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Article written by Alec Barber, Ruishton

H Masters, vicar from 1641, was deposed in the Commonwealth and reinstated in 1660. He is said to have run a school in the village of Creech during the Commonwealth.

The Puritan, “silver-tongued” Timothy Batt, M.A. was the vicar of Creech St Michael from 1649 until 1660, and remained at Ruishton until the ejection of the Puritans from the Church in 1662. I find that very interesting. The ring of Baptist Chuc hes in 1652 around Ilminster may be the result of his ministry. But in 1656 he chose not to leave the Church of England. His life was so full that some people think there was father and son.

These were the days when Joseph Alleine, the Puritan Curate at St Mary Magdalene Church in Taunton, was “burning himself out” for Christ’s sake, rising at four o’clock in the morning to pray and study, and “preaching sometimes fourteen times in eight days.”  Were any of those sermons, some of which we can still read in outline in his “Alarm”, preached at Creech St Michael?

Was there a continuation of evangelical witness in the village, disrupted perhaps in 1685 by the Monmouth rebellion? There was a ‘conventicle’ at Charlton in 1669 with 4 teachers and 200 hearers. A building was licensed for Prestbyterian worship in 1689.

The work by Crippen which is available in the Local History Library in Taunton, provides more information. About 1669 Batt was preaching to crowds of about 200 at Creech as was George Pierce who had been ejected from North Curry and also Drake and Strong. Quakers from Creech suffered in those years and Robin Bush states that Quakers were meeting in Creech by 1674.  Crippen does not include Creech in his list of villages where Quakers built meeting houses, but a Quaker meeting house at North End was sold in 1804.

The first Methodist place of worship in Taunton was registered in 1747 and John Wesley’s Journal relates that he preached at Charlton four times. (in Creech St Michael parish) In September 1754; a Mr G……….was convinced of the truth. A year later it rained “which lessened the congregation” at Charlton. The congregation gathered from a wide area but there was opposition from landowners. Wesley came again in 1768 and in 1770 when “violent heat” continuing, he preached under a large tree in the evening to a congregatin who were all attention. We may assume that open-air preaching by others than John Wesley took place at Charlton from time to time.

From 1804 onwards, there is a series of registrations of places of worship in Creech St Michael but we must assume that several of these relate to Methodist work.

A house in Creech St Michael was registered for Methodist worship by Jos. Earnshaw on 4 April 1839.The Methodists were active in Ham by 1832. The Methodist Chapel at Ham survived until 1915. We should bear in mind close links between Charlton where John Wesley preached and Ham. A Wesleyan chapel at North End functioned at least from 1842 to 1855. I think that the chapel was just north of Dillons House on the east side of North End (Coxs Hill). The Religious Census of 1851 shows that the congregations at Zion were better than at the Wesleyan chapel but the figures for the Parish Church are suspect.

Article copyright Alec Barber of Ruishton, May 2011