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Baptist Church, Southwick

Description: Baptist Church

Grade: II
Date Listed: 14 June 1988
English Heritage Building ID: 314613

OS Grid Reference: ST8414955038
OS Grid Coordinates: 384149, 155038
Latitude/Longitude: 51.2943, -2.2287

Location: Wynsome Street, Southwick, Wiltshire BA14 9QD

Locality: Southwick
County: Wiltshire
Country: England
Postcode: BA14 9QD

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Listing Text


(South side)

Baptist church, built in 1815, with extensions of the late C19 and late C20. The church is understood to have undergone alterations in the 1840s and 1870s.

MATERIALS: The walls of the chapel are of red brick, laid in Flemish bond, with stone dressings; the pyramidal roof is clad in Welsh slate, and the SW wall is rendered.

PLAN: The church is square in plan, with the entrance in the NW front, at right-angles to the road; the windows are in two tiers, lighting the main hall and gallery.

EXTERIOR: The NW front is of three bays, with the doorway placed centrally; three lozenges of burnt headers mark the bays and separate the upper and lower windows. Double, panelled doors are set within a moulded stone architrave with dropped keystone and flat stone hood on moulded brackets. The segmental-headed sash windows have stone frames with keystones and imposts; Nikolaus Pevsner observes that the windows look considerably earlier than 1815, and it is possible that they have been reused from another building. In the front and street elevations, the upper windows sit on a stone sill band. On the SW and NE sides of the building, two bays of windows are set rather close together, towards the centre of the elevation. Attached to the church to the east is a single-storey building, which provided a vestry and schoolroom; access is via a side porch, and two openings in the SE wall of the church. A structure existed in this position by 1846, but this was substantially re-built in the 1870s. The schoolroom annexe is, like the church, of red brick, with stone dressings; to the NE is a tripartite window of one large arched opening flanked by smaller arched openings. It is now linked with a late C20 extension to the SW; this is not of special interest.

INTERIOR: The hall is surrounded on three sides by a gallery, lit by the upper windows, which is accessed by paired wooden staircases leading from the entrance lobby; the gallery is supported on slender cast-iron columns. At the time of the survey (2010) the gallery was under repair, with the pews being removed from the north-west section; the pews remain in the south-west and north-east sections. The original furnishings on the ground floor have been removed. The hall has moulded dado panelling, with similar panelling to the fronts of the gallery. A sunken baptistery set into the floor at the south-east end of the church remains in use, but is covered by a panel. On the north-east wall, a memorial tablet commemorates the Reverend William Doel, minister from 1878-1893 and historian of Baptist nonconformity in western Wiltshire, and his wife (d. 1943).

GROUP VALUE: The church has group value with the Grade II listed railings, gates, and gate piers which stand outside it, and the listed external baptistery which lies approximately 100m to the north-west.

Southwick was one of the earliest and largest centres of the Baptist movement in Wiltshire, giving rise to many other Particular Baptist communities in the area; this part of the West is known for its strong Baptist tradition. Until the end of the C19 the village had no Anglican Church; the civil parish of Southwick was formed in 1866, before which time Southwick was part of the parish of North Bradley. The community was active by the mid-C17; at the Western Baptist Assembly Meeting of 1655 the Southwick representatives were said to be numerous and influential. The Southwick Baptist church remained strong throughout the reigns of Charles II and James II, when dissenters were prevented from worshipping freely; congregations of up to 2000 met at various times in a hollow at nearby Witch Pit Wood, in a field, and in a meeting house known as Pig Hill Barn. The Southwick Baptists were encouraged by the preacher Andrew Gifford, who did much to keep Baptism alive in the West Country at this time, and who ministered to the group in Witch Pit Wood, and in 1672 Thomas Collier, the renowned itinerant Baptist preacher, was licensed as a teacher at Southwick and North Bradley. In 1676 it was recorded that 340 of the 440 inhabitants of Southwick and Bradley were nonconformists, and many Baptists came from other parishes to worship at Southwick; after 1689, and throughout the C18, Baptist congregations were established in neighbouring parishes - several as branches of the Southwick church. In 1709 the first Baptist chapel was built at Southwick, within the site now occupied by within the site now occupied by the car park, which lies to the north-west of the present church. The foundation stone of the present church was laid on 15 May 1815, and the building was dedicated on 31 October that same year; in the late C19 a vestry/schoolroom was attached to the church. In 1861 a second Baptist chapel - the Providence Baptist Chapel - was established in Southwick by a former pastor of what was then known as the Old Baptist Chapel; the old church retained a diminished but loyal following, which revived during the later years of the century. The formalisation of the open-air baptistery in 1937, on the site of a historic baptismal pool a short distance to the north-west of the church, demonstrated the continuing support of the congregation, though the baptistery is no longer in use (2010). Today the church serves an active Baptist community.

Southwick tithe map, 1846
OS maps published 1887, 1901, 1924
W. Doel, Twenty Golden Candlesticks! (1890)
Wiltshire and Swindon Archives: 486/1; 486/2; 1164/2
C. Stell, An Inventory of Nonconformist Chapels and Meeting-Houses in South-West England (1991)
R. W. Oliver, The Strict Baptist Chapels of England (1968)
N. Pevsner and B. Cherry, The Buildings of England: Wiltshire (1963, 1975)

Southwick Baptist Church, built in 1815, is designated at Grade II for the following principal reasons:
* Architectural: as a good example of a Baptist Church, its plain design characteristic of Baptist churches of this relatively early date
* Historical: the church, which replaces an earlier building, represents one of the earliest and most significant Baptist communities in Wiltshire
* Group value: with the Grade II listed railings, gates and gate piers which stand outside it and with the listed external baptistery lying about 100m to the north-west.

This text is a legacy record and has not been updated since the building was originally listed. Details of the building may have changed in the intervening time. You should not rely on this listing as an accurate description of the building.

Source: English Heritage

Listed building text is © Crown Copyright. Reproduced under licence.