Monthly Archives: May 2012

Newsletter for June 2012

Church newsletter for June 2012

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Church newsletter for June 2012 for printing

The first hundred years

 This text comes from a leaflet published by the Church in 1925 celebrating the Centenary of our current Church building

Wootton Bassett Congregational Church
The Independent or Congregational Church at Wootton Bassett was built in the year 1825, and opening services were held on 26th October in that year.

There is no doubt that in the closing years of the eighteenth century the Rev Rowland Hill frequently visited the town, and, in the year 1794, he secured “a messuage or tenement” situated on the south-west side of “Wood Street Lane” in which religious services might be held.

The original Trust Deed is dated 1st June 1799, and this Deed recites that the said messuage had “lately been converted into a meeting house for the worship of Almighty God for a Society or Congregation of Protestants called Independents,” and the property was thereby conveyed by John Sutton, of Grittenham, to the Rev. John Bartholomew, of Wootton Bassett and several other Trustees.

Various ministers (including John Bartholomew) officiated at the meeting house for several years after the date of the Deed.

In 1823 Mr. Martin Slater, of Hackney Theological Seminary, was appointed to the pastorate at the request of the North Wilts Association. The opening services of the Church in 1825 coincided with the ordination of the pastor, and successful meetings were held, when ministers and others from neighbouring towns were present.

The Church was called Hephzibah (see Isaiah, ch 62, v. 4) and still bears that name.

The congregation soon became so large that there was not sufficient room in the Church to contain them. In 1827 it became necessary to provide additional accommodation and a gallery was erected, at the opening of which in May 1828, the Rev Rowland Hill preached to a crowded congregation.

For many years the Sunday School was held in the Church, but in 1861 it was resolved to erect a building for the purpose of a Sunday School on a piece of ground adjoining the church. In 1862 a schoolroom and infant classroom were opened. About 1870 two new classrooms were added to the school.

In 1882 the Church underwent a considerable renovation. Up to this time it had undergone no material change since the erection  of the gallery in 1828. It contained a high pulpit and straight backed pews, and was typical of the usual country church built in the early years of the nineteenth century. The alterations at this time were very extensive and comprised a rostrum in place of the high pulpit, with recess for a musical instrument, a new floor, new seats of pitch pine, new gas fittings, and an outside porch or lobby.

About 1908 a Manse was erected in the Cricklade Road, and forms a most useful addition to the Church property. (Note: This is now the Caretakers house of St. Bartholomews’ School)

The Church has had the help of many faithful laymen who, at different periods, have sustained the cause, but it is not practicable to refer to them personally in this pamphlet.

In 1924 a grouping system was brought into operation, mainly through the efforts of Congregational Union of England and Wales and the Wilts and East Somerset Congregational Union.

Under this arrangement the village churches of Christian Malford and Brinkworth are now linked with the Wootton Bassett Church under one settled minister.

The first minister of the triple pastorate is the Rev. A. Wilford Bonsey, M.A., (Oxon), who settled in Wootton Bassett in 1924 and now occupies the Manse.

A list of the previous ministers of the Wootton Bassett Church is appended, together with the year of commencement and termination of each pastorate.

   Name of Minister Commencement

of Pastorate

Termination of


Rev. Martin Slater 1825 1837
  ,,    Michael Thomas 1839 1857
  ,,    David Williams 1860 1868
  ,,    Thomas Storey 1869 1872
  ,,    John Pinn 1874 1878
  ,,    Benjamin Rhodes 1878 1881
  ,,    David Morgan 1881 1890
  ,,    Herbert William Harvey 1892 1899
  ,,    Frederick John Austin 1900 1904
  ,,    John Rhys Price 1904 1907
  ,,    David Besley Williams 1908 1913
  ,,    Benjamin Joseph Edwards 1913 1915
  ,,    James Henry Perry 1916 1918