Church stands the test of time

TWO and a half centuries, three locations and thousands of members, Stoke Green Baptist Church has undoubtedly stood the test of time.Built in 1757 in the village of Woolverstone, the church started off as a humble affair in the heart of a small rural community with just twelve members who worshipped in a small cottage and were baptised in the River Orwell.

TWO and a half centuries, three locations and thousands of members, Stoke Green Baptist Church has undoubtedly stood the test of time.

Built in 1757 in the village of Woolverstone, the church started off as a humble affair in the heart of a small rural community with just twelve members who worshipped in a small cottage and were baptised in the River Orwell.

Now based in Halifax Road, on the Maidenhall estate, the church is this year celebrating its astonishing 250th anniversary.

The church and its congregation held a special pageant on Saturday to mark the event and staged a play called Journey With Us, which used drama and audio visual sequences to map the history of the church and the special people from its past.

It tracked the projects undertaken over the years by people from the church to provide practical help and support for the people of Stoke, including a home for the elderly and clubs for young people.

Robert Findlay, minister of the church since 1987 and one of 19 from the church's long history, said he was proud to be marking such an occasion.

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He said: “My wife researched the history of the church and wrote the pageant, it's been fantastic and everyone has really enjoyed it.

“It's been a real privilege to be part of such a rich heritage.”

Since its humble beginnings the church has evolved with the ever growing community, relocating to Wherstead Road, next to the old Ransomes and Rapier factory in 1773, becoming the first Baptist church in Ipswich.

During the Victorian era it enjoyed a prosperous period with affluent and well respected members of the community connected to it.

After the floods of 1953, many people moved to new houses on the hill on the Maidenhall estate, in Ipswich, and the people who ran the church decided to move to their current premises to be nearer the community.

What are you memories of the church? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich IP4 1AN or e-mail eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk.

Past members of the church have become legends and an inspiration to each new generation of the church congregation, from the nineteenth century labourer, Jerry Double, who refused to work on a Sunday to the Ipswich woman, Mary Everett, who built the Station Street Institute, a youth club for young people.

The first minister of the church was John Rootsey, a miller who owned a corn mill in Colchester, whose pond, then used for baptisms by Eld Lane Baptist Church, still exists.

During the nineteenth century, members of Stoke Green helped to found a number of other Baptist Churches in Ipswich, including Bethesda, Turret Green (now merged into Christ Church) and Rushmere, as well as Maidstone Road, Felixstowe, Grundisburgh, Crowfield and Witnesham.

In 1992 the 'loaves and fishes' extension was built, which includes a large entrance area and a large dining area.

The Church continues to be active in the Maidenhall and Stoke Park area and currently runs a lunch club on a Tuesday, a children's club on Tuesday evenings, a ladies keep fit group and Jelly Tots, a mother and toddler group on Friday mornings.

It also has regular meetings for prayer, bible study and an alpha group for those wanting an introduction to Christian belief.

The site of the old grave yard at Wherstead Road is now used as a public garden, for people to go to and have peace and quiet.

The Church continues to be active in the Maidenhall and Stoke Park area and currently runs a lunch club on a Tuesday, a children's club (Tuesday evenings), a ladies keep fit group and Jelly Tots, a mother and toddler group on Friday mornings, as well as meetings for prayer, Bible Study and an Alpha group for those wanting an introduction to Christian belief.

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