Our Story

Our Story

Castle Hill counts itself amongst the earliest gatherings of English Baptists. It can trace its history back to 1649 and we know Baptists have worshipped on the site we currently occupy since 1685.

This plaque highlights the importance Baptists place on interdependence. We continue to belong to this association but it is now named The Heart of England Baptist Association.


Born in 1649 (est.), the church first met on the same site we occupy today in 1685. The site was left to the members in Thomas Hurd’s will in 1681. This site has held four church buildings over its history, with the most recent one opened in 1998. Being in a conservation zone, getting planning permission for the current build was no mean feat but following one amazing prayer meeting (as the plans faced final approval) all were giving thanks to God!

In the 1970s the members purchased the pub on the corner of Smith Street and Castle Hill (now Gateway Café) and a hall on Gerrard Street (around the corner) to further it’s work in the community. In 2020, both buildings were refurbished (making positive use of the global pandemic) and the church building reopened in 2021. Sadly, in 2022 we closed our Noah’s Ark Christian Preschool.

Today, the church continues to worship together using hybrid meetings to enable all to connect. We open our buildings to serve our local community with self-run activities as well as partnering with those who are sympathetic to our aims. We continue to discern God’s leading as we seek to be a beacon of hope in Warwick and beyond…


Castle Hill Baptist Church was founded in the 17th century when non-conformist churches were undergoing persecution in England, although Castle Hill itself escaped much persecution due to the protection offered by Lord Brooke of Warwick Castle.

Due to the threat of persecution, the church at first met in private houses. In 1655 seven churches met and founded the now called Heart of England Baptist Association. In 1685 the church began meeting on our current site. It was given a garden plot to act as a cemetery due to restrictions on non-Anglican burials in the graveyards of parish churches. For the next 15 years the church continued to meet in a house on this plot. By 1700 the first purpose-built church building was constructed on the site. Other key developments of this period in the church’s history include earliest date from which continuous church records exist (1697) and the introduction of hymn singing to the church around 1710.

The first church building only lasted some 40 years and shortly afterwards John Cohen Rylands became the minister of the church. Ryland’s son was a co-founder of the Baptist Missionary Society. During the 18th century the membership of the church fluctuated between 30 and 100. Church membership was only open to those who were baptised as adults, and this did not change until 1930.

At the end of the 18th century the church began a Sunday school. This did not stop the early years of the 19th century being hard ones. By 1820 the church was near closure and only the efforts of Lawrence Tatham, a deacon of the church, saved it. In the early 1830s the extension of the vote to a much larger section of the population by the Reform Acts caused the church to split. However by a decade later the congregation had grown so much that an extension to the church building was necessary.

Even this extension proved inadequate to the growing size of the church and in 1866 a much larger Gothic revival style church was built to replace the 1740s structure. That building was to serve the church for the next 120 years and it covered virtually the whole site, including the former graveyard. The 250th anniversary of the Midland Baptist Association in 1905 saw a refurbishment of the interior of the building and the fitting of a pipe organ.

By the mid-20th century the condition of the 1866 church building was causing serious concern. Woodworm had ravaged parts of the structure and dry rot was becoming a constant problem. The church membership had again shrunk and there was a severe danger of a re-run of the problems of 1820. The question of what to do about the old building was a seemingly insolvable problem due to the lack of monetary resources of the church.

In the end a new church building was erected, but the process of realising that project was a long one which began in 1970. In that year the pub which was then next door to the church came on the market. Through various trials, including the church secretary lending the church his pension fund, the pub and its accompanying car park were purchased. The purchase taxed the funds of the church to their utmost, limiting options until the loan was paid off. Further new premises were bought in 1976 when the church hall of the parish church of St Nicholas came on the market. The former pub saw use as general purpose church rooms, the church hall saw use for youth work and the car park was immensely helpful in the congested centre of Warwick. However the condition of the 1866 building was still deteriorating. By 1986 its condition had deteriorated so much that it was no longer safe to use for services. Sunday services were moved to the church hall that was purchased a decade earlier in Gerrard Street.

The late 1980s and early 1990s saw progress begin in earnest on the new building. In 1993 Warwick Town Council, backed by English Heritage, stated that the 1866 building must be preserved, given its historic nature. The planning application for the new building was rejected. After more struggles, including with the Royal Fine Art Commission, and much prayer, a revised planning application for the new building was approved in 1997. Funding for the estimated £650,000 building cost was raised through a combination of congregational giving, charitable grants and bank loans. In April 1998 a final service was held in the old church before demolition. The new building was completed just under a year later.

The church then saw a renaissance in its new building, holding many events including two Sunday services, a playgroup, toddlers’ group, prayer meeting and youth group.

As the 380th anniversary approached, the members decided that both the church and the church hall should undergo a full refurbishment, dealing with fundamental problems as well as improving a number of areas including the toilets, lighting, accessibility and decor. This investment of £86,000 coincided with the global pandemic and so whilst the church meetings moved online, the property team gave the church buildings a well-needed facelift.

In 2021, the church building reopened its doors and its congregation slowly started to return including a number of new faces who had joined us during lockdown. The meetings remained online and in person and many groups took over a year to reestablish. Sadly, our Noah’s Ark Christian Preschool never recovered from the pandemic and in 2022 the members took the tough decision to close its doors.

Whilst our history is important, we continue to trust God for the future—discerning how He is calling us to worship Him and serve Warwick today.

We Built Our Church – 1998-99

These three videos are a testimony to the goodness of God in bringing about the current church building on Castle Hill. They tell the story of how a church of 80 members gave what they had to invest in his Kingdom in Warwick. This project took place during the time of Rev Ian Furlong.

Part 1 (20 mins): God’s promise, the old church, memorial plaques, an amazing gift day (01/02/98), the final service, its demolition, the time capsule, the graves, the steel structure, laying of the ‘new’ foundation stone (01/08/98), some photos of those present…and the cake!
Part 2 (20 mins): Construction of the new building, Songs of Praise (’98), more human remains found and their interment, the last service at Gerrard St and procession for opening service (07/03/99), photos of those present, first visiting preacher, highlights from weekend of opening services (26-28/03/99), inc. presentations by Warwick Central Baptist Church, New England, USA.
Part 3 (15 mins): More pictures of guests & members, CTW Jerusalem Joy (musical), Meeting Point (cafe) photos, a selection of ‘firsts’ for the new church, Pam Rhodes and Songs of Praise, highlights from fundraising events.