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Wiltshire Community History

Particular Baptist Chapel, Hilperton

In the second half of the 18th century members of the Trowbridge Back Street Baptist chapel preached in the open air at Hilperton and converts from Hilperton joined the Back Street chapel. Some were baptised there from 1797. In 1798 the house of Susannah Slade was licensed for Baptist worship and it was probably this group who formed a church in 1806. A chapel was built and certified on 29th May 1806. It was of rubble stone with ashlar and had plain plastered interior walls. It was not finished at the opening ceremony and people sat on chairs. Afterwards low box pews to seat 150 were built. In 1807 a gallery was erected at a cost of £51.9.6d (£59.48p) and the seating was increased to 180.

From 1807 adult baptisms took place in the river, with 9 in 1807 and 8 in 1808. Repairs, costing £22, were necessary in 1820 and the following year the vestry was enlarged and a Sunday School room built above, it at a cost of £71.11.5d (£71.57p). Membership continued to grow and stood at 59 in 1829, but a watch was kept on the conduct of members both inside and outside chapel. In 1828 one lady had her membership ended because she beat her husband. In 1832 two cottages and their gardens were bought to enlarge the burial ground, which was then enclosed by iron railings. The total cost of this was £125.5.2d (£125.27p) and around the same time the pulpit was rebuilt and a new lobby made. All this indicates an active and expanding church in the village, in line with the the religious revival that was taking place nationally. There was an hiatus in 1835 when James Miles, a deacon, resigned and took some followers to set up a meeting at Hilperton Marsh. He seems to have caused problems for the minister for several years. However celebrations were in order in March 1836 when all money owing for building work had been paid off. The minister from 1807 to 1848 was John Dymott, a carpenter, who had made the early seats for the church at the start of his ministry. The chapel was licensed for marriages in 1850. In 1890 there were 30 members with 40 Sunday School pupils and 10 teachers. The chapel continued to thrive in the early 20th century and in 1946 were holding two Sunday services and a weekday prayer meeting. As with many village chapels, membership declined in the second half of the 20th century and the chapel eventually closed. It was converted to domestic use in the 1990s.

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