History

 

In 1640 Reading was a town of 5,000 inhabitants based on a triangle of streets of which New Street, now Friar Street, formed the north line; London Street and Sievier (Silver) Street, where the sieve makers lived, the east line; and St Giles’ Street and the Seven Bridges, now Southampton Street, the west line. Occupied by the Royalists at the beginning of the Civil War, Reading was, in 1643, captured by the Parliamentarians forces and strongly garrisoned. In 1646 Cromwell himself was in Reading.

It seems likely that the Reading Baptist church came into existence, or at any rate grew in strength, through the presence of the soldiery in the town. The church must have been well established by the year 1652. The following year the vicar of St Mary’s, a staunch Puritan favouring Presbyterianism, inveighed publicly against the local “Anabaptists”. The Baptists not only had to meet attacks from those who desired a National Church Presbyterian in character, they had also to defend themselves against the new Quaker movement led by George Fox. In 1655 Fox came to Reading and held a meeting in George Lamboll’s orchard to which a great part of the town came. After the meeting many Baptists came privately reasoning and discoursing. At such a time, a few devout men gathered for worship in a small rented  house,  most probably situated in Pigney Lane,  on the banks of the Holy Brook, and here they formed the church that grew into our own today. They had no minister to lead them, little money for their support and a future threatened by persecution, plague and civil war. Certainly in this place, in August 1688, John Bunyan preached one of his last sermons. He died at the end of August 1688.

By the end of the century the Reading Baptists held the freehold of the Meeting House and burial ground in Church Lane, now Church Street, between London Street and Southampton Street. By 1751, there was enough support and enthusiasm for the building of a new Meeting House in Hosier’s Lane which was opened for services at Easter 1752.

By the end of the eighteenth and the beginning of the nineteenth centuries, churches at Wokingham, Staines and Wallingford were formed and many village chapels started up, all of which were closely connected with the members of Hosier’s Lane.

The last move, but one, was to the new chapel in King’s Road, built in June 1834. At that time one of its novelties was lighting by gas. By 1868 increased accommodation was required for the Sunday School. A piece of ground north of the Holy Brook was presented to the church by a well known Reading man, Mr Blagrave, and by 1870, the new School Room was built and in use.

The shortest move of all took place in 1979 when we moved over the Holy Brook to our present premises in Abbey Square, standing on the same site as the old King’s Road School Room, and renamed as Abbey Baptist Church.

See also the Links page (Anderson Baptist Church website) for further information about the history of the Baptists in Reading, and of King's Road Baptist Church.

 

Past Ministers of the Church

 

1678-1695         John Rance

1695-1700         Mark Key

1715- ?             Jonathan Davis

1725-1735         Peter Belbin

1735-1736         Thomas Flower

1741-1748         Daniel Turner

1749-1765         Thomas Whitewood

1767-1796         Thomas Davis

1797-1811         John Holloway

1814-1819         John Dyer

1820-1837         John Howard Hinton

1839-1846         John Statham

1847-1855         John Jenkyn Brown

1855-1869         John Aldis

1870-1871         Thomas Collins Page

1872-1886         William Anderson

1887-1894         Charles Alfred Davis

1894-1901         Forbes Jackson

1902-1930         R. Gordon Fairbairn

1931-1934         George H. Boobyer

1935-1941         Gerald C. Matthews

1942-1950         F. Howard Wheeler

1951-1963         Ernest J. Webb

1964-1970         E. Morley Jones

1971-1980         Neil B. Hall

1981-1986         Roger Hayden

1987-1994         George Neal

1994-2000         Sean Winter

2001-2009         Paul Sheppy

2011-2015         Paul Burnish