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ID MMH_MTG Article from Mersea Museum

TitleStrict Baptist Meeting House, East Mersea
Abstract

Travelling eastwards along the road from West to East Mersea you see a turning to the left named "Meeting Lane"; if you go down the lane you will not now find any clues as to where meetings were held or what they were about. But a little before WW2 you would have seen a weather-boarded building, with a cottage next to it; it was a chapel used for worship by the Strict Baptists, whose records date back to 1803. (The title' Strict', by the way, refers not to their attitude to morality, firm as it was, but to a theological doctrine which insisted that before anyone could take communion, they had to have been baptised as Christian believers, by immersion.)

The chapel seated about sixty, and had a floor of white brick, with three heavy oak beams across its width, supporting a tiled roof. A worm-eaten pulpit stood at one end, with an old pendulum clock on a shelf just behind the preacher (not calculated to keep sermon-length under control!)

It is not known when the chapel was built, but evidence exists that there was a building for Dissenters' worship in East Mersea in 1640 - and by 1772 a preacher from a Particular Baptist Church in Colchester was visiting the place as a 'free preacher'.
In the later years of the 19th Century, George Frederick Smith was the minister, but he became ill in 1899.

A Pastor Appleby became the minister around 1900 and served there for over twenty years; numbers dwindled slowly, and in the last years of his ministry the congregation numbered only ten or twelve people - and they were not committed church members. When he resigned through illness, a Mr Cackett, who had moved from the East End to Mersea, tried to carry on, but after he left the village, no successor came forward. The neglected building decayed and collapsed, and now no trace of it can be seen.

Recently there came to light a notebook which was kept by the Minister who preceded Mr Appleby - Mr F.G. Smith. In this notebook he kept a record of the texts on which he preached week by week, together with a prayer which he wrote for each Sunday. There is a poignant note about the entry for December 31,1899, his last Sunday as pastor before he handed on the responsibility to his good friend Mr Appleby. His prayer for the day was: "Gracious Lord, though under a dark cloud that I am passing through, bless, oh bless, thy grace of goodness to us."' But in spite of the "dark cloud", his choice of text was positive and uplifting: Psalm 107, vs. 1,2: "O give thanks unto the Lord, for he is good; for his mercy endureth for ever."

Strict Baptists (now commonly called "Grace Baptists") continue to flourish in Suffolk, but the East Mersea chapel and its sister church which used to be at St. John's Green, Colchester, have disappeared almost without trace; and when the older generation has gone, dusty records will be all that is left.

The history above is based on an article by A. Morgan Derham in Mersea Island Society Mistral magazine, 1992.

See also Memories of an Essex Minister by S.R. Appleby, RUD_MTG_012 .
Two water colours of the chapel, with a few letters and minutes of the Church, are with the Strict Baptist Historical Society Museum at Fulham.
A book in the Baptist Historical Society Museum at Dunstable has been transcribed by Alan Smith - and says "Mr Merchant having fitted up a convenient place for Meeting it was opened on 24 February 1804 by Revd. George Pritchard of Colchester.". Perhaps this gives a date for the building being completed. [ CGU_BK1_008_002 ]

SourceMersea Museum
IDMMH_MTG
Related Images:
 Inside the Strict Baptist Meeting House in Meeting Lane, East Mersea, demolished before WW2.  RG03_395
ImageID:   RG03_395
Title: Inside the Strict Baptist Meeting House in Meeting Lane, East Mersea, demolished before WW2.
Source:Ron Green Collection
 Baptist Chapel, Meeting Lane, East Mersea.
 The old Meeting House stood in Meeting Lane. Mr. Appleby, with the bowler hat, preached here every Sunday. Bill Curtis, known as Cutty, who ran a donkey carrier's cart daily from East to West Mersea, is on the left. He couldn't straighten his left leg as a result of a childhood illness, so rested on a special leather knee pad. Hannah Robinson stands in the doorway whilst Mr. Smith is on the right. George F. Smith was F.G.Smith's Dad. Ernie 'Bunger' Perry and Lew Simpson lived behind.
</p>
<p>
From Alan Smith:
 George Frederick Smith became the Pastor in 1885 following the death of John Reuben Cock. John Reuben Cock became Pastor after the death of Mr Rogers according to the East Mersea Chapel Books but they do not say when this happened. The 1871 Census records John Reuben as the Minister. John Reuben's father Charles Cock was the Minister at the top Chapel in Mill Road.
</p>
<p>
Mr George Appleby took over the Ministry from George Frederick Smith in early 1902 when the latter became too ill to continue, although they had been sharing the work since 1899.
</p>
<p>From Owen Fletcher:
 George Appleby was a regular conductor of services at the Meeting House. He travelled on a bike. His wife and children walked. The Appleby family lived next to Rust's Butcher Shop in High Street, West Mersea.
 There was a morning service at the Meetin House, and the congregation brought food with them and stayed for the afternoon service.
</p>
<p>Photo used in Mersea Memories 2nd Edition photo no. 99  RUD_MTG_001
ImageID:   RUD_MTG_001
Title: Baptist Chapel, Meeting Lane, East Mersea.
The old Meeting House stood in Meeting Lane. Mr. Appleby, with the bowler hat, preached here every Sunday. Bill Curtis, known as "Cutty", who ran a donkey carrier's cart daily from East to West Mersea, is on the left. He couldn't straighten his left leg as a result of a childhood illness, so rested on a special leather knee pad. Hannah Robinson stands in the doorway whilst Mr. Smith is on the right. George F. Smith was F.G.Smith's Dad. Ernie 'Bunger' Perry and Lew Simpson lived behind.

From Alan Smith:
"George Frederick Smith became the Pastor in 1885 following the death of John Reuben Cock. John Reuben Cock became Pastor after the death of Mr Rogers according to the East Mersea Chapel Books but they do not say when this happened. The 1871 Census records John Reuben as the Minister. John Reuben's father Charles Cock was the Minister at the top Chapel in Mill Road.

"Mr George Appleby took over the Ministry from George Frederick Smith in early 1902 when the latter became too ill to continue, although they had been sharing the work since 1899.

From Owen Fletcher:
George Appleby was a regular conductor of services at the Meeting House. He travelled on a bike. His wife and children walked. The Appleby family lived next to Rust's Butcher Shop in High Street, West Mersea.
There was a morning service at the Meetin House, and the congregation brought food with them and stayed for the afternoon service.

Photo used in Mersea Memories 2nd Edition photo no. 99

Date:c1906
Source:Mersea Museum / Peter Rudlin Collection
 Memories of an Essex Minister, by S.R. Appleby.
 The writer was born c1900, last of a family of 5. The head of the family was an oysterman.
 He talks about the Top Chapel [Congregational Church, Union Church or West Mersea Free Church] on West Mersea, where his father used to preach.
</p>From an unknown publication. Page 1 of 2.  RUD_MTG_011
ImageID:   RUD_MTG_011
Title: Memories of an Essex Minister, by S.R. Appleby.
The writer was born c1900, last of a family of 5. The head of the family was an oysterman.
He talks about the "Top Chapel" [Congregational Church, Union Church or West Mersea Free Church] on West Mersea, where his father used to preach.

From an unknown publication. Page 1 of 2.
Source:Mersea Museum / Peter Rudlin Collection
 Memories of an Essex Minister, by S.R. Appleby, continued.
 The writer's father travelled a lot to preach - on foot, sailing or rowing, or by pony and trap.
 <b>East Mersea Chapel</b>
 Evidence exists that there was a building for Dissenters' worship in East Mersea in 1640 - and by 1772 a preacher from a Particular Baptist Church in Colchester was visiting the place as a 'free preacher'. The 'Top Chapel' in West Mersea had its beginnings around 1800 as an association of Baptists and Independents and is still there today. Records of the Strict Baptist Chapel in East Mersea date from 1803. The writer's father took over the oversight of this little chapel from 1899 until illness laid him aside in 1920.
 The little place of worship was capable of seating about sixty persons, weather-boarded outside and plastered within. Three heavy rough-hewn oak beams stretched across the width, with supporting members holding a tiled roof. The building stood on a brick plinth. Two shuttered windows looked out to the south, and two heavy pine baulks leaned against the chapel entrance on the south side, to prevent the cottage on the north side from pushing the little chapel over. A much worm-eaten pupil stood in the east end, with an old pendulum clock on a shelf just behind the preacher. 
 The chapel was set in a pretty spot where a little group of old-world cottages clustered at the foot of a hill, and field-paths met the road called Meeting Lane. It would seem that the property actually belonged to the farm in whose fields it stood.
 ...
 Two water colours of the chapel, with a few letters and minutes of the Church, are with the Strict Baptist Historical Society Museum at Fulham.
</p>
<p>
Mr F.G. Smith was the pastor preceding the writer's father [of the Meeting Lane Chapel]. Both men were very close friends. Father took the oversight of the chapel in 1899, maintain a faithful witness to the Gospel truths of Free and Sovereign grace for over twenty years. Numbers dwindled as one and another died, until the last years of his ministry when some 10 or 12 folk around were constrained to attend, though none joined in membership.
 Nature and time were left to write demolition on the once spiritual home of many that have passed on...
</p>
<p>
</p>From an unknown publication. Page 2 of 2.
</p>
<p>Alan Smith comments March 2015:
 The article suggests that he took over in 1899 but this is not quite accurate. George Frederick certainly became pretty ill in late 1898 and wrote to his friends at The Little Church of God assembled at East Mersea Baptist Church asking that they agree to George Appleby helping out while he was ill. Some of the Friends, including George Frederick's wife, wrote accordingly to George Appleby in February 1899. (The letters and my transcripts of them are in my Book) 
</p>
<p>
We have George Frederick's notebooks recording all the services he took for 1900 and 1901 but not those for 1899. It is clear that he preached at East Mersea or elsewhere every week throughout 1900 and 1901 so he must have recovered somewhat after his 1899 illness. His last service was 12th January, 1902.
</p>  RUD_MTG_012
ImageID:   RUD_MTG_012
Title: Memories of an Essex Minister, by S.R. Appleby, continued.
The writer's father travelled a lot to preach - on foot, sailing or rowing, or by pony and trap.
East Mersea Chapel
Evidence exists that there was a building for Dissenters' worship in East Mersea in 1640 - and by 1772 a preacher from a Particular Baptist Church in Colchester was visiting the place as a 'free preacher'. The 'Top Chapel' in West Mersea had its beginnings around 1800 as an association of Baptists and Independents and is still there today. Records of the Strict Baptist Chapel in East Mersea date from 1803. The writer's father took over the oversight of this little chapel from 1899 until illness laid him aside in 1920.
The little place of worship was capable of seating about sixty persons, weather-boarded outside and plastered within. Three heavy rough-hewn oak beams stretched across the width, with supporting members holding a tiled roof. The building stood on a brick plinth. Two shuttered windows looked out to the south, and two heavy pine baulks leaned against the chapel entrance on the south side, to prevent the cottage on the north side from pushing the little chapel over. A much worm-eaten pupil stood in the east end, with an old pendulum clock on a shelf just behind the preacher.
The chapel was set in a pretty spot where a little group of old-world cottages clustered at the foot of a hill, and field-paths met the road called Meeting Lane. It would seem that the property actually belonged to the farm in whose fields it stood.
...
Two water colours of the chapel, with a few letters and minutes of the Church, are with the Strict Baptist Historical Society Museum at Fulham.

Mr F.G. Smith was the pastor preceding the writer's father [of the Meeting Lane Chapel]. Both men were very close friends. "Father took the oversight of the chapel in 1899, maintain a faithful witness to the Gospel truths of Free and Sovereign grace for over twenty years. Numbers dwindled as one and another died, until the last years of his ministry when some 10 or 12 folk around were constrained to attend, though none joined in membership.
Nature and time were left to write demolition on the once spiritual home of many that have passed on...

From an unknown publication. Page 2 of 2.

Alan Smith comments March 2015:
The article suggests that he took over in 1899 but this is not quite accurate. George Frederick certainly became pretty ill in late 1898 and wrote to his friends at "The Little Church of God assembled at East Mersea Baptist Church" asking that they agree to George Appleby helping out while he was ill. Some of the "Friends", including George Frederick's wife, wrote accordingly to George Appleby in February 1899. (The letters and my transcripts of them are in my Book)

We have George Frederick's notebooks recording all the services he took for 1900 and 1901 but not those for 1899. It is clear that he preached at East Mersea or elsewhere every week throughout 1900 and 1901 so he must have recovered somewhat after his 1899 illness. His last service was 12th January, 1902.

Source:Mersea Museum / Peter Rudlin Collection


This item is part of the Mersea Island Museum Collection. The contents must not be published without the permission of the Museum. The information is accurate as far as is known, but the Museum does not accept responsibility for errors.


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