1980-Apr-pg13_Origins of Yeovil Baptist Church

1980-Apr-pg13_Origins of Yeovil Baptist Church

This article came from Chronicle published April 1980. Page: 13



Author: Isabel Rendell


In 1979 Broadmead Baptist Church presented a ‘musical’, ‘Terrill’, written and performed by members of the Church there, commemorating the tercentenary of Bristol Baptist College of which Edward Terrill was the founder. This college is the oldest free-church college surviving in this country and the oldest Baptist theological college in the world.

Edward Terrill was a wealthy Bristol business man. He joined the Broadmead Baptist Church in 1658 and for the next thirty years suffered persecution, fines and imprisonment for his faith. Himself learned in Hebrew, Greeks and Latin, he signed a deed of gift in 1679 whereby money was made available for the training of young men in the ministry.

Baptist Church was founded in the same period of persecution, the first known reference to it being in the minutes dated 12 February 1656, of the Assembly (of Baptist Churches) at Wells, where it is referred to as ‘Euell and South Pearot’. There is a connection with Broadmead, the records of which have an entry in 1683 recording that ‘Thos.Ellis died, having got a cold by lying on the straw in Ilchester jail many months, of which he never recovered . . . He was baptised by Mr.Millar, Pastor of a neighbouring church there’. This Thomas Millar was the first pastor of Yeovil and South Perrott and himself had suffered imprisonment for his Baptist faith in Dorchester gaol for ten years. Before he came to Yeovil he had lived and preached in Hampshire, and was at one time fined £220 for preaching, and at another time the Sheriff seized of his goods ‘400 sheep, about twenty cows and younger beasts, 7 horses, and 6 fattening hogs, and all the hay, corn, and wool of a year’s growth, and sold it for the use of the King’.

Thomas Millar was not always a preacher and farmer. As a youth he and his brother John (who became the second minister of the Yeovil Baptists) served as soldiers in Cromwell’s New Model Army, and in Monmouth’s forces. The Baptist Churches of Bridgwater, Chard, Frome, Paulton, Stogumber, and Wedmore were all founded in the 17th century, some of them, like Yeovil, by officers of Cromwell’s army.

In 1717 John Millar bought a barn from Thomas Glisson which was then converted into a Baptist meeting-house and enlarged in 1720 by the addition of an adjoining ‘house-shop and outhouse’. Early in the 19th century a new chapel was built on this same site, and enlarged in 1668, 1891 and 1898. The South Street Church was responsible for establishing the Baptist Church at Montacute in 1824, the little chapel at Huish in 1895, and the Westfield Chapel in 1937, while at South Street the Newnam Hall had been added in 1912, completing the pleasant group of neo-classical buildings facing down King George Street.

References: Clifford Ford: History of Yeovil Baptist Church
Douglas Jackman: Baptists in the West Country
The Baptist Handbook: 1952.