The History of our Church

 

Short History of Melksham Baptist Church

(with acknowledgement to "Broughton Road Baptist Church -

A short history" by FW Cooper of Melksham & District Historical Association)

Founded in 1669

when a number of people first met in John Webb's shearing shop

Until 1714 it would have been dangerous to keep written records

The first Minute Book starts in 1798

Many of the early members were in the cloth trade, including Samuel Cooke of Lacock, John Webb, James Hiscocks, John Browne and Thomas Chapman of Bradford

The first meeting house is referred to as having been recently erected in a licence dated 1714. This was on the same piece of ground as the present buildings

Zebulan Marshman, a native of Broughton Gifford and a maltster by trade, was one of the signatories to this licence and is believed to be the first pastor of the church. Prior to this there would have been a variety of visiting pastors

Although obviously strong to begin with, the church suffered decline (in the absence of opposition?) and when Miss Mary Ledyard came to Melksham from Trowbridge in 1766, there were only 10 members (8 women and 2 men)

Under the leadership of the Ledyard family the church began to thrive again and by 1798 there were 53 members when Mr Thomas Ward became minister

By 1771 the old meeting house was too small and in a bad state of repair

The present building is believed to have been erected around 1776; galleries were added in 1795 to accommodate the increasing number of worshippers and were further enlarged in 1839

The first wedding at the church, of John Cleaver and Esther Little, took place on 2 August 1837; Rev Joshua Russell officiating

Outstations were opened at Forest Chapel in 1840 and Beanacre about 1846

The highest recorded membership was in 1850 - 165 members with 50 teachers for 340 children in the Sunday School!

In 1863 the church joined the newly-formed Wilts & East Somerset Association

The chapel at Forest, on the site of the present petrol filling station at the junction of Snarlton Lane and Melksham-Sandridge Road, was sold in January 1906

The Sunday School building which fronts onto the main road today was built between October 1908 and January 1909

, opened for first use on February 28 1909 and was paid off by 20 June 1916. It cost just over £1822

As a result of the proximity of the RAF Camp at Melksham during World War II, 16 Jamaican servicemen were baptised in the church on 3rd June 1945

The chapel at Beanacre closed at the end of December 1966

In the early 1980's the Church received a substantial legacy from the Pocock family who had emigrated to Canada. This enabled a complete renovation of the building in which worship is held (referred to as the sanctuary or chapel). Pews were removed and replaced with chairs, the woodwork of the pulpit and gallery had varnish removed to highlight the natural wood and the whole area was redecorated and carpeted

. During this work it became clear that parts of the flooring had to be renovated and the electrical wiring replaced. Every effort was made to retain the original architecture. Many members supported the work by giving time and gifts towards this major project, the total cost of which was approximately £40,000.

On 31st December 1999, while the many across the world were marking the new Millennium with fireworks and street parties, the members held a party in the church hall followed at midnight by a New Year's Eve worship service which was broadcast on radio by BBC Wiltshire Sound.

Due to the benevolence of the owner of the Melksham Active Net website, the church published its first pages on the internet in December 2000.

In January 2002, as part of the restructuring of the Baptist Union of Great Britain, the church became associated with the new West of England Baptist Association in place of WESBA. On this date, 57 individuals were in membership and average attendance at worship was 48 (morning) and 22 (evening)

Anniversary Sunday 25th April 2004, there are 5 children who attend crèche and Junior Church.

2006

It became evident that much work was needed on our Grade 2 listed building and we immediately started fund raising towards this end With the help of some grants (including from the Listed Places of Worship Grant Scheme and the Wiltshire Historic Churches Trust) and from assets held by the church, God provided for the work to go ahead. New windows, a new floor, repair to plasterwork, necessary work on the roof including insulation and a complete re-decoration of the whole was undertaken - result: a beautiful and safe place of worship.

2009

and repairs and insulation were applied to the roofing above the Church Room and Coffee Room.

Anniversary Sunday 29th April 2012, there are 17 children attending Funshine Club (on Friday evenings at 6pm) and Junior Church on Sunday mornings. Our church website is now hosted by Church Edit, enabling us to maintain the information directly.