Church History

Baptist life in Thaxted started around 1813 when a Baptist Chapel existed in Mill End. It is unclear why the chapel was abandoned but in 1832 a small group of Baptist men and women were meeting together in a barn in Water Lane (latterly named Watling Lane).  Land was purchased shortly after this in Park Street for the construction of a dedicated building for worship.  With the help of the minister and friends from Saffron Walden Baptist Church, a building was erected measuring thirty-six by twenty-eight feet with a schoolroom behind, and on the first of January 1833, the church was opened for public worship.  This site has been the focus of Baptist life in the village and surrounding area ever since. 

The church membership began to expand quickly and by the mid 1840s it became apparent that the building was no longer sufficient for the needs of the congregation and the Sunday school (which itself had grown to some 120 children).  The church was extended by fifteen feet on the front of the building a gallery was erected inside along each side of the building and across the front. 

The church building is protected by the Grade II Listed status and has been a landmark in the village for over 150 years, with only relatively minor additions and alterations.  In 1955 the schoolroom was knocked down and replaced with a church hall including a kitchen and two cloakrooms.  This was a valuable addition to the church and local community serving as a schoolroom for the Sunday school, post-congregational teas and a place for activities such as Brownies and Guides. 

The original Baptismal pool is still in use and it remains covered over with boards when not in use.  The wooden pulpit was dismantled in 1995 as the damp and woodworm had left it in a state of disrepair. The original pews are still in use and lend the sanctuary its character, although the wooden floors beneath have been replaced with concrete and the wooden surround on the two sides of the church has been lost.  Other changes in the interior décor have been minimal over the years but have included, electric lighting & heating and the addition of handrails around the side galleries for safety reasons.  A remodelling and extension of the church hall was undertaken in 2008 to create better facilities and access for those whom are less able and elderly, as well as to create a larger kitchen.  

The church has long been associated with C. H. Spurgeon and he had considerable influence on the church during the late 19th century.  Spurgeon’s own sister came to the church as the wife of one of the ministers (the Rev. Henderson), both of whom are buried in the churchyard.  In later times the church ministry has been filled by those who have studied at Spurgeon’s College, London. 

The membership of the church in the 19th century was considerable but has steadily declined since that time, shrinking to approximately 75 in 1915.  In 1966, at the time the Rev. MacRae was inducted, the members numbered in the 50s, but by the 1990s, reflecting the trend within the UK, numbers had reduced to 20-30 people worshipping together each Sunday.  Today, it can be seen that this number has largely been maintained and with the dedication of its church members still strong, along with support from the Baptist Missionary Society and the Eastern Baptist Association, it is clear that the church can safely look forward to continued prosperity in the 21st century.