This article came from the Chronicle
Volume 2(2) published April 1982. Pages 18 & 19

Yeovil Baptist Church
Odcombe Baptist Burial Ground

Author: Clifford J.Ford



Clifford J.Ford

Since a history of the church was written in 1956, some further light appears to have been shed on its beginnings, following some correspondence in the local press with enquiries regarding our burial ground at Five Ashes, Odcombe. Since then I have carefully perused the deeds relating to the burial ground which shows that, by an indenture dated 30 March 1774, William Kiddle of Hardington Mandeville, Sail Cloth Maker, conveyed to the Rev.John Gillard (the then Minister of Yeovil Baptist Church) and twelve others, the parcel of ground lately taken out of a close called Chants Down in the Parish of Odcombe, and then ‘added to and inclosed with and made part of the Baptist Burial Ground in the Parish of Odcombe aforesaid’. (This was in all probability the central portion of the burial ground). By another indenture dated the lst July 1774, the same William Kiddle conveyed to the Rev John Gillard and eleven of the others named in the previous indenture (one Edward, Taylor’s name being omitted, presumably because he had by then died) – ‘The Plot of Ground called the Baptist Burial Ground situate lying and being within the Parish of Odcombe in ‘the County of Somerset’ (formerly taken out of a close called Chants Down in the said Parish of Odcombe aforesaid) – This was the original portion of the burial ground and furthest away from the trackway leading to the ground, for which there had not been any deed on the original. gift by John Miller.

By another indenture dated 28 January 1809, Thomas Richards, William Richards (eldest son and heir at law of Thomas Richards by Mary his late wife, whose maiden name was Mary Kiddle) and Elinor Devenish, widow, which said Mary and Elinor were the only surviving children and co-heiresses at law of the before-named William Kiddle, conveyed to the Rev Thomas Price, Baptist Minister, and eleven others, the plot of ground lately taken out of a close called Chants Down in the Parish of Odcombe and then added to, inclosed with, and made part of, the Baptist Burial Ground in the said Parish, containing by admeasurement 26 yards on the east side, 31 yards on the west, 27 yards on the south side, and 26 yards on the north side thereof (This was more probably the portion nearest to the trackway).

Each of the three plots was conveyed ‘upon trust to suffer and permit the same to be used as and for a Burial Ground for such Protestants dissenting from the Church of England of the Baptist Discipline or Persuasion as shall usually meet or assemble for religious worship at Yeovil aforesaid’.

As was mentioned in the previous history of the church, on 15 January 1824 twentyfive persons were dismissed from its membership to form a new cause at Montacute, with Joseph Price, son of the Minister at Yeovil, called to be their Minister. These friends were assured by the Minister and Deacons of the Yeovil Church of their continued right of internment of its members in the Burial Ground with members from Yeovil. On 30 November 1868 the Minister and Deacons at a meeting at South Street, appointed a Burial Board for its supervision, consisting of the then Minister, the Rev.Richard James, Messrs George Beare (Deacon) and Charles and Ebnezer Pittard (members of the Church). Amongst the rules promulgated for the management of the burial ground was one that 2s.6d. should be paid for every internment for breaking the ground and that it should be kept for the burials exclusively of members of the Yeovil and Montacute Baptist Churches. We will now leave details of the Burial Ground, but return to it later.

In his book, ‘Baptists in the West Country’, Douglas Jackman in writing of Yeovil (principally from information supplied by the writer) makes the assumption that Thomas Miller, the first Pastor of the Church, and John Miller, his successors, were brothers, and in their youth had served in the New Model Army under Oliver Cromwell. The writer does not consider Mr Jackman’s assumption to have any grounds to warrant it. Ivimey, the Baptist historian of the early 19c states Thomas Miller was born at Hinton Marton, which it is understood, was in Hampshire, but later resided in Mindhenton, Dorset, where he became Pastor of a church of the Baptist denomination. For this he suffered persecution and imprisonment in Dorchester Gaol, and in 1683 was heavily fined and his horses, cattle, sheep, and pigs confiscated, after which ‘he sold his estate and retiring to a lonesome place where he rented a small farm where he lived quietly the rest of his days, dying on May 14th 1694’. What more lonesome place in those days than South Perrott!

John Miller, the second Pastor of the Yeovil Church, resided at Odcombe, and was reputed ‘to possess some considerable property in that Parish’. It is also reputed that John Miller, or his mother, gave to the church the first portion of the burial ground – that comprised in the indenture of 1 July 1774. William Kiddle, referred to in all three of the indentures previously mentioned, was the son of James Kiddle who succeeded John Miller as Pastor of the church, so that, as the ownership of the land around the burial ground had passed to the Kiddle family enabling them to make the additions of 30 March 1774, and 28 January 1809, and confirmed the gift of the original portion by John Miller by the deed of 1 July 1774, there must be a strong presumption that the John Miller’s family and the Kiddles were related. This is somewhat borne out by correspondence in our local newspaper in May 1970 when, following an enquiry in its columns, a correspondent wrote an article based in the main on the history of the church which the writer sent to her. This brought a letter from the daughter of a former owner and occupier of Woodhouse Farm, Odcombe, which stated the burial ground was in a field belonging to Woodhouse Farm. She went on to say that on the opposite side of the road was a triangular field known as ‘Kiddle’s Ground’. Her letter further went on to say that a Mr Kiddle occupied Woodhouse Farm prior to 1871, and in that year her grandfather, George Miller Hodder, who was a nephew by marriage of Mr Kiddle, became the tenant of Woodhouse. She remembered being told by her father, John Miller Hodder, that the name Miller had been used because it was the maiden name of her grandfather’s mother, surely further indication that John Miller, the second pastor, was related to James Kiddle, the third pastor, and that descendants of these earliest pastors of the Baptist Church in Yeovil, are now represented by the daughter and son of John Miller Hodder, who farmed Woodhouse Farm for many years to the time of his death.

One other point of interest regarding the burial ground, when this addenda must finish, one Jesse Geard, who had been amongst those dismissed from the Yeovil Church to form the new cause at Montacute, by his will left £100 to the Montacute Baptist Chapel to be used for the purpose of erecting a stone wall nine feet high around the burial ground, and in due course the legacy was utilized towards the cost of this purpose.


Further to the last report of the work in progress at the Baptist Burial Ground at Odcombe, in the October 1981 issue of ‘Chronicle‘, the photographic record of over sixty memorials has now been completed. Here one must give a special thank-you to Mr Leslie Brooke, our hard-working Editor, who undertook this part of the survey. Further clearance of the site will have to be undertaken to uncover several memorials, and MORE WILLING HANDS ARE NEEDED FOR THIS TASK as well as for the painstaking work in deciphering and transcribing the inscriptions on those stones not yet recorded. Please contact me at ‘Netherfield’, East Street, West Coker, Yeovil, telephone West Coker (86)2120, if you can assist in any way. A working evening on Tuesday, May llth, has been arranged with members of the local group of the Somerset and Dorset Family History Society, commencing. at 6-45 p.m., with further evening sessions as and when volunteers’ time permits. Stout clothing and strong footwear is recommendod, and please bring along with you, if possible, a pair of secateurs and a trowel. Do please come along if you can manage it. Finally, an especial thank-you to all those members who gave their free time and energy last year helping with the project.

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