of the Village Congregational Chapel from 1662 onwards
and all that...
end of the civil war in England saw the Puritan cause in power,
and culminated in the execution of Charles I in 1649. From 1649
to 1660 England was without a king, and during this period, known
as the Commonwealth, many puritan clergy were instituted as vicars
to various parishes. As puritans they had not been ordained by
a bishop so that when the monarchy was again restored in 1660
under Charles II, and when the church again required episcopal
ordination, the non-ordained clergy presented a problem.
were brought to a head in 1662 upon the introduction of a new
prayer book containing a clause requiring such ordination, and
to which all the clergy were required to consent in writing, with
the alternative of resignation. As the ordination issue was a
matter of principle to the puritans, most of them, estimated variously
between 800 and 2,000, chose resignation. Many of them continued
to hold services in private, a practice which was then illegal,
and these private meetings in 1662 mark the beginning of Congregational
Lamb, vicar of Bere Regis, was one of the puritan clergy to resign,
and he can therefore be considered as the founder of the Congregational
Church in this parish. There were 73 clergy known to have been
ejected from the Church of England in Dorset, the date of the
" Great Ejectment " was 24th August 1662, although Lamb
had resigned before being ejected.
was a zealous minister preaching at Winterborne Kingston, his
second church, as well as at Bere Regis From the age of 21 he
laboured at Bere and Kingston, until his ejection, holding a service
every day in the week at Bere at 6.00am. In his farewell sermon
he said, "l may not speak from God to you, yet I shall not
cease to speak to God for you."
Lamb secured a large place in the affections of the people, and
there was great grief when he was silenced. For some time he continued
to preach privately, and undoubtedly it was under his guidance
that the Congregational Church was formed.
he was forced to move to Morden, where doubtless he found refuge
with a stout friend of non-conformity, Sir Walter Erle, who lived
at Charborough Park. Later still he moved to Alton Pancras near
1672 he was granted a licence to be ‘a Congregational Teacher'
in East Morden. Later still a convenient meeting house in Winterborne
Kingston, probably the residence of Richard Woolfreys, was provided
for him, where the people flocked from all parts to hear him.
Persecution drove him to flee to Clapham, London, where he died
in 1689 at the age of 66. He was offered £600 a year, a
princely salary in those days, if he would conform, but he was
not tempted. He was a man of unaffected piety, cheerful temper
and engaging personality.
information is not available of the trials and persecutions of
the Bere Regis dissenters, as records, if kept, have since been
lost. It appears that six ministers preached here in rotation
once a fortnight until a Mr.Bulstrode settled here in 1670.
various laws against non-conformity, although intended primarily
to restrict the Roman Catholic cause, fell equally on other sects,
and a great deal of secrecy was therefore involved in these early
meetings. Matters were eased in 1672 when it became possible to
take out licences for holding non-conformist meetings in private
the list of Ministers which follows, the dates before 1769 are
Philip Lamb, formerly vicar of Bere Regis
Six different Ministers preached rotation
Mr.Bulstrode & Mr.Webber
John Waldron,returned living at Ringwood.
Ambrose Garrett, during this time a dispute arose and a section
of the congregation seceded and built a church of their own.
Laxton was the first minister
Gay, when Ambrose Garrett resigned (in 1820 the two sections re-united.)
Thomas Burgess Barker
George Compton Smith
John Rose Fuller Ross
John Rose Fuller Ross, for a further term.
Alfred Goodall (Photo)
Edwin Mansfield Potter
Joseph Blackburn (Photo)
Lawrence Crockall (Photo)
the early days after 1662 the private houses of members were used
for meetings and no records seem to exist concerning them, but
on l0th July 1711 a house called 'Lockyers' was licensed, and
the house of Mary Batrix (or Battricks), widow, was licensed on
10th January 1721. This latter house may have been the meeting
house in Blind Street, which continued in use as such until 1820
when it reverted to a normal dwelling. This meeting house appears
to have been used as early as 1743 and probably earlier. In 1813
a dispute of some sort arose and a section of the congregation
separated and is said to have built it’s own chapel which
was opened on the 9th July 1813. Seven years later on the 17th
July 1820 the two sections were re-united and the Blind Street
meeting house is said to have been given up.
is now the Drax Hall had been the Congregational Chapel prior
to 1783, and existed at least before 1777. On Isaac Taylor's map
of the village of that date the building similar in size and shape
to the present Drax Hall, is described as a 'Dissenting Meeting
House', and the tenant given as V.Rawles. It is therefore difficult
to relate the reputed building of a new chapel in addition to
the Blind Street meeting house in 1813 with the fact that the
Drax Hall chapel was already in existence. This chapel is said
to have been rebuilt in 1829 during the ministry of Thomas Burgess
Barker, and the present east facade probably dates from that time.
North Street chapel was held on a life tenure basis and as some
difficulty in renewing the lease was anticipated, consideration
was given in 1869 to the possibility of building a new chapel.
It was not then possible to buy a site in the village, but in
1871 the only available freehold site in the village, in Butt
Lane, was purchased from a Wareham tradesman by Mr. George James
Wood of Athelhampton, and given to the church. On this site a
schoolroom was then built costing £400, and in 1877 the
manse was erected. It too cost £400, but this sum was provided
by J.H.Mundell (proprietor of what became Bemister's shop) who
lived near Bournemouth, but who spent most Sundays in Bere Regis
as superintendent of the Sunday school.
this time the North Street chapel continued in use, but in 1872
the lease had expired on the death of the last life tenant, and
after long negotiations the lease was renewed at £5 per
annum, which at the time was considered excessive. In addition
£35 had been spent in putting the building into a good state
of repair. Some time later however many members still felt uneasy
about the terms of the lease and arrangements were made to convert
the Butt Lane schoolroom into a chapel.
work was carried out by Mr. Elcock, a builder from Wimborne, at
a cost of £255 and the new chapel was formally opened on
9th February 1893. The North Street chapel was then vacated and
converted into the village hall. The vestry and associated rooms
at the north end of the Butt Lane chapel were added in 1939. In
about 1770 it was said that –“The number of hearers
in the forenoon does not exceed 50 on average, and in the afternoon
from 120-140, though some suppose that they must be nearer 200”.
You can see the layout of it below.
Barbara Skinner of London, who died in December 1769, left £500
in her will, to be invested for the benefit of the minister's
stipend, and £200 to be distributed among the 'dissenting
poor' of the parish. The communion cup has the inscription: “The
gift of John King to the Communicant Dissenters of Bere Regis
acknowledgements and grateful thanks are due to Mr. Fred Pitfield
who supplied the information contained in this historical account.
is almost 350 years since the “Great Ejection of 1662 and
there are five churches in the Evangelical Fellowship of Congregational
Churches that date from that time. They are Alton, Hampshire;
St.Ives, Cornwall; Pontefract, Yorkshire; Wiveliscombe, Somerset;
and of course, our own Bere Regis.
Jesus the First and the Last
Whose spirit shall guide us safe home;
We’ll praise Him for all that is past,
And trust Him for all that’s to come.
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