Baptist Church House in London to be converted to a hotel
The former offices of the Baptist Union of Great Britain is to be redeveloped into a hotel.
Baptist Church House in Southampton Row in Holborn will be converted and extended into a 67 room 'lifestyle hotel', according to agents Christie and Co, having recently been bought by a private buyer. It was listed for sale at £19m.
A striking building, it was built between 1901 and 1903 to house the offices of the Baptist Union.
It included the Union's Council Chamber, which in 1939 became known as the Shakespeare Room, after the general secretary at the time it was built. There was a library, too, while The Baptist Times was also based there.
The Union left in 1989, moving to Didcot and joint offices with BMS World Mission for the first time. The decision to co-locate the Union and BMS had actually been taken in the early 1960s, but it would take nearly three decades to see it realised. The then general secretary Bernard Green described a 'tortuous process' and 'long, drawn-out negotiations'.
Since the Union's departure Baptist Church House has been largely unused. It was originally sold to London Underground in order to make a new entrance to Holborn Tube Station for Crossrail, the scheme to build two new railway lines across London. Crossrail in that incarnation did not come about, though it has subsequently received Parliamentary backing.
The building was briefly used as a hostel for the homeless, but has remained unoccupied for many years, said Christie and Co agent Jonathan Parrish.
Though damaged in the Second World War, it was Grade II listed. It was placed on English Heritage's Buildings at Risk register by 2008, when planning permission was granted to convert it into a hotel.
It was designed by Arthur Keen and described by English Heritage as 'Wrenaissance in style'.
Mr Parrish said, 'Baptist Church House is an unusual building with some spectacular architectural features which will lend itself well to its new role as a lifestyle hotel, offering extensive dining and bar facilities.'
The historian's view
In 1903 the Baptist Union re-located to Baptist Church House in Southampton Row, in the Holborn area of London.
Previously the Union had rented three rather dingy rooms in premises in Furnival Street, near Holborn Circus.
J.H. Shakespeare, the enterprising general secretary of the Union, raised the large sum of £34,000 (in the event it was £50,000) for Church House.
Many Baptists took considerable pride in the centre, with its panelled oak Council Chamber and other fine features. A bronze statue of C.H. Spurgeon was sculpted and placed in the reception area.
Southampton Row was in continuous use by Baptists and others for most of the 20th century.
The ecumenical body, the British Council of Churches, was inaugurated at Baptist Church House in 1942.
Ian Randall is the author of The English Baptists of the 20th Century.