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This 20th Century history of BBC is written from both my personal memories and those of friends and relatives in their late seventies and eighties, so I’m afraid accuracy can’t be guaranteed. For those who want to delve deeper into the history of the church, it seems (from talking to Monica Webster) that the oldest minute books have been given to a Hertfordshire History Archive (which she thinks is in Hertford).

Carole Parker, 2007

With some corrections made with reference to the 1872 - 1945 minute books (discovered at the back of a dark cupboard at BBC) by Mary Moody, Nov 2012.

BBC was built 140 years ago on the site of a disused Wesleyan Chapel. The first minister at BBC was the Rev. Spufford, whose name can be seen on a plaque in the front porch. After him, came a succession of Student Pastors, Lay Pastors and Herts Union Evangelists.

In the early twentieth century, after World War I, the Lay Minister was Pastor Reading. He had eight children, 3 who were boys and 5 girls. All of the family were musically talented, and they played and sang at the services. They lived in Chipperfield Road, Bovingdon, where he had a house built. Needless to say, he had a day job - and was initially paid just £10 pa for his services to the church. In 1941 his stipend went up by £1 pa to £26. Miss Hinson, who lived in Water Lane, Bovingdon, played the organ (which had to be pedalled hard). She also took Sunday School together with the Walden family who came over from Chipperfield.

In those days, locals knew the church as ‘the Chapel’. Services were on Sunday evening at 6.30 pm, with Sunday School at 3 pm in the afternoon. There were also musical evenings at the chapel that were very popular with the villagers. The Reading family all took part and played, sang, and did monologues.

Holding 'entertainments' with music 'of a sacred nature' interspersed with readings, was a tradition that had begun in 1873. The first of these was on Monday, October 27th, 1873, when the choir from Marlowes Chapel performed at Bovingdon and 'were accorded with acclamation at the close'. 36s / 6d was raised to kick-start a Harmonium Fund and the first steps were taken towards purchasing an instrument to be played at public worship.

The chapel was heated in the winter by two solid fuel stoves, one each side of the main room. The schoolroom at the rear of the church had an open fire, and one end was also a kitchen (there was a sink under the side window, next to the door). In the church a green velour curtain could be drawn across half of the church, and there were curtains at the windows.

Church Meeting, November 1st, 1907

'It was decided to have Green Baize Curtain to shut off the lower portion of the Chapel during the winter & make the Chapel more cosy & warmer.'

The seating was on long narrow wooden benches (three of which still remain). These were placed in three neat rows, with a runner each side of the middle row from the back of the chapel to the front. Lighting was by gas lamps, and naked flame lamps were used in the porch. There was also a gas light at the bottom of the path leading to the chapel.

There were two doors at the back of the chapel, one each side of the wooden panelling. The floor was bare boards, which were scrubbed about once a year, with a carpet at the front over the baptistery. Preaching was done from the platform behind. The minister could step up on to the platform / pulpit through a door from the schoolroom. A text on a scroll adorned the wall behind the pulpit, which read “Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, and into His courts with praise”.

A brick shed at the back of the building housed a brick-built copper; we think this must have been for heating water for baptisms and church functions. Also there was a bucket lavatory at the back of the building only accessed from the outside (now converted into the two toilets leading from the schoolroom).

Sadly, during the war years, the congregation declined so much that the chapel was eventually closed for almost a decade.

The old minutes book ends abruptly after the record of the Annual Church Meeting, 29th August 1945, at which the attendance was 9 (including Pastor Reading). The tone of these minutes is 'business as usual' with plans for a Harvest Thanksgiving in September, and to tarmac the path leading to the church. Miss Hinson was re-elected as deacon.


The past sixty years

In 1955 the newly renovated chapel was re-opened. The first Pastor I remember after the re-opening was Mr Dyer. He came with his wife and two children. I don’t know where he came from. He may possibly have also been involved with Chipperfield Baptist Church.

Services continued to be at 6.30 pm and Sunday School began at 3 pm, taken on again by Charlie and Lily Walden with some members of their family. The children were divided into classes according to age with the oldest taken into the schoolroom to study for the yearly Scripture Union exam (which they enjoyed and did very well at!). Sunday school was full of humour and we felt valued and loved by all the teachers. We had regular parties, and coach trips to the seaside organised by the Waldens. Mr Walden was also secretary and treasurer for the chapel in Bovingdon for some time.

Much of the fabric stayed the same, except electric lighting was installed, and electric fan heaters were placed on the walls. The heaters were very noisy and had to be turned off during the sermon. Two toilets were added at the rear of the building but access was still from the outside.

When Mr Dyer left, we shared our first ordained minister for many years with Chipperfield chapel. The Rev. Barnes lived in the manse at Chipperfield with his wife and two children. I think he came to Bovingdon about once a month, other Sunday services were lead by lay preachers from local churches, booked by Charlie Walden. The congregation was small, mainly elderly ladies. We depended a lot on the folk at Chipperfield in those days, especially Mr Walden.

Rev. Bob French, also from Chipperfield, was a great support to us, preaching quite regularly with his little dog sitting at his feet. I think Bob took over from Rev. Barnes as minister at Chipperfield, was there for a number of years, and came to us when he retired. Around this time a young couple from London moved to Bovingdon. Their names were John and Sue Ratcliffe. They were keen to do children’s work and began a Campaigners group at our church that was quite well attended.

In the seventies we had a preaching team headed by Rev. Graham Wise. One of the team was a lay preacher called Reg Webster. Reg was given the chance to take early retirement at the age of 58 and felt called to take on the role of pastor at Bovingdon. He and his wife Monica moved to Bovingdon in the early eighties. Due to their hard work and enthusiasm the congregation began to pick up with several young families joining the church. We even had a family come over from Dunstable.

There was a small strip of land belonging to the chapel at the rear that was sold off to make way for a road leading to Apple Cottages, I think in the eighties. New double-glazed windows were put in during Reg’s ministry and also some essential maintenance work to the structure of the building.

During Reg’s ministry three young folk were assigned to our church from London Bible College, namely Steve (?), Arthur Magahy and Nicola Taylor. Arthur and Nicky were shortly to become engaged. After about five years, Reg Webster, owing to ill health, resigned from the role of pastor and moved to Dorset. Arthur Magahy was appointed as student pastor. Arthur and Nicky were married at her hometown of Eastbourne, and began married life in a small Council flat in Old Dean, Bovingdon. Arthur was later ordained and became full time minister of Bovingdon Baptist Church. Nicky, who was now a qualified teacher, began work at Bovingdon School.

During the late eighties and nineties the congregation grew. We had a thriving Sunday school, Boys Brigade, and youth club. The church went through radical modernisation, this included, modern central heating, a small upper gallery, an office, modern kitchen, and new toilets. The front doors were changed so that they opened directly into the main building. The old benches were replaced with stacking chairs so that the room could be made use of by the B.B. and youth club.

Arthur and Nicky had two daughters during their time in Bovingdon. Hannah and Esther. After about 15 years in Bovingdon, Arthur and Nicky felt called to go into missionary work and were eventually sent to Guinea, in West Africa by the Baptist Missionary Society.

The church was led by a group of dedicated members for five years while they searched for a new minister. In 2007 the church called Mary Moody to be their Lay Pastor, and she arrived with her husband, Andrew, and two daughters aged 5 and 3 - doubling the Sunday School in one fell swoop. They moved to the village a year later, and in November 2008 Mary was ordained as an accredited Baptist minister.

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