Securing our history for the future


Centenary celebrations were held Thursday afternoon and evening at the little Congregational Church at Knowle, in the parish of Bawdrip. The church was built in the year 1830 and is now under the charge of the Rev. W. J. Gadsby (pastor of the Puriton Church). During those years the south and west walls of the building had badly sunk; these had been pinned up, and both the interior and exterior been thoroughly renovated. It now presents a pleasant appearance; the work having been carried out by Mr. C. Bryer.

The proceedings commenced three with service, conducted by the Rev. J. Vaughan, of Taunton, chairman-elect of the Somerset Congregational Union, who in the prayers voiced the thanksgiving of the people for a hundred years of worship and fellowship. His address was based on the text from Romans i. 7. “Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ. It was Paul’s salutation, he said. He wrote many epistles, but never forgot to begin with a salutation. He was a very busy man, but the salutation was never forgotten. It was a double salutation; he wished both grace and peace. The speaker urged them salute one another, Paul did. and make no distinction, but to wish people all the good things of life, long life and the more spiritual blessings such as grace and peace.

 Sale of Produce

At the close of the service a sale of produce and other articles took place in the rooms of the old Manse. The stalls were charge of the following ladies:

New stall—Mrs. Wm. House, Mrs. Gadsby, Mrs. J. Parsons and Miss Gray.

Jumble stall —Mrs. C. Young. Mise M. Young, and Mrs. Bates.

Provision stall—Mrs. Wyndham House and Mrs. C. Wells.

Teas were served on the lawn of the old Manse, overlooking the pleasant village of Bawdrip.



The little church was filled in the evening, when a public meeting was presided over by Mr. H. J. Pollard, Taunton. There were also present the Revs. J. J. Vaughan. E. Harland Brine (Bridgwater), W. J. Gadsby (Puriton), and G. W. L. Cass (rector Bawdrip). Miss M. House, organist at the Puriton church, presided the organ. The Rev. Brine conducted prayer, after which he read an apology for the absence of the Rev. Hugh Jenkins. The Rev. then addressed the gathering. People who worshipped in this place a hundred years ago.” he said. ” would have heard rattling by the church the old stage coaches. They used change horses opposite the Knowle Inn. That was not the only rattling sound in these days: there would the sounds of the pattens* coming along the road our lady friends came to the service. There was something else which was associated with the pattens*, and that was the old lantern with the tallow dip. There was no fear of being run over in those days; you could walk in the centre of the road without any danger.’

In the building of that a hundred years ago they were led by Mr Thomas Hurman. a most energetic worker. He was assisted by friends Puriton and Knowle, for they were one church in those days. Mr William Collings, who was buried just outside the church and whom a tablet was erected in the building, gave the Manse, and in those days minister was in charge of the church and did magnificent work.

At the funeral service of Mr. James Collings a thing happened which made the church in Puriton. The Pastor took his text from Psalm 42. verse 5. An old lady named Mrs. Sarah Woods was converted the sermon. She became a very zealous worker, and about seven weeks after her conversion she opened her house in Puriton for service. It was brave thing and she suffered much persecution.

The things that were thrown in the windows and down the chimneys would make a collection for a museum. The services were conducted for about ten years, the Pastor at Knowle assisting the week-evening service. In the year 1842 a church was built at Puriton and Mr. James House was made the first of the’ deacons that were appointed on the occasion. He was hoping to be with them that evening, but he thought the strain might rather too much. He sent his greetings and blessing. He would be 97 next birthday.

The house was doomed disappointment, he continued, for 16 years after the erection the foundations gave way and the place became too dangerous for worship. A gentleman then came their assistance in the person of Mr. George Pollard, of Taunton. came with his advice and encouragement, drew the plans for a new church, and contributed very liberally towards its erection. Her grandson was presiding over that meeting. In the year 1862 the foundation of the new church was laid by Mr. J. B. Sully, whose son was the accountant of their Union. Mr. C. B. Sully.

In December of that year the church was opened afresh and the sum of £300 was cleared off. It was the church they had at Puriton to-day. Until the year 1872 Puriton was a child Knowle. rendering every assistance she could. In the year 1872 the work was too big to on without a preacher, and when the preacher was appointed it brought about a severance between the mother and the child for the time being. In the year 1874 Mrs Woods died and buried by the Rev. George Dixon. Mrs. Woods was really the mother of the Puriton Church. In another six years they would have the centenary the church.

A New Start.

Mr Pollard said had very great respect for Mr. Gadsby and was always pleased to oblige him in any way he could. He had done admirable work in the county for many years and was loved many people in the western division. That could be seen from the fact that had been elected the new Chairman Western District the Somerset Congregational Union. It was the first time he had ever been in Knowle and did not think there were more than two other Congregational churches in the county had not been in. He was pleased there, also, because it was the re-opening and re-start the church after its- renovation. He knew what renovation meant in little country church. It meant a great financial sacrifice and generally they were too proud to go begging outside until they had done all they could. It was, nice hare God’s house looking clean and decent. Many them would feel something like the psalmist., when he said – I was glad when they said unto me let us go into the House of the Lord.’’ There were so many people nowadays who did not to church that there was rather a tendency for those who did to pat themselves on the back and think they were particularly good. He hoped that all associated with the church would find a new joy and gladness in it.

The Rev. J. J. Vaughan, who spoke next, said it was great pleasure to any church where Mr. Gadsby was minister. When the Gadsbys lived at Bishop’s Hull, near Taunton, he frequently went there, and they were the best of friends. He was glad also to at a renovation service. It always pained him to see dirty church, with walls that people would not have in their own homes was very nice to at a centenary service. He was once pastor of a church where they celebrated their 150th anniversary. He hoped everyone who attended that church would make a resolution joyful in their religion. There was more cause for rejoicing day than there ever was.

United Against Evil.

The Rev. E. H. Brine said should not forget the significance of that anniversary. It was not always the big things -that were the most blessed. Many the greatest people had come from the smallest homes. They were naturally concerned at the present time by the small congregations at the various places of worship, but he thought they would return. There were more churches in the land than there used be, and believed it was possible to get nearer God in a small place than in a larger one. He did not know what Congregationalism would be in another hundred years’ time, and he did not care. He was not one of those who was longing see a great union all denominations. He was afraid who would at the head.

The choir then rendered quartet, entitled “God loved the world.”

The Rev. G. W. L. Cass thanked them for the kind invitation address them that evening. He took it a sign that people were beginning to realise that they ought to present one united front against all that evil the world, and against the careless indifference that was flooding the land to-day. They might differ some points, but they had the same God They had to do something to fill their churches. The attendance was not what it was some years ago. They ought to show those careless people that they had secret power which was worth having. Unfortunately, the thought God not in the minds of people as it was thirty or forty years ago. They did not seem to care about God. The best thing to was show united front (Applause)

Mr. Gadsby thanked the speakers for their words of encouragement. They were also greatly indebted to Mrs. Collings and Mr. and Mrs. Foster. The income of that day with a few subscriptions, amounted to £15 15s 8d, which, with £56 already had £71 15s 8d.  The tender given Mr. C. Bryer for the renovation was £69. Thanks were also expressed to Mrs. Mare and Mrs Cox. The meeting closed with singing of the Doxology and the Benediction.

Newspaper report October 1930

Copyright British Newspaper Archive

*Pattens are protective overshoes that were worn in Europe from the Middle Ages until the early 20th century. They were worn outdoors over a normal shoe, had a wooden or later wood and metal sole, and were held in place by leather or cloth bands.