The Baptists in Bathford
Introduction - Baptist Churches
Baptists subscribe to a Christian doctrine with the belief that the act of baptism should only be performed for professing believers and with complete immersion of the believer. Many Baptist churches are local and independent of any particular denomination or group of Baptist churches under a common board or director.
Bathord Baptist Chapel
Bathford's Baptist chapel in High Street was built in 1839 on land conveyed in 1827 to trustees to provide for a meeting house for use for religious worship by Protestant dissenters of the denomination of Baptists. In addition, the trust deed envisaged extension to include a vestry room, a school room and a burial ground. This building did not initially have a bapistry for total immersion and this was added in 1894. Click on The Baptist Chapel (Buildings) for information on the chapel and associated schoolroom.
Two of the Baptist Sunday School registers have survived and give the names of local children who attended in the years 1898-97 and 1921-21. They numbered around 30 per year until the 1930s. By the 1940s, the Sunday School had closed and was replaced by a youth group. The Baptist congregation in Bathford, though devout, was never large and as in many churches and chapels of other denominations, congregations diminished after the World War I. The Bathford chapel's minutes record a concern in the 1920s that former Sunday School pupils were not seeking membership of the church to replace losses from the congregation due to removals and deaths. By the mid 1930s membership of the church was around 20 and in single figures by the 1960s. By 1975, the membership was down to 3 and the chapel closed.
A New Era - 1983 to 2011
On hearing in 1983 that there was a planning application to convert the chapel into a house, Brian and Margaret Hiiliard persuaded the trustees to allow them to reopen the chapel, with Brian as pastor. At a cost of £12,000 and with 175 hours of free labour provided by well-wishers, the building was refurbished and people came from all over the West Country for prayer and healing. Almost 200 people were baptised, and help was given to start some six new chapels in the area. In about 1986 there was a beef and butter 'mountain' in the European Onion and for a while the chapel was a distribution centre for the surplus food to be given to the elderly in the village.
In 2003 the Hilliards retired after 20 years of devoted service and Paul Ivory installed as their successor. By 2011 the building was no longer in regular use and the trustees decided that the building should be sold for conversion to a private dwelling and the Trust dissolved. The chapel building was sold in 2013/14.
Source: Bathford Past and Present