200 years of church history

January 30 2014

Downend Baptist Church History, by Margaret Miller, has just been published. Here, she gives Downend Voice readers a taste of some of the fascinating tales it reveals.

downend baptist church history

DOWNEND Baptist Church at the western end of Salisbury Road, owes its existence to two men in the mid 1780s - one Rev. Caleb Evans, minister of Broadmead Baptist Church and President of the Bristol Baptist Academy, now Bristol Baptist College - the other, Joseph Betts, landowner, farmer and maltster of Downend, Joseph leased four acres of land to Broadmead Baptist Church at a rent of one guinea a year (ie 21 shillings or £1. 05). Joseph died in 1786 so it is unlikely he ever worshipped in the small chapel.

By 1814 the chapel was obviously financially secure and permission was given for the chapel to become independent of Broadmead Baptist Church.

In this history of the church, the lives of its early ministers are recorded. Some of this information has been taken from the first minute book of the church, from census documents, wills and other church/family history websites. Among these ministers is Rev. John Foster, after whom the church was named, and who was the pastor for two periods in the early history of the church. We can read of the successes and disappointments of these ministers in their walk with God.

Downend Baptist Church has always had a small graveyard where members of the fellowship were buried, from the influential members of society to the poor and humble of Downend. George Bompass, Superintendent of the Fishponds Lunatic Asylum, and some of his fourteen children were buried here as were two farmers and members of their families (the Pendocks of Dibden Farm and the Bridgmans of Cleeve Hill Farm). A railway worker, John Hook, killed at Warmley station and James Pocock, a hatter, are examples of those at the lower end of the social scale.

Names of those buried have been taken from the Church’s burial index (sparse information), from the church’s minute book, from the actual gravestones (where readable) and from Rev. Emlyn Jones’s book, Our Parish, Mangotsfield and Downend. Should you be researching your family history the burial list of at least 80 people may prove invaluable.

The last section of the history is called Within Living Memory . This includes many memories of the fellowship going back over 70 years starting with the years during the Second World War. Memories of ministers, of the many fellowship outings, garden parties and activities.

Perhaps you attended Sunday school at the Baptist Church or maybe sent your children there. Did you belong to Campaigners or the Youth Club? Perhaps you were a member of the Ladies Enterprise which still meets today after 50 years. This year the Baptist Church celebrates its 200th anniversary as an independent fellowship.

Copies of the book are on sale at £10 each, with all money going to the church redevelopment fund.

Contact the church office on 0117 970 1058 or email the minister Andy Machin, andymachin@downendbaptist.org.uk. Cheques should be made payable to Downend Baptist Church.