St Luke's - A Concise History

The original Moravian chapel was built and consecrated in 1751 on the present-day site of St. Luke’s Church on St. Peter’s Street, Bedford. The Single Brethren’s House was opened in 1752 and the Single Sisters’ and Minister’s Houses built in 1757. The former Brethren’s House, now the Howard Building housing the Art Department and Paulo Pontine Day House, was sold to Bedford School in 1921. The Sisters’ House is currently leased to a housing association and The Minister’s House is an integral part of The Quarry Theatre at St. Luke’s, housing the drama studio, box office and offices.

The former chapel, designed by James Horsford, was built and consecrated in 1865 and is now the main auditorium. The apse was added in 1888 to accommodate the choir stalls and the newly restored organ, originally purchased from St. Paul’s Church, Bedford, in 1832. From 1895 the chapel became known as St. Peter’s Moravian Church.

In 1952 the local Presbyterian Church came to share the premises with the Moravians. In 1960 the two congregations came together and took the name St. Luke’s Church. In 1971, after the closure of the Howard Congregational Church, many of their members joined St. Luke’s. In 1972 the English Presbyterian and many Congregational Churches merged to form the United Reformed Church of which St. Luke’s became a member. With the formal union with Howard Congregational Church in 1984, a new constitution was drawn up and the name St. Luke’s United Church was adopted.

With changes in the community, dwindling numbers and the cost of upkeep, St. Luke’s Church finally closed in 2008 and was purchased by Bedford School.

Following a feasibility study and approval of planning permission in 2012, the school governors authorised that St. Luke’s Church should be developed as a new theatre to be used by the school and local community. In 2013 work commenced under the guidance of Foster Wilson Architects, and the Quarry Theatre at St. Luke’s was officially opened on 26th June 2015.

It is so named to recognise in particular Old Bedfordian Gareth Quarry and his wife, Jill, and the support they provided to the project. St. Luke’s holds a special place in the hearts of the Quarry family, whose links go back to 1945 when Gareth’s father, took up the post of organist at the church. Gareth’s parents, Brian and Connie, were also married in the church, and Gareth and his brother, Adrian, also an Old Bedfordian, were christened and attended Sunday School here until 1965. Keeping a family tradition alive, Adrian played the organ at the church and, poignantly, was the organist at the final service held in St. Luke’s on Sunday 5th October 2008.