During the 1840s, some of the members of the Congregational Church (meeting in what is now the Oaks Christian Fellowship at the bottom of Church Street) came to the view that baptism was meant to be reserved for those who had made a conscious and deliberate decision to follow Jesus Christ. They made contact with a Baptist church at Townhead Street in Sheffield and were baptised there. For a time they continued happily as members of the Congregational fellowship. Eventually, however, the theological differences put a strain on personal relations and in 1846 about fifteen of them left to form their own Baptist group as a daughter church of Townhead Street.
Initially they met for worship in hired rooms until they were able to build their own chapel in what is now known as Dronfield Bottom. Within a few years, however, the land was purchased for the new railway line and the community had to revert to rented rooms. The site of the present chapel was obtained in 1870 and the chapel opened in 1872. The first act of believers baptism took place in November of the same year. In 1892, two students from Cliff College led a mission which led to considerable growth. One of the students, Rev C J Rendell, stayed on as the first minster of the growing community.
The Baptist chapel played a significant role in the life of the town throughout the first half of the twentieth century. For many young people, it was the spiritual and social “hub” of their lives. At times, some 300 children attended the Sunday School; the building behind the chapel had to be extended and a balcony had to be installed. Financially, life was always a struggle and there were periods when the members could not afford to pay for a minister and had to depend on lay preachers and lay leadership. However, there was always a core of faithful and committed Christians who carried on the worship and work of the church.
As the new housing estates transformed the town in the 1970s, so the church grew not only in numbers but also in its activities. It maintained a full range of uniformed organisations for young people and played an active part in the development of friendly relationships between the churches in the town.
When the chapel was built, it must have been somewhat on the edge of the village centre. We now find ourselves very much at the heart of the town; we are glad, for example, to be able to host Thursday morning coffee mornings for shoppers and to host events for the town’s Christian community. Whilst we still have a Dronfield focus and most of us live in the town, we are finding that an increasing proportion of our congregation live beyond its confines in surrounding communities.