BHO

Great Wilbraham: Nonconformity

Pages 317-318

A History of the County of Cambridge and the Isle of Ely: Volume 10, Cheveley, Flendish, Staine and Staploe Hundreds (North-Eastern Cambridgeshire). Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 2002.

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Citation:

NONCONFORMITY.

Dissent was strong in the late 17th century. There was a Baptist meeting in 1654, (fn. 1) and 13 resident dissenters were reported in 1676. (fn. 2) In the 1670s and 1680s 10-12 people, in 1686 20, some styled Anabaptists, who mostly came from the same five or six families, were repeatedly presented for not going to church. Among them was John Denne, a tailor from Huntingdon, in prison in 1679, (fn. 3) who in 1669 had taught 20-30 Anabaptists who met in a barn. In 1672 he procured a licence for a Baptist meeting in the parish, to be taught by Edward Hancock. (fn. 4) A surviving late 17thcentury house on High Street, once owned by the Webb and Denne families, was possibly the meeting house. Beside it is a small graveyard, used by dissenters including the Pauls, into the 19th century. (fn. 5)

About 1700 a house was registered for Independent worship. (fn. 6) In 1728, when 10 out of 42 families were dissenters, their meeting house was styled 'Anabaptist'; the vicar had sometimes to baptize adults. (fn. 7) There was still a licensed meeting house in 1782, (fn. 8) but apparently not c. 1800, although there were a few Baptist families. (fn. 9) A house was registered in 1819, (fn. 10) and in 1831-2 T. D. Paul and Joseph Toller, both prominent farmers, registered houses and barns, (fn. 11) probably pending the building in 1833 (fn. 12) of the existing Baptist chapel, standing at the north end of Angle End. The grey brick threebayed chapel, seating 60-100, (fn. 13) is arcaded outside with segmental arches. Toller managed it and lodged the minister in 1851, when an average attendance of 30-50 was claimed. (fn. 14) In the late 19th century the chapel usually provided two Sunday services, attended c. 1885 by up to 12 people. (fn. 15) It closed briefly in 1894, but its activity was revived through the Baptist Cambridge Village Preachers' Association, (fn. 16) of whose Cherry Hinton group it formed part in the early 20th century. About 1970, when there was still a Baptist Sunday school, the congregation was up to 45. (fn. 17) In 1980 the pastor was converted to an American sect and gave over the chapel to its new-style services, involving chanting and guitar playing, but in 1981 more traditional Baptists ejected him and his supporters. (fn. 18) The chapel was still open c. 1990. (fn. 19)

Footnotes

  • 1. Proc. C.A.S. lxi. 85.
  • 2. Compton Census, ed. Whiteman, 164.
  • 3. C.U.L., E.D.R., B 2/63A, ff. 10v.-11; B 2/66, ff. 16v.-17v.; B 2/70, ff. 8, 40 and v.; cf. Cal. S.P. Dom. 1685-7, p. 324; Nutter, Cambs. Baptists, 64.
  • 4. Orig. Rec. of Early Nonconf. ed. Turner, i. 39, 352; cf. Proc. C.A.S. lxi. 85-6.
  • 5. Stokes, Wilbrahams, 151; cf. D.o.E. list.
  • 6. P.R.O., RG 31/6, Cambs. Q.S. no. 2.
  • 7. C.U.L., E.D.R., B 8/1, f. 35.
  • 8. Ibid. B 7/1, p. 15.
  • 9. Ibid. C 1/4; C 1/6.
  • 10. P.R.O., RG 31/2, Ely dioc. no. 375.
  • 11. Ibid. nos. 564, 566, 572.
  • 12. Inscr. on bldg.; cf. Kelly's Dir. Cambs. (1858-1937).
  • 13. Baptist Handbk. (1925), 57; (1935), 61.
  • 14. P.R.O., HO 129/186 (2), f. 14; HO 107/1759, f. 573. In 1972 it was believed that the chapel was Primitive Methodist 1832-57: Camb. Ind. Press, 15 June 1972.
  • 15. C.U.L., E.D.R., C 3/24; C 3/31.
  • 16. Camb. Chron. 8 June 1894, p. 8.
  • 17. Baptist Handbk. (1925), 57; (1944-6), 29; (1965), 113; Camb. Ind. Press, 13 Aug. 1970.
  • 18. Camb. Evening News, 13, 15, 16 June, 24 Aug., 1 Oct. 1981.
  • 19. Cf. Baptist Union Dir. (1994-5), 57.