Whitchurch Baptist Church
This section should really be called God's Story, as our story is a story of God's faithfullness over 362 years.
Below you will find a very potted history of the church here in Whitchurch. Whilst reading it, why not think of the story of your life and what God has done and where God has been during your years here on this earth.
Whitchurch Baptist Church as a gathering a Baptist Christians in Whitchurch was first held in 1652. This was during the so called English Interregnum, in between the reigns of King Charles I and King Charles II.
In 1690 the Church was under the pastoral care of Richard and Stephen Kent, the church then had a membership of 37. Stephen Kent eventually went on to Pastor a Baptist Church in Southampton whilst Richard stayed here in Whitchurch until 1720. There is no certainty where Whitchurch Baptist met prior to 1726 but we know that a meeting house was then built by Mr Thomas Allen in Wood St (now Bell St) and sold in trust on a 900 yr lease for 3d per year.
In 1732 Benjamin Britton came to be the Pastor and he was greatly encouraged when in 1746 Mr. John Benham gave £200 in trust for the "ministers or pastors of the Baptist Church in Whitchurch". We have no indication as to how long Benjamin was pastor here but do know that in 1759 Rev. Charles Cole became the minister. Rev. Cole was only 26 when he became the pastor here and served as our Minister until his death in 1813. He was originally only stipended £20 per year as the church was small in size at 13 members.
Rev. Cole was a great hymn writter and many of his hymns can be found in Gadsby's Hymnal.
In 1811 James Millard was invited to become the Assistant Minister due to the ailing health of Rev. Cole. He then succeeded Charles Cole as Senior Minister after his death in December 1813. In 1818 James Millard was transferred to Lymington Baptist Church and Whitchurch was once again without a Pastor. In May 1819 Mr Phillip Davies , a Baptist minister and preacher, purchased the business, Brackstone and Millard. An invitation was then passed to him to become the Pastor. A student minister, Mr. R. Townsend occupied the pulpit during the interregnum and Mr. Davies insisted that he remain the pastor until his studies were completed.The church membership had grown quite significantly to 92 at this stage. Mr Davies then introduced Oil Lamps into the church.
In 1824 the founding of a new Baptist Church in nearby Andover was started. "Sister Raymond" we read "was dissmissed (from Whitchurch) to Andover uniting the friends of the same faith and order at Andover, who were about to form themselves into a Baptist Church". A strong relationship lasts between the two churches to this day.
In spite of difficulties the church continued to grow in spirit and vigour until, in 1835, the members began to consider enlarging the church. The following year our present building was commenced and the congregation met in the Town Hall. The new building was opened on Wednesday, October 26th, 1836.
In 1838, Rev. Thomas Morris became the minister, the same year that Mr Davies died. Rev. Morris pastored the church for 14 years. Rev. Eli Amery become the minister also in 1838. The first matter Rev. Amery dealt with was the matter of Open Communion. It was agreed, with complete uninamity, that the Table of the Lord should be open to all Christians, baptised by full immersion or not.
When the Rev. Thomas Morris died in 1871, he had served the church for nearly 20 years. At the invitation of the church, the Rev. Samuel Skingle became the pastor, coming from Praed St in London. Rev. Skingle recieved his training at Pastors College (now Spurgeons College) after serving at a church in Irvine, Scotland.
Mr Davies resigned as Minster of the church in 1879 and once again the church turned to Pastor's college to fill the gap. The Rev. R Smathers came to pastor from Dalkeith in Scotland and served the church for 14 years.
The Salvation Army persecuation in Whitchurch in the 1880's had more than a local significance. Questions were asked in Parliament and it was covered by national newspapers as well as local ones. More than 40 Salvationists were sent to prision in the 1880's for the crime of holding secret meetings.
After the resignation of Rev. Smathers in 1859, the church was supplied by Stepney Academy (Now Regent's Park College, Oxford) for 5 years. In early 1900 a piece of land next to the church was offered to the Church for a new classroom. The new classroom opened in 1907 and cost £382 to build. During this time the Rev. Anderson had become and resigned as our minister. Then in 1905 , Rev. Bird took up the pastorate. He served the church for 6 years.
In 1908, Rev. Alfred Bird, a Baptist Missionary, left Whitchurch to go to Basingstoke to plant Basingstoke Baptist Church (BBC). BBC transissioned from Basingstoke Baptist to Basingstoke Community Churches in 1977, in mutual agreement with the Baptist Union of Great Britain. In the early 1980's a new Baptist Church was planted in Basingstoke, both churches are going strong to this day.
The Rev. Milton Marshall commenced ministry here in 1913. He continued until he and Mrs Marhsall moved to Broughton in 1918. The Rev. Sam Somers arrived from Bedfordshire and served for 4 years. After a two year interregnum the Rev. Collier started in 1924 and served for 9 years.
In September 1934 a Womens meeting was commenced, a meeting that is still running today. The membership of the church averaged around 37 for most of the first half of the 20th Century.
The Rev. Fancutt was the pastor here from 1934 - 1937 followed by The Rev. Ernest Griffiths. In 1944 Mrs Griffiths suddenly passed away and the local paper records "During the 5 years Mrs. Griffths had been in Whitchurch, she had won her way into the hearts of men and women of all classes. The loss to the church can hardly be estimated."
In 1945 the Rev. Griffths left the pastorate at Whitchurch to become a minister at Tenterden Baptist. He was followed by the Rev. James Cook from the Gospel Mission in Kidderminster. Rev. Cook was not an acreddited Baptist Minister in the Baptist Union and therefore the Church could not recieve any money from the Union's Substantiation Fund and the church pleged "To give sacrifically, as the Lord hath prospered us".
The inaugeral meeting of the Whitchurch Council of Churches (Today called Churches Together in Whitchurch) was held on 20th February 1948. It agreed to "To present a united front and to take such action of an evangelistic and educational nature when thought desirable if possible".
Rev. Cook was very ill and unable to carry out his pastoral duties from autumn 1947 right through to his death in 1949. Leslie Jim Wisewell, of Andover, acted as lay pastor through Rev. Cook's illness. After applying to the Baptist Union (BU) for recognition as a potential minister Jim Wisewell commenced his first ministry appointment in Whitchurch from July 1949. The maximum stipend the church could afford at the time was £2,15,0d per week with the church paying for a manse.
In 1950 the church withdrew from the Whitchurch Council of Churches (WCC) because of "the strong disapproval of the Church of England's action in accepting money from the proceeds of the Sunday motorcycle track racing." We didn't rejoin WCC until February 1954.
After a 4 year ministry and 14 baptisms the Rev. Wisewell resigned from the pastorate and departed for Didcot. He was replaced by the Rev. Vivian Suttton in 1953, a pastorate that lasted for 5 years.
The churches financial difficulties came to a head in 1958 when the church was unable to pay their portion of the ministers stipend. The BU were also unwilling to continue the Sustenation Fund grant (today called Home Mission). Rev. Vivian Stutton and Mrs Sutton left Whitchurch on May 31st 1958.
Rev. William Davies came in August 1958. During his ministry the church finances improved. Cooperation with other churches in Whitchurch seems to have taken a more active turn in 1961 with "The member churches agreeing to in principle to unite on special occasions with the Methodist and Anglican churches in order to give a united witness to the town.'
May 1961 saw the reappointment of Rev Daives and in 1963 saw the end of the Baptist witness in St Mary Bourne. 1964 saw the departure of Rev Davies to Tenderton in Kent. In 1965 the Revd T G R Tyrell came from Kingstanding, Birmingham to comence his ministry. There soon became a real need for additonal space and a group of members obtained and erected, on a spare plot of land, a redundent prefebricated building. This provided 3 teaching rooms for the childrens and youth work. Following his marriage in 1967, Rev Tyrell left Whitchurch in 1968 and retired.
Rev Arthur Stockwell from Whitstable Baptist Church and appears to have served the Church from April 1968 to July 1972. During this time the church membership was 35.
In lae 1972 Rev George Quicke came to Whitchurch to pastor the church. He combined working at the church with working at the Coke Hole Trust, an organisation in nearby Andover which offered support to people with drug and alcohol addictions. This work drew many people to Christ. George, in his three years as Minister at WBC, baptised 56 people and the membership increased to 47. A very active Childrens and Youth work ministry operated at the church with the establishment of Covnenenters and Junior Covenenters being set up. An extension was built in the church with the addition of an upper room over the Vestry. In 1976 Rev George Quike resgined the pastorate of the church to become the Full Time Chaplain of the Coke Hole Trust.
In late 1976 George's son, Rev Steve Quicke, was called to Pastor the church. God continued to bless the church and the membership increased from 57 to 117 in the time Steve was the minister and the Childrens and Youth Work continued to grow and thrive.
In 1978 old offices in front of the church came up for sale and after much negtiation it was agreed that the Baptist Men's Movement Housing Association would buy the plot and develop 6 flats. The flats, now looked after by Sovereign Housing, was called Lord Denning Court after the Rt. Hon. Lord Denning, Master of the Rolls.
In 1980, as recognistion of her faithfulness to the church, Miss Margaret Hide was made a life Deacon of the church. She had been a member of the church for 75 years when she died.
1984 saw the church become a Grade ii listed church. In 1986 the church was on the forefront of the discussions to create Churches Together in Whitchurch, a process thats didnt come to completion until some years later. It was noted '...agreement on doctrine was unlikely to be reached but useful cooperation and liason could be maintained between the church in the town.'
Rev Steve Quicke left the ministry in 1987 to become the full time chaplain of the Coke Hole Trust. After a two year interregnum, overseen by Rev George Quicke, Rev Stephen Willis left Thornhill Baptist Church, as the Asst Minister, was called to become Pastor.
The Revd David Coffey, General Secretary of BUGB, came to preach at the 340 year anniversary of the church. Three lithographs were presented from the church to BUGB for safe keeping. Unfortunately these were damaged beyond repair in a flood within Baptist House.
Paul Corson was called to become the Minister of WBC as a Minister-in-Training whilst studying at Regents Park College in 1993. Following the course he was called to be full time Minister in 1996. During his time as Minister we saw the death of Margaret Hide. During this time Churches Together in England was established, this led to closer working and relations with the other churches in the Town. The experience of being in and urban context in London and a rural context in Whitchurch set Paul in good stead for when he moved to Grays Baptist Tabernacle in Essex in 1997.
Sadly, in 2000, the Salvation Army closed in Whitchurch with members either coming along to some of the other Free Churches in the Town or moving to worship with other Salvationists in Andover or Basingstoke. Noah's Ark Toddler Group, which had been run by the Salvation Army, was moved into the Baptist Church Hall and was run very successfully before closing at Easter in 2015.
After a 5 year interregnum, Revd. David Clarkson came to Whitchurch to minister, in 2002. He was previously at Locks Heath Free Church. Locks Heath called a local pastor, Mark Madavan, from Andover Baptist to become their minister. David played a key role in improving the church and refurbishing it, bringing it into the 21st Century. Unfortunately due to the dwindling numbers the church were unable to afford a full-time minister and David left the Pastorate in 2008.
The church was helped as it looked to the future for the congregation, by its Regional Ministers, particularly Revd. Lynn Green. After much thought in 2011 the church called Paul Wheeler to come as a Minister-in-Training during his last 18 months at Regents Park College. The church has a view that if it was going to close, at least its parting shot would be one of training someone to minister God's word faithfully.
After Paul's training some to a end, once again the church looked to a bleak future with the possibility of closing in the front of every members eyes. However the church took a risk in September 2013 and called Andy Fitchet, who was only 23 at the time, to come and be their Pastor as he underwent ministerial training at Regents Park College.
Since calling Andy to the ministry the church has seen much growth, adding children and families to the membership and fellowship of the church. God is doing a new thing (Isa. 43) and we can all but pray that God continues to be faithful to Whitchurch Baptist Church as he has been over the last 363 years.