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The Old Chapel, Eythorne Baptist Church

Although the very early history of the Eythorne Baptists has to be pieced together from various disparate source (such as the municipal records at Sandwich or the ecclesiastical returns to Lambeth etc), from 1725 onwards there are two books which inform on the activities of the Eythorne Baptists. One is an account book, the other a minute book. The entry for 1754 “show a subscription for a new meeting-house of their own, adjoining Birch’s cottage”…..(This is Brother Birch, to whom was paid in 1737, a rent of fifteen shillings yearly for the “mitenhous”). “Joshua Birch leased a scrap of land, 24 by 15 (units not given but maybe yards ?), in trust, and on 30 April, in the 29th year of George II, the new house was registered at Canterbury Quarter Sessions by John Knott and Stephen Philpott, the Messenger. Such an area hardly gave room for many graves, and for years after this time, many internments took place at the parish church”. (Reference : the Forward written by W. T. Whitely (1861-1947) who was a renowned Baptist Minister and Historian for “Eythorne the Story of a Village Baptist Church” written by A.C. Miller.). The 29th year of the reign of George II was 1756 (note Wikipedia, or the source it has its information from, gives 1765 but I believe they have transposed the 5 and 6). The church was enlarged in 1771. It was located on Coldred Road.
In 1762 the wealthy Dover Banker and Businessman, Peter Fector bought land in Eythorne and proceeded to build Eythorne House (which was a remodelling on an earlier 1740 property) as one of his residences. It has been said that in the early years singing was forbiden at Baptist Meetings but by 1804 that rule had clearly been changed. Peter Fector became so annoyed by the congregation’s constant singing, that he offered to purchase the Chapel for £500 of ‘lawful money of Great Britain,’ and give up an acre of land at Langdown in Eythorne, on which they could build a new Church if they moved. On January 29th1804 church members were called together to consider the proposal. The minute book records “that after mature deliberation excepting two or three sisters, we unanimously agreed to accept this offer”. The “new church” is the current Eythorne Baptist Chapel
Whilst knowing that the old chapel was located on Coldred Road and close enough to Eythorne House for the singing be heard, its exact location appears unknown. However, I suggested earlier in the year that its location was were the current roundabout is in Upper Eythorne. This from the fact that the Eythorne Tithe Schedule of 1845 states that Elizabeth Bayley is living on a piece of land described as “The Old Chapel House and Garden” and the owner of this land are the Trustees of the Baptist Chapel and this is plot 186 on the map attached (see map, plot 186 is the old chapel (circled in red), plot 193 is Eythorne House). Note that the information in the Tithe Award Schedule must have been out of date when it was published (1845) as Peter Fector (or his estate as he died in 1814) would have owned the land that is described as the “Old Chapel” House not the Trustees of the Baptist Chapel.
Unfortunately there was no other information to corroborate this proposal and various discussions on what the building might have looked at this location gave some suggestions but nothing conclusive.
Happily a document written in 1866 provides not only corroboration of location but also a description of the old Chapel. The document is titled “ Report upon Property in the Parish of and near the village of Eythorne about 4 miles from Dover in the County of Kent belonging to Major A G Dickson and Estimate of its value”. Although the property isn’t named in the document, from the description of the property, its location and the fact that it is owned by Major A G Dickson, there is no doubt that the property is Eythorne House. After describing the main house, gardens and plantations it goes on to say “On the opposite or West side of the before named Road (Coldred Road) there is a small Brick Thatched Cottage Boarded Leanto Tiled with Garden and adjoining is an old Brick and Tiled Chapel also near thereto Stabling and Coach House Brick and Tiled and 2 detached Boarded and Tiled Sheds and yard – Except the Cottage, the above buildings are not used and require repairing”.
The text puts the location of the old chapel in a position that doesn’t contradict it being where the Upper Eythorne roundabout now is.The description of the chapel and how it adjoins a small thatched cottage with boarded leanto, fits very well the picture in Whitely’s original text (attached) about the early years of the Eythorne Baptists. I am happy therefore that the buildings in this print are indeed the ones of the Old Chapel. In the text he saysthat the block for the print this was lent by the Baptist Church Secretary at the time (R. J . Watford). The same picture was also used by Pastor Wm Burnett in a “Momento to commemorate the centenary of the present Baptist Chapel (1804-1904). The brick and tile building to the rear of the picture would be the purpose built chapel building registered in 1756 (Pastor Burnett says erected in 1755) and and enlarged in 1771.
Pastor Burnett’s “momento” says the cottage was demolished in 1901 and was probably the one used for worship before the purpose built chapel was built. He also states that the old chapel had been converted into a residence. Forstal Cottage, pictured on the site of the roundabout but now demolished, looks like the old chapel. Note the Hampshires Photo Series describes this as Sandwich Road (we would now say this is Coldred Road looking towards Sandwich Road).

Vince Croud

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