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Many in Oliver Cromwell’s army were dissenters from the established church, including Baptists, so it is not surprising that within two years of the Battle of Upton in 1651 there is a record of a Baptist Church established in Upton.
When Cromwell died in 1658, Charles II came to the throne and although he had wanted religious freedom for his people, Parliament was very sympathetic to the Church of England and was very suspicious of Roman Catholics and all dissenters, particularly in view of their support for Cromwell. A series of laws was passed which made life very difficult for dissenters and many ended up in prison. The most famous of these is John Bunyan who wrote ‘Pilgrim’s Progress’. He spent 12 years in prison altogether.
Some dissenters gave in and returned to the Church of England but many stood firm and hoped for better times ahead. However, these were a long time coming and the last of these laws was not repealed until 1828, so Baptists had to endure restrictions on their freedom to worship in this country for nearly 170 years.
The Upton Baptists originally met in a small house in Dunn’s Lane, but they eventually decided to look for a ‘more agreeable place’ to meet and in 1734 they opened their new meeting house on the present site. The building was originally shorter than it is now with a gallery on three sides.
In the 1840s over 100 people were paying pew rents and the church had to be enlarged because of overcrowding. This high attendance continued through the rest of the 1800s and in 1902 the church was confident enough to undertake a major refurbishment of the premises, which included removing the side galleries, which let in a lot more light.
After a significant decline in membership in the first half of the 20th century the church has again grown to about 50 members.
In the 1990s the schoolroom developed an alarming lean and seemed in danger of collapse so it had to be shored up until a way forward could be found. The church had felt short of facilities for many years so it was decided to construct a new 2-storey hall which was steel framed and would hold up the schoolroom and this was eventually opened in 2003 in time for the 350th anniversary of the founding of the church.
The church is currently working towards a complete renovation of the Old chapel.