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16 founders built up a booming congregation in Boxmoor

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On the evening of February 23, 1826 a small band of 16 people, of whom five were women, met to form themselves into a church at Boxmoor.

The men wore long tail coats, high collars and breeches, while the women were dressed in the long straight dresses of the period.

The event was recalled in the booklet published in 1976 to celebrate the church’s first 150 years: “After deliberation and prayers, the 16 formed themselves into a Christian Church of the Particular Baptist Denomination.”

The original members were drawn from places as diverse as Dunstable, London and Watford – and even India.

Prominent among them was Ann Hobson, a sister of William Carey, the first missionary of the newly formed Baptist Missionary Society.

Carey had found a place at the Danish settlement in Serampore, near Calcuttta.

His niece Phoebe, with her husband Captain Moxon, returned from the East Indies to live in Crouchfield – as Boxmoor was then known – and helped with the founding of the chapel.

Ann had married a farmer named William Hobson and they used to hold Baptist meetings in their Northamptonshire farmhouse at Cottesbrooke, much to the annoyance of their then landlord who hated non-conformists.

William had died in 1816 and Ann and her family of seven were turned out of the farm.

They, together with Ann’s sister Mary and sister-in-law Hannah Hobson came to live at Moor End beside the river Gade in Hemel Hempstead.

Mary was too crippled by a form of paralysis to leave the house, but she managed to write long letters to her brother William in India.

In 1822 the sisters were influential in procuring a meeting room at Two Waters, supplied by Thomas Rippon, for preaching and a Sunday School.

The idea of building a chapel soon followed. A piece of land comprising ‘a piece of meadow and orchard ground’ was bought for £125 from a Jane Pearce.

It was on the London Road, between Two Waters and the later Boxmoor railway station.

The simple chapel opened for worship less than a year after that first meeting, on Wednesday, October 26, 1826.

At that time, Box Moor was much smaller and often marshy. There was the Grand Junction Canal (later re-named the Grand Union), but few schools.

Not many people could read or write and there was a great deal of poverty as the countryside struggled to make a slow recovery from the effects of the Napoleonic Wars.

However, the area was developing as a result of the new paper mill of John Dickinson in Apsley and in 1837 came the London and Birmingham Railway.

The new young church set out with great enthusiasm to increase its membership and its influence.

So successful was it that by 1863 there were 133 members on roll.

They practised baptism by Immersion in water and only for people old enough to have come to that personal decision of declaring their faith.

The chapel became known for its Sunday School work and its devotion to the causes of welfare and temperance.

Clearly, by the mid-1860s, there was a need for a larger chapel and a new era was about to begin.

Research by Jean Stevens. The full story can be found in local history books, such as A History of the Hertfordshire Baptists by D. R. Watts; Boxmoor Baptist Church 1826 -1976 by R. Hall and S. T. B. Johns and the Book of Boxmoor by Roger & Joan Hands and Eve Davis.

 

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