Oil painting captured Luton town centre church before it vanished

King Street Congregational Church
King Street Congregational Church

When artist Raymond Lane Perry Phillips heard that a well-known Luton church was about to be demolished, he decided to capture the building before it disappeared.

The tall spire of King Street Congregational Church had been a local landmark for just over 100 years. But it was decided in the late 1960s to pull the church down as it was deemed structurally unsafe.

King Street Congregational Church painting

King Street Congregational Church painting

Mr Phillips donated his oil painting, which is dated 1968, to Wardown Park Museum and it is now part of the art collection there.

Little is known about the artist, other than he was born in 1915. Do Yesteryear readers remember him?

The church, on the corner of King Street and Stuart Street, was one of Luton’s most distinctive places of worship.

Built in 1866 at a cost of about £6,000, it’s impressive pointed tower and spire measured 130ft in height and a school in the basement was capable of accommodating 1,200 children.

The Luton Yearbook 1914 stated: “King Street Congregational Church is a Gothic building of beautiful proportions, and was opened in 1866. It stands on a commanding site and has a lofty spire, 130 ft high. Seating accommodation for 1,150 persons.”

The building’s demolition was not the only reason for the rapidly changing street scene in that part of the town centre in the late 1960s and early ’70s.

Work started on the new Stuart Street ring road – a huge project – in July 1967.

Turning a narrow shopping street into a dual carriageway, which became one of Luton’s busiest roads, involved razing to the ground a number of buildings.