Chapter 1 Early Beginnings: fasting and praying
In 1700 Baptists in Cullompton met for worship in a dwelling house as a branch of the church at Upottery, and continued to assemble in houses around the town for the next 40 years. This was not unusual as there are many instances of non-conformists meeting in this way. For example, at the same time the Baptists at Prescott met for their services in a farm house known as Old Hall, for at least 8 years. Our links with Upottery are explained by the climate of religious persecution that prevailed in the seventeenth century. Of particular importance to our story was the introduction of the Five Mile Act in 1665. This prohibited clergy who would not take the oath of allegiance ( these would normally be non-conformists) from holding services within five miles of a corporate town. The penalty for failing to comply was a fine of £40, a vast sum at this time. Upottery was significant because of its relative isolation, being well over five miles away from any major towns and close to the county boundary. The records of Tiverton Baptist Church give full account of the lengths to which Baptists were prepared to go in order to worship. As their history explains:
‘Baptists from Tiverton were accustomed to start from their homes with provisions on the Saturday in order to cover the twenty-one miles [ to Upottery ] in good time for the Sunday morning worship’ (1).
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Anyone interested in the history of Cullompton are invited to visit the Historic Cullompton website.