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Following the 90th birthday of Queen Elizabeth, it is interesting to reflect on the Melksham church scene in 1926 when she was born.
There are several differences between then and now including:
• The Roman Catholic Church, St Anthony of Padua was not built until 1939. The site was a green field at the edge of the canal.
• Several churches which were in regular use in 1926 are now no longer used for worship. The Friends Meeting House in King Street was the meeting and worshipping place of local Quakers until the 1950s, with many uses before it became the Spiritualist Church and now restored as offices.
• The Congregational Church, now the Rachel Fowler Centre, just off the Market Place, was fully operational, but it closed in 1979 when they merged with the Methodists and became “United”.
• Forest Methodist church was very active, at the bottom of Church Lane.
• The United Church (pictured) in the High Street was known as the Wesleyan Church and still had its ornate wrought iron railings and gates (later taken for the war effort).
• The Baptist Church in Broughton Road would have looked similar, with the school room in front. The churchyard was separated from Broughton Road when the A350 (past Asda) was laid in the late 1960s, but is now a small, very well maintained area, alongside the main road.
• The Ebenezer Chapel (or Strict Baptists) in Union Street has always been very active, but then still using their outdoor baptistery fed from Clackers Brook!
• St Michael’s Church in Canon Square would be almost identical. St Michael’s also owned the Mission Room, (in front of Cooper/Avon offices) where Sunday Schools and some services were held.
• The “daughter” churches of St Andrews, Forest and St Barnabas, Beanacre would have been very similar as we see them today.
All the churches would have had choirs and popular Sunday schools. Congregations would generally have been larger, with no supermarkets, and shops closed!
• At that time, no sporting activities took place on Sundays. Most churches would have had summer outings by charabanc.
Peter Maslen, St Michael’s Church and Melksham Historical Association