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A History of Horncastle by James Conway Walter

At Donington on Bain there is also a very ancient chapel


An old document shows that at a meeting held at Bedford, in the spring of 1655, over which he presided, it was decided to send one of the members, "Mr. Brown to Horncastle, in Lincolnshire, to a few persons of the belief, seeking help to guide them in forming a society." Before the "Toleration Act" was passed in 1689, nonconformist places of worship were not allowed to exist within five miles of a market town. {84b} In Asterby, about six miles from Horncastle, there is a Baptist chapel, locally reputed {84c} to be the oldest in the kingdom. At Coningsby is a Baptist Chapel, with a school, dating from nearly the same period, with an endowment of 26 acres of land. The Baptists of Horncastle mostly, in those days, worshipped at Asterby. At Donington-on-Bain there is also a very ancient chapel, where the Baptists of Louth worshipped. The two chapels of Asterby and Donington have a joint endowment of 20 pounds a year, and are now affiliated to Northgate Chapel in Louth.

The Foundation Deed of the Chapel in Horncastle is dated Sept. 19, 1767; and the names of the founders are given as William Bromley, Vicars Keal, Hamlet Dabney, William Taylor, William Storr, William Dawson, Thos. Hollingshed, Charles Bonner, George Gunnis, James Coates, John Blow, and William Tenant.

The Chapel was originally a structure of one story, having its entrance in the centre of the north wall, and the pulpit opposite. Until the early part of the 19th century it had no baptistry, immersion being performed in the water-mill pit, {84d} in the north of the town.

Considerable structural alterations were made in the year 1843, when the walls were heightened and upper windows inserted; a gallery was erected at the east end; the north door was bricked up, and the present entrance at the east end opened; the pulpit being removed to the west end, facing the door. A further enlargement was made by a small vestry on the west being added, thus providing sitting accommodation for 250 worshippers.

On the north side of the building is a graveyard, but only three inscriptions are legible, they are "Mary Markwell, died March 28th, 1776, aged 29. Prepare to meet thy God." This was, doubtless, one of the earliest interments. The second is "In memory of Thomas Lamb, who departed this life June 7th, 1811, aged 82.

Here rests that lately animated clod, Who self despised, and glorified his God; And when that great decisive day shall come, He'll rise triumphant from the silent tomb.

Also of Frances, his wife, who departed this life April 2nd, 1810, aged 79. He was a watchmaker. The third is as follows: "Sacred to the memory of Eliza, daughter of William Parker, Solicitor, and Elizabeth, his wife, who died 1st April, 1835, aged 20 years. Them that sleep in Jesus will God bring with Him." Mr. Parker occupied part of the premises now forming the shop and residence of Mr. Bryant, shoemaker, in the High Street.

There is little doubt that the house adjoining the chapel, on the north west, was once the minister's residence. On the stairs leading to the present rostrum there is still a doorway, which evidently led to the house. There is a stone tablet over this door, and in 1892 an exact copy of this was made, and placed on the north wall. The inscription reads "John Hill, departed this life Oct. 16th, 1779, aged 48, Pastor of this Church 13 years."


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