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'Extraordinary glimpses into 17th century Baptist church life' 

The Angus Library and Archive is delighted to announce that the digitised records of Cripplegate Baptist Church and Hexham and Hamsterley Baptist Church are now available to view online

Church-Records-CollectionThanks to a generous grant from the Baptist Historical Society, these fascinating documents have now been photographed and placed on the research and teaching platform JSTOR. They can be accessed here.  

Both of the church books date back to the 17th century, a particularly turbulent historical period in the political, social and religious life of this country. The very first entry in the Hexham (Northumberland) and Hamsterley (County Durham) book was written in 1652, right at the start of the Commonwealth period, soon after the execution of Charles the 1st when England was ruled as a republic. Into ‘the darke corner’ of Hexham as he described it, came Thomas Tillam, ‘minister and messenger of one of the seven churches in London’ and here as he wrote A Living Temple began of these Living Stones. This handsome and still clearly legible book covers the years right through to 1848 when a monarch was once more on the throne and times were perhaps not quite so eventful nor Hexham such a ‘darke corner’.

On the weekend of 17 and 18 July the Hamsterley Baptist Church celebrated the very significant ministry of the Revd Charles Whitfield who died 200 years ago this year. As the minister for 50 years he saw the church grow, started a school in the village, was involved in church planting and in the reinvigoration of Association life. The church and the Association celebrate the past and want it to inspire them for the future. Readers may wish to see more via the NBA YouTube Channel.

The Cripplegate (Barbican, London) book is extraordinary in the glimpses it provides of late 17th and early 18th century church life. It begins in 1689 and covers the years up to 1723 - a fairly short period of time but an extremely eventful one in the life of the church. Reading through the Cripplegate book, the church members spring vividly to life with their faith, their joys and their troubles all recorded here for the reader of the 21st century to discover.

Angus librarian Emily Burgoyne said, ‘Both Cripplegate and Hexham and Hamsterley church books provide us with an insight into just how important the churches were in the spiritual and social lives of their communities.

'These marvellous records are living documents, far more than just archival material they tell the story of the church and of the women and men who sometimes risked their lives and freedom for their faith.’

The Angus Library and Archive is the leading collection of Baptist history and heritage worldwide. It contains more than 70,000 items relating to the life and history of Baptists in Britain and the wider scene. It is based at Regent's Park College, Oxford. 

Baptist Times, 20/08/2021
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