baptist chapel, HUISH

baptist chapel



The Conventicle Act of 1664 made persons attending private assemblies for religious worship liable to severe penalties, yet several sects are known to have been active in and around Yeovil, the earliest on record being the Baptists with their Yeovil church being first mentioned on 12 February 1656. Their meetings in the town, of necessity in secret at first, were in South Street, from 1668 in a barn built by John Cary. The barn was converted to a Meeting House some time prior to 1717. Meetings continued to be held in the barn. In 1810 a chapel was built on or near the site of the barn, but because of the growing congregation, it was replaced by a larger building in 1828. The South Street Baptist Chapel was enlarged in 1868 and a choir added in 1898.

During the latter part of the nineteenth century the population of Yeovil expanded rapidly and the town grew, especially in the west and east. The Huish area was a particularly expanding neighbourhood with a growing population and many of the residents were members of the South Street chapel. Consequently, it was seen as necessary to build a small satellite chapel for the Huish community.

The foundation stone for the new chapel was laid by the Mayor, Sidney Watts, on 10 July 1895. The Western Gazette reported the occasion as follows - "The foundation stone of a new Baptist Chapel to erected in Huish was laid by the Mayor (Mr Sidney Watts) on Wednesday afternoon in the presence of a large gathering. Previous to the ceremony, the Sunday School children connected to the South Street Baptist Chapel, assembled at the School-room, and forming into procession accompanied by the Mayor, the Rev. S. Newnam and Mrs. Newnam, and the Rev. J. Stephenson in an open carriage, and headed by the Military Band and the School banner, marched by way of South Street, Union Street, Middle Street, and the Borough to Huish. Several strings of flags had been suspended across the road, and a temporary platform had been erected on the site of the new building for the accommodation of spectators. After a hymn (the Band accompanying) and the dedicatory prayer, the Rev Newnam said the idea of erecting that building had been originated owing to the crowded congregations every Sunday at the South Street Baptist Chapel, especially in the Sunday School, and also as there were so many who lived in Huish who attended that place of worship. Huish was growing so rapidly as to justify the erection of such a building. He referred with pleasure to the willingness the Mayor, when asked to attend that ceremony, accepted the request.- Mr W. .T Maynard (the treasurer) then presented the Mayor with a silver trowel (supplied by Mr C Fox) bearing the inscription: "Presented to the Mayor of Yeovil, S. Watts Esq., on the occasion of his laying the foundation stone of the Huish Baptist Chapel," and a mallet on behalf of the trustees and congregation of the chapel, and called for cheers for His Worship, a request which was heartily responded to. The Mayor then performed the interesting ceremony of laying the stone, and referred to the pleasure it afforded him in doing so. He hoped he had "well and truly laid this stone," and sincerely trusted that, in the chapel, when completed, the inhabitants of Yeovil, from generation to generation would worship here and sing the praises of our God and Father."

Following the ceremony, several speeches were made and then the procession re-formed and progressed to a field in West Hendford where the Sunday School children had their annual treat and a public tea was held.

The new chapel was officially opened on Thursday 21 November 1895 and the Reverend Samuel Newnam preached to a large congregation in the afternoon. (Samuel Newman had resigned as pastor in 1889 after serving over 15 years at South Street, and over 50 years altogether in the Ministry. He retired to Fivehead and died there on 26 May 1907).

The new chapel, 22 feet wide and 38 feet long, was built in brick with Ham Stone dressings. It was built by Cridland Brothers of Yeovil and the entire cost, including the land, was in the region of £400 (in excess of £450,000 at today's value).

Within a decade it became apparent that the new chapel was becoming too small, so the building was extended by some 25 feet to increase the seating accommodation to 250. At the same time, a basement room was created for the Sunday School. The chapel re-opened on Tuesday 17 July 1906 and the Reverend Newnam to preach at the first service, held later that afternoon. Once again, and within three years, the Sunday School room could not accommodate the growing number of children attending. Consequently, on 22 July 1909, the foundation stone was laid for a new primary schoolroom, designed to seat 100 children.

During the Second World War, the Baptist Chapel was an emergency 'Rest & Feeding Centre' in case of air raids. It had room to sleep 40 and could provide 60 meals at a sitting. The Centre was available for the benefit of people whose homes had been destroyed or made uninhabitable by enemy action, or who were required to vacate their homes temporarily on account of danger from unexploded bombs. It was also available for the benefit of people whose normal means of cooking meals at home were cut off owing to damage to the public gas or electricity supply systems, or of wage earners who had migrated from the town to adjacent areas for a few days but who required their mid-day meal in Yeovil. No charges were made for meals supplied at the Centre for the first 48 hours after an air raid, but thereafter payment would be required.

The Huish Baptist chapel, together with its Sunday School, served the area for over a hundred years. With a declining congregation it finally closed and has now been converted to accommodation.


The congregation of the Hush Baptist chapel gather for a photograph at the commencement of the building of the new extension to the chapel in 1906.


The former Baptist chapel in Huish, now converted to flats. Photographed in 2013.