A movement of disciple making disciples

History

A Little History

The first Baptist Church in Worcester began in 1658. In the late 19th century that church (now based in Sansome Walk) established several branches around the city including one in the Red Hill area. In 1983 Red Hill Baptist Church became a church in its own right. It had a small chapel in Cannon Street and met on Sundays in local schools for many years. We recognised the church could be much more fruitful if we had a purpose-built church centre and after much prayer, planning and sacrificial giving by members, we were able to open the church centre in St Peter’s in 2007. At that point we changed our name to St Peter’s Baptist Church.

Red Hill Baptist Church History

Red Hill Baptist Church – a short history of the first 100 years 1866 – 1966, written by Rob Giles, May 2007. If you would prefer to download the whole history it is also available as a PDF file by clickinghere (or right click the link and choose “Save as” if you would like to save it to your computer). You can also view a short video of our history, and a three part video interview with one of our former members, who died in 2008, about her experiences at Red Hill since 1915, below.
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Early Beginnings

When we start to look at the early history of Red Hill Baptist Church, we must of necessity begin at the Kempsey branch of Worcester Baptist Church. For it was there in 1862 where the small wooden hut was erected which was to provide the first church building in the Red Hill area of Worcester four years later. It was erected at Kempsey at a cost of £28-16s-0d but the painting, varnishing, spouting, felting etc brought it up to £39-4s-11d – and another £11 for seats, desks and other fittings made a grand total of over £50.

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Moving On

Early in 1879 the time came to move on. Mr Green’s lease had expired and the farm had changed hands. This meant that the site had to be given up. All that time Mr Green had generously allowed the use of the land free of charge.

A new site was purchased at Red Hill Cross right on the edge of the city, though one report puts the price at £76 while another states £95. This was the site of the chapel in Cannon Street on which Christian work and witness was to continue for another 128 years. Initially however the little wooden chapel was moved from Swinesherd to the new plot of ground, mainly with the help of Mr Watson and his family of The Mill, Swinesherd, who lent his team of horses to assist in the relocation.

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New Build

As time went on congregations and SS scholars increased while at the same time as these went up the condition of the building went steadily down. After all, the wooden hut had given splendid service for nearly 30 years first at Kempsey, then at Swinesherd and latterly at Red Hill. It was no surprise, then, to find that something had to be done regarding a new and more permanent structure.

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Grand Opening

The name of Captain Alexander Locke should be familiar to all of us as it’s his name that appears on the front wall of the chapel. It was he who laid the foundation stone on 26 February 1891 before a large gathering and addresses, presumably in the open air, were given by three people – Mr J.S. Hanson, Mr E.P. Evans J.P. and Capt Locke himself. By way of interest there is an account of this seemingly very colourful character in the November 1895 Banner (the magazine of Worcester Baptist Church). He was born in 1802 and died 23 September 1895 aged 75, so he was 71 when he performed this ceremony. Well, in less than four months, the new chapel (less the back room) was ready for use. It was opened for public worship on 11 June 1891. Rev J.T. Wigner, an ex-President of the Baptist Union, preached on a text from Psalm 84, ‘Blessed are they that dwell in Thy house’ and we are told that the attendance was large. The service was continued in the evening at Sansome Walk with the same preacher. The first regular evening service was on 14 June when the preacher was – who else! – Mr Mayglothling and this was preceded by an open air meeting. At this time, according to the records, Mr James Jones and Mr Burden were joint chapel superintendents (a job share even in those days, even if unpaid!).

The work grows

Let’s go on now to mention the various groups within the church together with points of interest generally as the years go by. First of all, the Young Men’s Bible Class. This was started in August 1893 with six members and the meeting was held in the kitchen underground (the lower part of the cellar, which also contained the boiler used to heat the premises). This was the only available space in the already crowded building but apparently it was made more homely by hanging some curtains. It was obviously a great success because the numbers grew so much that its leader, Miss James, proposed that £100 be raised in order to build a larger classroom on to the back of the chapel. At first the members thought this a quite impossible task, with the result that Miss James, clearly a very determined lady, worked all alone to raise the first £40. At that point, realising perhaps that it wasn’t quite so impossible after all, they all set to work in earnest and £95 was in the kitty by January 1896. What a testimony to the example of Miss James. At the time the group had 42 members but only room to seat 24! Anyway, thanks to this effort, the new classroom, known for many years, fittingly, as Miss James’ room but more familiar to succeeding generations simply as ‘the back room’, was opened on 13 October 1896.

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The Sunday School

What about the Sunday School – quite remarkable in terms of numbers. Let’s look at this branch of the work over a period. Remember that in the early days there was both morning and afternoon school plus of course the main evening service (morning worship didn’t start until Red Hill became an independent church in 1983 – up until then those who wanted a morning service were encouraged to attend at Sansome Walk). In passing we are told in Mr Mayglothling’s 1903 Souvenir that among the pioneer workers of the Swinesherd school were George Farrant, John Middleton, Henry Viles, John Lane, Thomas Smith and Thomas Longmore. The author goes on to say that in the later Red Hill days James Jones, George Matlock and Charles Burden deserve honourable mention as SS Superintendents and Josiah Everitt as Secretary for 12 years. ‘Mrs Baldwyn (nee Hughes), Miss James and Mr F.G. Viles also rendered conspicuous service and the present Superintendent [1903] was Mr C.H. Stevenson with G.W. Foss as assistant and T.J. Griffiths as secretary’.

In 1890 the numbers on the SS roll were 105 with the average attendances 59 in the morning and 74 in the afternoon. Numbers increased quite dramatically over subsequent years:

  • 1895 – 181 total (85 average in the morning and 120 in the afternoon, with 20 teachers).
  • 1896 – 190 although only 16 took the Scripture Union exam and 56 were members of the Int. Bible Reading Association.
  • 1897 – 231 (100/150 plus 17 teachers)
  • 1900 – a staggering 250 (same averages but 23 teachers).

The annual Prize Distribution in February 1895 included prizes to 33 scholars for regular attendance during the previous year. While this doesn’t quite tie in with the numbers mentioned already, it’s interesting to note that ‘Five children who travel from Swinesherd to Red Hill received a Bible each for making a fair number of attendances, considering the long distance for them to come.’  At the same occasion Miss James was presented with a silver-mounted inkstand by the Young Men’s Bible Class ‘in appreciation of the esteem in which she is held by her class’.

We have recorded a list of the teachers in the SS in 1900:

 Miss Ellison  Mr F.G. Viles
 Miss James  Mr W. Wimblett
 Miss Hulin  Mr F. Wheeler
 Miss Nicholls  Mr H. Denmed
 Miss J. Wood  Mr H. Dolloway
 Miss L. Tomkins  Mr H. Viles
 Miss H. Handy  Mr Craig
 Mrs Burden  Mr W. Evans
 Miss Mears  Mr W.Blake

plus Miss M. A Hawkins (organist)

It was still 250 in 1904 with averages of 80 and 160 but for some unexplained reason the next year saw a tremendous drop to 107, though the averages were still healthy at 90 and 96. 1910 – 130 and 1915 – 175, going up again.

And there the detailed records seem to stop. Indeed it’s interesting to note that there is far more information available about the work at Red Hill and the other parts of Worcester Baptist Church at the beginning of the 1900s than in any of the subsequent years. Perhaps the First World War took its toll?

Some other fascinating titbits stand out from the records about the Sunday School. At the 1893 prize-giving William Woodward and Annie Glover had the full number of attendances – 104 – every morning and afternoon possible! Then we read in the August 1895 Banner concerning the SS Anniversary that:

‘the rain fell in torrents and thinned the afternoon congregation but the chapel was crowded at night. The scholars under the leadership of Mr Burden and Miss F. Hawkins rendered their songs well, the anthem being specially well rendered. Rain fell in torrents the previous year but it takes a lot of rain to damp Red Hillers down and all seemed to thoroughly enjoy the day.’

In August 1896 the SS joined with all the other Sunday Schools in the city for a day at Madresfield Court by invitation of the Mayor, Earl Beauchamp, and on 5 October of the same year the Teachers Quarterly Meeting was held at Red Hill. It appears that all the teachers from Sansome Walk and the branch fellowships met together every quarter and at that particular meeting a paper on the aim of SS teaching was given by Rev J. Bell-Johnston ‘and tea was provided’.

The annual SS treat was always arranged for the Whitsun bank holiday Monday and for many years Crookbarrow Hill, Whittington (more familiarly known as Whittington Tump) was the venue. In one account of this in 1908 we read ‘We started at 1.30 pm from the school and marched to Whittington, the infants being conveyed there on a dray kindly lent by Messrs Barnett Ltd.’  Our oldest member, Beat Clinton, who started going to SS in 1915 at the age of three, recalls the annual treat with great affection. She remembers the use of Mr Gammon’s dray to transport the children at 1pm. Tea was at 4pm and races at 6pm followed by a football match for all the fathers, everyone returning home about 9pm. Later venues included Cudleigh Court Farm at Spetchley and wider afield, the delights of Severn Beach, near Bristol.

Beat Clinton also recalls the older children (12+) being taken each Easter Monday (and some Saturdays too) by their teacher, Mr Yates, to Ankerdine Hill where they enjoyed a picnic dinner and tea in the woods.

Worshippers

So much for the early days of the Sunday School. Let’s go back now to other aspects of church life. The annual Year Books printed in those days are quite helpful here as each one gives a brief account of the work at the Mission.

The 1890 Year Book tells us that services were held at 6.30pm each Sunday with Sunday School at 9.30am and 2.30pm. In addition to the joint Superintendency of  Mr C Burden and Mr James Jones, we learn that Mr J Everett was Secretary, Mr H Westbury Clothing Club Secretary and Miss M Hill Harmoniumist. 25 were on the roll of the Band of Hope. The report indicates that ‘the teachers are looking anxiously forward to their entrance upon the new building in a few weeks’ time, when they will be able to carry on their work under better conditions.’

This is what is said in the 1898 edition:

‘Red Hill is often filled with earnest worshippers and one feels it is a privilege to have an opportunity of speaking to such an audience. There have been occasional services at Kempsey on weeknights but here again, Red Hill is to the front with well attended services every week.’

And again in 1901:

‘Red Hill is frequently full of attentive worshippers whose faces are a source of inspiration to those whose privilege it is to preach the word. The choir render excellent service and is to be commended for its good work. A desire having been expressed for a monthly celebration of the Lord’s Supper, arrangements are being made to that end.’

The first communion service was held on 12 May 1901.

The Choir

Like most churches Red Hill had a regular choir, which lasted right up to the 1970s. Indeed Red Hill was always known for its singing. The choir was almost an organisation in itself, always doing things and going off here, there and everywhere (geographically and no doubt sometimes musically as well). Take 1899 for example. The choir had their annual outing on Saturday, 12 August when they drove in a couple of brakes [open horse drawn carriages with four wheels] although we’re not told where to – probably one of the mystery trips popular for very many years until car ownership became widespread.

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St Peter’s Baptist Church
Address: Eden Close, Worcester, WR5 3TZ
Telephone: 01905 767090
E-mail: info@stpetersbaptist.org.uk

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