These days, KSBC is on the friendliest of terms with our Anglican neighbours and churches of all other Christian denominations, but as we delve back into the early history of our fellowship, we enter much less tolerant and forgiving times…
1: Founding & Early History
The earliest surviving records of a Baptist fellowship in the King’s Stanley area date back to 1640, making KSBC the oldest Baptist Church in Gloucestershire. As it was illegal in those days to meet for worship anywhere other than in a church belonging to the Church of England, the Baptists of King’s Stanley gathered discretely together to worship in each others’ homes. This was still a risky undertaking, especially as the parish of King’s Stanley was in the personal gift of the monarch and therefore subject to greater than normal official scrutiny.
Little is known of the beliefs and practices of the early Baptists of King’s Stanley other than that, as their nickname indicated, they conducted baptisms of believers, rather than of infants, and that they were “Seventh Day Baptists”, that is, they met for worship on a Saturday, rather than a Sunday.
Following the English Civil War and the execution of King Charles I, the establishment of Cromwell’s Commonwealth of England in 1649 brought greater freedom and tolerance for Baptists and other Nonconformists. While the Commonwealth lasted, they were allowed to worship openly and exercise freedom of conscience.
2: The Restoration & Persecution
The Restoration of the monarchy in 1660 brought a religious backlash, however, and a clamping down on the activities of the Noncomformists. Official disapproval was codified in the Five Mile Act of 1665, which stipulated that no Nonconformist ex-minister or teacher should come within five miles (“unless only in passing upon the road”) of any city, town or borough which sent a member to Parliament, or within the same distance of any parish or place where he had formerly preached or taught. The fine for any breach of this law was £40, a huge sum in those days. The Act also made it illegal for anyone to teach or have pupils unless they would swear an oath of allegiance to the King and attend regular worship in the Church of England. Again, the fine for breaking this law was £40.
No longer able to worship openly, the Baptists of King’s Stanley sought cover in Penn Wood, on the slopes of the hill south of the village, where they worshipped under a tree which became known locally as the “Gospel Beech”. Even so, many members of the fellowship suffered fines, persecution and even imprisonment for their refusal to conform and accept the authority and disciplines of the established Church.
One of these King’s Stanley Baptist “prisoners of conscience” was Samuel Jones. Having been frequently fined for not attending the parish church, he refused to change his ways and was eventually thrown into Gloucester Gaol.
3: Toleration & Church Buildings
As time went by, persecution gradually eased, and in 1689 Parliament passed the Act of Toleration, which allowed Nonconformists, including Baptists (though not Roman Catholics), freedom to worship in their own way and to build their own places of worship, provided that they swore an oath of allegiance to the Crown. Meeting places had to be registered and Noncomformists were not allowed to meet for worship in private homes, but the new law nevertheless provided Nonconformists with a welcome relaxation of the restrictions which had sought to prevent their giving public expression to their faith.
The Baptists in King’s Stanley took to meeting in a secluded byway in Middleyard, not far from the location of KSBC’s current buildings, which became known as Meeting House Lane (now Coombe Lane).
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They built a chapel there in the early 18th century which lasted for around 80 years. There does not seem to have been a baptistry in the chapel itself. When there was a baptism, the stream which ran along the lane in front of the chapel was converted into an open-air baptistry and on these occasions, according to the records, the trees and fields all around were crowded with spectators.
Eventually, this first chapel began to fall into disrepair. A Dr Rippon records in The Baptist Annual Register, Volume III that:
…the old place of worship was in a ruinous condition the people were afraid of entering it and at last part of it actually fell down. In July 1795 there were thirty-two members.
4: The current chapel is built
The present chapel was built on Broad Street in Middleyard in 1824. The schoolroom adjoining the chapel was added in 1883. Both are now Grade 2 listed structures.
The pews, which had become very old and worm-eaten, were removed in the mid-nineteen fifties, along with the pressurised hot water heating system and the gas lighting standards. The windows on either side of the pulpit were blocked up, and the interior decoration changed from a dark to a much lighter and brighter colour scheme.
For many years, there was also another Baptist chapel in the King’s Stanley area at the Woodside. This chapel was built in 1838 but no one now knows its exact location. (If you do know where the chapel was located, please let us know!)
5: Church Planting
Members from KSBC went out and planted Baptist churches in several other locations: Shortwood (1715), Stroud (1824, the same year in which the current KSBC chapel was built), Nupend (1832) and Woodchester (1833).
|1690-1705||Rev Jonathan Davis|
|?-1725||Rev Benjamin Britain|
|?-1765||Rev William Birt||Lived at Coleford during his pastorate. Wrote a book on predestination in reply to John Wesley in 1746.|
|?-1784||Rev _ Hayward|
|1801-1818||Rev James Williams|
|1818-1843||Rev James Cousins||Built the current chapel.|
|1846-1850||Rev J C Butterworth, MA||His first pastorate at KSBC. Served again 1864-1872 (see below).|
|1851-1854||Rev John Lewis|
|1855-1860||Rev Philip G Scorey||His first pastorate at KSBC. Served again 1895-1897 (see below).|
|1860-1864||Rev Frank Overbury||Members of the Overbury family have also been pastors of Tetbury and Shortwood Baptist Churches.|
|1864-1872||Rev J C Butterworth||His second pastorate at KSBC. Originally served 1846-1850 (see above).|
|1873-1881||Rev W Coombes|
|1882-1883||Rev Charles Brown||KSBC was his first pastorate. Went on to lead at Shortwood Baptist Church and then at Ferme Park in London. Became a noted Baptist preacher.|
|1883-1894||Rev Edward Dakin|
|1895-1897||Rev Philip G Scorey||His second pastorate at KSBC. Served originally 1855-1860 (see above).|
|June 1899-April 1908||Rev Charles Beer|
|November 1908-March 1918||Rev W E Sainsbury|
|July 1919-September 1922||Rev E H Howard|
|October 1922-December 1927||Rev W J Lait||His pastorate ended on Christmas Day 1927.|
|July 1928-March 1947||Rev G L Mason|
|September 1947-December 1951||Rev Olney Davies|
|July 1952-December 1955||Rev D G Gardener, BA|
|April 1956-December 1959||Rev Geoffrey L Morris|
|August 1960-March 1967||Rev J L Mair|
|May 1969-March 1975||Rev J A Hopper|
|August 1975-September 1984||Rev Douglas Monkley|
|December 1988-September 1990||Rev Margaret Jarman|
|October 1994-August 2001||Rev Dr Alison Evans|
|June 2010-October 2014||Mr Nigel Price|
|October 2014-August 2017||Rev Jo Regan|
|September 2017 – present||Rev Robert Draycott|
7: A Fresh Start
In May 2010, after a long period without a minister and with a dwindling and ageing congregation, the deacons and members of KSBC reluctantly voted to close the church down.
Hoping that there might be a way to revive the church and its mission, the West of England Baptist Association (WEBA) arranged a stay of execution and agreed a five-year trial period in which the church would remain open though with the church meeting and membership in abeyance. From the beginning of June, WEBA appointed a steering committee to oversee the church’s affairs consisting of the Rev Alisdair Longwill, a regional minister, plus the ministers of the three largest Baptist churches in the local area, namely the Rev Brian Durkin of Stroud Baptist Church, the Rev Liam Eaglestone from Minchinhampton Baptist Church, and Matt Frost, senior pastor at Cirencester Baptist Church.
To this initial group were added Malcolm Webb, a retired finance director and member at Stroud Baptist Church, who agreed to act as treasurer for KSBC, and Nigel Price, a member at Cirencester Baptist Church who had recently been serving as moderator for Chalford Baptist Church during their interregnum. Nigel agreed to act as pastor for KSBC.
The steering committee explored various options for continuing the work at KSBC and, in late 2010, eventually accepted a proposal that Nigel Price be confirmed as pastor at KSBC, with support and help towards his expenses from Cirencester Baptist Church and pastoral oversight by Matt Frost. This was subsequently ratified by Cirencester Baptist Church early in 2011 and an accountability group, led by Matt Frost and including Malcolm Webb, the church treasurer, and representatives from both Cirencester Baptist Church and the congregation at Middleyard, was established to oversee the financial affairs of KSBC.
Nigel Price was formally commissioned as pastor of KSBC at a packed service held at the church on the afternoon of Sunday 5 June 2011. The commissioning was led by WEBA regional minister the Rev Gordon Hindmarch, and Matt Frost was the preacher.
8: Reverse Missionaries
During August 2011, KSBC played host to a television production team from Twenty Twenty Productions Limited who were making an episode of a BBC2 documentary series entitled “Reverse Missionaries”.
In the nineteenth century, Jamaica had been evangelised by Baptists from Gloucestershire. One of the most prominent of these was a man from Shortwood Baptist Church in Nailsworth called Thomas Burchell, an evangelist, church-planter and outspoken abolitionist. He was married to a local Gloucestershire woman by the name of Hester Crocker Lusty and circumstantial evidence suggests that she may have been a member of KSBC.
The KSBC episode featured the Rev Franklin Small, a Baptist minister from Kingston, Jamaica, who stayed with us for two weeks, taking services, speaking at outreach events and sharing his faith with the people of the Stanleys. Th0mas Burchell was one of Franklin’s heroes, so as well as covering Franklin’s work in the Stanleys, the programme also showed him visiting various sites in Britain associated with Burchell’s life (and death).
The programme featuring Franklin Small, Thomas Burchell and KSBC was broadcast in the UK at 9 pm on BBC2 on Friday 16 March 2012.
Following an extended period of hospitalisation and ill health which began in October 2014, Nigel Price stepped down from leading KSBC. His place as pastor has now been taken on by the Revd Jo Regan, formerly minister of New Baptist Church, Burton upon Trent.
Sources: The information on this page is based largely on the booklet King’s Stanley Baptist Church: Notes on the History 1640-1990 written by C. Cotterill in 1970 and augmented for the church’s 350th anniversary in 1990 with additional notes by “M.J.” and “J.D.”. “M.J.” was the Revd Margaret Jarman, then minister of KSBC, while “J.D.” was the late Jack Davis, a long-standing deacon of the church. Additional information was gathered from a variety of web-based sources plus C. Silvester Horne’s A Popular History of the Free Churches (London, 1903).