Benjamin Keach's Meeting House

The religious history of the Baptists of Winslow goes back to the days, if not beyond those of Benjamin Keach, the celebrated writer and preacher of the 17th century. His teachings on Infant Baptism aroused the anger of the Anglicans of the town, and whose displeasure pilloried the preacher in the stocks of persecution both at Winslow and Aylesbury. It is pleasing to note however, that over the last few years, both Baptists and Anglicans have experienced closer fellowship together in worshipping the Christ. May the prayer of Christ for unity amongst believers on earth be answered.

Keachís quaint little Meeting House adjoining the Cattle Market still stands little altered, a reminder of the simple faith exercised in the worshipping of God in the unadorned building.

A different version of the same picture

A General Baptist church was in existence in Winslow by 1654.  The meeting-house, which stands concealed behind other property close to the cattle market, and variously described as in Pillar's Ditch, Bell Alley, or Market Walk, was built in 1695. It is a small rectangular structure with walls in red brick in Flemish bond, and a tiled roof gabled to ease and west. 

The interior measures just 23ft x 15ft, and has been altered at various dates, and the present arrangement probably dates from the beginning of the 19th century. A gallery built at the east end in 1827 as a temporary measure to accommodate the influx of Independent seceders has an open-cross braced front supported by two posts replacing a central post, and a steep staircase to the north.  Box-pews north and south of central pulpit, flanking table pew, ca. 1800, altered. Open-backed benches at east end, early 19th century; against east wall, desks with hinged tops and four lead ink-wells, for use of the Sunday-school which started in 1824. 

Inside only the bare essentials of church furniture were provided.  

In the very early years at the outset of a venture of faith, no red-bricked building silhouetted the blue skyline in Winslow and the green grass had scarce been disturbed on the Tabernacles site. Charles Haddon Spurgeon of world pulpit fame however was present and preached, wielding the Sword of the Spirit with good effect. Henry Kelsall Esq. handled the trowel at the laying of the foundation stone and blessed the work and fellowship with his gift of fifty guineas. The 3rd day of the month of May 1864 certainly glistened with the glory of loveís own giving of heart generosity. Support was spontaneous. Workers were willing and liberal.

Host to the special excursionists from Londonís smoke and grime to the pleasant green fielded grounds of Winslow, was Mr. John Neale of Edgware Road, London. A one time local inhabitant, who was doubly blessed of God materially and spiritually, forgot not to return and give thanks, by actively identifying himself with the work of clearing off the debt of the Tabernacle. The gallery Clock face still bearís the name of this early benefactor.

On the 15th September of that memorable year of 1864 the Tabernacle was completed. The cost of building the Tabernacle at the time of its construction was £744. Holding forth on the occasion, after the fashion of his more widely known brother, was the Reverend J.A. Spurgeon, whilst from the Pastorís College in London, so dear to the heart of its Principal, G.E. Spurgeon, came the Tabernacleís first minister in the person of the Rev. Robert Sole.

The Tabernacle at Winslow, which replaced the original Meeting House in 1864

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