Category Archives: History

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

Sunday School Memoirs from 68 years ago.

My parents Dorothy (nee Chequer) & Harry Townsend were married on the 13th April 1925 in this church which was then known as The Congregational Church, (The Congs). My sister Betty and I were both baptised here in 1926 and 1928 respectively, and both attended Sunday School.
I commenced Sunday School at the young age of three years, and in those days we had Sunday School Anniversaries which were always held on Whit Sundays. At the afternoon service most of the scholars took part either by reciting or singing and the teachers and children rendered musical items from special Anniversary leaflets. The varied programme was quite a long one, there being between thirty and forty children attending the Sunday School.
Miss Hilda Chequer who was my mother’s cousin and who I always addressed as Aunty Hilda was then Church organist, And together with Mr Theophilus Angelinetta (who was the father of Mrs Violet Lewis who in her nineties still attends Church services) and Superintendent and other teachers trained us for many weeks before the big day.
I remember Miss Chequer (Aunty Hilda) teaching me a little four lined hymn “Saviour stay beside me” when I was three in 1931 and when it was my turn to take part on the programme, she stood me on the organ stool so that I should be seen.
These Anniversary services were extremely well attended and extra seating accommodation had to be put down the aisles for these occasions.
Mr Bert Rouse followed Mr Theophilus Angelinetta as Sunday School Superintendent, and afterwards Mr Leslie Angelinetta, and during that time, John Russ, Betty, Bob and I, Ann Lynch (nee Norris) and her sister Joy were teachers and several senior scholars assisted in the Sunday School. We spent many happy years working together with the children.
Sunday School outings to the seaside took place in early August and a “Party & Prize Giving” for regular attendance was held in January.

June Adams, November 1999

The “Old Lady” of Wood Street

This history was written by a member, Tom Lloyd, when we launched the Building Repair Fund. It was printed in our magazine in June 1991.
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How we started – from the first Church Minute Book

“A brief statement of the origin of the Independent Chapel, And Church of Christ Assembling in Hephzibah Chapel Wootton Bassett Wiltshire. Continue reading