to address this.
Valuable links have also been estabished with other churches and the mosques in the area.