Our History

Our History

History is important. Our church is here through God’s grace, but the faith of our ancestors has shaped the way we are today. We can trace our history back to 1820. Click here to go to the period that you are interested in, or just read from the start:
1820’s to 1893: The original Baptists in Seer Green
1893 to Easter Monday 1900: The new Chapel in Chalfont Road
1900 to 1957: Life in the Baptist Chapel
1957 to 1970: A procession of ministers
1970 to 1990: The vision to be at the centre of Seer Green
1990 to 2016: Living at the centre of Seer Green
2015 onwards: the present day
Our church anniversary in 2018

1820’s to 1893: The original Baptists in Seer Green

Baptists were the original religious pioneers in Seer Green. In the 1820’s they would meet in their own houses around Seer Green, calling their gatherings “Cottage Meetings”.

The building which is the present-day Parish Church Hall in Chalfont Road was built in 1829 as a lace making school. A group of Baptists started to meet there in 1843, and eventually raised enough money to purchase the building in 1857.

1893 to Easter Monday 1900: The new Chapel in Chalfont Road

In 1893 the Baptists launched a fund to construct a new building.

We have two interesting documents which refer to this important period of change and faith in the life of the church.

The first is the Trust Deed which founded what has become the modern day Seer Green Baptist Church. This is a legal document, dated 24th June 1898. It is written in difficult-to-read longhand, and in very verbose, Victorian legalese. For that reason we won’t reproduce the whole thing here, but instead here are some points of interest:

  • the foundation of the modern day church is actually contained within a Conveyance Document for the purchase of buildings and land on the opposite side of Chalfont Road from the Parish Church Hall. This land was to be the site of the new Baptist Chapel.
  • the conveyance was between Miss Rhoda Humphreys, the owner of the land, and Mr George Edward Worley and others, who were the first trustees of the church. Amongst the professions listed for the trustees were: labourers, potters, gardeners, teacher and a chairmaker.
  • the price paid for the land and properties was £130-00.
  • after a detailed description of where the land is, the conveyance document goes on effectively to form the church, and to lay down the principles by which it will run. There is one section which says the Trust Deed will “…permit any buildings or chapel schools and premises which may be erected at any time hereafter upon the said land or any part therefore to be used occupied and enjoyed as and for a place of public religious worship and teaching by the church of the denomination of Protestant Dissenters called Baptists at Seer Green aforesaid….” (Yes that is all part of one sentence without commas)
  • and finally all the trustees (and Rhoda Humphreys) signed the Conveyance, the deed was done, and the current church was founded. There are some very well known Seer Green names amongst the trustees. Apart from two Worleys, there are also a Boddy, Loveday, Childs, Lidgley, and Saunders amongst others.

Mention of Frederick Saunders takes us to the second interesting document. This is a history of the church in the 1890’s, written in 1972 by Geoffrey P. Sawyer, and reproduced here in its entirety:

‘FIVE GUINEAS AND GREAT FAITH’By Geoffrey P. Sawyer

IT CAN TRUTHFULLY BE SAID THAT THE BEGINNINGS OF OUR PRESENT CHAPEL WERE: IN HAND, FIVE GUINEAS; IN HEART, GREAT FAITH.

1893 saw the Golden Jubilee of the founding of the Baptist Church – surely, a most appropriate occasion at which to launch a new-building fund. However, it was a mammoth undertaking. The fellowship, by no means large, consisted almost entirely of poor, working-class people, whose earnings were around sixteen shillings A WEEK. The sum needed would be roughly £800 – the equivalent today of a figure approaching £20,000. To those humble, but dedicated folk, it was a staggering amount; yet, they went ahead, believing that somehow the money would come. Collections from the Jubilee services were encouraging – five guineas, in all! This, then, was just the beginning…

Four years later the fund gained momentum, when an earnest young Christian in his mid-twenties, with much-needed zeal, Frederick Saunders, became Church Secretary. All rallied behind him in his determination that the scheme should come to fruition as soon as possible. Several sites were viewed , eventually the present one becoming available. After much negotiation, the land, along with a bungalow used as a reading-room (where the car park is, demolished during the early years of the Chapel), was purchased from a Miss Rhoda Humphreys of Preston. Enough for this – £130 – was raised, though nothing left over. Undaunted as ever, plans were prepared, a builder found.

At last, the day when the foundation stones were due to be laid – August 15th, 1899 – dawned. An old member, then a schoolgirl (Mrs. Mary Sims, nee Worley), recently recalled how she ran eagerly home from school to find a great crowd gathered at the site. The father of Bertram Mills of circus fame, who lived at Chalfont St Giles, Mr. Halford Mills, and the prospective Liberal candidate for the division, Mr. John Thomas JP CA, were amongst the stone-layers. Others were a prominent Bucks Baptist, who stood behind the Church as financial guarantor, Mr. D. Clarke JP CA, and a friend of the Church, then in his eighties, Mr. John Unite JP.
On the following Easter Monday, the Chapel – “huge and wonderful” – was opened. The glorious weather seemed particularly fitting, for it was a truly marvellous day for that loyal band of fellow believers. Crowds converged in gigs and wagonettes (horse-drawn vehicles) from miles around, as well as on foot, eager to spend the Bank Holiday attending the special services, one of which was addressed by a most eminent Baptist of the day, Rev. John Wilson of Woolwich.

Of the building itself, it has altered little externally over the years (save the small extension at the rear). Internally, the Chapel was different from now only in minor details. For instance, the coke-stove half-way up the left- hand side, and the paraffin lamps suspended on chains from the ceiling, the lighting of which (quite a task!) was willingly undertaken by a deacon who lived next door, Mr. Ralph Loveday.

Whilst the ‘new Chapel’ was used for services, the old, well-loved building across the way (the Schoolroom) was used for Sunday School, plus various midweek meetings and socials which were much appreciated. The Baptists had taken over this building in 1843, (built as a lace-making school in 1829), though holding meetings for some years prior to this in houses. (Indeed, they were religious pioneers in the village). Those early years, from 1900, must have been a struggle. A glimpse into the records reveals how poor the people were, who undoubtedly gave as much as they could afford towards the work of their church (and more!) In 1902-3, the average weekly Sunday collections were between ten and eleven shillings! They carried on though, loyal servants of Jesus Christ, and did not give up “fighting the good fight”.

Praise God they did not, and for His unchanging, over-riding goodness to generations of believers.

Seer Green has altered considerably, and continues to face changes. We, in the fellowship, pray that we will meet all challenges through the timeless, ever-faithful One. Also, that the witness of our ancestors may always be an inspiration.

Footnote: I would like to express my sincere thanks to Mrs. Mary Sims for her invaluable help, and to Miss Rosie Payne for lending me some of her mother’s old photographs, re. the Chapel. Also, to any others, who have helped me in my research , G.P.S.

The 1899 Baptist Chapel in Chalfont Road
The interior of the 1899 Baptist Chapel

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1900 to 1957: Life in the Baptist Chapel

We also have some extracts from documents which refer to life in the Baptist Church in the early 1900’s. These extracts are taken from a longer article written by Geoffrey Sawyer and Abby Warburton for the 1987 Parish Festival.

At the turn of the century, when the Baptists were dependent on the services of lay preachers, one who was greatly loved was Mr David Lidgely, short of stature and affectionately known as “Little Dave”. No story would be complete without this little incident. He liked to see his congregation so he stood on a box placed in the pulpit. One evening, in fine voice, Little Dave mounted his box and his voice rang out, “Behold! A greater one than Solomon is here!” A sound of splitting wood – the box broke and the preacher sank behind the pulpit. He was reinstated on a sounder box and continued undaunted. The younger members of the congregation were helpless with laughter and even the serious Deacons found it hard to keep straight faces. Little Dave then began again – “Behold!….”

 

It should not be forgotten that Mr Frederick Saunders, whose pottery was in Potkiln Lane, was very active in the achievement of the Baptist Church, as he was in the case of the Band of Hope which was founded in 1888. In this he was aided by Mr George Worley from Old Town, Beaconsfield. At Easter they held an “Egg Service” and each child brought along one or more eggs on which was written a text or greeting. These were taken to the station by Mr Lofty in his bread van, and onwards to Dr Barnardo’s or other Homes, where they were much enjoyed. There was also a Flower Service, and flowers were sent to the old and sick. Other activities were a wildflower competition for children, lantern meetings, musical evenings, rambles, trips to the seaside, visits to Burnham Beeches. The Band of Hope continues in Seer Green. They are well into their 90th year.

We don’t have much factual information about this period. We know that Mr George Norris became the minister in 1900, and in 1933 extensions were made to the Chapel and the Sunday School building. Perhaps a reader could fill us in on the history of the church during this period?
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1957 to 1970: a procession of ministers

In 1957 Reverend Robert Pretty became the minister and was followed by Reverend George Dickson-Black . In 1965 Reverend Everett. P. Davies succeeded him as the Minister . After him it was Basil Hill and he organised the joint fellowship with Gold Hill Baptist Church in Chalfont St Peter. In 1970 Reverend Michael. J. Herbert who was the assistant Minister at Gold Hill became the Minister at Seer Green.
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1970 to 1990: The vision to be at the centre of Seer Green

During the 1970’s plans were being made for a great expansion of Seer Green. The cherry orchards and farmland were to be built on, and the Manor Farm estate was to be created. This estate still exists today, in the centre of Seer Green. The vision of the church leadership at that point, led by Michael Herbert, was to move the Baptist Church to be right at the centre of this new estate.

The story is told through two newspaper articles of the time.

First, from June 1978.

Baptists take stock of history… and look to the future

An open air service was held in Seer Green to celebrate the 135th anniversary of the founding of the Baptist Church in the village.It was held on the site of the new church on the Manor Farm development.

More than 200 people attended the service which was led by the Rev Michael Herbert from Seer Green and the Rev James Graham from Gold Hill Baptist Church, Chalfont St Peter.

It is hoped that work will start soon. “We said we should raise £40,000 before we started building. It looks as though we will do this by the end of next month, and the new church may start in September or October”, Mr Herbert said. “We felt we will start work as soon as we have planning permission”

We have a copy of the planning permission in our records. The application was made on 18th April 1978, and was granted on 21st July 1978.

The second article is from October 1979:

Congregation see prayers answered

A dream which the people of Seer Green have prayed for in the last two years was realised this week when workmen began laying the foundations for a new Baptist church.

Planning the new project began more than two years ago, and already the church has raised £85,000 towards the total £130,000 to £140,000 needed to build and furnish the new church.

Gifts brought in £30,000 towards the scheme last year and many of the congregation of 50 give one tenth of their income to help church funds, the Rev Michael Herbert says.

He estimates it will take about a year to complete the building which will replace two other Baptist churches in Seer Green.

One of these is used as a church and was built in 1899. The other, built in the 1830’s as a lace factory, is used as a schoolroom.

Mr Herbert says the church looked for a new site and new building because of the inadequacy of the present buildings. There was not sufficient room for expansion and the maintenance cost on old buildings was continually rising.

The existing church will be sold once the new building is completed and the schoolroom will be given to the Anglican Church in Seer Green which has no extra rooms other than the church, Mr Herbert says.
“This is the realisation of a dream. The footings have been dug and work is at last underway. We shall see the footings built within the next few weeks.

The church has no plans to launch a special appeal to pay for the new building.

“We are funding it through Christian giving. Many of the congregation are giving one tenth of their income to the church and some of that will go towards the building. We are relying more on direct giving.

“We have a deep belief that we are not just here to raise money for things but we are here to serve and witness for Christ,” says Mr Herbert.

The Baptist Church in Seer Green has no central funds on which to draw for extra help. Each church is autonomous and has to find its own cash for its needs.

But Mr Herbert says the Gold Hill Baptist Church in Chalfont St Peter is helping the Seer Green project.

The new church building in July 1980
Lifting the spire into place

The first service in the building was held in November 1980.

We still have many of the records of this time. On one of them we can see the actual costs of the building project. In total from 1977 to 1983 the church spent £166,597. In the present day that is equivalent to almost £700,000.

As Michael Herbert said in the newspaper article, none of that came from public appeals or central funds. Most came from giving by members of the congregation, Gold Hill Baptist Church, and the sale of the original Baptist Chapel in roughly equal proportions. The church leadership at the time also wrote to many other Baptist Churches in the area asking for their support. We still have many of these letters, and we can see that led to a small but essential part of the funding of the project.

After all this talk of money, it is worth just pausing to remind ourselves that the vision of the church was to be at the centre of the village. A vision which endures to this day. For the congregation of the 1970’s, this was just a big a step of faith as that of the original Baptists who met in the lace making factory in 1843, and those who built the new chapel in 1899.
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1990 to 2016: living at the centre of Seer Green.

Michael Herbert remained as minister of the church until 1985.

From 1985 to 1993, Barry Cheesman was minister. There is a short article in the booklet printed for the 1987 Parish Festival which Barry wrote:

Seer Green Baptist Church.

Our non-conformist fellowship has its origin way back in the 1820’s, when Christians met together in homes and then officially formed a “church” in what is now the Parish Hall in 1843.

Since then the Church has “moved with the times” – quite literally when it moved onto the Manor Farm estate! Now, the building (with its characteristic glass mini-spire) is very much at home in Woodpond Close, and we look forward to the completion of the Estate later this year, bringing more new neighbours to be welcomed to our village.

The Church Fellowship today consists of some 85 members and other regular worshippers, who believe in Jesus Christ as Lord and try to demonstrate His love in their daily lives. We attempt (with His help) to be what God is…. both steady and reliable – and yet ever new and up to date. And so the uses to which we put our premises continue to show God’s involvement in all areas of life…. in worship and activities for all ages – to which we welcome you. Details of these activities can be found on the Church notice board and in the LINK magazine.

For further information please contact:

Pastor: Barry Cheesman
Church secretary: Colin Walker

When Barry moved on, Paul Jeffries became minister until 2000, being followed by Richard Palmer who remained as minister until 2011. Daniel Joy joined the church as pastor from 2012 until 2015.
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2015 onwards: the present day

In April 2016 the church called the present minister, Andrew McCausland, who was at that point minister of Minehead Baptist Church. To our delight Andrew accepted, and his induction service was on 11th September 2016.

Much of the history of the church during this period is told elsewhere on our website.

The teaching on Sunday mornings show how God was speaking to us during this time. We went back to basics, looking for example at our vision of Jesus. We asked ourselves the questions that Jesus asked His disciples such as “Who do you say I am?” (Mark chapter 8).

Elsewhere on our site you can read about the regular events, the work amongst both seniors and children, our continuing support for missionary societies, and, following the vision of our predecessors, our wish to provide a place of welcome at the centre of the village.

Also during this period, we embarked on a programme of updating our buildings which at that point hadn’t really been refreshed since the 1980’s. At the end of phase 1 of the refurbishment we wrote:

When Andrew was considering the call to become the minister of this church last summer, one thing that he thought God was saying to him clearly was “what is that in your hand?” This quotation comes from Exodus 4, v2 when Moses was extremely doubtful that he could lead the people of Israel back to the promised land. At that point, Moses was holding his staff in his hand. God showed Moses that He could use this ordinary staff to perform miracles and as Moses’ trust in God grew, so did the magnitude of miracles God worked through him.

The reminder for us is that God can use our buildings for His work. Through the vision of those who built the present church building in 1979, we have a great position at the centre of the village, and excellent, flexible facilities which are in use every day of the week. As the present stewards of the building it is our responsibility to keep it in good condition, warm and welcoming, fit for purpose, and ready to be handed on to those who will follow us.

In addition we believe the state of our buildings will say something to those looking in about the God we serve. If those looking in see a group of tired people meeting in a tired and run-down building, they might think our God is also tired and run down. But that is far from the truth. He is mighty and loving, and we want to reflect a tiny part of that in how we appear to those around us.

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Our church anniversary in 2018

We know that the history of our church is as follows:

  • 1820’s to 1843 – meetings in houses
  • 1843 to Easter Monday 1900 – meeting in the old lace-making school
  • Easter Monday 1900 to November 1980 – meeting in the old Baptist Chapel
  • November 1980 to present day – meeting in the current church building

In the 1970’s and 80’s we know that the church used to celebrate its anniversary every year. In Outreach no 16 (the church magazine at the time) printed in Summer 1975 there is an announcement:

Our 132nd church anniversary services will be on June 22nd, guest preacher Dr Bruce Milne (Spurgeons)

If the church celebrated 132 years in 1975, then they must have been counting from 1843 which was the year when the original Baptists left their home meetings and started to meet in the old lace making school.

So in 2018, we will celebrate our 175th Anniversary, and we plan a series of event throughout the month of June to celebrate, remember and look forward.

Please join us!

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