1662 and all that...
The 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.
Matters 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 Churches.
Philip 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.
He 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.
Later 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 Cerne Abbas.
In 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.
Precise 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.
The 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 houses.
In the list of Ministers which follows, the dates before 1769 are approximate: