Protestant Nonconformity in Gilmorton

Gilmorton is a village in south-west Leicestershire, about three miles north-east of the town of Lutterworth. No illegal religious meetings were recorded here in 1669,[1] but by 1676, 16 nonconformists were noted in the village.[2]

By 1706 there were 86 families living in the village, and rector Thomas Welshman recorded ‘Among these there is no Papist, nor reputed Papist: No Meeting house, nor any profess’d Dissenters, but 4 or 5 who are supposed to be either Presbyterians or Independents’. By 1709, their number had reduced to three.[3]

The earliest record of a meeting place is a registration of a dissenter’s home in 1728, although the denomination is not known.[4]

In the 19th century, the main denominations of nonconformity were Independents and Particular Baptists.

Particular Baptists

The earliest evidence of Particular Baptists is of a chapel erected in 1836. The 1851 Religious Census recorded that this chapel contained 100 sittings, all of them free. Services were held only once a month, in the evening, with no service on census day. Average attendance at this service was recorded as 100-120. The census form also noted that the chapel was used for ‘occasional preaching’.[5]

The census recorded no Sunday School. The only evidence for one can be found in White’s Directory of 1846, which noted only vaguely that all chapels in the village had Sunday schools attached.[6]

Independents

Independents were first recorded on the 1829 Return of Religious Meeting Places, which counted them at 50.[7] However, they were not enumerated at all on the 1851 Religious Census. The only other record of them is White’s Directory of 1846, which recorded the presence of an Independent chapel as well as a Sunday School. The latter was established in 1826 with a £50 interest, which an individual had left for that purpose.[8]

Congregationalists

Congregationalist are first recorded in Kelly’s Directory of 1881, which recorded the presence of a chapel.[9] Kelly’s later directory of 1916 noted that this chapel was built in 1872, with 150 sittings.[10] No records have yet been found to link this congregation to the earlier Independent congregation. The 1886 Ordnance Survey maps shows only an ‘Independent Chapel’, which is still there in 2015.

[1] R.H. Evans, ‘Nonconformists in Leicestershire in 1669’, Trans LAHS 25, (1949), p. 135

[2] A. Whiteman, The Compton Census of 1676: A Critical Edition (London, 1986), p. 336

[3] J. Broad (ed.), Bishop Wake’s summary of visitation returns from the diocese of Lincoln, 1706-1715. Part 2, Outside Lincolnshire (Huntingdonshire, Hertfordshire, Bedfordshire, Leicestershire, Buckinghamshire) (Oxford, 2012), p. 851

[4] Leicestershire and Rutland County Record Office (ROLLR), list of religious meeting places in Leicestershire, entry for Gilmorton, QS 44/1/1, rot. 3v.

[5] 1851 Religious Census of England and Wales, entry for Gilmorton, Particular Baptists, HO 129/408/24.

[6] White, Hist. Gaz. & Dir. Leics. (Sheffield, 1846) p. 391.

[7] 1829 Return of Religious Meeting Places, entry for Gilmorton, Independents, QS 95/2/1/15.

[8] White, Hist. Gaz. & Dir. Leics. (Sheffield, 1846) p. 391.

[9] Kelly’s Dir. (1881) p. 522.

[10] Kelly’s Dir. (1916) p. 84.