Winsham United Reformed Church
A short history of the Winsham Independent, Congregational and now United Reformed Church.
The inhabitants of Winsham worshipped together from the time Christianity came to the village until 1662, when an Independent Congregation gathered together under the leadership of the Rev. William Ball. He was ejected from the living of St.Stephen's following the passing of the Act of Uniformity in that year. About two thousand clergymen who refused to sign all 39 Articles were, after the 24th of August, ejected, deprived of income and not permitted to preach or teach under pain of imprisonment. Their faith and convictions must be admired for taking this step, particularly at the time of the year, deliberately chosen to have the greatest impact on their livelihood as the tithes were due. Several prominent families supported the cause and the congregation must have met in various houses.
The Toleration Act and Bill of Rights of 1689 made it possible for the congregation to lease a house and set it up for worship in 1703, the minister being the Rev. S. Bolster. Another milestone was the erection of a new chapel in 1760, when Mr Henley was the minister. He was a member of one of the many "county families" who supported the Independent Cause. He, from Leigh, and another local prominent dissenter was Mr. John Tomer from North Cricket. A full list of ministers, pastors and evangelists who served at Winsham is too long to record here. Many of the evangelists ministered in the village while studying for their examinations, under the tutelage of a neighbouring Congregational minister. The first reference I can find about Winsham being a Congregational Church was the "call" to the Revd. John Hemsworth in 1791.
In 1972 the United Reformed Church was formed with the joining together of the Presbyterian and Congregational Churches and later on the Churches of Christ. Some congregations didn't join and most now belong to the Congregational Federation.