In The Beginnings .....

The Act of Uniformity of 1662, brought in by the government under the newly-elected King Charles the Second meant that one fifth of the ministers in the Anglican Church were driven from their livings. The alternative was ‘an unfeigned assent and consent to all and everything contained in the Prayer Book’ (the latest edition of which was considered papist by many protestants).

By the end of the 1660’s there were dissenting meeting places throughout SomeNailsea United Reformed Churchrset and, in Nailsea, a number of people who met in private homes for worship; some of them being prepared to walk seven or eight miles to take part. This could be dangerous. Several times during the 1670’s mobs attacked meeting places in Somerset, with buildings being burned and fleeing worshippers beaten. There was a sigh of relief when King Charles was overthrown, to be replaced by William and Mary of Orange. Life became easier for dissenters under the Toleration Act of 1689. Even so all protestant dissenters prepared to swear an oath of allegience to the crown had to obtain a licence to worship outside of the Anglican communion - a measure which remained in place for over 160 years until it was revoked in 1852.

With the growth and expansion of the glass-blowing industry came dissenters who wished to worship in their own tradition - a number applying to the Bishop of bath and Wells for permission to use their own houses for Independent worship. This, and other forced practices meant that a number of grievances were harboured They had to pay church rates which went towards building Anglican churches whose liturgy they disapproved of; births could only be registered in the parish church registry; non-conformist clegy were not allowed to officate at funerals of their own flock and weddings could only take place at the parish church. However, with the advent of the Registration Act in 1836, many of these difficulties were done away with. And the act was a sign, too, to many who longed for theor own place of worship, including John Phillips, who had his eye on an area of open heathland, a wooded area to the west of Nailsea where animals grazed and where coal was mined.

Nailsea Heath Pit was a surface mine, and it was viable enough to attract John Lucas, a Bristol glassmaker, to the area in 1788 and a new glassmaking industry soon flourished. A road was built linking Silver Street and Wraxall, as well as a system of bridleways and alleys, one of which became Chapel Alley when the Congregational Church was later built there.

Nailsea had rapidly become a small industrial complex by the 1830’s. In Nailsea was the fourth largest glassworks in the country and the mining industry on the heath expanded to keep up with the increased demand. More work attracted many new families. Many more houses were built and new service industries sprang up, including breweries and ale-houses. One newcomer complained that Nailsea was ‘a most miserable smoky place’ which deposited large clouds of smoke on his house in wet and windy weather. Nailsea, in the 1830’s had none of the conveniences we expect today; no railways, no ashphalt roads, no pavements, no piped water, no bathrooms, no sewage disposal and no police force.

Into this world the first Independent Church in Nailsea was born. Among the 17 men appointed as trustees to organise the building of the new chapel on 27th November 1837 were skilled glassworkers John and Joseph Brooks, James Marsh and William Perry. Others were tradesmen, artisans and industrial workers. Fifty years later, after the list was revised, we see some changes in the town’s social structure. Among the new trustees were a collier, a signalman, a draper, a grocer and two wine-merchants. Application was sought from the Bishop for permission to build a chapel. This was granted and land was bought from Thomas Brookes, father of three of the trustees, and a local beer retailer, for fifteen pounds. The work commenced in 1838 and the first worship service was held in 1839. Their first minister was William White, a married man with six children, living on a stipend of fifty pounds. Progress was rapid. By 1851 morning attendance was seventy, with an evening congregation of one hundred and fifty.


STORY OF NAILSEA CONGREGATIONAL CHURCH by B.J. Greenhill - Thanks to Freda Vowles

Wikipedia Website

Nailsea is a town in North Somerset, England, about 7 miles (11 km) to the south west of Bristol and about 11 miles (18 km) to the north east of the seaside resort of Weston-super-Mare. Nailsea is a commuter town with an approximate population of 18,000. The total population of Nailsea and the adjacent village of Backwell, if counted as one urban area is around 23,000.