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Over the weekend of 12th to 14th April, the Baptist Church on Old Broughton Road Melksham celebrates its 350th anniversary with a Flower Festival, Christian Music Group Concert, a special anniversary morning worship service and a celebration lunch.
“The church is believed to have been founded in 1669, on its current site, in John Webb’s shearing shed,” explained the church. “The location and the absence of records were due to the fact that dissenting (taking odds with the then state religion) was illegal in those days and those found guilty were liable to severe punishment by the authorities.
“But in 1714 the congregation was apparently 300 strong and the first meeting house was built between 1714 and 1716; yet in 1766 numbers had dropped to ten, eight of whom were women.
“The Ledyard family led a revival in fortunes from 1766 and a larger meeting house was built in 1776, galleries added in 1795, enlarged in 1806, and again in 1839 and renovated in 1879. This is the building in which we meet today. The church had its largest recorded membership of 165 in 1850, with 50 teachers for 340 children in the Sunday School.
“In 1909 the present suite of halls was built, for which present-day members are indebted to their predecessors because otherwise it would be impossible to accommodate the ten or so other organisations that regularly use them today.
“Coal-fired boilers have been replaced by gas-fired condenser boilers; more comfortable seating was installed in the 1980’s and modern audio/video facilities came in 2016. A small “Wednesday workgroup” is kept busy each week with maintenance, repairs and gardening to keep the premises functional, comfortable and still being used to the glory of God.
“For anyone interested, a more detailed history from 1669 to 1969 is available to be borrowed, thanks to the Melksham Historical Society along with an addendum by the present church secretary bringing the story up to date.”
• Flower Festival – church open Fri 12th & Sat 13th between 10am and 4pm, refreshments are available, the organ will be played on Saturday morning and afternoon. Summarised church history available. No admission charge.
• Concert by The Rock of Life – in church Sat 13th, doors open 6.30pm for 7pm start. Tickets £5 to include refreshments.
• Anniversary Service – led by Rev. Steve Robinson (chair of WEBA Trustees) at 10.30am