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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Dissent was strong from the late 17th century: the resident branch of the Docwras supported the Quakers by the 1660s. (fn. 1) By 1669 there were two conventicles, each with up to 20 adherents, mostly poor and female. One was held in a farmer's house, the other of 'Anabaptists' in a building specially fitted up. (fn. 2) In 1676 there were 20 dissenters in the whole village, a tenth of its adults. (fn. 3) Of the two meeting houses in 1728, one was for Presbyterians who assembled every other month and had no regular preacher, the other for 43 Baptists, apparently served by a minister from Burwell, but probably associated with the Wilbraham congregation. (fn. 4) It was probably for that group that Thomas Hancock, whose family had produced dissenters from 1670, registered a house for worship in 1730. Another was registered for Baptists in 1743. (fn. 5) During the 18th century Baptist influence led to many children not being christened, so that the Anglican clergy occasionally baptised whole families including several adults, 25 in 1724-5, c. 40 in 1782-85. (fn. 6)
In 1791 a Baptist minister, said to have served 1776-1813, registered a barn in which a substantial farmer, Thomas Hancock, had by 1807 fitted up one 'mow' with seating as a Baptist meeting house. There were then 30 dissenting households with 80-90 members besides servants. (fn. 7) In 1810 (fn. 8) Hancock built for them a brick chapel west of Wright's (later School) Lane with 200 sittings. It was enlarged in 1841 to provide 350, 200 of them free. (fn. 9) In 1862 it was rebuilt to give 400-450 places and heightened to receive a gallery. The Chaplins, the Hancocks' heirs, then gave it in trust for the congregation. (fn. 10)
That congregation with 16 full members, formally established in 1815, had two successive ministers by 1820, (fn. 11) but local dissenting allegiance was fluid and subject to doctrinal differences. A minister was guiding it towards Independency by 1825, when Evangelicals from Cambridge provided at their meeting house a Sunday-school teacher who also instructed poor people attending evening prayer meetings at a carpenter's house, registered in 1824. (fn. 12) The main congregation was formally reconstituted as an Independent one in 1841. Its chapel was served thenceforth until the late 1930s by a continuous succession of ordained ministers resident in the village; (fn. 13) a manse on Pierce Lane was built for them in 1896. (fn. 14) In 1851 the minister claimed an average attendance of 110-180, besides 160 Sunday-school pupils, at the two regular services, besides an evening one. (fn. 15) Three services were being held by 1873 when c. 55 families out of 200 were reckoned to be dissenters. In 1885 the number of chapel-goers almost equalled that of churchgoers. (fn. 16) The chapel had up to 125 full members in the early 20th century. (fn. 17) H. F. Chaplin, who had sponsored a dissenting Temperance movement since the 1870s, (fn. 18) in 1910 used the site of a demolished beerhouse at Home End to build Hope Hall as a social centre for his fellow dissenters and Liberals. (fn. 19) It closed before 1951. (fn. 20) From the 1940s the chapel was served by members of the team of Congregationalist ministers working in South Cambridgeshire, while its full membership fell to 25-35. It adhered in 1972 to the United Reformed Church and was still open for weekly services in the 1990s, being served from Cherry Hinton. (fn. 21)
In the early 19th century some Baptists had rejected the move towards Independency and seceded, probably using the cottages registered for worship in 1830 and 1849. (fn. 22) The second was probably the new built house at Highfield Gate furnished in 1851 as a temporary Baptist meeting house seating 60; its average congregation was 50. (fn. 23) In 1855 a site south of the west end of Pierce Lane was acquired for a new chapel for those Calvinistic Particular Baptists, to be managed by elected ministers and deacons. (fn. 24) It remained in use into the 1870s, still having two Sunday services in 1873, but was seldom open by 1885. (fn. 25) It was re-opened in 1925. Services were continued until after 1936, (fn. 26) but it had long been closed by 1970 when it was sold by the Cambridge Baptists. (fn. 27)