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Reform Magazine | October 22, 2019

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The Regent Square story

The Regent Square story

As Lumen United Reformed Church features in a new book celebrating modern church architecture, we delve into its dramatic history

Though the United Reformed Church known as Regent Square at Lumen is in the heart of London, near King’s Cross, its origins lie in a language spoken in the highlands of Scotland – Gaelic. It has retained some of this history, with the help of the Gaelic Society of London and the London Gaelic Choir, holding services partly in Gaelic, including a service of readings and carols for Christmas in Gaelic last year.

Scottish Highlanders living in London decided in 1808 to set up a Presbyterian church which offered preaching in Gaelic as well as English. The congregation began meeting in rented accommodation in Westminster, three miles from the later Regent Square site, the following year, led by the Revd Duncan Robertson. He took the church to larger premises, the New Jerusalem Chapel in Hatton Garden, a mile from Regent Square, in 1813. There followed, however, a mysterious rupture between him and the members, leading to ‘an almost total dispersal of the congregation’. This so overshadowed his ministry that the official 338-page history of the church, published in 1898, omitted even to name him.

From 1822, Edward Irving was Minister of the Gaelic church, a preacher so popular that services had to be ticketed, with people standing in the aisles and even on the pulpit steps. Hearers included the Prime Minister, Lord Liverpool, and the future Prime Minister William Gladstone. A newer, larger church, the Scotch National Church, had to be built at what was then the very edge of London, at Regent Square, costing £21,000 – the equivalent of something like £2.5m today. The gothic, twin-towered cathedral of a building opened on 11 May 1827. Irving presented the church with two silver collection plates, inscribed with the instruction that whenever necessary they should be melted down and given to the poor…

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This is an extract from an article that was published in the October 2019 edition of Reform

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