Quay Meeting House
  Woodbridge, Suffolk
  Church History 

The Quay Congregational Church was formed on the 8th day of the seventh month in the year 1651 by the Rev. Frederic Woodhall, together with 55 "brethren and sisters". He first exercised his ministry at the Parish Church and probably continued until the Act of Uniformity was passed, which would have brought about his ejectment, when he was silenced and imprisoned for his Independent views. The Nonconformist Memorial says of him that "he was a man of learning, ability and piety, a strict Independent, zealous for the fifth monarch and a considerable sufferer after his ejectment." He had to contend with "a tedious embarrassment through the infamous persecuting spirit that for many years prevailed and considerably cramped the success of his ministry and the increase of that flock of which this truly good and excellent man had the oversight."

In 1672 Mr. Woodhall was licensed a Congregational Teacher at the house of Jonathan Basse, which was licensed for worship, and afterwards the Church assembled in a room adjoining the Ship Inn near the Quay at Woodbridge. The Rev. Woodhall died on 1st December, 1681, and the Congregation received another blow in the death of the most prominent member, Jonathan Basse, later that month. The thirty years which had elapsed between the formation of the Church and the death of its first pastor in 1681 were some of the most eventful and important in English history. In the years of Cromwell's oversight, religious liberty flourished, but this state of affairs did not continue. The passing of the Act of Uniformity (1662), in 1664 the Conventicle Act, and in 1665 the Five Mile Act brought about the severe persecution and oppression of Dissenters, and many suffered imprisonment and death for their faith.

In 1672 Charles II proclaimed an Indulgence, and preachers and preaching places were licensed. The fact that the Church, though oppressed, was still in being is shown by the licensing of Frederic Woodhall as a teacher and the premises of Jonathan Basse for worship.

In 1675 the promise of liberty and indulgence gave place to a cry for strict and rigid uniformity, and Catholics and Nonconformists were excluded from all places of authority. In 1681 the persecution began afresh, and the old laws were enforced "with great spite and severity". Dissenters met with "cruel and unchristian usage", and many men and women suffered death and persecution for their faith. But the age of oppression and tyranny became one to inspire courage, intellectual grandeur and heavenly piety. During this time John Bunyan had written "Pilgrim's Progress" and Milton "Paradise Lost".

In 1688 the site of the present building was bought by Mr. John Bass, who erected a chapel capable of seating five hundred persons. This building remained for more than a century. In spite of the congregation having no leader, and suffering grievous persecution, they had faith enough in the future to take this great step. The second pastor was Mr. George Bidbank, and the Church went through difficult times. The period was a troublesome one for Dissenters, especially after the Monmouth rebellion. The Church flourished under the leadership of Rev. Henry Ward, the third pastor, despite the social and civil disabilities under which Dissenters still laboured. The Church continued through the 18th century, beset by many problems, the congregation decreasing towards the end of the century. In 1787 some members left to worship at the house of Jonathan Beaumont, who later built a chapel in Cuttings Lane. The Rev. Benjamin Price became the eighth pastor in 1800.

In 1805 the present church was erected on the site of the old one, which had stood for 117 years. The land for burial ground was purchased; the total cost of the land and building was 2,200, which was "cheerfully and entirely paid by the congregation." The ninth pastor, Rev. Thomas Pinchbeck, inducted in 1824, had to contend with "serious difficulties", but the congregation grew considerably. A small party of members seceded to the "Chapel in Cuttings Lane" (Beaumont). He resigned in 1835.

The first marriage in the Church was celebrated in 1840 by the tenth pastor, Rev. Alexander Good.

The eleventh pastor, Rev. Thomas Hayward, in accepting the invitation, pointed out to the Church that "the work in Woodbridge is connected with difficulties of no ordinary description."

In 1855 there was an attempt to reunite Beaumont Chapel (Cuttings Lane) with the Quay Meeting but it failed. However 19 members transferred their allegiance to Quay.

Several pastors came and went during the 19th century - and various times of concord and dissent. In 1877 the Church was altered due to road widening, the doors being moved from the front to the sides of the Church. In 1897 the building was renovated, rebenched, a new pulpit installed, together with new gas lighting and an improved system of ventilation. The organ was overhauled. The Church prospered under its new leader, Rev. Thos. Bowes, and a new schoolroom was built.

During the Great War the Church was used for Parade Services every Sunday, and the unused portion of the burial ground for the cultivation of vegetables. During both wars the halls were used for canteen and recreation rooms for troops stationed in the town.

In 1915/16 the children's author Enid Blyton taught in the Sunday School whilst living at Seckford Hall. More information here.

In 1924 the apse was added and electric light installed, and an electrical heating system was installed in the early 1950s. In 1986 the Church was re-roofed, and in 1990 the ceiling was found to be unsafe, and the old ceiling was removed, the timbers replaced, and a new ceiling installed. The Church was also completely re-decorated. New lights were installed to celebrate the Millennium. In 2001 the 350th Anniversary was celebrated.

In 2006 the church re-united with Beaumont Baptist Church. The Baptist Church purchased the building from the United Reformed Church. The combined church is a member of the Baptist Union and is known as Woodbridge Quay Church. A total re-furbishment and extension of the buildings started in October 2012 and was completed in September 2013.

See also :

The granting, in 1738, of a license for dissenting worship.

The history of Beaumont Chapel, later Beaumont Baptist Church.

The record of the first attempt to re-unite Beaumont Chapel and Quay Meeting House.

Children's author Enid Blyton taught in the Sunday School.


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