Our History page 2

Swaffham in 1854 had 12 inns and taverns, 3 breweries and 11 beer houses for a population of 3,000. It was hardly likely to have been a peaceful town! The church and it’s many activities, choirs, concerts, outings, seasonal celebrations, afford an alternative lifestyle for all ages. But, occasionally it bore the brunt of attacks from the drinking population after pulpit messages decrying the demon drink! Other practical demonstrations of Christian love and charity began. There had been poor funding for needy Baptists from the outset but, an early insurance scheme was set up to provide for times of sickness and death in the family (frequent in the days before the NHS and vaccination), from epidemics of smallpox, cholera, scarlet fever, TB, etc.

With no other help available and living at subsistence level with threat of the workhouse in old age or earlier, the town’s people recognised that the church was reaching out to them with something special and the congregation grew quickly as they came to learn more about their Father in Heaven. 26 were baptised in 1867, 34 in 1877. Altogether, in the Eastern Association, the average number of baptisms was 120 per year! Baptist chapels sprung up in many of the villages and the Norwich area, some of them were Bacton, Costessy, Attleborough, Old Buckenham, Carleton Rode, Great Ellingham, Foulden and Worstead. Because of their close contact and support for each other, they were able as a group to contribute to suffering mankind in other parts of the world, in particular they helped to send
John Thomas and William Carey to India as missionaries, and two Norfolk men, William Bampton and James Peggs, followed. Joshua Tinson and James Philippo of Dereham were supported in the epic fight against slavery in Jamaica, Swaffham labourers empathised with their misery and were “praying earnestly for their deliverance.” When the slaves were liberated in Empire dominions the congregation held services of prayer and thanksgiving.

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