Church Micro 3809
Bratton - Baptist
This cache can be retrieved from the public footpath, it is wheelchair and pushchair accessible. The cache is not placed in church yard.
Baptist Church, Bratton - In 1662 a visitation at Erlestoke found that families from Erlestoke and Bratton were holding Baptist meetings and refusing to have infants baptised. These meetings would have been in private houses and although a Baptist Church was listed at Erlestoke in 1686 there was no chapel building and meetings continued in licensed private houses under a minister. The church contained members at both Erlestoke and Bratton but membership at Erlestoke must have been declinining by the 1730s as it was decided to build a meeting house at Bratton.This project, led by the Whitakers and other Bratton families was completed in 1734 and the meeting house, measuring 30 feet by 20 feet, was certified for use on 16th July 1734. Membership from the two villages was 30 in 1736, rising to 39, but had dropped to 27 in 1740. The number increased to 35 in 1742 and the Baptist cause here was helped by a series of long-serving ministers. Congregation numbers would have been substantially higher than membership. The Erlestoke branch of the church seems to have faded in the 1750s and by 1761 only Bratton is mentioned. From the early days the baptism of adults took place in the Stradbrook and this continued until the 1860s. In the latter half of the 18th century there was a period of stagnation nationally in Baptist churches but there was reasonable activity at Bratton. A new chapel roof was needed and this was supplied at a cost of £62, the money being supplied by 23 subscribers, nearly all the members, through three appeals. Both membership and congregation increased between 1777 and 1797 and the meeting house, with no galleries, now proved to be too small. In 1784 a vestry was built while in 1786 the chapel was enlarged by 12 feet at the back of the building on land that had been given to the church. The congregation paid £177 for the extension and in 1790 bought more land next to the chapel. Between 1799 and 1807 the meeting room yard was enlarged and a manse built clost to the chapel. A front gallery was built in 1807, new doors provided and the chapel repaired and painted. A schoolroom was built in 1818 at the west end of the chapel at a cost of £262, while a burying ground was added to the site. This is indicative of the surge of interest in non-conformist worship in the 19th century and in Bratton the membership rose from 79 in 1812 to 157 in 1837. In 1832 there were 110 Sunday School children. From 1849 to 1871 the church was served by the Rev. Hugh Anderson and 200 people atteded his leaving party.In 1858 the roof was raised by four feet and a ceiling inserted and the galleries, pews and pulpit were renewed. Work was also carried out on the schoolrooms, lecture room, and vestry and in total £800 was spent. The schoolrooms to the west of the church, accommodating the British Day School, were enlarged by 10 feet in length in 1874. Membership peaked at 206 in 1883 (a figure equalled in 1911) and from 1884 they had a new American organ to accompany their singing. In 1907 the church acted to save Baptist worship in nearby Great Cheverell after the vicar there had bought the old chapel to end non-conformist worship in the village. A new chapel was built, funded from Bratton. However in Bratton itself there was a spirit of good fellowship between Baptists and Anglicans. After the First World World War membership dropped, partly owing to the agricultural depression, although there were still 154 members in 1924. To compensate for this decline many organisations, such as the Band of Hope, Boys' and Girls' Life Brigades, and aYoung People's Meeting, were established in the first part of the 20th century. The church still had 70 members in 1946 but numbers slowly dropped and there were only 44 in 1961; 12 of these at Great Cheverell. However the church has survived this decline and prospered again.
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