1688 is when it all started for Lymington Baptist Church. Prior to that, Baptist Christians were persecuted and had to meet in secret for being ‘non-conformist’ – in other words, not part of the Church of England. So, there was no church building then – they simply met secretly in each others houses. When it came to baptism, Lymington Baptists had to go to Hatchett Pond, near Beaulieu. Presumably they avoided baptism in the winter!
In 1688, they were able to start a church openly, and met in a house in Captain’s Row. By 1769, they wanted to set up a proper church building so the minister at that time, the Rev Joshua Thomas, travelled to London to see if he could get a loan. The poor man stayed the night in a damp bed in Portsmouth on his way back and died! He was buried after a funeral in the newly completed church in New Street.
In 1834, the church building was demolished, and a new, much bigger one was built on the site. It cost £1,625 – that’s the equivalent to £1.2 million today. This building included a day school in the rooms below the main church which could hold 140 children although the school later transferred to the new National School opposite (now the St Barbe Museum).
In 1866, a new ‘classical’ front was added to the building. Next to the church some 150 souls were buried in a graveyard but it was then closed in 1859 and by 1976 it had become the church car park.