NOSTALGIA by Peter Hawkes

Chesham, like many towns with an industrial heritage, has long been a centre of religious non-conformity. One group of dissenters, the baptists, held the doctrine that only believing-adults should be baptised, and by total immersion in water.

The baptists have practiced in the town for over 300 years, with three of the congregations once meeting within 100 yards of each other in and around Red Lion Street. It has been estimated that, at the beginning of the 20th century, half of Chesham’s population were baptists, the remainder being either part of the Anglican Church or the other independent sects.

The Particular Baptists of Chesham began holding their services in a residential dwelling in 1701. In 1718 they built their ‘Lower’ Meeting House behind a building in Red Lion Street which later became the Punchbowl Inn.

About 170 years later they purchased the site of the Punchbowl to allow the building of Hinton Baptist Church, completed in 1898.

The Strict Baptists had ceded from this congregation in 1820, then a further divide in the Baptist movement led to the building of the Zion Baptist Church on Red Lion Street in 1873. In 1968 the Hinton and Zion chapels reunited, to form Trinity Baptist Church.

The General Baptists built their Meeting House in Star Yard, at the junction of Blucher Street with the Broadway, in 1712. It was rebuilt three times, finally in 1902 as Broadway Baptist Church. It remains one of the largest and most ornate places of non-conformist worship in Buckinghamshire.

The Strict Baptists withdrew from the Lower Meeting of the Particular Baptists in 1820 and built their own chapel in Townfield Yard.

This was replaced in 1927 by Newtown Baptist Church in Berkhampstead Road – the old chapel being destroyed by fire some years later.

Hivings Park Church was established in 1962 to serve the new community at Pond Park and Great Hivings.

Commemorative stones were laid by the Bucks Baptist Association and Arnold Baines. Recently it has become known as Hope Church, at Upper Belmont Road.

Other historic non-conformist churches are the Quaker Meeting House, Bellingdon Road based on a Christian movement founded c.1650; the United Reformed Church in the Broadway, the origins of which go back to the Presbyterian Meeting House of 1724, re-built in 1885 as a Meeting House of the Congregationalists;

The Methodist Church in Bellingdon Road, built in the 1960s on the site of the United Free Church of 1907 (a division of the General Baptists), adopted by the Wesleyan United and Primitive Methodist Churches in 1932.

The Salvation Army’s Citadel built in Broad Street in 1898 has recently closed to be come a childrens’ nursery..

This concludes the series about the 4Bs of Chesham (Beer, Brushes, Boots and Baptists) although we hope to hear from Chesham Museum about a recently adopted fifth B: bricks!

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