Thatcham United Reformed Church

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Church Information

Welcome to our church. We are a warm friendly church where Christians of all ages find a spiritual home and a community of loving affirming people.

We particularly welcome those with young families, providing creche facilities for babies within the Sunday service and junior church for when they get older.

We are proud to have been awarded the Child Friendly Church award.

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A brief historical note


Our Church

The United Reformed Church started its life as an Independent Church in 1804, when George III was King of England. It was built from bricks which came from Thatcham's Manor House in Dunston Park. That house had just been dismantled.

The presence of the new church was very unwelcome to some people. Worshippers going to it in the early days were pelted with stones and mud; families were escorted there to the sound of "music" on pots and kettles. An effigy of John Barfield was burnt. He was largely responsible for the church being built. His house, The Priory, was strategically situated between the Parish Church and the Independent Church.

A formal constitution for the Independent Church was signed by sixteen covenanters on 11th November 1811. Four of those sixteen could not even write their names, a fact which may serve to remind us of the humble origins of the Christian Faith. During the first few years at the Independent Church in Church Lane, services were taken by various students from different theological colleges. The first permanent minister of the Independent Church was William Ash. He served as a probationary minister here for two or three years before being inducted to the permanent post in June 1813. William originally came from Rotherham but had moved to Thatcham from Southampton. He remained as a church minister in Thatcham until his resignation in 1825.

The Independent Church later became a Congregational Church within the Congregational Union of England and Wales. An amalgamation between most Congregational Churches and the Presbyterian Church (in England) took place in 1972. Having assented to that union, this Congregational Church then became the United Reformed Church in Thatcham. The church building is officially listed as being of architectural and historic interest.

Our present church minister, the Revd Barbara Flood-Page, is the eighteenth official minister of the Christian Faith for congregations in this church. She was inducted as our minister on 8th September 2001.


The British School

Next to the United Reformed Church is the 'British School', a building with its own remarkable history. It was opened as a new school in September 1847, due largely to the fund-raising efforts of Mrs Sarah Barfield. She was manager of the school from its inception until 1852. At that time there were over one hundred pupils on roll. In 1874 the school became a Public Elementary School which received a grant from the Government. Pupils on roll had fallen to thirty-four in number by then but under the charge of teacher William Brown the number on roll nearly doubled within a month and increased to one hundred and forty-seven in just over two years.

That teacher's brother, Thomas Henry Brown, was an assistant teacher at the school. He later occupied the posts of secretary and treasurer of the British School over a period of twenty-five years. The last teacher in charge at the British School was Horatio Skillman who transferred with his staff to the new Council School in 1913.


Non-Conformity in Thatcham

Thatcham has long been associated with 'Dissension' from the Established Church. Perhaps the earliest recorded Dissenter here was Nicholas Fuller (solicitor). He became Lord of the Manor of Chamberhouse when his purchase of the estate was completed in 1585. Mr Fuller, who probably attended Cambridge University, was a barrister and a staunch Puritan. He married Sara Backhouse, whose father was an alderman and sometime Sheriff of London. The Backhouse family belonged to the Society of Friends.

Nicholas Fuller's zeal to champion justice for the Non-Conformists led to him being fined 200 and imprisoned in 1607. He remained in captivity (possibly in a tower at Lambeth Palace) for nearly four months. Twelve years later he died and was buried in the Parish Church - there is a wall monument to his memory in the Chapel of Saint Anne. It was recorded by the Bishop of Salisbury in 1669 that there were just eighteen "obstinate separatists" in Thatcham out of a population of 865. By 1799 Baptists were holding authorized house meetings at Crookham.


John Barfield

Dissenting services were begun at the home of Sampson Higgs in 1800 at Thatcham. John Barfield (solicitor) of The Priory in Church Lane (Thatcham) was a member of the Newbury Independent (Congregational) Church but he also attended meetings at Thatcham. In 1803 the cottage owned by Mrs Hannah Baily and in John Barfield's possession was being used for dissenting services and by the end of that year John Barfield had probably made the arrangements to purchase bricks from Dunston House for the building of an Independent Chapel in Church Lane in 1804.

The site for this and much of the money for materials and construction was provided by Mr Barfield himself. In 1821 he drew up a trust deed which left 1,000 on his death to remain invested for the benefit of the officiating minister. In 1825 he had the old Church Manse (24 Park Lane) built as a permanent residence for the minister. It was also John Barfield who instituted proceedings in 1844 to set up the British School in Church Lane. His wife, Sarah, worked hard raising money for the project.

John died in 1851 while still residing at The Priory with Sarah (thirty years his younger). He was seventy-eight years old. There is a monument in memory of him on the northern wall of the United Reformed Church. He is buried beneath the church. John was not only a material benefactor to Thatcham; he also collected and retained many local documents, without which our knowledge of Thatcham's history would have been greatly reduced.


R B Tubb


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