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Wiltshire Community History

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Baptist Chapel, Imber

Baptist Chapel, Imber Date Photo Taken 2013
Uploaded 06/01/2014 17:33:59
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Map Latitude 51.23823796467116 : Longitude -2.0558568835258484
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Original Media Location: Michael Marshman

Chapel graveyard.

In April 1784 the house of Thomas Gibbs was registered for worship by the Baptists, while four years later in April 1788 the two houses, with their gardens, of Thomas Westfield junior were registered, with the names of Imber householders, John Clem, John Carter, Thomas Chambers, and John Blagdon. In the late 18th and early 19th centuries many men would have walked or ridden long distances to preach in houses such as these, with meeting room certificates. One such visitor to Imber was David Saunders of West Lavington, the 'Shepherd of Salisbury Plain', and he and other inspirational preachers inspired large numbers of non-conformists in Wiltshire villages. Imber became a village station of the influential Baptist Chapel at Bratton; the station was set up by John Saffery, minister of the Brown Street Baptist Chapel at Salisbury, who had married into the Whitaker family of Bratton.

Using voluntary labour the villagers built their own chapel; shepherds and farm labourers brought stone from the hills, and women brought buckets of water to the site while the men mixed mortar. The chapel was built on part of Thomas Hayter's garden and was licensed on 31st October 1833. In 1839 the substantial Baptist community at Imber broke away from Bratton Chapel at the instigation of the village elders, Thomas Froud, James Pearce, Isaac Carter, and William Grant. In 1868 the chapel was repaired and partly rebuilt for a flourishing congregation. By 1858 a school was attached to the chapel and a contemporary report said that three quarters of the village population were dissenters - the number of children at the school was between two and three times as many as were at the church school.

The best known of the Imber ministers was Joseph Goddard, an agriculrural labourer and deacon whose services were much sought after by congregations over a wide area. Towards the end of his life he used to say that he had walked 8,000 miles to preach the Gospel. From 1907 to 1943 services were regularly taken by Frank Maidment, the minister from Chitterne. The chapel closed on the evacuation in 1943.

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