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Church History | Colchester Baptist Church

Church History

The first Baptist church in England was established by Thomas Helwys in 1612 in London. He died in Newgate Prison but the faith spread.

There were Baptists in Colchester by 1630. In the Civil War period views of what the Christian faith should be contended within existing churches. With the Restoration in 1660 the Church of England was supreme and those who had other views had to worship underground. The Glorious Revolution of 1689 gave toleration to Dissenters. It was then that Colchester Baptist Church was formed. In 1690 the Church registered its meeting house in East Stockwell St., just of the High Street, and its minister, John Hammond. In 1711 the church moved to Eld Lane on part of its present site and called John Rootsey as its minister. Rootsey built up the church and made the first contacts which led to Baptist churches in Ipswich.

In 1832 the site of our premises was increased fourfold and the present church was built on it in 1834. This was largely due to the benefactions of Benjamin Nice, a farmer living in Ardleigh.

One of our members at that time, James Paxman asked that his name be removed from the roll due to ‘improper conduct’. Thus his son, James Noah Paxman, was brought up in the Church of England. He went on to found the major engineering company that bore his name.

Eld Lane exterior prior to 1923

Eld Lane exterior prior to 1923

In January 1850 the young Charles Haddon Spurgeon came to a knowledge of Christ in a Sunday morning service in the Primitive Methodist Church in Artillery Street. That evening Spurgeon worshipped at Eld Lane and it is as a Baptist that Spurgeon became the foremost Christian influence in 19th century Britain.

In 1866 with the minister ill but unable to retire Eld Lane looked to Spurgeon, who had just founded the theological college that bears his name, for help. He offered Edward Spurrier as assistant minister and agreed to preach himself twice a year to cover the cost. Spurrier soon had the church in a healthy state. On one of his vists Spurgeon saw the need for a school hall. With a gift and a loan from him the Church was equal to the challenge. In recent years this hall has needed rebuilding but is esentially the hall Spurgeon built.

Spurrier stayed at Eld Lane over 40 years. In that time out-stations were built at at Parsons Heath(Wycliffe) and Blackheath (Orchard). Both are now independent churches.

One of our ministers insubsequent years, Warwick Bailey, served from 1944 to 1972. he was a Borough Councillor for nine years and was mayor of Colchester in 1949/50.

Two further additions have been made to the premises. That in front of the school hall was named after Spurrier and opened in 1923. A wing on the other side was added in 1991. It houses Open Door, founded in 1986 as a welcome to all who want to come on four weekdays.

A book  by Henry Spyvee about the history of the church, covering the years 1689 – 1989, is available from the Church Office at a price of £3.