Earls Colne: Nonconformity

A History of the County of Essex: Volume 10, Lexden Hundred (Part) Including Dedham, Earls Colne and Wivenhoe. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 2001.

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'Earls Colne: Nonconformity', in A History of the County of Essex: Volume 10, Lexden Hundred (Part) Including Dedham, Earls Colne and Wivenhoe, (London, 2001) pp. 102. British History Online https://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/essex/vol10/p102 [accessed 2 March 2024]


The Society of Friends (fn. 1) made converts in Earls Colne from 1655. A Meeting was held there before 1657, when it moved to Colne Engaine. (fn. 2) Numbers increased in the 1660s and 1670s; a meeting house in the later Burrows Road was built in 1674 and settled in trust in 1678. (fn. 3) There was a burial ground by 1689. By 1709 the Earls Colne Preparative Meeting was a member of the Coggeshall Monthly Meeting; in 1771 it joined with Hedingham in a joint Preparative Meeting, pre- sumably because of declining numbers at both places, but the arrangement seems to have been temporary. Attendance at the Earls Colne meet- ing house on census Sunday 1851 was only 11 in the morning and 10 in the afternoon. (fn. 4) Weekday meetings ceased in 1902, but by 1906 Sunday attendance was increasing. In 1915 the Meeting was merged with that of Coggeshall, and some Monthly Meetings were held at Earls Colne. The Meeting closed during the Second World War when the meeting house was requisi- tioned, but reopened as a Particular Meeting in 1949; it amalgamated with Coggeshall in 1966 and with Halstead in 1971. Numbers increased in the later 20th century as Friends moved into the area. (fn. 5)

The square meeting house with a pyramidal roof appears to be early 18th-century; a brick in the north wall is dated 1733. A central entrance on the east front was superseded in the 19th century by a west porch. There is evidence for a north gallery and for an upper gallery at ceiling level. The stand along the south wall was added in the 19th century. (fn. 6) The adjoining hall was built in 1986. (fn. 7)

A small Baptist congregation, dependent on the church at Eld Lane, Colchester, moved from Great Tey to converted cottages on Colne green and became an independent church in 1786. A minister was licensed in 1789. (fn. 8) A larger meeting house was built in 1818, and the pastor claimed a congregation of c. 400 'hearers' in 1829. Frequent changes of pastor reduced member- ship to 42 by 1859. (fn. 9) Nevertheless, on census Sunday 1851 above average congregations of 168 in the morning and 250 in the afternoon (includ- ing 46 Sunday School children at both services) were reported. (fn. 10) The church revived under a new pastor, G. H. Griffin, and a new chapel to seat 750 was built in 1861. J. A. Tawell was a major contributor to the building fund; he also gave land for a new cemetery in Burrows Road in 1887, and a house in Upper Holt Street as a manse in 1885. (fn. 11) Between 1904 and 1907 the pastor, W. Burnett, led local opposition to the Education Act; he and other church mem- bers, including J. A. Tawell and several mem- bers of the Mann family, were fined regularly for non-payment of school rates. (fn. 12) Although in 1921 the church voted for open membership, numbers declined for much of the 20th century, to a low of 33 in 1990; by 1998 they had risen to 91.

The yellow-brick church was designed by Mr. Moore of London in classical meeting-house style. A two-storeyed schoolroom block was added at the back in 1899. In 1966 a false ceiling was inserted at gallery level in the church, and in 1996 a kitchen, toilets, and storerooms were added behind the schoolroom.


  • 1. Except where otherwise stated the paragraph is based on notes from the records of the Society of Friends at Essex University and in the possession of the Society, made by Valerie Graves, archivist of the Colchester and Coggeshall Monthly Meeting.
  • 2. Diary of Ralph Josselin, 403.
  • 3. Ibid. 581; E.R.O., T/A 425/111; E.R. lvii. 69.
  • 4. P.R.O., HO 129/8/207.
  • 5. Earls Colne 1700-1974, 61.
  • 6. C. Stell, Inventory of Chapels and Meeting Houses in Eastern Eng. (R.C.H.M.E., forthcoming).
  • 7. R. Kaye, Chapels in Essex, 34.
  • 8. T. Henson, Centennial Memorials of the Baptist Ch. in Earls Colne, 3-11: copy in E.R.O.; E.R.O., Q/SBb 335/24.
  • 9. Centennial Memorials, 12; Earls Colne Baptist Ch., Cttee. Bk. 1843-60, s.a. 1859; E.R.O., Q/CR 3/2/36.
  • 10. P.R.O., HO 129/8/207.
  • 11. Centennial Memorials, 13, 16, and TS. continuation by F. Williams in Earls Colne Baptist Ch.; Earls Colne Baptist Ch., envelope of papers on the cemetery; E.R. xx. 218.
  • 12. Earls Colne Baptist Ch., Ch. Meeting Mins. s.a. 1904-1906.