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Wiltshire Community History

Congregational Chapel, Devizes

Two early meetings were said to be Congregationalist; that at John Freme's house, registered in 1669, which became Baptist and by 1672 a meeting at Edward Hope's house, with Obadiah Wills as minister. After that nothing was heard of Congregationalism in the town for some time. From 1763 a group of churchmen in the town were receiving teaching from Richard Baddeley, rector of Hilperton, and other clergymen in the area. In 1771 they were taught by Rowland Hill, who came to Devizes twice, and in that year they came together as a congregation and certified a meeting house.

In 1776 the nucleus of a chapel was built in Northgate Street and called St. Mary's Chapel as it was in St. Mary's parish. It was assigned to Calvinist Methodist worship but could have a minister of any denomination. In the late 18th century they became Congregationalists. In the second quarter of the 19th century the Rev. Richard Elliott raised the chapel to its peak in the town with many leading townspeople in the congregation. In the late 1840s the average number was 525. Elliott was a well known minister and a champion of the anti- slavery movement. After his death in 1854 there was a secession to the New Baptist Church but from 1862 the new minister, Robert Dawson, built up the congregation again.

The original chapel was small and oblong and in 1790 this was enlarged into a square building. In 1811-12 a schoolroom and assembly room were added on the southern side and other improvements occurred in the 1830s and 1850s. In 1868-69 a lecture hall and another schoolroom were built in the Early English style on the northern side of the chapel. There were more improvements in the last quarter of the century and again in 1925. The congregation declined in the late 1950s, there were 107 in 1956 but only 50 in 1964, but revived in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Around 1987 the chapel was closed and the congregation joined that of the Methodist church which became St. Andrew's Methodist and United Reform Church.

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Congregational Chapel, Devizes
Congregational Chapel, Devizes

Image Date: 2003
Image Location: Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre, Chippenham


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