Painswick: Protestant nonconformity

A History of the County of Gloucester: Volume 11, Bisley and Longtree Hundreds. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1976.

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'Painswick: Protestant nonconformity', in A History of the County of Gloucester: Volume 11, Bisley and Longtree Hundreds, (London, 1976) pp. 83-85. British History Online [accessed 13 April 2024]


A tradition of nonconformity at Painswick can be traced back to the late 16th century when unlicensed readers were permitted in the church, (fn. 1) but the purchase of the advowson and subsequent appointment of a Puritan vicar probably contained the early Puritan tradition within the established church. (fn. 2) The earliest organised nonconformist group in the parish were the Quakers who grew in numbers after the preaching of one of the early ministers, Humphrey Smith, in 1655. (fn. 3) From 1658 the meeting had its own burial ground at Dell Farm, east of the town, (fn. 4) and a meeting-house was licensed in 1690. (fn. 5) In 1695 a Quaker school was moved from Nailsworth to Painswick (fn. 6) although it is not clear how long the school remained in the parish. In 1706 a new meeting-house, with a burial ground attached, was built in Vicarage Street (fn. 7) and in 1750 four families of Quakers were recorded. (fn. 8) The numbers of the meeting were never very high and it was mainly supported by the clothier family of Loveday and others involved in the industry. It developed its own social benefits, apprenticing sons of members and giving loans to members in time of need. (fn. 9) From the early 19th century the meeting was disturbed by some members who were disciples of Joanna Southcott (fn. 10) and it declined until in 1851 the congregation numbered three. (fn. 11) The meeting ceased to exist in the late 19th century (fn. 12) but reappeared in the mid 20th and began to use the old early-18thcentury meeting-house again in 1953. (fn. 13) In 1972 there were 42 members. (fn. 14)

The Congregationalists were recorded at Painswick in 1672 when Francis Harris, the former minister at Deerhurst, (fn. 15) licensed his house for worship. (fn. 16) It was presumably the same group which licensed the town hall for worship in 1689, (fn. 17) and a settled minister was appointed in 1690 at a salary of £20. (fn. 18) A chapel was built in 1705, when the group was described as Presbyterian, (fn. 19) and in 1727 the ministry was put on a secure financial base by a bequest from John Warner. (fn. 20) The congregation numbered 150 in 1735 when it was called Independent. (fn. 21) In 1788 Cornelius Winter, a disciple of George Whitefield, who had himself preached at Painswick, was appointed minister and during his stay he rebuilt the chapel in 1803 and established a Sunday school. In 1808 he bequeathed two cottages to the congregation, later used as the site of a school. (fn. 22) The congregation numbered c. 300 in 1851, (fn. 23) and c. 1868 a manse was acquired in Gloucester Street for the minister whose salary was augmented by a number of small bequests during the 19th century. (fn. 24) The chapel was restored in 1893 when the interior was refitted and reoriented and a porch added. A window by Morris & Co., after a design by E. Burne-Jones, was inserted soon afterwards. (fn. 25) In 1894 Edwin Gyde bequeathed £1,000 to the chapel for repairs and towards the ministers' salary. (fn. 26) The congregation numbered 60 in 1900, (fn. 27) and in 1972 there were c. 30 members of the church, which no longer had a settled minister. (fn. 28) A further bequest for the maintenance of the chapel was made in 1960 by Mr. E. A. Skinner, and the poor members of the congregation received small charities founded by Robert Hobbs in 1872 and Thomas Cooke in 1926. In 1972 the annual income of the church, from all sources, totalled £517. (fn. 29)

A house belonging to James Davis was registered by Anabaptists in 1705, (fn. 30) and in 1726 Thomas Hutson registered his house for Baptists. (fn. 31) There were 20 people described as Anabaptists in 1735 when a meeting-house was recorded in the parish. (fn. 32) In 1750 15 Anabaptists, but no meeting-house, were recorded; (fn. 33) during the following decade the congregation registered three private houses. (fn. 34) There was said to be a community with a church at Painswick in 1773. (fn. 35) The congregation was placed on a secure basis, or possibly re-formed, in 1831 when the Baptists took over the chapel in New Street previously occupied by the Wesleyan Methodists. The congregation was said to number 29 in 1846. (fn. 36) The chapel was restored in 1870 (fn. 37) and from that time the congregation continued without the services of a settled minister. In 1972 the average congregation was 50. (fn. 38)

John Wesley preached at Painswick on a number of occasions to large congregations. (fn. 39) The group of 9 men, including some of the Baylis family, which registered a meeting-house in 1809 probably represented the Wesleyan Methodists, (fn. 40) who were recorded in 1825 (fn. 41) but handed their chapel over to the Baptists in 1831. (fn. 42) The Primitive Methodists were said to be established in Painswick in 1829 and they met in a room in Vicarage Street (fn. 43) until 1849 when their chapel was built. The congregation numbered c. 40 in 1851 (fn. 44) and c. 25 in 1894 when it was served by local preachers among whom members of the Spring family were prominent. (fn. 45) The chapel continued in use until 1964 when the building, at the east end of Bisley Street, was sold. (fn. 46)

A meeting of Plymouth Brethren was recorded at Painswick from 1894 when it was conducted in a room in Vicarage Street. (fn. 47) The Brethren later met in the Quaker meeting-house where they were recorded in 1928 when their congregation numbered c. 50 persons. (fn. 48) In 1957 the Brethren met in the former police station in St. Mary's Street. (fn. 49) The Painswick Spiritualist Church was founded in 1968 when services were held in the former Methodist chapel. In 1972 the average attendance at services was c. 60 persons. (fn. 50) Some houses were licensed in the town between 1730 and 1830 for unidentified protestant groups. (fn. 51)

In 1741 a house was registered at Sheepscombe for protestant dissenters by Robert Clissold but no further record of the meeting has been found. (fn. 52) In 1851 the church of the Latter Day Saints built a meeting-room in the village; the congregation, which numbered 40, was ministered to by a pastor from Cowley. (fn. 53) The Primitive Methodists built a chapel at Jack's Green before 1889, (fn. 54) and it continued as a Methodist chapel in 1972.

A Methodist Sunday school was held at Slad in 1815 (fn. 55) but no further evidence of the sect there has been found. The Congregationalists opened a chapel at Slad in 1867. (fn. 56) A Sunday school was built for the Congregationalists in 1911 (fn. 57) but was closed by 1972 when the average church attendance was eight. (fn. 58)

The house of Priscilla King at Edge was licensed for worship by Independents in 1804 and other houses there were registered by protestant dissenters in 1820 and 1824. (fn. 59) An Independent congregation of 20 people was recorded there in 1851, (fn. 60) and in 1856 the Congregationalists built a chapel (fn. 61) which incorporated the pulpit, formerly at St. Mary de Crypt, Gloucester, from which George Whitefield was said to have preached his first sermon. (fn. 62) The congregation numbered 11 in 1900 (fn. 63) and the chapel was closed in 1970 when the congregation numbered 3. The pulpit was returned to St. Mary de Crypt and the building was sold. (fn. 64) Independents registered houses for worship at Buddings in 1804 and at Small's Mill in 1827, and the house of William Hamlett at the Bull, Wick Street, was registered by protestant dissenters in 1844. (fn. 65)


  • 1. G.D.R. vol. 87, f. 217.
  • 2. See pp. 81-2.
  • 3. Glos. R.O., D 2052.
  • 4. Glos. Colln. RR 229. 18 (3); cf. O.S. Map 1/2,500, Glos. XLI. 8 (1885 edn.).
  • 5. Glos. R.O., Q/SO 3.
  • 6. Ibid. D 1340/A 1/M 1.
  • 7. Date on bldg.; cf. Glos. R.O., D 1340/C 6/R 1.
  • 8. G.D.R. vol. 381A, f. 28.
  • 9. Glos. R.O., D 2052.
  • 10. Glos. Colln. RR 229.18 (3).
  • 11. H.O. 129/338/2/1/3.
  • 12. Painswick Annual Reg. 63.
  • 13. Hyett, Painswick, 51 n. 2.
  • 14. Ex inf. Mrs. D. Haygarth, meeting sec.
  • 15. Calamy Revised, ed. Matthews, 249.
  • 16. Cal. S.P. Dom. 1672, 196.
  • 17. Glos. R.O., Q/SO 3.
  • 18. E. Daniel, Hist. of the Cornelius Winter Memorial Congregational Chapel (1956), 15.
  • 19. Glos. R.O., Q/SO 3.
  • 20. Char. Com. Reg.
  • 21. G.D.R. vol. 285B, f. 18.
  • 22. Daniel, Hist. of Cong. Chapel, 16-18.
  • 23. H.O. 129/338/2/3/11.
  • 24. Daniel, Hist. of Cong. Chapel, 19; Char. Com. Reg.
  • 25. Verey, Glos. i. 359; Painswick Annual Reg. 116.
  • 26. Daniel, Hist. of Cong. Chapel, 23.
  • 27. Ibid. 21.
  • 28. Ex inf. Mr. T. R. Ireland, of Castle Hale.
  • 29. Char. Com. Reg.; ex inf. Mr. Ireland.
  • 30. Glos. R.O., Q/SO 3.
  • 31. Hockaday Abs. cccix.
  • 32. G.D.R. vol. 285B, f. 18.
  • 33. Ibid. vol. 381A, f. 28.
  • 34. Hockaday Abs. cccix.
  • 35. Trans. Cong. Hist. Soc. v. 217.
  • 36. Hyett, Painswick, 49-50.
  • 37. Glos. R.O., D 2052.
  • 38. Ex inf. Mr. A. W. West, chapel sec.
  • 39. See Glos. R.O., D 2052.
  • 40. Hockaday Abs. cccix; the meeting-house may have been built already as it is dated 1806.
  • 41. G.D.R. vol. 383, no. ccxxxv.
  • 42. Hyett, Painswick, 49.
  • 43. Painswick Annual Reg. 218.
  • 44. H.O. 129/338/2/2/6; but the chapel is dated 1854.
  • 45. Painswick Annual Reg. 218.
  • 46. Ex inf. Mr. H. Wallace, of Vicarage Street.
  • 47. Painswick Annual Reg. 218.
  • 48. Baddeley, Cotteswold Man. 213.
  • 49. Hyett, Painswick, 51 n.
  • 50. Ex inf. Mr. Wallace.
  • 51. Hockaday Abs. cccix.
  • 52. Ibid.
  • 53. H.O. 129/338/2/3/10.
  • 54. Kelly's Dir. Glos. (1889), 880.
  • 55. Glos. Colln. RR 229. 18 (4).
  • 56. W.I. hist. of Slad (1959, TS. in Glos. Colln.), 14; Glouc. Jnl. 6 Apr. 1867.
  • 57. W.I. hist. of Slad, 14.
  • 58. Ex inf. Mr. Ireland.
  • 59. Hockaday Abs. cccix.
  • 60. H.O. 129/338/2/2/7.
  • 61. Glouc. Jnl. 9 Aug. 1856.
  • 62. Ibid. 5 Aug. 1854.
  • 63. Daniel, Hist. of Cong. Chapel, 21.
  • 64. Ex inf. Mr. Ireland.
  • 65. Hockaday Abs. cccix.