It is now over 200 years since James A Haldane, pastor of a thriving Congregational church meeting in the Tabernacle in Leith, became convinced of believer’s baptism. As a result, in 1808, he and the majority of his congregation were baptised and the Tabernacle became recognised as a Baptist church.
Meanwhile across town on Duncan Street, then at the outskirts of the city, a new ‘dissenting chapel’ seating approximately 700 was built in 1841. The Baptist cause for which it was built failed to prosper however, and in 1847 the building was sold to the United Presbyterian Church of Newington. The Presbyterian ministry at Duncan Street thrived. Their work included providing schooling for local children (this in the days before School Boards), as well as holding at least 18 different meetings in its halls each week plus a penny bank, library and medical service amongst other ministries.
The Baptists prospered at the Tabernacle until the death of Haldane in 1851 after which there was a period of decline. Following a vacancy of about four years, the church called Rev. William Tulloch to the pastorate. During his time of ministry it became obvious that the Tabernacle church was too big, in need of major repair and renovation work, and no longer fit for purpose. Conversely, by 1863 the Presbyterian fellowship in Duncan Street had outgrown their premises and had moved to a new building on the corner of Grange Road and Causewayside. The building on Duncan Street was sold to the Trustees of the Tabernacle church in 1864 and Duncan Street Baptist Church (DSBC) has been in continuous fellowship here ever since. Interestingly, part of the purchase cost of £1300 was met through offerings from two services given in the Music Hall on George Street in which C.H. Spurgeon preached at Rev Tulloch’s invitation.
The back halls of the church were used as a school by the United Presbyterian Church and continued to be used for this purpose after the main building was sold to the Baptist church. The halls did not come into full possession of the Trustees of the Baptist church until 1894 on payment of £400.
Changes to the church building over the years have included, amongst other things, the removal of the upstairs balconies along the sides of the sanctuary (reducing the seating capacity to around 300), modernisation of the heating and lighting systems and general redecorations. Currently we are contemplating further modifications and building work in the near future to ensure that Duncan Street continues to be fit for purpose in the 21st Century.
As a fellowship we are so grateful to God for the faithful Gospel ministry that’s been undertaken since 1808; and by His strength, we trust that He will continue to do great things through His people at DSBC to His glory!