The History of Bury St Edmunds URC

Its Founding

Bury St. Edmunds United Reformed Church was founded by five men, three women, and six children on 16th August 1646.

This is the oldest continuing non-conformist church in Bury St. Edmunds.


The church met in a variety of places until, in 1697, land was set aside in Whiting Street.

A building was complete by 1708 and was known as the Independent Chapel.

That building was almost square with a high central pulpit to emphasise the high regard of the Ministry of the Word.

As numbers grew, the building was extended: firstly a gallery at the rear, then the sides and finally an extension behind the pulpit to include an organ loft.

Externally, the Victorian gothic facade was added in 1866. Meantime, in 1851, the Sunday School which had met for 50 years needed new premises so the school-room was built and a further extension with smaller rooms was added in 1887.

Martyrs’ Memorial

The Church rejoiced in its history and, in 1904, erected a memorial in the forecourt to Elias Thacker and John Copping. They were two early martyrs who died for their beliefs in independence.

While the Church cherishes its past, it is not afraid of change. Early intolerance and fierce religious independence have matured into ecumenical co-operation.

Recent History

Up to 1972 Whiting Street Church belonged to the Congregational Denomination.

With the ecumenical movement gathering momentum, the Congregationalists combined with the the Presbyterians to form a new denomination, the United Reformed Church.

Since then the Churches of Christ and Congregational Church in Scotland have become part of the URC family.


A leaflet with more information about the Church’s history can be found inside the Church along with a time line next to the inside wall nearest the car park.