Winsham United Reformed Church



The United Reformed Church is situated in Fore Street, the present church being built in 1811. Its pleasing exterior is constructed of local, natural stone which complements the older dwellings in the village. The single-pitched tiled roof is another feature which enables the interior to be free of any pillars. The high, wooden ceiling makes the acoustics particularly good. The wide pulpit has a brass oil lamp at each end, all that remain from 1865 when the church converted from candles to paraffin lamps. The Communion table has two goblets and one of the three plates presented to the church by eight ladies on November 2nd. 1815. The three chairs used by the presiding minister, and two servers at communion services, were given to the church by the Revd. Walters in 1960. The single manual organ came from a redundant Parish Church in Horfield, Bristol, and was installed in 1980.The Manse was built at the same time as the present church. A Schoolroom was added to the church in 1863 by friends of education, and was reduced to single storey when major renovations were carried out in 1993. These consist of a pleasant meeting room, small kitchen and toilet facilities. 

  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. 

Overseas 
The London Missionary Society was founded in 1795. Among the earlier missionaries were David Livingstone and John Williams, the latter being a martyr in the South Seas.

Education
As the ejection was put in force in 1662, the Universities were closed to Dissenters, so various Dissenting Academies were formed and by the mid-eighteenth century were "providing an education far greater in range and depth than could in fact be had at Oxford or at Cambridge." 

Hymnody
One of the traditions of the non-conformist churches has been its good hymn singing and the great hymn writers, Isaac Watts and Philip Doddridge are perhaps the best known Congregationalists. 

2002
The congregation of the U.R.C. comprise folk of most Christian traditions. Congregational, Methodist, Baptist, Anglican and probably more. The present minister is the Revd. John McMinn M.A.



Winsham Chapel, circa 1940's

 


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Copyright Winsham Web Museum. All rights reserved. This page revised 10 May 2009