Blisworth Baptists

Steven Dyster  Jan 2007

For a very brief overview please try this 


In the new year of 1826, had he wished, the Right Reverend Lord Bishop of Peterborough could have read a list of buildings certificated for use as places of worship for protestant non-conformists. Each year the Clerk of the Peace, administrator for the Justices of the Peace who met four times a year to run Northamptonshire’s affairs, supplied the Church of England authorities with information on the “opposition”. In the list he could have read of;

Blisworth: A building erected upon a plot of ground commonly
called Little Ease
(see below) and adjoining a Lane called Mill Lane.
(NRO QS 292/7)

The group who had applied for the license for the new Meeting House, now the Baptist Church, certainly included eminently respectable men – and, probably women. They had come a long way and in the years that followed were to go much further.  Yet building a chapel was neither the beginning nor the end of the story.

Events in Blisworth were not unique: Northamptonshire must have been, in the view of the Lord Bishop of Peterborough, something of a worry. The county was a major centre of the Baptist movement in particular, and of non-conformity in general. Though the men who had applied for the license were thoroughly respectable, they must have appeared to the authorities as being amongst a growing number of people who were unwilling to accept the established Church. In Blisworth the Baptist congregation had been growing rapidly. This mattered because Church and State were seen as mutually supportive bastions against the sort of revolutionary activity that had torn Europe and was perceived as a threat to the ruling classes in Britain.

There were many other non-conformist Meeting Houses licensed during this period, indeed between 1784 and 1789 there were four licenses granted for different buildings in Blisworth alone. A further five buildings in the village were licensed between 1825 and 1851. (NRO QS 292/1-9) Nor were these the first. The notion of a Meeting House is important in understanding the early history of Baptists. To focus purely on a building when writing the history of a group of people is always too narrow. The Anglican Church of St. John the Baptist had stood on its mound, dominating the village in tandem with the manor for many years. The Church of England and those who adhered to it had official status and an appropriately grand building to reflect that. Non-conformists did not have this official sanction of  their existence: hence the notion of a Meeting rather than a Church. The Baptist meetings in dwelling houses were originally just that. Purpose built Meeting Houses were the exception rather than the rule in the early years of non-conformity.

Non-conformists, numerous in some parishes, few in number in others, sought out people of similar mind and invited preachers “mighty in the scriptures” and gifted in preaching to visit. It has been estimated that Baptists in Weston by Weedon, to the south-west of Blisworth, met, as a matter of course, up to twelve miles distant from the village. (VCH Northants. Vol II 1906) Between 1737 and 1825, the nearest purpose built Baptist Meeting House to Blisworth was at Roade although there were dwelling-houses and a barn licensed as Meeting Houses in the village itself. The use of a stream at Hyde Farm for baptism and the presence of Blisworth folk amongst the membership of the Roade Church, make it clear that that the focus of Blisworth Baptists in the late eighteenth century was Roade, though the powerful influence of John Ryland and his son at College Street at Northampton must have been felt. There are no child dedications from 1780  to 1825 in the records of Towcester Baptist Church for children from Blisworth. However, children from Tiffield, Stoke Bruerne and Greens Norton seem to have been dedicated there. (NRO Non-Conformist Registers)  From the 18th century Northampton was notable in having an educational academy for future non-conformist ministers, though unlikely to include Baptists.  This academy was set up on Castle Hill, only 300 yards from College Street, by Philip Doddridge who was a key to the development of Northampton also in other ways.

By the end of the eighteenth century, it seems that the growth in the number of Baptists was being matched by an increasing degree of geographical stability. This is logical. The Church of England was always there: to have a Non-Conformist Meeting, people with commitment were needed – money helped, too. Until there were enough people to support an independent Meeting the reliance of Blisworth Baptists on Roade would continue. The idea of a Meeting is also important because Non-Conformists not only held Sunday Service, but added Prayer Meetings, Bible Study, Sunday School, Lectures and Sermons from visiting preachers. Some meetings took place on Sunday, but other times would have been used, too. The number of licensed buildings in Blisworth may reflect both growing numbers and diversity of use.

It could also reflect splits amongst the Baptists (though there is little evidence of this in Blisworth), who, along with other Non-Conformists, were notorious for arguing about aspects of doctrine and practice. Before the late eighteenth century lack of official status, mobility and, especially in the late seventeenth century, difficulties in differentiating between Non-Conformists, add to the problems of shortage of records when trying to recover the early history of Dissenters. However, the Blisworth Baptists of 1784, Robert Campion, Thomas Clark, Richard Dent, William Faulkner, John Goodridge, Joseph Wills and Thomas Wills, who risked official disapproval by licensing their houses and barns, were not the first villagers to do so.

The Seditious Baker of Blisworth

Upon Information to this House “That there are great multitudes of Anabaptists and Quakers that assemble themselves together in great Numbers (sic) to the endangering of the peace of the County of Northamptonshire; and that scatter abroad seditious papers against the Ministry.” (House of Lords Journal A1660 12 Car. II)

The religious toleration promised by Charles II on his restoration in 1660 was not shared by either the Lords or Commons of the Cavalier Parliament, which set about taking revenge on the religious and political radicals they blamed for the outbreak of the Civil War and the overthrow of proper government and the ordained social order.

 “Anabaptists” was a term of abuse. Literally meaning “Re-Baptizer”, it was associated with supposed atrocities committed by Thomas Munzer and his followers in Germany in the 1530s. In England laws had been passed against it in 1525 and 1534. However in the heat of religious debate of the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries Baptist Meetings were founded in England. By 1633 they had even managed to split into General and Particular Baptists. They were not the only people with ideas that challenged the established Church of England. Indeed the Church of England was full of dissenting opinion. The outbreak of the Civil War and the execution of Charles I set loose a host of radical political and religious ideas – usually closely entwined. Independents, Baptists, Quakers, Shakers, Ranters, Fifth Monarchists argued and raged, waxed and waned. The Bible was their guide and in it they sought authority for Church organisation, doctrine and practice. Apparently arrogant because of a perceived certainty that they were right, these groups were in fact open to correction based upon scripture. There was a sect called the Seekers, which seems a good description for them all: they sought truth, as they found it in scripture. The reason for making much of this is that in the late seventeenth century the person willing to challenge established orthodoxy was liable to be,

… a loyal adherent of his parish church in 1644 and then by turns a Presbyterian, an Independent, a Baptist, a Seeker and, before the restoration of Charles II in 1660, a Quaker. (BR White, The English Baptists of the Seventeenth Century, 1996, Pg 26.)

John Staughton was christened in Blisworth parish church on November 20th, 1636. His father, also John, and mother, Mary, soon produced a second child, William, christened on October 21st, 1638. William’s daughter, Patience, was christened in 1663. John Staughton died in 1716, following his wife, Elizabeth who had died in 1711. There was also another John Staughton who died in 1699; he may have been a son of John son of John! (NRO Blisworth Parish Records: Extract of Christenings, Marriages and Burials)

Until the mid-seventeenth century there were few Separatists who had split away from the Church of England. Many divergent views existed within the established Church. However, there was little chance that the radical forces could be contained after the Civil War. Indeed the Parliament of 1660 was determined to destroy radical religious ideas that they saw as a threat to the stability of society. There is some debate about the extent to which Baptists were involved in radical politics. Most would probably have been happy with a more tolerant state, however some had been active republicans. It is easy to understand how the authorities perceived the Baptist movement as a whole as a direct threat.

Thus the House of Lords voiced its concerns about Anabaptists in Northamptonshire. Supported by the Commons, they ordered,

That it is recommended to the Justices of the next Assize of that county, to give special Charges and Directions to the Justices of the Peace, and other officers, to take care to suppress and prevent such Meetings; and that the Sheriff of the County do take special care to prevent riotous Meetings and preserve the peace of the County. (House of Lords Journal A 1660 12 Car. II)

Unsurprisingly the Baptists responded. Morley and Francis of Ravensthorpe, leading Baptists in Northamptonshire were amongst other Baptist “messengers” who met in London in 1660 to produce a defence of Baptism. Amongst their “able assistants” appears one John Stauton (sic) of Blissworth (sic). (Antiquarian Memoranda and Biographies, ed. J Taylor, 1901)

Staughton fell foul of the law in the era of persecution ushered in by the Act of Uniformity. This law required all parish priests to accept all aspects of Church of England doctrine and rites. Priests who refused were expelled. In Northamptonshire some 46 refused to conform. (RL Greenall, A History of Northamptonshire, 2000, Pg 86). Thus Dissent or Non-Conformity was defined as dissent from the Church of England and non-conformity with its practices. This was a period of real persecution. John Staughton, along with John Grundon of Cocket (possibly Caldecote), lost possessions and cattle and was imprisoned in 1685 or 1686. He had, already, been excommunicated for forty days and publicly denounced in 1682, along with men from other villages (NRO Proceedings of the Consistory Court of the Diocese of Peterborough). That was the price of Non-Conformity. He was released shortly after the Act of Toleration was passed in 1689. (Antiquarian Memoranda and Biographies, ed. J Taylor, 1901) This did not remove all penalties against Non-Conformists, but ushered in a period or relative official toleration matched by continued exclusion from many aspects of life.

It is quite possible that a John Staulton of Blisworth, who married Ellenor Manning in 1696 and died in 1699 was a son of John Staughton, born in 1636, who licensed his house in 1701 as a place of worship. It is equally possible that he was the preacher who was imprisoned. Perhaps more evidence will clarify this issue. This does not affect the reality of the burdens under which Non-Conformists suffered. What is notable is that there was clearly a growing Baptists presence. Elizabeth Staughton (died 1728), a daughter of John Staughton, which one is unclear, married William Stanger, who was “much esteemed as a Baptist minister”. (R H Stanger: A Stanger Family Memoir, Otford, 1986). Their children were all christened in Blisworth and two were buried there. The second notable point can be drawn from the records of the Archdeaconry Court for Northampton. This court dealt with probate of wills and administration where no written will existed. In four grants between 1692 and 1699, the two John Staughtons (sometimes possibly mis-transcribed as Stanton or just written incorrectly by the clerk) were either giving surety for the executor, taking inventories or acting as executors. On two occasions these were on the death of family members, but it seems that they were trusted individuals amongst other local Baptists. Other names in these grants, such as Plowman, are often found in later records relating to Baptists in Blisworth, indicating a social and religious network developing both in the village and in the surrounding area. A further indication of the connections formed by Blisworth Baptists is the part played by William Staughton, son of John (1636-1716), and his wife, Anne, in the founding of the Baptist Church in Long Buckby. William and his brother Thomas worked as woolcombers in Long Buckby.

Interestingly, amongst the Archdeaconry Court records mentioned above the name Thomas Dingley, at one time a Churchwarden of Blisworth Church, appears alongside those of identifiable Baptists. Perhaps this indicates that divisions were not so deep as may be assumed. However, it may be that Thomas Dingley had some special interest in this particular estate.

The key point for the development of Baptism in Blisworth that can be drawn from the genealogy of the Staughton family, however it fits together, is that Staughtons and Stangers provided Blisworth with notable Baptist preachers into the first half of the eighteenth century.   There is a partial family tree for the Staughtons researched with the help of S. Edwards with footnotes which illustrate that, down the generations, there were many non-conformists in both England, the Stanger family, and the USA, the Staughton family, springing from John Staughton.   The hazy memory of the gospel being preached recorded by John Goodridge in the eighteen-twenties had become so in rather less than fifty years.

During twentieth century redecoration at Elm Tree Cottage, Blisworth, some writing was revealed over one of the fireplaces. The house was built some time in the 1630s and the writing matched that date, or one slightly later. It read,

“teach me to doe thy will for thou art my god; let thy good spirit leade mee into the land of the righteousness.” (sic)

This is verse ten of Psalm 143, though not exactly the same as in the King James Bible. Whilst it has no special significance for Baptists today and might be used by any Christian facing oppression or at a fork in their spiritual road, it certainly rings true of the hardship faced by people such as Staughton. From the rent rolls of the Grafton Estate we know that the Staughton or, in this case, “Stalton” family were tenant farmers. Land holding does not rule out other occupations. There is no historical evidence to link Elm Tree Cottage to John Staughton. Yet, to be over imaginative and somewhat sentimental, it would be pleasing to think that a Psalm on the wall of one of the beautiful ironstone houses of which Blisworth has so many, puts us directly in touch with a man who stood against, what he saw, as oppression. A stronger case can probably be made for the Staughtons, who were bakers as well as yeomen, holding the old bakehouse at what is now 38 High Street. [1]  This was certainly the case in 1727. It is not impossible for both properties to have been occupied by Staughtons at some time in the past: two John Staltons (sic.) paid the 1674 Hearth Tax. 

It is hard to estimate the number of Baptists in the seventeenth century. The “Compton Census”, taken by Archbishop Compton in 1676 at the behest of Danby, Charles II’s chief minister of the time, gives some indication of the total of Non-Conformists. Even if one takes into account that Danby hoped to persuade Charles II that the Dissenters were not so great a threat as they had been made out to be, a general idea of numbers can be obtained. The figures are often too comfortably rounded to ring true but there seems little reason to doubt the general gist.




Non-Conformists (%)




30  (5.1)




10  (8.0)




12  (3.8)




42 (11.6)




30  (8.3)

Stoke Bruerne



16  (3.4)

Easton Neston



1 (0.8)




100 (25.0)




0 (0.0)

Derived from “The Religious Census of 1676” printed in Antiquarian Memoranda   and Biographies XXVII, ed. J Taylor 1901.  * An offensive term, but the one used at the time.

With the exception of Bugbrooke and Tiffield, between one in ten and one in thirty people were described as Non-Conformists. How many of these were Baptists is unclear. It is safe to conclude only that the number was small. However, quantity was counteracted by quality. The expelled Church of England ministers were often amongst the most energetic and active, whilst lay Non-Conformists were highly committed or they would not have willingly faced persecution and exclusion. It is generally accepted that Dissenters at this time were typically the middling sort of artisan or yeoman farmer, rather than the landowner or the labourer.

Thus, in 1701, John Staughton, maybe the same one who had suffered imprisonment for his beliefs, “did certify his dwelling house” as a place of Non-Conformist worship: his trade, baker. (NRO QS292/1 page 6.) That the Staughtons were of the middling sort in the village is confirmed by the Hearth Tax returns of 1662. Most of the villagers were exempt but, of the taxpayers, the rector had five hearths, a few had two, whilst the majority, including John Stoughton (sic) had just one. By 1674, one John Staughton was liable for three hearths and another John Staughton for two. However, it is certain that he was in a tiny minority. Perhaps it did not matter so much by that time. It would have been hard for a village baker to follow his trade faced with disapproval of landowners, farmers and miller, let alone his customers.

There are no records of licenses for Non-Conformist worship in Northamptonshire from 1708 to 1736. The next existent certification for a building in Blisworth dates from 1752. One Richard Clarke obtained a license, but there are no biographical details in the entry. (NRO QS 292/1 page 40) There is no indication of Richard Clarke’s denomination, though thirty years later, Thomas Clark, possibly a relative, was one of the men who applied for licenses in 1784, as Baptism began to blossom in the village.  (ibid. 292/4 No.53)

“The introduction and continuation of the Gospel”

The words above are those of John Goodridge. From 1780 until 1828 he was the leading figure amongst the Baptists of Blisworth. Clearly a highly respected figure – at least to other Dissenters - during his life, his short account of the growth of Baptism in Blisworth written in the Church Book shortly before his death rings true. (NRO Bl B 7) 

In this account he explains how he came to Blisworth from Hartwell, where the Goodridges were tenant farmers on the Duke of Grafton’s estate. Having married Ann Blunt, he took a farm tenancy from the Duke of Grafton in Blisworth in 1780. He became a member of the Roade Baptist Church in 1782. He was certainly a Dissenter before this date – membership of a Baptist Meeting meant adult baptism following a profession of faith and of religious experience. He remarks that in Blisworth he found “three or four in the village” of like-mind and so they met together for prayer and “encouragement”. The small numbers of Dissenters in the village is clear. Interestingly, Goodridge points out that,

The Gospel had been preached in the village some years before, but how long could not be ascertained.

Memory of Dissent in the village was present, but apparently vague. There was no Dissenting minister. Although John Goodridge did not technically bring Baptism to Blisworth, it was in a pretty poor state when he arrived.

Unless the “three or four” were also newcomers to the village, it can be assumed that it was Goodridge who motivated them into action. Richard Dent was almost certainly one of the few, and he was a resident - the Blisworth miller who eventually gave way to the Westleys. Robert Campion was a tenant farmer and became a prominent figure in the Roade Church. Of the others who signed the letter of application for the 1784 license, little has emerged, so far.

Meeting at one another’s houses, at first – in defiance of the law – they eventually applied for a license in 1784. The “house with the appurtenances”, occupied by William Faulkner, was “certified” as a “place of religious worship for Protestant Dissenters” on July 15th 1784. The applicants were, in order of signature on the letter of application;

Richard Dent            Thomas Clark

John Goodridge        Joseph Wills

William Faulkner       Robert Campion

(NRO QS 292/4 No:53 and NRO QS 292/2 Pg 32)

The “three or four” had already become six – at least.

The granting of this license was far from a formality. Neighbouring ministers were now invited to preach on Sunday evenings and the nascent Meeting could act more openly. Goodridge himself may possibly have preached, although he makes no mention of this in his account. In any case he was a member of the Roade Church and would probably have attended services there – as may others.

The Rector of Blisworth, Rev. Trotter, was, naturally, concerned at the growth, albeit small, of Dissent in his parish. Goodridge recounts a summons to meet the Rector, who “swore to leave no stone unturned” to destroy them when his demands were defied. Failing to browbeat them into submission, the Rev. Trotter, aided by the Duke of Grafton’s steward, John Roper, succeeded in having their license revoked. Although they were now acting illegally because the premises were not licensed, they carried on as before – presumably meeting surreptitiously in each other’s houses. The steward, according to Goodridge, described their meetings as a “conventicle”. This harked back to a long repealed law of 1664 which made it illegal for any group of more than four, except for families, to meet for non-conformist worship. At that time “conventicle” smacked of sedition. More than a hundred years after its repeal it seems that some still saw Baptists in that light or found it a useful tool to persuade the authorities to act against them. However, it should not be assumed that Trotter and Roper were unusually oppressive or vehement in their attempts to stifle the growth of Non-Conformity. This was the attitude of many in the Anglican Church and the land-owning class that held power in the country – especially at local level. It would be more surprising had they not reacted in this way.

Goodridge described this as a period of “persecution”. Despite this it was not so drastic as the persecution of John Staughton over a century before, nor did it seem to prevent the number of Baptists growing. They started to use “Whites Barn”, a barn rented by Robert Campion – another of the Grafton tenant farmers. The date at which this began has been given as 1787. (Tony Marsh, Blisworth, 2004, Pg 9) It is quite possible that this is accurate, although the barn was not licensed until October 1789. (NRO QS 292/3) Goodridge also gives 1789 as the year in which the Duke of Grafton, after intervention by Mr. Goode, the Independent Minister at Potterspury, sanctioned the use of this barn, dismissing the counter arguments of his steward and the rector. (NRO Bl B 7) Perhaps Goodridge decided that an official version was best and dated use from the year of official sanction, though it is hard to imagine that he would shy away from the truth. However, “use” and “license” could be very different things.

Goodridge was sure that the Duke of Grafton had not known of the “persecution”. Tradition has it that the Duke remarked that “They shall have their Meeting House: they are some of my best tenants.” (Notes by Maureen Smith). The Third Duke of Grafton (1735-1811) had been Chief Minister to George III for a short period and seems to have been too honest or trusting for politics. Returning to his estates in 1783 he maintained an interest in hunting and women, whilst becoming a keen agricultural reformer and advocate of the new canal. If he did not make that remark about the Baptists, he should have done. A similar statement has been attributed to the fourth Duke regarding the refusal of his steward to help with stone for the Meeting House in 1825. (Tony Marsh, Blisworth, 2004, Pg 9)  Interestingly Goodridge describes the period 1780 to 1789 as one of persecution for Baptists and does not refer to 1825 as such. (NRO Bl B 7) An anonymous manuscript history written in 1900 adds to the story though does not refer to the source of the information. This manuscript is based largely on Goodridge’s account, but goes beyond it by stating that the Baptists actively sought out Mr. Goode to “lay their case before the Duke” and that the Duke came to Blisworth to hear the issue and sort the problem out. This refers to 1787-9. Clearly in 1900 the memory was the Duke found out that Campion and Goodridge were amongst the leading Baptists he declared, “Well Trotter, why can’t you let these people alone? They are some of my best tenants. They shall have a meeting house”: meaning the use of a barn (NRO BlB3. This would seem to be conclusive regarding the Duke’s ignorance of persecution.

Half the barn was fitted out as a place of worship and, once the license was obtained an opening ceremony was held. Appropriately, Mr. Goode – the Independent Minister who had informed the Duke – preached, as did the Rev. John Ryland, pastor of the College Street Baptist Church in Northampton. Ryland was one of the leading figures in eighteenth century Baptism. The image of him preaching in a barn in Blisworth is a resounding explanation of the success of Dissent. Ryland was also an advocate of an evangelical approach: allowing an Independent to preach to a Baptist Meeting was quite acceptable.

Use of a barn was a big step forward. April and July 1789 had seen licenses granted for the houses occupied by Robert Campion and John Goodridge to be used for worship, but it seems these were inadequate. The Baptists now had favourable conditions for growth; a landlord who looked on them with favour – or, at least, was indifferent to Dissent amongst tenants who made up a profitable part of his rent roll -, strong and enthusiastic leadership and an established Baptist Church at Roade to support the new Meeting. Even the opposition of the Anglican party in the village was reduced by the Duke of Grafton’s moderate attitude and, between 1797 and 1839, the frequent absence of leadership. The Rev. Ambrose, Rector of Blisworth was apparently dishonest, absent or in the bankruptcy courts. This could hardly have acted as a recommendation for Anglicanism. (Tony Marsh, Blisworth, 2004, Pg 9 and on this site)

Initially the Rev. Heighton, of Roade, preached to the Blisworth Meeting in their barn on one Sunday evening each month. However, he was soon preaching on three Sunday evenings a month: eventually this became four. The less formal nature of the singing and prayers may well have been an attraction; perhaps the sermons hit the spot; it could have been the obviously enthusiastic leadership; whatever the motivation, the congregation grew rapidly.

In 1807 a Sabbath or Sunday School was set up. Goodridge notes, with delight, that six or seven children in the first few days soon became fifty or sixty regular attenders. Even better, he enthused that some “showed signs of conversion”. Meanwhile several adults literally took the plunge to become full members of the Church at Roade. By this time the whole of the barn was in use for worship and, though it “grieved us very much”, Goodridge explains how most of the children had to be dismissed before “publick (sic) worship” began to ensure there was sufficient space for the congregation. (NRO Bl B 7)

The inevitable logic was that a new Meeting House was needed in Blisworth. This was built, with fixed desks for the hundred strong Sabbath School. Shortly after this Goodridge and others from Blisworth asked for “dismission” from the Church at Roade to constitute their own Church in Blisworth. The letter requesting this was signed by;

John Goodridge (Senior)

Wm Goodridge

Francis Deacon

Wm. Wood

Wm. Woodhouse

Henry Marriott

Ann Goodridge

Rich. Rockingham

Lucy Johnson

Alice Deacon

Elizabeth Church

Mary Hedge

(NRO NRO Bl B 7)

These were the first members of Blisworth Baptist.   Oddly, Elizabeth Church is not listed in the records of the Church membership, though she subscribed £2 to the building of the Church in 1825 and had, presumably been a member at Roade – how else could she asked to receive dismission? It is, therefore, likely that this is an error in record keeping. By the time John Goodridge died in 1828 there were twenty-four members. The congregation – those attending Meetings – would have been larger. A list of those who subscribed money towards the building of the Meeting House reveals the range of status and wealth as well as the names of members of the Congregation or sympathisers. Some of these may have remained members of Roade Church. In the notebook in which the names are listed (NRO BlB5) all are sectioned off with a marginal note: Blisworth.

Subscribed amount



John Goodridge snr: Cornelius Gudgeon


Robert Campion: William Goodridge


Edward Johnson: Samuel Westley


John Church


William Pettifer: William Lepper: Samuel Wilson: J. Goodridge jnr:


A. Friend*


William Wood


John Goodridge jnr: William Webb: Mrs. E. Goodridge: Mrs. Church: Mrs. A Goodridge


Edward Campion: B. Campion: William Campion: Richard Rockingham: Jonathan Allin: Francis Allin: Benjamin Packwood: Sam Bassford: Josh. Marriott: Mrs. Gudgeon: Mrs. Campion: Mrs. Dunkley: Mrs. Westley: Miss A. Goodridge


William Woodhouse: Jonathan Leach: Ben Clark: Frances Dunkley: Prudence Dunkley

7s 6d

No.6 (?)*: E. Marks


Josh Woodhouse: A. Friend*: Mr. Smeeton: William Chambers: Mr. Gudgeon: Mr. Gibbard: George Plowman: Mrs. Denton: Mrs. Rockingham: Mrs. Gibbs


Thomas Martin

2s 6d

Thomas Plowman: Elis. Chambers: A. Faulkner


Widow’s Mite*

Derived from (NRO BlB5)

* This shows a desire to remain, for whatever reason, anonymous, though in the case of Widow’s Mite the biblical reference is obvious.

There are fifty-four subscribers listed, Although not all were part of the Blisworth Congregation, it seems reasonable to assume that the congregation numbered between four and five times more than the initial total of full members.

The list is headed by tenant farmers of the Grafton Estate (John Goodridge snr, Cornelius Gudgeon, Robert Campion, William Lepper, William Pettifer, for example) and tradesmen (Westley was a baker and miller, Church was a shopkeeper and Johnson probably a builder or craftsman of some kind.) Yet, the striking thing about the list is its length. A very rough estimate would suggest around thirty families or parts of families are represented, possibly more. The 1821 Census describes Blisworth as having some 147 separate families. True, the Baptists were a minority, but if one takes into account some Baptists who may not have been able to give and others in the village with little religious conviction, they were a sizeable minority. Moreover, they were strongly represented in the middle rank of society. In a village where there was no resident landowner that was of some importance.

The record of John Goodridge’s death in the Church book is typical of the entries made by George Foskett, the first pastor;

Died October 5th 1828 Mr. John Goodridge senior, Deacon of this Church from its commencement after having been a member of the Church of Christ at Road (sic) 43 years     and a Deacon of that Church 29 years.

(NRO Bl B 7)

A more effusive writer could have gone much further. Goodrige was not technically the first Baptist in Blisworth, nor did he strictly speaking bring Baptism to the village alone. Yet his years in Blisworth correspond with a quite spectacular improvement in the fortunes of Dissenters. Literate, experienced, trusted, respected, clearly a man of drive and enthusiasm – a man with a gift – he died Deacon of a Church where nearly half a century before had been but “three or four” people. That he was the one asked, shortly before his death, to write a memoir of the early stages of the establishment of Baptism in the village is evidence enough that John Goodridge was regarded as a guiding light: he also put his money where his mouth was. Moreover, the fact that he had been able to purchase a small piece of land, Little Ease, in Mill Lane, where the new Meeting House was built, did much to ease the foundation of a Baptist Church in the village.

Of course, there were others. Their names are there in the documents, but we know little more about their role in the rise of Baptism in Blisworth. John Goodridge, William Goodridge and Robert Campion had all been members of Roade Baptist Church and trustees of the Meeting House. From 1825 onwards Blisworth is the focus of the records and a more colourful picture of Dissenting life in the village emerges.

“To watch over …. admonish ….. encourage ….”

Commitment to building a Meeting House was no small thing. There were costs to be borne and a degree of hostility to be faced. For some Anglicans the sight of Baptists in a barn was bad enough, but a purpose built base for dissent made from bricks and mortar must have been an affront to the less tolerant in the Church Party. And bricks and mortar it had to be as “the proprietor of the quarry refused to sell us stones to build a place of Worship …. which considerably increased our expense.” (NRO BlB4) No reason is given for the refusal to let the Baptists have stone. Local lore declares that it was religious prejudice on behalf of Mr. Roper, the agent for the Grafton Estate, being the manager of the quarry and the acting 'proprietor'. There seems little reason to doubt this. As the Baptists were able to meet the extra expense of building in brick, they could certainly have paid above the market price for stone, whilst Roper’s reputation suggests that he was not a man to hold back if there was money to be made.

The land at “Little Ease” was bought from John Goodridge snr for £10. (NRO BlB7). The anonymous historian of 1900 gives a picturesque twist to the story, describing how, hard at work, a lad named Job was told to “stop planting those potatoes, we are going to have a chapel here.” The building was relatively straight-forward in design and some thirty-six feet square, with fixed desks for one hundred in the Sunday School. A small burial ground was included and licensed for use in 1827. This is the ground at the back of the chapel, overlooking Pond Bank. The total cost, by 1827, was £651- 15s. 5 ½d.  A part of the Grafton Survey map of 1838 is shown here and indicates a square building with two associated houses nearby (they are also hatched in a darker colour: as elsewhere on the survey eg. the rectory and school are hatched to match the church).  Next to these associated buildings is shown a barn in the earlier Grafton Survey of 1727 and that might have been "White's barn".  There is no record elsewhere in any survey since 1727 of a field or patch called "Little Ease" [see footnote 2].

Survey records of 1838 show all the plots (77 - chapel & yard, 78 - garden, 79 & 80 - houses with gardens) as belonging to John Goodridge (his name given perhaps as a shorthand for a group of trustees) with two tenants; Henry Lines and Joseph Marriott, in the houses.  The last named appears in the list of contributors to building costs; both may well have been deacons for the chapel

It had initially been hoped to build without public assistance. A recently built Meeting House at nearby Ashton had been financed purely by subscription from its members. However, in a larger village and with greater numbers to cater for it soon became clear that they would be unable to go it alone. However, building went ahead.

On completion it was only natural to hold an opening service. It was held on September 15th, 1825. Two sermons in the morning followed by two in the evening, with tea in between, may not be to the modern taste, but it does reflect the Dissenters enthusiasm for preaching and teas. Despite the bad weather, which, according to the Church Book, “prevented many from attending” an impressive range of preachers from Luton, Olney and Northampton was lined-up. The bad weather was not just a lame excuse in a period of poor roads and little waterproof clothing. Even so, the turn out may well have been quite numerous: the first collection amounted to £49 9s 10d. A rough equivalent in 2005 would be £1400. Of course, there is every possibility of extra generosity on this special occasion.

The money from this collection was added to the £253 – 9s – 6d already subscribed and sundry gifts from “friends and neighbours” of £9 1s 7 ½d. There was a debt of over £267 on the building, a debt that was increased to over £340 by the provision of a burial ground and other facilities. This was paid off in a number of ways: there was a “Penny-a-week subscription” for members of the congregation, whilst the wealthier members forked out considerable sums of money. William Goodridge made a list the leading donors between 1825 and the paying off of the debt in July 1833.


Total Donated to the nearest £

John Goodridge snr

John Goodridge jnr





Robert Campion


Cornelius Gudgeon


John Church


William Goodridge


Samuel and Mrs. Westley


Edward Johnson


(Derived from NRO BlB19)

This paid off the bulk of the debt. The same people also loaned money to cover on-going costs during building. Interest was paid on these loans, which were repaid in instalments (NRO BlB19). One did not have to be wealthy to be involved in the Church though. William Wood, who subscribed three pounds was one of those charged with finding ways to pay off the debt as soon as possible. He gave his energy.

 There were also small gifts from other Baptist Churches that were canvassed and visited, for example in Northampton, Stoney Stratford, Weston and Moreton Pinkney, Luton, Grendon, Olney. This also led to expense to support those sent to make an appeal that did not necessarily end with a letter. Initially, the Pastor, George Foskett was accompanied by William Goodridge and a third man, probably, Mr. Marriott on a four day fund raising trip to Northampton and Rothersthorpe in February 1826. Their expenses totalled 19s 8d. Whilst this hardly afforded too much extravagance and a healthy £9 7s was raised, future visits were generally undertaken by George Foskett alone. (NRO BlB19) Additional contributions amounting to £85 came from the Baptist Building Fund. Thus William Goodridge could proudly proclaim in that on July 30th 1833 the entire debt was settled.

As with most projects the opening service in 1825 had actually taken place before all work was completed. Naturally the work had been contracted out, though members, attendees at services and their families were clearly used when possible. In 1825 Edward Johnson was paid £232 2s 9d, “as bill” and £1 6s for sand. He had donated money and was presumably related to Lucy Johnson. In 1828 he was paid £2 10s 10d for demolishing a privy and building two new ones at the church. An E. Johnson became the twelfth member of the Church and died in 1831. Leonard Dunkley, paid £308 7s 4 ½d in 1825 and 8s for erecting a pulpit in 1826, was never a member of the Blisworth Church, though Dunkleys from the village became members later on. Both Johnson and Dunkley were paid for work on the baptistry later on. One other person who was, at least, a friend was paid for goods: William Campion. Interestingly, business – though only for a few pounds - was transacted in 1830 with Benedict Roper, son of that opponent of Non-Conformity, John Roper - who may also have sold materials to the Baptists.

Other expenses up to 1833 included £3 2s spent at the Royal Oak by ministers invited to attend and preach at George Foskett’s ordination as minister; two and six for a book for writing a petition to Parliament, money for Mr. Foskett’s writing paper and, intriguingly 10s 9d paid to Mr. Foskett “out of begging”.  This probably refers to a fund raising trip, but given the tenuous nature of a village non-conformist ministers finances in the first part of the nineteenth century the remark could show William Goodridge’s frustration at being badgered for money. Such expenses were now easily covered as the debt disappeared. (NRO BlB19)

A new Church - meaning the people rather than the building - was not constituted until November 1825. Ministers from Northampton, Roade, Towcester, Bugbrook (sic), and Hackleton attended a special service. The new church now required organisation, a pastor – who would have to be supported financially to some degree – a constitution and so on. It would also need to spread the word and increase its numbers.

The covenant was simple. The members who made up the Church declared that this was a Church of Calvinist Dissenters commonly called Particular Baptists. This was a reference to their belief in predestination, that they were an elect group who would be saved by God. General Baptists, who were losing identity, believed in the possibility of salvation for all. It would be easy to see Particular Baptists as being rather snobbish and arrogant. Indeed it was this insistence on being an elect group that sometimes limited appeal. However, there is no reason to think that the Blisworth Church was particularly exclusive. Initially they held on to “closed communion” – only members allowed to take communion – but a note, probably of later date, states that this was not “always so”. (NRO BlB7)

Being a member meant promising “conscientious observance to keep unity of the Spirit in the bonds of peace.” (NRO BlB7) There was a clear ethos of group identity and discipline. Members promised to “watch over … admonish … and encourage one another.” Prayer meetings and social interaction for cohesion, regular attendance at services and communion, and the setting of a good public example were all required.

Discipline could be strict, but acknowledgement of fault and submission to the will of God, sufficed for the Church Meeting which made decisions on all matters. The first member to be disciplined was William Wood, who in 1827 was suspended from membership for “improper conduct and absenting himself from the Lord’s Table”. He was fully excluded in 1829, presumably because he had failed to show contrition or amend his conduct. George Foskett, the pastor recorded few details of disciplinary issues. A second exclusion, for dishonesty was followed by the “restoration” to membership of William Rockingham. Fortunately the Deacons who kept records in the period between  the pastorships of George Foskett and John Goddard Stephens, who became the second full time pastor in 1841, recorded rather more. (NRO Bl B 7)

George Plowman managed to be excluded twice. The first exclusion followed “disorderly conduct in a public house.” He was soon taken back into the Church. However, in 1841 he was excluded again, for “unbecoming familiarity with a woman on the road.” This seemingly scandalous behaviour seems, according to family tradition, to have amounted to staring at either her ankles or visible parts of undergarment. Eight months later he was restored once more. Whilst Plowman may appear to be a bit of a rogue who took his punishment and was taken back to the Church, there was a real sense in which Church discipline moderated conduct. George Paxton was excluded for “disgracing his profession” – it is not clear if this refers to his job or his profession of faith – and, significantly, “ill-treating his wife” and generally being “disorderly”. Later on, John Ayres, a policeman on the railway, was excluded partly because he had run up considerable debts. The Ayres family later became active Anglicans. The discipline of the Church Meeting covered personal conduct, social responsibility as well as spiritual observance. (NRO BL B 7)

There was, however, no shortage of people wanting to become members of the Church. Amongst them were familiar surnames: Johnson, Campion, Marriott, Woodhouse, Clarke, Rockingham, Deacon as well as some that would became notable in the future: Westley, Lepper, Pacey and, later, numerous Plowmans. Between April 1826 and October 1835 there were twenty-seven new members. Most of these were from within the Blisworth congregation following baptism. Three new members joined through “honourable dismission” (with a recommendation from another Baptist Church). Two came from Roade and one from Towcester. A fourth member joined “by letter”: Mary Deacon – another familiar surname. (NRO Bl B 7)

It seems that recruitment to membership was mainly from within the congregation. For a suitable pastor the Church needed to look further afield. The process was for a Church to find someone who was available or willing to come, to examine the candidate carefully and hear him preach and then decide. Often this could take a good deal of time. George Foskett originated from Newport Pagnell and was a probationary preacher at the Baptist Church in Leighton Buzzard. He was invited to become pastor at Blisworth. In 1826 he and his wife became members of the Church and, in September, he was ordained. His clear, rather sweeping, handwriting is in the pages of the Church Book. There are a few blots, for example where he seems to have paused over the suspension of William Wood. One blot appears to have been turned into a little insect by drawing out thin lines of ink. For the later entries the hand becomes unsteady, until, in another hand, Foskett’s death, after a long illness, is recorded.

On Foskett’s death in 1838 the search for a new pastor began. As time went by and no candidate emerged, John Bray was appointed as minister to the Church for one year. This caused some friction, though the reason is not clear. William Goodridge refused to act as Deacon or receive collections whilst Bray remained minister: a strong reaction from a founding member of the Church, who was later re-elected as a Deacon in 1841 and kept the Church accounts until his death in January 1855. (NRO BlB7/BlB11)

John Goddard Stephens became pastor in 1841, joining the Blisworth Church from Kidderminster. Mary Stephens, his wife joined the Church in 1845. When Stephens left to become pastor at Bugbrooke he was eventually replaced by Reuben Turner, of Bythorn. He left in 1855 to become pastor at Desborough.  William Paine was asked to be pastor for a year, but towards the end of that short period he fell ill and retired to London, where he died shortly after. Short pastorates were not unusual but did not help the cause of either pastor or Church.

One reason behind the rapid turnover in many places was that the pastor had little chance of making a living in a small village. He needed another trade, possibly a schoolmaster, or craftsman, such as a shoemaker. Full time pastors had to evangelise and recruit enough wealthy members to make a living. In many places this was clearly not possible. At the same time, the Baptist pastor may have little education: as late as 1871 fewer than 60% had been trained at one of the Baptist Colleges. Most seem to have come from an artisan background, though some had very humble origins. The desire to find a Church that could offer more than £65 a year (the average income, not necessarily all in ready money, estimated by the Baptist Union in 1860 to be the minimum needed to support a minister) must have driven pastors to move on. (J.H.Y Briggs, The English Baptists of the Nineteenth Century, Didcot, 1994 pages 88 – 95) Having said that, there is no reason to suggest that relations between pastor and people were poor. However, the 1850s seemed to be a period of difficulty for the Baptist cause in Blisworth. It was also the decade that ushered in what must have seemed like a golden age. 

“It is to be hoped that we may soon have something better ..”

The Westley family were prominent in many aspects of Blisworth life in the second half of the nineteenth century, not least as leading Baptists and entrepreneurs. Joseph Westley was a deacon of the Church, forthright defender of the rights of Baptist children at the village school, was on many of the Baptist committees – which were numerous – and, we are told, twisted the arm of employees when it came to attendance at the Baptist Church. As the period 1780 to 1828 could be described as the Goodridge years, so the second half of the nineteenth century could be the Westley years.

It is true that Joseph Westley forced the Rector and Schoolmaster to excuse children of Dissenting, including Baptist, parents from learning  the Church catechism. That he was able to do this reflected both his commitment to the cause of non-conformity and his financial clout. The parish schoolroom, newly erected and furnished, had incurred debt for desks and other fittings. The curate applied to Westley – not to the Baptist Church – for a subscription. Clearly, the leading businessman of the village could be expected to stump up generously. The Rector had no choice but to meet the condition laid down by Westley. This influence was decidedly temporal rather than spiritual.

Joseph Westley became a member of Blisworth Baptist Church in 1856, along with Elizabeth Westley, William Hobbs and John Hedge. The anonymous writer of the 1900  manuscript declares that this was a magnificent year because it brought into the Church men who were to lead it forward with vigour and decision: Westley was identified as one, the other was a farmer by the name of John Tite Cave. Both were deacons and both were clearly thought of as leading lights.

Equally, whilst Joseph Westley served on all the committees established to deal with the many issues facing the Church, so did several others.  Moreover, for many years William Woodhouse was described as the senior deacon. The start of the rapid growth that characterised the fortunes of the Blisworth Baptists in the second half of the nineteenth century coincided not only with the arrival of Joseph Westley and John Cave, but also with the pastorships of George Bailey and George Jarman.

It is clear that the reasons for the growth of Baptism in Blisworth after 1856 grew from more than the influence of one man, significant though this was. Whether Joseph Westley employed only those who would attend Baptist services is unclear. Local lore supports the view that this was indeed the case. However, this is contradicted to some extent by the assertion that the houses the Westleys built in the village were not solely for the use of Baptists. Moreover, Westley was also a warden of the parish Church. There is, in short, no evidence, written or circumstantial, to support assertions of bias in Westley's attitude to his employees.

Between 1841 and 1851 the Church book is mostly a list of baptisms and disciplinary issues. William Goodridge, William Woodhouse and Joseph Marriott were elected deacons in February 1841. In the following years more members joined from Roade and there were several baptisms. In 1851 the new pastor, the Reverend Reuben Turner decided to keep more accurate minutes of meetings.  Even so, they do not become much more informative, though two entries perhaps indicate that there was concern over certain issues.

On Christmas Day, 1851, a proposal was adopted that “we think it desirable to draw out the tendencies to an open avowal of attachment to Christ, where they exist, and in order to do this we think it right to invite such persons to mingle with us more freely.” (NRO BlB7) This, presumably indicates concern that the Church was too exclusive and that potential Baptists were being scared off by the apparent exclusiveness of the Particular Baptists. Equally, the need to maintain an identity as Baptists is clearly present. The Membership of the Church was ageing. However, this was not the only problem; discipline and attendance were deteriorating. Turner noted in Feb 1853 that the baptism of Phoebe Pacey was nearly ruined by a rush of girls and boys against the baptistry railing. Turner also found himself taking action against William Rockingham – a member of long standing – for non-attendance and making several visitation to others in an attempt to maintain unity and discipline. It may, of course, be the case that splits were occurring because of the resolution to allow non-members to mingle more freely in the Church. Five years later, a few months into the pastorate of George Bailey, it is notable that Joseph Westley addressed the Church meeting on the best means of keeping peace and unity.

The problems were also addressed by holding prayer meetings for parents and for young people linked to the congregation as well as holding  social meetings. It is after a record of one of these, in January1855, that the death of William Goodridge is noted.

William Goodridge had been a deacon since the establishment of the Church, except for one notable period when he refused to serve, because he objected to the pastor. He has kept the Church accounts, though his notebooks are far from easy to read, undoubtedly they enabled him to keep a close eye on income and expenditure, especially during the building of the Chapel and associated fund raising. He had outlived John Goodridge by twenty-six years.

There are no minutes of meetings from April 1855 to September 1857. Reuben Turner had left, but Westley and Cave had arrived. A new spirit was clearly present by the time George Bailey was welcomed as pastor at a public tea meeting, organised by Joseph Westley, on October 29th, 1857. From this point on a fresh sense of purpose pervades the minutes. The written word, it seems, to be was acted out.

The policy was to evangelise and adopt a higher profile. Cottage meetings were initiated and held during the winter. These were aimed to attract people who live near the venue or those who did not like to set out on the muddy roads in the pitch dark of a winter night to come to the Church. The only measure of success we have is that they were continued in future years. Henry Plowman, an very active member of the Church, held prayer meetings every two weeks in Gayton for a number of years.

If Westley, Cave and others were ambitious for their Church, George Bailey was their man as pastor. At his first meeting the new pastor declared that he hoped they might soon have something better for lighting than candles. He went on to insist on  “formal and regular attendance at all meetings and services.” Above all he exhorted “personal efforts to draw in the unconverted.” The combination of strong pastor and influential figures seems to have united the Church, or, at least, quietened debate and turned eyes to the people outside.

Evangelism was formalised in September 1858. It was resolved that each member should talk to two non-members, either in the congregation or outside of it and report back to the Church meeting. Some had already started and success was noted. Earlier in the year there had been a Sabbath School Festival – with the inevitable tea – in William Pettifer's orchard. Whilst the children had to be “plentifully regaled” by preaching before they could eat, there was an address by the pastor's son. It seems that the Baptists were becoming more aware of their potential audience: a younger speaker for the children and, at the end of 1858, a suggestion that if prayers were shorter they may be of more interest to the hearers. The annual treat became a regular feature in the eighteen-fifties and sixties. They were held on the farms of leading Church members, such as John Cave or the Campions. Strangely, according to the Church book, the sun always seems to have shone until the children headed for home between eight and nine o'clock. On one occasion at least children from Milton Malsor Church were invited along.

In similar fashion the form of meetings and services was constantly discussed. Social meetings were held for members and later, quarterly conversation evenings were held where important issues could be aired. New  times for Sunday services were experimented with, as well as whether children should be present for the service or whether separate services should be held. The format of services was changed in 1870. The previous format can be inferred from this. The new morning service would follow this  pattern; prayer – sing – read  - pray chant - read – pray – sing -sermon – sing – conclude. The evening service pattern was the same, with the exception of the last prayer. The motivation for this change was to break up and shorten what had become known as the long prayer. It was felt that this lost the attention of some members of the congregation. During the pastorship of George Jarman we find frequent comments on the services, written by the pastor himself. “Unusually interesting”, “A most interesting service”, seem to demonstrate the new pastors sense of the importance of addressing an audience beyond the committed membership and regular attendees.

This then was the response to stagnation and the enthusiasm for evangelism. It was also a response to the Wesleyan Methodists. Whist these were described as “friends” they were also rivals as an alternative to the Anglican Church. Methodism had been associated with Anglicanism, but had never been able to reconcile itself with the established church. Whilst Baptism and other Old Dissenting sects were strongest amongst the artisans and yeomen, Methodism made a direct appeal to the labouring class. The Methodists had licensed a house in the centre of the village for the purpose of worship, but also preached outdoors. In the battle the Baptists had struck a blow in January 1859 when Benjamin and Elizabeth Whitlock, formerly Methodists asked to join the Baptists. However, in June of the same year it seemed that some Baptists were getting too close to their Methodist friends. A Sunday afternoon prayer meeting was held in William Rockingham's house. However, this was being disturbed. Methodists had secured preachers to preach in the house opposite and had attempted, successfully, to persuade some at the Baptist meeting to come and preach to them. Clearly, the ordinary folk did not realise how dangerous such ecumenism was. The Baptist Church meeting recognised the freedom of individuals to attend “outdoor meetings”, they decided to move the prayer meeting to another venue, though it soon returned to William Rockingham's cottage. Methodism did not flourish in Blisworth.

On the whole relations between the Baptists and other non-conformist Churches were good. Several members seeking dismission from Blisworth Baptist Church joined Congregational or Independent Churches in the towns they moved to. Equally, a Wesleyan Methodist named Henry Bottrell who had come to Blisworth from Rugby was allowed to commune with the Bisworth Baptists, supported as he was by a letter from a Methodist minister in his home town. It seems likely that there was no longer any significant methodist presence in the village. Almost exactly one year later in July 1869 the issue of granting full membership to members of other denominations was discussed at one of the quarterly conversation meetings. The resolution, taken up by the Church Meeting, was that they should be, providing that their Christian character was beyond doubt.

New members and old had a full range of religious meetings to join in. These could be intense and to attend all would have required considerable commitment, even in an age before television. Social meetings, special tea meetings, two services and Sabbath School on Sunday, Church Meeting, sometimes after Sunday morning service, for members, cottage prayer meetings, meetings of the Sabbath School Teachers, meetings of Deacons. Apart from Sunday the usual programme of events for a week in 1859 was;

Monday : Missionary Society/Church/Cottage Meetings

Tuesday: Bible Classes

Wednesday: Lectures

Thursday : Evening Singing Classes

This was during winter. Attendance at all events was encouraged though it was clearly not consistent, nor could it really have been expected. Indeed during harvest, including the hay harvest, meetings might even be cancelled. There were always prayers for the harvest and a harvest home service. Despite Blisworth's industrial sector, this was very much a rural community moving to the rhythm of the farming year. The Sunday School Treat took place between hay and grain harvests.

Prayer was, of course at the heart of all activities. The first prayer meeting of the year was always held at six in the morning on January 1st. The first week of the year was a week of prayer, ordained so by the Evangelical Alliance. In 1869 the focus of prayers was as follows,

Monday January 4th : for the work of Missionaries.
Tuesday January 5th : for the young.
Wednesday January 6th : for an outpouring of the Holy Spirit
Thursday January 7th : for enquirers (i.e. those seeking baptism)
Friday January 8th : for the Church and Congregation.

There were regular prayers for the young and for their parents. All meetings had prayers at some stage because, of course in the view of those present, without God's guidance no decision could be made. These prayers were offered by many different members as well as the pastor. Often there was singing, too.

It was not only the Pastor who preached, though others had to seek the sanction of the Meeting and consult with the Pastor before doing so. When George Bailey was ill in 1863 he went away to Hastings to benefit from the sea air. In his place George Hickson and “the youth” Billingham preached. Later others were given this opportunity.

Teas were not uniquely Baptist , however, throughout the eighteen fifties and sixties and onwards, they were frequent. They might be public or private; “no strangers” were invited to attend the tea to welcome George Jarman as pastor on November 12th 1868. However, three months later at his ordination tea, which had to be held indoors because of the time of year,  230 people took tea in the vestry and the schoolroom. At the service several people were unable get in because of the crowd. In June that year some 450 took tea “in the Chapel and in front of it.” Special services and teas were also the focus of the major celebrations when the work to extend the buildings was completed.

Looking Inward and Outward

The Church Meeting was the government of the Church. It selected the pastor and by it the deacons were elected. All members could attend and speak. Although it the recorded business, the minutes of which vary greatly from pastor to pastor, tended to be dominated by a relatively small number of men, the meeting was attended by both men and women. There is only one example of women proposing and seconding  a motion. However, even when the thorough George Jarman was keeping the minutes – it seems that the pastor acted as secretary – there is no record of discussion. Occasionally there is mention that debate took place, even of dissension. However, it seems that most proposals were carried unanimously.

The main business recorded between 1825 and 1872, at which point the Church Book comes to a sudden end, consisted of admissions to membership, discipline, evangelism, buildings and expenses, responses to appeals for money from other organisations, appointment of messengers and some sundry business.

Between 1825 and the mid eighteen-fifties admissions were relatively small in number. As the number grew the way in which matters were conducted becomes clearer. An enquirer (a non-member seeking baptism) might approach a member of the Church, or, noting a “tendency towards Christ” in a member of the congregation, the member would raise the “enquirer” with the Church meeting. The meeting then appointed messengers to meet with the candidate. They reported back to the Church Meeting where acceptance would be proposed and seconded and, without exception, accepted. The enquirer would be required to recount their religious journey, but, on the whole the recommendation of the messengers was accepted. Of course, they were interviewing people who wanted to become members. Baptism followed shortly after. The messengers were drawn from the membership of the Church: women were always sent to see female candidates and men to males. Joseph Westley sometimes acted in this capacity, but so did William Lepper, Henry Plowman, William Woodhouse, Sarah Woodhouse, Mrs Bailey and Mrs. Jarman, wives of the pastors, the two Mrs. Hicksons and many others. They were not asked to visit their close relatives. This system did not always work and as the number of enquirers grew in the eighteen sixties, messengers were appointed to act a month at a time. It seems that this did not work  either and ad hoc appointments remained the norm. The other means of joining the Church was by dismission from another Church, which required a letter from the Meeting of that Church.

Members were occasionally dismissed to other Churches. Others left because they “passed on to that next great Church.” Few were dismissed for  disciplinary reasons. In fact disciplinary hearings at the Meeting were few and far between. Yet they were important because the members of the Church felt that the conduct of individual reflected upon each one of them and the Church in general. Action was rarely harsh and judgement seldom quickly reached. Wandering sheep had plenty of paths home. In 1860 Elizabeth Mallard had been absenting herself from public worship at the Chapel, in general, and from communion, in particular. At the Church Meeting in February 1861 her case was discussed, with “indecent anger” and “lack of integrity” added to the charges. A strong reprimand was issued, though her membership was to continue if attendance improved. Later that year there was a review of all members and messengers were sent to those who were not attending on a frequent and regular basis.

The Church Meeting, as one would expect, was unwilling to discipline members without sufficient evidence. Charges made against John Gaseryne by “his Master”, were found to be without foundation and were withdrawn. Enticingly, the minutes for November 1861 refer to the deferral of discussion of “”rumours relating to an absent and distant member.”  Not all members lived in Blisworth or sought dismission if they moved away. This became an increasingly serious issue as more young female members moved away into service as the nineteenth century progressed.

However, a “servant problem” was to manifest itself in the heart of the Blisworth Baptist Church in 1871, causing “confusion and humiliation”. On October 29th a special meeting was informed that Elizabeth Smith, a servant girl, living at John Cave's farm was with child. The father was apparently George Smith, likewise a live-in servant at the farm. This was, of course, made more embarrassing because John Cave was such a prominent member of the Church. The couple were suspended, seen by George Jarman, the Pastor, and watched for signs of repentance once they had admitted their error.

Mary Ann Durrant received a solemn reprimand for having her child baptised in the parish Church. This, as well as most of the cases cited above, were important to the Church meeting because they were matters of commitment to Christ, but also because they reflected on the Baptists community as a whole. Respectability, both collective and individual, mattered.

The only disciplinary action resulting in expulsion between 1850 and 1872 occurred in 1862.  The relevant minute of the meeting of September 7th is quoted in full, because it draws out some of the main themes of Baptist life in the village;

Sarah Paxton who four years ago was readmitted to membership has again deserted the worship and communion of this Church for several months without cause alleged and has willingly and knowingly yoked herself in marriage to an immoral and ungodly man thereby violating the Gospel law dishonoured God and marred the comfort and purity of this Church for those and other causes it was unanimously Resolved (sic) that from this time her membership shall cease. Also for repeated neglect of public worship and communion – and as a busybody and indiscreet tatler it was unanimously resolved that from this time Susan Paxton's membership shall cease. Daughter of the above.


Although the last line might suggest that expulsion of Susan Paxton was partly because of the offence caused to the Meeting by her mother, it is clear that Sarah was not rushed out o the door. It is equally clear that main expectations were that services would be attended; serious error could be atoned for by recognition of fault; marriage outside the baptist community was acceptable, but not to an “ungodly and immoral man”; public conduct mattered to the Church; God was dishonoured and the image of the Church was soiled by Sarah Paxton's conduct, at least in the eyes of the Church members.


Scandal is, of course interesting, and some of the above may well have echoed around the village. Whether the alms given by the Church to some members made local gossip, we do not know. They were actually few and far between, though, as we shall see, the Church supported numerous good Baptist and ecumenical causes. There are only two gifts to individuals recorded in the Church Book between 1825 and 1872; thirteen shillings were collected and given to “our afflicted Brother Joseph Marriott” and financial comfort was offered to Brother Marsh, who had lost five sheep in a thunder storm.


Nor was the Church inward looking. Messengers were sent to Northamptonshire Baptist Association meetings. It is likely that collections were taken for a variety of external causes well before records of these start in 1857. An annual beneficiary was Northampton Infirmary. The orphans and widows of missionaries from the Baptist Foreign Missionary Society also received an annual collection. There were also collections or subscriptions for the Baptist Bible Translation Society, whilst the Baptist Foreign Missionary Society and the Home Missionary Society, The Irish Baptist Mission, The Baptist Building Fund, Orphanages of London and the Northamptonshire Sunday School Union also benefitted from subscription teas. The Churches at Thetford and Uxbridge were also given aid. Occasionally, demands grew too great and support was deferred or left to individuals. Often members, including the children, kept collection boxes. It is to the credit of Blisworthians of this era that at least one was kept at the cottage gate and still contained coins when brought to Church. In 1864 the Blisworth church became a member of the Baptist Union


The honour of a celebration tea was not given to the marriage of the Prince of Wales, later Edward VII, to Alexandra of Denmark in 1863, despite the fact that  the nation as a whole went into paroxysms of joy at the union. The Blisworth Baptists held a special service and offered their prayers. Few events away from the village are mentioned in the Church Book. This should not come as a surprise, there were other places for discussing this world. One that is refers to the “general sympathy” felt for the two hundred and nineteen  men who had died when a crane fell down a shaft: the widows and orphans were probably remembered in the prayers that followed the Meeting, too. In 1862  £7 0s 9d and a box and packet of clothing were sent to relieve the plight of Lancashire cotton workers, suffering at the time because of the blockade of the ports of the Confederate states by the Union navy during the American Civil War, that stopped American cotton imports to Britain. In 1865 it was resolved to offer support to people in Jamaica, after receiving a letter.


Traditionally the Baptists tended towards the Liberal Party politically. Most members would have been unable to vote until 1867, and even then some men and all women would have been excluded from the political process. However, petitions offered the opportunity to make demands on Parliament. The Blisworth Baptists joined in national petitions. In 1860 they called fro the total abolition of Church Rates; the next year a petition was sent in support of a Bill to allow those who died unbaptised to be buried in the parish graveyard. In 1864 they gave support to a national campaign to close pubs from 4.00 pm on Saturday to 6.00 am on Monday morning.


“Some Repairs and Alterations”


In spring 1864 anyone wishing to carry out a burial in the Burial Ground had to apply to Edward Campion or Joseph Westley. The small burial round had been licensed in 1827 and, like the Church, had undergone little change, though both had become fuller. In April a committee was set up to investigate “some repairs and alterations”. On December 1st that year Joseph Westley reported on behalf of the committee that the following should be done;


1.      The Chapel to be repaired, cleaned and re-seated.

2.      The burial ground improved.

3.      A new vestry and schoolroom built

4.      Build a manse for the pastor. It seems that up to this time the pastors had lived in a variety of rented cottages around the village.


What better way to start to meeting the expected heavy expenses than with a subscription tea.


The building programme was completed by October, having been begun in January 1865. On May 18th the foundation stone was laid by the Rev. J.T. Brown, following tea for three hundred. A statement was written by George Bailey, the Pastor, and put in a bottle under the stone, as part of a sort of time capsule. This is now quoted in full;


This statement is written to inform those who are yet unborn, who may be our successors in furthering the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, in connexion with the Baptist Church. And showeth that - Edward Campion – William Woodhouse – Joseph Marriott – Joseph Westley – and George Griggs Bailey were chosen in public meeting convened in the Baptist Chapel to be and act in Committee with authority to purchase a portion of the garden adjoining the Chapel and Burial Ground and to build thereon a Vestry Schoolroom and Minister's residence with convenient offices attached according to plans and drawings exhibited and approved of the said Meeting. Also to repair and reseal the Chapel, enclose the property entire, and put the whole in Trust by a new Deed as soon as possible.


Accordingly the said Committee commenced the work assigned them in the first week of January 1865, by removing the offensive offices in front of the Chapel and rebuilding these behind three adjacent cottages one to each separate occupier. They have enlarged the burial ground northward from the Brook below, up to the Vestry and Schoolroom by taking in from the garden an average breadth of fifteen feet throughout the whole length. From the hill facing the Public High Road they have carted nearly 2000 tons of earth down to the lowest and furthest end of the present enlarged burial ground and raised it from Ten to Twelve feet and have inclosed (sic) it round with strong substantial walls of stone and brick. They have inclosed (sic) the ground in front of the Chapel with side walls of Brick and have erected a strong and handsome iron fence in front with folding gates and supported at each extremity with piers of Stone. They laid the central path of Bricks from the gates to the Chapel doors, laid the sides with grass plats and planted on them Memorial trees. The walls of the Vestry and Schoolroom being built as high as the ceiling – 30 poles of garden ground newly appropriated to the Chapel property – and the foundation of the House for the use of the Minister laid -


Now on this the 18th day of May 1865, about 3 o'clock in the Afternoon we lay a Glass Bottle in the foundation at the western corner in front of the Minister's House under the lowest white stone which is the memorial Stone. The bottle contains a Copy of the Freeman Baptist Newspaper of the 17th of May 1865; A Handbill of this Meeting; and by the request the Pastor's manuscript sermon; a sample of wheat grown by John Tite Cave; a sample of kidney beans and cucumber seeds grown by Joseph Westley; a sample of field beans grown by John Campion; a piece of Ox's hoof – a hierloom of 60 years by William Lepper; and in honour of our beloved Queen Victoria the widow's two half farthings by Edward Campion; and a silver shilling by Joseph Westley. The cost of these building alterations and enlargements is estimated at £800 when completed. The amount of contributions towards the amount of the debt is £472 with promises sure and good making it to £500. Now the Bottle with its contents being deposited and when the Rev. J.T. Brown the beloved pastor of the Baptist Church in College Street Northampton has laid its Memorial Stone securely over it May the hand of violence never disturb them. May the House to be built here be occupied by Godly Pastors through many generations. Signed


George Griggs Bailey Chairman

Joseph Westley Superintendent of the Works

John Tite Cave Treasurer

John Campion Secretary

William Lepper

Joseph Marriott

Edward Campion

William Woodhouse


The “offensive offices” were privies. It is noteworthy that it is at this time that the Church buildings became clearly visible from the road with something of the appearance they have today. Much of the work seems to have been done by the members and congregation of the Church. In November, Joseph Westley told the Church Meeting that the “use of horses and cartage of 2000 tons of earth had been freely conveyed without charge – that the cooperation ... of the labouring classes and trades people after their daily toil had been cheerfully given and thankfully received.” At the same meeting it was noted that the entire debt had now been paid off by “five friends of the Church and Congregation”. The project had come in nearly 50% over initial estimate, at £1122 exactly.

Two teas were held to celebrate the opening of the Chapel. The first was held on October 5th, the day of the opening, with between 300 and 400 people sitting down in the “open air and at the front of the Chapel”. Exactly who attended this tea is unclear, but it would certainly have included the pastor, guests, deacons, committee ans Church members and their families. The labouring folk and the “poorer classes” were largely excluded from this – presumably not because of social status alone, though this was probably part of the reason – and a separate sixpenny tea was provided “subsequently”. There were 160 at this event, held in the Vestry and Schoolroom. It was described as an acknowledgement of “their generous assistance”: Doubtless they were appreciative.

The buildings were inadequate in other respects, as was known in 1865, for the numbers in the congregation and the pupils in the Sunday School. Thus in March 1871 began the project to extend the Chapel and make various other improvements - a second phase of works, in effect. They aimed to;

1.      Extend the Chapel by sixteen feet and raise the roof by three (the newer brickwork is still obvious).

2.      Build a Schoolroom for 150 pupils.

3.      Install heating in the Chapel and Schoolroom.

4.      Replace all windows.

5.      Erect a platform for the Minister.

6.      Add new pews.

7.      Divide the vestry into a minister's vestry and a classroom.

8.      Install 18 new lamps.

9.      Demolish a cottage and build a new one.


By November all was completed, though the Church book does not give the actual cost, it does give the expected cost at the time of completion as being £1170. Once again J.T. Brown officiated and the usual celebration tea was  well attended. Ministers came from as far a field as Clipston, near the Leicestershire border, and Birmingham. It was hoped that the debt could be paid off in three years, with each member asked to contribute one third of what they had already given in each of the years. However, in the long run the expectation was that “each one to offer voluntarily what he can find.”


Shortly after this the Church book comes to an end. Thus the detailed, though rather one-sided, picture given of the Baptists ceases. It tells of their concerns and their attitudes; their hopes and fears. One-sided it may be, but there is no less detail of disciplinary issues than there is of general day-to-day business. Where there were great achievements it is only natural that they were given greater emphasis. Great achievements there had been, too. The stagnation of the mid century had been turned to a forward march of progress; new and extended buildings, increasing membership, involvement with the Baptist Union and a wide variety of good causes and political campaigns. The huge numbers attending tea might not reflect religious conviction, but they do demonstrate significant social impact. The extent to which children at the Sunday School gained educational opportunities that they would not otherwise have got is hard to estimate. Likewise, the benefit of the Clothing Club, the lectures, social evenings and the importance in a small rural community of belonging, cannot be fathomed from the evidence available. It is hard to imagine, however, that the Baptists did not make an impact on individual members and their families as well as the village as a whole.


William Woodhouse had died on the morning of February 12th, 1870. He had been one of the original members of the Church who had sought dismission from Roade in 1825. He had been Deacon and Superintendent and Teacher in the Sabbath School. In the early days of the Church he had  probably been energetic in tramping the surrounding area in search of support for the new Church at Blisworth from other Baptist communities. Later he had been a messenger to candidates for baptism and to all the Association Meetings and other important events. He was clearly a dedicated man who adjusted to change successfully, though it might be suggested not quickly. At one point , on Boxing Day 1859, he told the Church Meeting that “if it desired another Deacon” he hoped “they would not hesitate about doing so out of any delicacy of feeling towards himself.” However, whilst this may reflect disagreements over the way forward under George Bailey  - this was after all only a year and a half after Joseph Westley had lectured the Meeting on the best way to maintain peace and unity – it does not signify great schism. Maybe Woodhouse was seen as the old conservative, though that is mere speculation. Woodhouse's statement could equally be related to the fact that he had just returned from a series of meetings about religious renewal. Whatever the issue was, he remained active as Deacon for another eleven years. He died “his faith in Christ unswerving”, which had undoubtedly been his motivation throughout the years of service. An indication that his influence and wisdom was respected is that those who had attended Sabbath School (which was a considerable number) subscribed to a tombstone for him.


Woodhouse was an artisan. The Church contained a full cross-section of village society – with the exception of the bigger landowners. The members ranged from the entrepreneurial Joseph Westley and the tenant farmer, such as John Cave,  to servants such as the maligned John Gaseryne and William Pettifer's servant girl. However, the leadership of the Church was firmly in the hands of the more prosperous male members. Women attended Church Meetings, but there is only one recorded motion proposed and seconded by women (Charity Rockingham and Sarah Hickson). This was really a reflection of society as a whole, of course. Women were, as we have seen, active in the Church, but within what were seen as acceptable roles at that time.


As the Church grew it inevitably became more organised and more hierarchical. Specific responsibilities began to be delegated, for example for the burial ground. Members were instructed to occupy the central pews during services, whilst the rest of the congregation sat on either side. It is no coincidence that the poorer classes had a sixpenny tea when the new buildings were opened in 1864, whilst the first tea was presumably taken by members and the better off attenders in the congregation. In 1872 tasks were assigned to specific people, disregarding position as Deacon, treasurer and so on. These were not offices in the Church structure, but related to specific tasks;


John Cave :  Order of Service and Sittings 

John Campion and William Radford : (duties not recorded) 

Joseph Westley : Visiting absentees, order of graveyard, Singing School. 

Benjamin Clarke : Enquirers (candidates for baptism). 

R. Pinfold, J.Marriott and J. Mallard : Visiting the sick and aged.

Amongst the more, at first sight, peculiar duties was “watching for strangers in the congregation.” Presumably the aim was to make them welcome and evangelise rather than to identify hostile Methodist, Independent and Anglican infiltrators intent on mischief. Several members were assigned this task. Non-attenders were to be visited by Henry Plowman, the leader of the Gayton prayer meetings and Charles Shalford, amongst others.

At this point the Church book for 1825 to 1872 ends. The period that follows is more obscure, until more evidence is found. What is certain was that it was a vigorous, well-organised Church that entered the last quarter of the nineteenth century in confident frame of mind.

Jubilee and Difficulty

The main source that has so far come to my notice for this period is the anonymous manuscript history of 1900. (NRO BlB3) This is not obviously an always even-handed document and needs some care, especially as it approaches the turn of the century.

The reaction to the improvements to the Chapel and the additional buildings seems to have had a surprisingly mixed reaction. It seems that the author's view that “It would be a good thing if every village had such a chapel” was not unanimous. “Some felt that the Chapel was larger and finer than it should be and some said they would give nothing to so much being spent upon it.”  The clear inference of this is that even before building commenced there was opposition to what some saw as extravagance. How far, if at all, this reflected deeper divisions is hard to say, nor do we know who the opposition were. A Marxist writer might seek out social divisions. Interestingly, there is no record of dissent or of the dissenting voices. They may not have had the power to make their opposition effective, or, just as likely, any documentary evidence of complaint has been lost. It is entirely possible that the increasing dominance of a few wealthy individuals and the growth of a more hierarchical structure in what was a free association of equals was felt by some to be unfair, not to say inappropriate, and that the ostentation, as they saw it, of the new Chapel was a symbol of this. It is equally likely that there were simply those who held a more primitive attitude to their religion. Sadly all is speculative and is likely to remain so.

Despite this the debts from the building programme were rapidly paid off. Two hundred and thirteen pounds were wiped off the slate in April 1873 by the proceeds of a three day long bazaar. The final debt was cleared in September 1874 at the anniversary celebrations of the reopening. The money came from the collection and “three or four friends”. The latter are unnamed, but it is likely they were the usual men. After all there were few who could afford to make such significant donations.

Moreover, there was stability in the Deaconate. If there was dissension the opposition was never in position to carry out a village coup d'etat. However, maybe they were few in number or their opposition not so deeply felt.

It is likely that all Blisworth Baptists would have felt a sense of pride that their new buildings were the venue for the Northamptonshire Association meeting in 1873. This important event was held at Blisworth for a second time in 1888.

The author of the anonymous manuscript describes William Mills' pastorate  (August 1874 to August 1882) as “sunny days for this little hill of Zion.”  Clearly the author approved. Without doubt the most significant event during this period was the Chapel Jubilee in 1875, which was held on September 15th, 1875. As usual there was communal breakfast and tea, whist the children marched around the village and and hymns at places of historic importance to the Baptists. No record of their route exists, a great shame. There was an afternoon sermon and communion was held. Tea was followed by a public meeting in the evening. Most remarkable and perhaps most indicative of the Church's development was the breakfast. This was given to the Sunday School children and eight adults. The adults sat on a separate form. The combined age of the eight, all men, was six hundred years. All had been present at the opening of the first chapel.

The number sitting down to tea at the Jubilee was 200. A large number, though not as large as it had been at some previous events. The Church remained prosperous. In 1885 a new lecture hall was opened at a cost of £390 and £200 was spent on renovating the Chapel. All this was cleared by 1887. This was during the pastorate of Herbert Trotman (December 1882 to December 1887)

Both Mills and Trotman are mentioned by name. Alfed Barnes (March 1888 to May 1890), seems to have been a popular choice with some. A relatively young man, it was hoped that he would encourage attendance and membership amongst young men – though a younger pastor might also have had attractions for females, too. This was important because recruitment had, for many years, been strongest amongst females. His death in 1890 may well have come as a disappointment.

Hs successor, Fred Hughes (March 1891 to March 1893), is not mentioned by name. Nor was his successor Henry Wyatt (September 1893 to October 1901. However, the latter did not meet with the approval of our anonymous writer in 1900.

The position of pastor has been too unworthily filled .... thirty-five new members, forty-eight lost .... a time of loss and change ... Our missionary gathering and contributions are not what they used to be. At one time we had between 200 and 400 to tea and our contribution was not less than £30 to £40. This year we had 80 persons to tea and sent up as our contribution not quite £15.

A falling off in other areas of Church life is noted. Sadly neither what these were nor the writer's views on the reasons for them or the unworthiness of the pastor are given.

Whatever lay behind the writers claims there was clearly something amiss, given the decline in tea attenders – something Baptists rarely seem to decline – and the amount of money raised for an important aspect of Baptists activity in the late nineteenth century. However, the membership statistics do not support such a pessimistic view in the long term.

There was a major increase in membership in 1889, during the pastorate of Alfred Barnes and a major decline in the last year of that of Fred Hughes. This is followed by an immediate  increase and longer term decline. The membership never again reached the level of 1892, though there was a significant recovery by 1904. It is dangerous to make too much of short term fluctuations, such as those of 1893 to 1894. After all a bad year for the old might easily wipe several members off the list.

Whether the appointment of Henry Wyatt caused a rift or if his conduct or ministry lead to concerns is not clear. There is no doubt that during his pastorate membership went down and when he left it recovered. During that period it fluctuated. It is always tempting to blame individuals for ills, even more so in the absence of any other evidence.




Living Away*






















Barnes (to May)




Hughes (from March)








































Wyatt (to October)




Chennells (from July)
















*These figure are recorded from 1899 to 1905 and are likely to include, amongst others, those in service and apprentices. During the Boer War it might even include volunteers. There are some examples of women who kept their membership for a short period after leaving the village on marriage.

**Incomplete, presumably due to Barnes death and the search for a new pastor.


***Not recorded

Maybe a clue to the obvious disapproval of Henry Wyatt lies in the phrase “a time of loss and change”.  The Blisworth Baptist Church newsletter for May 1897 (kindly sent in by Honor Handford) refers to a Service of Song at Milton on Good Friday. There was a tea and the Sunday School children thoroughly enjoyed it. The attendance was not quite what it had been on previous occasions. A change is mooted.

It is felt by some that a change from the Service of Song would be very agreeable. The fact that nothing else has been given on Good Friday for many years is not a sufficient reason for keeping always to the one thing, if something better can be substituted. A local Eisteddfod has been suggested. There is ample time to consider the matter before next year.

The tone suggests that a decision had already been made, though who's tone it is is not clear. It certainly indicates an attitude favourable towards change. Even so, William Mills, who had left in 1882, still returned annually to his old Chapel, to deliver a sermon. Indeed, he was there in 1925 to join in the centenary celebrations.

The truth was that times were changing. As the anonymous writer would have recognised, the Church was active; Sunday School, Band of Hope, Templar Lodge, tract distribution, sick visiting, sewing classes, clothing club and “manifold, unknown and unrecorded ways.” However, many of these were far from new ventures. The Church faced “more subtle difficulties” in a “pleasure loving and distracting age.” (BlB3) Whence the Church in the twentieth century was a bigger question than the worthiness of a pastor.


[1]  The view that John Staughton occupied what is now No 38 High Street seems well supported by the evidence in Sue Blake's CD review of the Grafton documents held at the NRO.  Mrs B Andrews has kindly pointed out the connection, which is demonstrated in the attached image - the first part of which describes John Stalton's holding in 1727; giving no reference number but offering the information that Cha. Good took it over later.  The second part shows, with reference numbers, that part in the hands of Cha. Good in 1757.  The third part is part of the 1729 survey map in which the reference numbers tally with the High Street property No 38.  Incidentally, there is the indication that a century before Huggett's shop there was once an old bakery in that place.  A 1838 map of the same area clarifies the identification with No 38 (1952 numbering).

[2]  "Little Ease" - a medieval term for a stocks or, more likely, a chamber offering little comfort as it would be "a prison cell too small to allow the prisoner to stand upright, or to lie down, or to assume any other position of ease." (Brewer's Phrase and Fable Reference, also see Torture and English Law by James Heath, Greenwood Press, 1982)  Presumably the field accommodated somewhere this chamber used as an instrument of feudal punishment and torture.  It would have been well sited, being near the path from the village centre to the pre-inclosure northern field (Nether Field) so that most villagers, on their dutiful way to or from working in the field, could see the unfortunate 'ill-doer' receiving his/her punishment.