The Baptist Church
Many thanks to Freda Gadsby for agreeing to the use of material from her late husband Ron’s book on the history of Stoke Baptist Church (much more inside it if you can get hold of a copy!)
In 1869, North Curry Baptist Church bought the chapel belonging to the Stoke St Gregory Bible Christians (now the Chapel House, Griggs Hill) for £52.10s. It was renovated and a schoolroom was added at a cost of £216.5s. Twenty five years later, the Stoke Baptists decided they wanted to break away from the North Curry Church. This was finalised in November 1894, when 46 members transferred to the new Stoke Baptist Church.
We don’t know whether the idea was already in place before the break with North Curry, but within two months it was decided to build a new chapel. We do know that efforts had been made to extend the existing building, but this had not been possible because the church did not own the adjacent land.
The following resolution was adopted in May of 1895: “Proposed by Bro’ Bobbett [George Bobbett, farmer and withy grower of Woodhill Farm], and seconded by Bro’ Garland [Charles Garland, withy grower and merchant of Curload Farm] and carried unanimously that the church purchase the cottage, smithy, and other buildings belonging to the son of Mr Jas Barrington, for the sum of of £190”. This included the land opposite the church grounds, where the smithy and wheelwrights remained, and is now ‘Normans’ and associated accommodation.
Money came in so quickly that trustees were appointed to handle the purchase of the property by June of the same year. Estimates ranged from £916 to £1195, but the lowest was accepted, from Mr Pople of Burnham-on-Sea. They didn’t hang about. The Memorial Stone Laying Ceremony took place on Thursday 26th September. On a fine Autumn day, The Reverend Richard Richard of Bristol based his sermon on the text “This is none other than the House of God, and this is the gate of heaven.” (Genesis 28 v17).
The public lunch which followed was held in Arthur Squire’s granary (behind Ash Grove, Meare Green). After the stone laying ceremony at 3 pm, folks gathered back at the granary for afternoon tea. There were so many there that two sittings were necessary. Then back to the site of the new chapel for an evening meeting, where the company was addressed by the pastors of churches from the surrounding area.
The proposal to buy the site was only one year old when the new church was officially opened on Tuesday 5th May 1896 (picture above). The local press reported: “Glorious weather favoured the opening services and a large number of friends from far and near gathered at the Chapel to rejoice with the Stoke Non-conformists on the marvellous success which had attended their undertaking. A break party was present from Taunton and all the villages in the immediate vicinity were well represented.” Below are details of the opening meetings and a list of the subscribers. Quite some achievement for a village the size of Stoke St Gregory?