baptist chapel

baptist chapel

South Street

 

The Conventicle Act of 1664 made persons attending private assemblies for religious worship liable to severe penalties yet several sects are known to have been active in and around Yeovil, the earliest on record being the Baptists with their Yeovil church being first mentioned on 12 February 1656.

Their meetings in the town, of necessity in secret at first, were in South Street, from 1668 in a barn built by John Cary. The barn was converted to a Meeting House some time prior to 1717. Meetings continued to be held in the barn. In 1810 a chapel was built on or near the site of the barn, but because of the growing congregation, it was replaced by a larger building in 1828.

In 1827, while building work on the new Baptist Chapel was in progress, the church congregation gathered for worship in a building owned by Messrs W & E Whitby in Frost's Yard at the corner of Vicarage Street and Middle Street. Monthly church meetings took place as usual in Elias Whitby's kitchen in Middle Street.

In 1837 the minutes of the Baptist Chapel of 16 August state "An Act having been passed enabling Dissenters to celebrate marriages in their own places of worship, the chapel having been duly licensed according to law - On this day the first marriage was performed by our pastor between Thomas Lye and Rebecca Munford of Martock, in the presence of our brother, Elias Whitby Superintendent Registrar, brother Porter Registrar of Marriages and several hundred persons. It is also gratefully recorded that our brother Whitby granted the Certificate of License for the Chapel without receiving the Fee of three pounds to which he was a legally entitled." This was the first marriage to take place in a dissenting place of worship in Yeovil.

Vickery, in 1856, commented “There are catacombs under the chapel, but they are very rarely opened. There is also a small burial-ground in front of the chapel. The present pastor is the Rev R James”. Richard James came from Northamptonshire and in the 1851 census was listed as a 35-year old Baptist Minister living at 12 Peter Street with his wife Sophia, two young children and a house servant.

In 1890 Ayr House in Hendford was built as the Manse for the Minister.

The Baptist Chapel was enlarged in 1868 and a choir added in 1898. In 1912 the Newnam Memorial Hall and Schools were added (designed by Newby, Vincent & Findlay Smith of Southampton), being used as a Red Cross hospital during the 1914-18 war.


Gallery


A photograph of the Baptist Chapel before 1867 (the porch was added in 1868). Note the front elevation is completely different to the present elevation, note too the absence of the Newnam Hall, built in 1912.





The Newnam Hall and Schools and the Baptist Church before the construction of Petters Way alongside. Photographed about 1912.

 


This photograph was taken by Yeovil Photographer Jarratt Beckett and published in his 1897 book  "Somerset viewed through a Camera".

 

A postcard (I'm guessing from the 1930s) showing the interior of the Baptist chapel.

 


Courtesy of Colin Haine

Members of the Baptist church congregation enjoy a charabanc outing on Whit Monday bank holiday in 1921, as published in the Western Gazette. On the motorbike is Fred Rendell (brother of the photographer) and the minister standing at left is Mr Gummer-Butt. Other known passengers are Clifford Ford, Timmy Hicks, Ernest Harbour, Wreford Andrews, Mary Rendell, Arthur Riggs and Dorothy January.

 

This aerial photograph dates to 1935 and shows Petters Way running across the photograph from South Street, at left, to the car park at right. Buildings of note are - the Greyhound Inn at very top left, the Baptist church at top left, the Three Choughs Hotel at centre left edge with the junction of South Street with Hendford to its right. On the opposite corner the buildings running along the east side of Hendford (with their street elevations facing us) are Chudleigh's seed merchants, the small shop that had been John Chaffin's photographic studio (later the WI Market), next to the Butcher's Arms. Next is Flower's House then Ayr Villa and finally the furniture emporium known as The Rink owned by Henry White. Note that in the top right hand corner is the field that the Yeovil Law Courts and Police Station would be built on three years later, in 1938.

 

Photographed in 1971.

 


Courtesy of Colin Haine

The Baptist Chapel photographed in 1983 with Petters Way at right.

 


Courtesy of Colin Haine

An interesting shot of the rear of the Baptist Chapel photographed in 1983 from Petters Way. At extreme right the wooden shed, approached up a short flight of wooden steps, was a town centre presence office of the Council's Housing Department. At far left is seen the 'shed' in the car park behind the municipal buildings of King George Street. At the end closest to the photographer was the Children's Library and at the far end, next to Borough Arcade, was my office for several years in the 1980s. 

 


Courtesy of Colin Haine

An enlargement from the previous photo showing the 'shed' that held the Children's Library at one end and my office at the other. 

 


Photograph by Trevor Hussey, courtesy of Mrs Anne Hussey

The Newnam Hall and the entrance to the Baptist Chapel, photographed in 1990.

 


Courtesy of Vivien and John Cornelius

The side of Newnam Hall, the Baptist chapel and Petters Way, photographed in 2002.

 


Courtesy of Vivien and John Cornelius

The site at the rear of the Baptist chapel being cleared ready for residential redevelopment and the partial rebuilding of the chapel itself. Photographed from Petters Way in 2002.

 

The new sheltered housing scheme built on the site of the previous photograph, seen in 2015.

 



The Baptist Church photographed in 2013.

 

The rear of the Baptist church photographed from Petters Way in 2015.