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Title: A Topographical Account of Market Lavington
Author: Atley, Henry
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "A Topographical Account of Market Lavington" ***

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LAVINGTON***


Transcribed from the 1855 Frederick A. Blake edition by David Price,
email ccx074@pglaf.org

                          [Picture: Book cover]

                   [Picture: Church of East Lavington]

                              Reminiscences.

                                * * * * *



                                    A
                          TOPOGRAPHICAL ACCOUNT
                                    OF
                            MARKET LAVINGTON,
                                  WILTS,
                     ITS PAST AND PRESENT CONDITION.


                      ALSO, THE RISE AND PROGRESS OF
                          THE INDEPENDENT CHURCH
                              IN THAT PLACE.

                                   AND
                 THE AUTHENTIC HISTORY OF DAVID SAUNDERS,
                                   THE
                    Pious Shepherd of Salisbury Plain.

                                * * * * *

                           WITH ILLUSTRATIONS.

                                * * * * *

                          BY THE REV. H. ATLEY,

          AUTHOR OF “DRUIDICAL ANTIQUITIES,” “FAMILIAR SCENES,”
                        “HAPPY JAMES,” ETC., ETC.

                                * * * * *

                                SALISBURY:
                    FREDERICK A. BLAKE, MARKET PLACE.
                    Stiff Covers, 1s. 6d.  Cloth, 2s.

                                M DCCC LV.

                                * * * * *

                                SALISBURY:
                           FREDERICK A. BLAKE,
                                 PRINTER,
                              BLUE BOAR ROW.

                                * * * * *



CONTENTS.

Introduction—What History is, and how divided                       v.
SECTION I.—The Etymology of the place—Its                            1
situation—Geological character—Antiquity—Architectural
features—Traditions—Commercial status
SECTION II.—Ecclesiastical and Denominational                        7
accommodation—Literary and other advantages—Educational
facilities—Scenery
SECTION III.—Past religious state—Feeble instrumentality of         12
its reformation—DAVID SAUNDERS, the pious Shepherd of
Salisbury Plain—His early life—Correction of error in former
narratives
SECTION IV.—His early efforts—Appearance before a                   19
Magistrate—Anecdotes—Cornbury mill—Death—Funeral—Inscription
SECTION V.—Verbatim copy of two Original Letters—Poem to his        28
memory
SECTION VI.—Immediate results—Rev. H. GAUNTLETT—Cottage             34
Services—Persecution—Anecdotes
SECTION VII.—The encouragement from neighbouring Ministers—A        42
Church formed—Sabbath schools—Chapel purchased—Opening
services—Enlargement—First pastor—Separation—Second and third
pastors
SECTION VIII.—Cross-roads chapel—Ebenezer chapel—Fourth             51
pastor—Chancery suit—Debt paid—Fifth, sixth, seventh, and
eighth pastors—Improvements—Jubilee
Conclusion                                                          57



Illustrations.

Church of East Lavington                               _Frontispiece_.
Ladywood Vale, with Shepherd’s Cottage                              21
Cornbury Mill                                                       24
Church of West Lavington, with the Shepherd’s                       26
Grave
Cottage in Parsonage Lane                                           37
Old Parsonage                                                       44
Independent Chapel                                                  48



INTRODUCTION.


NEVER in the history of this country has literature assumed so prominent
a position as it does at the present time; not in one department only,
but in the ample circle she travels, each presenting its own peculiar
claims to attention and regard, thus catering to the diversified
necessities of the human family.

Among the various intellectual viands, none is more generally acceptable
than History; and simply for this reason, in other departments or
productions of the pen we have abstract principles and theories, which
require to be worked out by mental or manual processes ere they assume a
form to be capable of appreciation by the general mind.  In History
truths are progressively elaborated and developed under the immediate
influence of time and circumstances, by which their qualities become
known, and their value tested and proved.

In the first class we may be said to have presented to us a subtle spirit
so ethereal and liable to evaporation as to be difficult of retention to
any important purpose, and so versatile as to be susceptible of any form
at the will of the operator; in the latter we possess a definite tangible
reality, in which we see reflected as in a mirror the principles,
feelings, motives, and results, not only of the several actors, but of
the times in which they lived, all which become fixed or Daguerreotyped
for the benefit of those that come after.

The term History is of a general and extensive character, admitting of a
very minute subdivision.  In the first place it may be simple or
compound, pure or mixed, as it embraces persons, times, or things, taken
singly or in their combination in the mutual influence they exert.  This
is the general form in which it is presented.  In the next place, it may
range as universal, national, provincial, local, or individual.  Another
division will give us civil, political, ecclesiastical: each of these
have their intrinsic value, will materially influence the progress of
civilisation, and promote the well-being of society; but to the last,
viz., ecclesiastical, there belongs a charm pre-eminently its own, as it
closely approximates to eternity.

The following History is of the mixed class, as the Table of Contents
will show, so that it is hoped, while it may possess or create a general
interest, its specific features will please others; and its
ecclesiastical lineaments afford to the devout mind great gratification.

The Author craves the indulgence of his readers, and hopes his efforts
will receive a general verdict of approbation.



SECTION I.


Etymology of the place—Its situation—Geological
characters—Antiquity—Architectural features—Traditions—Commercial status.

EAST, or as it is sometimes denominated, MARKET LAVINGTON, distant from
London 89 miles, is situated about the middle, rather inclining to the
western, part of the county of Wiltshire, on the north side of the
extensive downs celebrated for the relics of a barbaric age, when human
victims were supposed to appease the anger of the gods, of which a
distant view is obtained on the road from Salisbury, near the Bustard
Inn, so called from a bird once found on this plain.  It graced the table
of the new Mayor of Salisbury in former times on the day of his election
to the civic office; but is now obsolete.  The hunting of this bird once
constituted a chief amusement to the neighbouring gentry.  Lavington runs
in a north-easterly direction, forming a portion of the celebrated Vale
of Pewsey, reckoned the best and most fertile part of the county.

The etymology of this place like that of many others has probably
suffered by local corruptions, it is either of Saxon or Norman origin—a
word compounded of two others, _Lav_ or _Lave_ and _ton_.  The former
might describe its position, the latter its quality or nature.

The names of places are frequently very descriptive of their situation,
as Wilton, near Salisbury, or, as it known in ancient records,
Willytown—the town on the Willy, a river running through it to Salisbury,
where it unites with other streams, and flows into the English Channel at
Christchurch.  We propose to take this as our guide on the present
occasion, and establish our hypothesis by several concurrent facts.

The term _Lav_ or _Lave_ may either mean watered—washed, left, or hidden;
and the termination _ton_, which is a very general one, a town, as
Easterton, Littleton, Maddington, and Shrewton.

Situated as Lavington is at the foot of the downs, which rise to a
considerable altitude above it, with hills on the opposite side of nearly
equal height, seen from either it appears to lie in a complete basin,
every way adapted to act as a drain or receiver of water from the
uplands—a fact illustrated in the years 1841–2, when a great destruction
of property-took place at Shrewton, through inundations occasioned by the
accumulation of water by the rapid thawing of the snow in various natural
basins in the vicinity, as at Candown Bottom and other places.  The soil
of the valley, so favourable to the cultivation of edible roots, being
marked by the combined characters of the surrounding barriers.

In some parts of the kingdom there are places where well-defined and
specific geological features conduct to certain conclusions, such as the
primeval deposits of virgin soil—the annual product of rank foliage where
the foot of man for ages never trod, which, when brought to tillage,
yields successive crops of abundance—the subsidence of a vast and
overwhelming inundation—the retreat of the watery element after ages of
possession, leaving its hitherto submerged bed high and dry.  As an
illustration, we may refer to the subsoil of Bath, which is stone of so
friable a nature as to be easily affected by the elements, and, if
examined, will be found a combination of various shells, which plainly
tell its former state, or the severance of some great and terrible
convulsion, forming vast chasms, and exhibiting the various strata of
rocks far down in the womb of the earth.  There is a very good display of
this at villas in the neighbourhood of Frome, Somersetshire, and at
Clifton Hotwells, near Bristol, or in places round the Isle of Wight, and
in the coal-fields at Radstock, and each of these present their own
peculiar characters; but here we have on either side of the valley a
separate and distinct formation.  The downs predominate in chalk, on a
stony brackish soil, with but a thin layer of vegetable earth on a
substratum of flint and gravel; the exception of the hollows no way
interfering with the general state.  On the opposite side there is sand
to the depth of several feet resting upon sandstone, with occasional
layers of granite, then again sand and sandstone, ultimating in a subsoil
of granite, and this extends for several miles.  The washings of the two
barriers by the repeated rains, together with the humid atmosphere, so
striking a character in the climate of this country, combining in various
degrees, produces the fertile soil of the valley from the sandy loam to
the stiff clay.

If we recur to the times of invasion when hordes of barbarians sought the
subjugation of this island, the predatory warfare with the ravages to
which the inland parts of the country were exposed, there would naturally
be a disposition and desire of secrecy and seclusion.  Now no place could
be better adapted for this purpose, surrounded as it is by the uplands
before referred to, lying, too, at a distance from the main road on
either hand, and possessing within itself the chief resources of
subsistence, it could remain unknown as long as needful.  We must
remember, when speaking of by-gone times their facilities of information
were very rude and simple.  How, in the absence of the appliances of
transit and intercommunication which we possess, they would denote the
direction of various towns we know not; their proximity to certain well
known objects, or as occupying particular situations, might afford them
means and facilities, especially if we allow the progress of improvement.
Let us apply this theory in the present case, and it might be the town
left on quitting the downs, and emerging towards the chief towns, as
Bath, or the last town prior to ascending them.  The name, therefore
might mean the washed or watered—the hidden or left town.

As but very few of the older buildings remain, and what traditions there
are being very vague, it is impossible to fix the date of its formation.
The church, of which we shall speak more fully elsewhere, has doubtless
stood for some hundreds of years.  The old parsonage, with its gables and
cress-muntained windows, carries the visitor into by-gone times.  A large
mansion on the road to Urchfont, at the turn to Eastcott, has undoubtedly
the marks of age; its ponderous appearance, numerous gables, heavy stacks
of chimnies, and ballustraded gallery—tell of times when profuse
hospitality was common.  There is one at Easterton, of which we have more
definite accounts: it is now in the occupation of Mr. Neville.  Report
states it to have been erected by the Protector, Oliver Cromwell, about
the year 1657, for his general, Kinson; and to which he himself oft
repaired, either when commanding in the wars between Charles II. and the
parliament (of whose armies Cromwell was commander-in-chief), one of
which took place at Bratton, about eight miles distant, a spot celebrated
from the time of Alfred the Great, where, after rallying his troops at
Clay hill, near Frome, he gave the Danes battle and routed them, the spot
is shown where the Danes encamped and where Alfred penetrated in the
disguise of an harper,—or probably the Protector here sought for
seclusion and rest to a mind perturbed and alarmed to suspicion by the
publication of a work, supposed to allude to him, entitled, “Killing no
Murder.”

At Wroughton’s Folly there are remains of a once extensive erection,
which, from its size, would have accommodated a numerous family.  Its
picturesque situation, surrounded with extensive grounds, formed a
charming retreat; it was occupied by a retired merchant, but has long
gone to decay.  Report states the ruins were once the retreat of a daring
freebooter, who preyed upon the surrounding homesteads and laid under
contribution the yeoman as he returned from the neighbouring markets:
little now remains save the foundations of the cellars.  Near this spot
are three mounds within a small enclosure in the middle of a field, of
which tradition thus speaks:—In the time of Charles II., when that
dreadful scourge, the plague, which destroyed upwards of one hundred
thousand of the inhabitants of London, broke out, three brothers, seeking
to avoid the common lot, fled to this spot, thinking thereby to escape,
but they were overtaken by the fell destroyer, and buried here.

Lavington was formerly distinguished for its corn market and the
manufacture of malt, in which articles business to a very considerable
extent was transacted; this gave it the appellative attached.  Its
proximity to the rising town of Devizes soon reduced it to its present
condition; it is now generally known for its large supplies of vegetables
to the market of Devizes, distant 6 miles,—Trowbridge, 12 miles,—Bath, 22
miles,—and Salisbury, 19 miles.  The market-place continues to maintain
its former dimensions, and constitutes the favourite resort of the
juvenile portion of the population.  The stocks, once a terror and
punishment to evildoers, have lost their dread, and the clanking iron has
become a musical instrument in their estimation.  Near this is the
Engine-house, a wooden erection, with a cupulo for a bell whose tongue is
happily seldom inclined to speak, the services of the engine is seldom
required; fire, as an element of alarm, being of very rare occurrence.
The population of the place, including the hamlet of Easterton, is 1700;
and the area of the parish about 3036 acres to Lavington, and 1592 to
Easterton.



SECTION II.


Ecclesiastical and Denominational accommodation—Literary and other
advantages—Educational facilities—Scenery.

THIS place is included within the diocese of Salisbury, and has a church
of considerable antiquity, dating somewhere between 1360 and 1380, most
probably the time of Edward III.  It was built by the Roman Catholics,
and dedicated to St. Michael, and is in the gift of Christchurch college,
Oxford.  Its style of architecture is a mixture; there are some parts
appearing older than the main building, which would lead to the
supposition of a prior edifice; the striking features denote the time of
transition from the plain English to that of the decorated, but some
parts are of very recent construction.  It consists of a chancel of about
42 ft. by 18½ ft.; a nave, 54 ft. by 51 ft.; and a square tower, 17 ft.
by 18 ft.; and will accommodate about 600 people.  The chancel, which has
been recently renovated, is inlaid with encaustic tiles; and here are
several marble monumental tablets to the relics of the Sainburys; one
especially with a full-length female figure to Thomas Twice, sheriff, and
once Lord Mayor of London; and another to Mr. Merewether, father of the
town clerk of the same place.  The tower is an embattled one, having a
ring of six bells.  Beneath it are two or three records of munificence;
one a bequest by — Tanner, formerly vicar of this parish, afterwards
Bishop of St. Asaph, to the following effect:—To the minister for a
sermon annually, £1; for the purchase of four bibles for the use of the
poor, £1; for the education of three children, £1; a dinner for the
respectable inhabitants, £1; the ringers for two short peals, 6s.; the
sexton and clerk, 5s.  A gilt tablet to this worthy man is placed in the
nave, near the chancel.  The other bequest is by two brothers, of £100
each in the consols; the interest to be distributed in bread to the poor.
Beneath the tower is a stone font with a carved oak lid, the work of a
self-taught artist, a native of Bath; presented to the church by Mr.
Stubbart.  This edifice is situated at the west end of the place on
rising ground, and forms a conspicuous object in all directions.  With
this is connected a handsome building for the use of the day school,
which is conducted upon the plan of the national system, numbering 90
boys and 75 girls; and a Sabbath school, numbering 180 boys, 170 girls,
and 17 teachers.

There is also a respectable Dissenting cause, dating from the year 1801,
when a church was formed upon the platform of the Independent or
Congregational order.  Their place of worship is at the east end of the
town; its dimensions are 33 ft. by 42 ft., and it is capable of holding
between four and five hundred of this cause: a fuller account will be
given in the subsequent pages.  They have connected with them a good
Sabbath school, numbering 60 boys, 70 girls, and 13 teachers.  A British
and Foreign day school was established, but various circumstances having
militated against its progress and success, it has declined, and is at
the present time carried on as a private undertaking.  With the
Independents is associated a Dorcas Society, consisting of twelve
subscribers, a number of whom meet once a month to make garments, which
are given away to the poor of the place.  There is also a society
organised in connection with the Wiltshire Association of the British and
Foreign Bible Society for the supply of the Holy Scriptures at cost-price
to the poor, and to render aid to the Parent Society.  This is confined
to no denomination, but embraces all who desire their circulation without
note or comment.

Two small Baptist interests of high Calvinistic principles and
maintaining close communion, are situated in the lower parts of the town;
one in a lane near the weighing engine, and chiefly supplied by
lay-agents from the neighbourhood; the congregation exceeds in number one
hundred, and there are twenty members; the building measures about 30 ft.
by 28 ft.: the other, which is an offshoot, has recently been erected; it
is but small, measuring 30 ft. by 20 ft., and is situated in Church
Street; the congregation does not exceed one hundred, and has but few
members; it has a resident minister.

The Primitive Methodists have for some time laboured here; they formerly
had a flourishing society of thirty members, but have declined, owing to
the difficulty of obtaining a suitable place; their present number is
probably about ten.  They form part of the Newbury circuit.

A Temperance Society, established in the year 1838, has been the means of
considerable good, reclaiming several persons who were reduced to a state
of poverty and ruin, restoring and elevating them to comfort and
respectability.  The pledge-book gives the numbers at the present time as
450; they circulate tracts and advance their views by occasionally
holding meetings.

Reading-rooms are open for the accommodation of subscribers, where the
daily and weekly papers with other works are supplied; and where, during
the winter months, lectures are occasionally delivered upon literary and
scientific subjects: they are situated in the middle of the town, just
below the Market-place.

An Horticultural Society has lately sprung up for encouraging the
cultivation of fruits and vegetables.  Prizes are awarded to the
successful competitors at the annual exhibition, which is held in the
grounds of the president, Charles Hitchcock, Esq., at Fiddington.  Watson
Taylor, Esq., of Urchfont, patron: Mr. H. Gauntlett, secretary.  It has
156 members.

The facilities for intercommunication are good.  A coach from Salisbury
to Chippenham passes through West Lavington, distant one mile, every
alternate day, returning the following; and one recently started leaves
here for the Hungerford extension line each alternate day in time for the
up train, and leaves on its return on the following, upon the arrival of
the down train.  There is also a daily carrier to Devizes, and two to
Salisbury weekly.

A small stream rises at the farther end of Easterton, and supplies the
sheet of water in the grounds at Fiddington (where there is a pleasant
and comfortable asylum for lunatics),—winds to Northbrook—passes on
through the meads at Ladywood to Russell mill, where it joins another
stream (which rises at Newlam, a mile from West Lavington; this formerly
covered a space of seven acres, but is now reduced to very narrow
limits)—united in one it pursues its way towards Bath and Bristol, where
it falls into the Avon and Severn.  A branch which turns off towards
Devizes empties itself into the Avon and Kennet canal; in its progress it
forms the moving power to several mills, and imparts fertility to the
various meads in its course.

The scenery around is of the most delightful character, the sands or
common have been successfully brought into cultivation, and where
formerly but few buildings appeared numerous houses have been erected,
which bespeak the efforts of the humble classes to attain respectability
and comfort; while the tillage constantly going on gives great animation
to the scene.  The country around is everywhere well wooded to the north,
and may with propriety be termed a panorama, reaching to the vicinity of
Bath.  From hence and on the downs report states that when the atmosphere
is clear, and with the aid of good glasses, the Welsh mountains may be
descried.  A good eye will be able to discover Lansdown and the Beckford
monument, Stourton Tower, and the spire of Salisbury Cathedral.  The most
favourable points of observation are the downs on the top of Lavington
hill, Wroughton’s Folly, and Ledgehill, on the road to Bath and Devizes,
there are a few spots possessing a romantic feature, exhibiting as they
do high walls of strata surmounted with tall waving foliage.  Here the
lover and copyist of nature might revel in perfect delight, and gather
many a sketch for his portfolio.  About some 25 years ago the approaches
were everywhere impeded by toll-gates, the heavy expenses thereby
entailed upon the farmer and gentry led to vigorous efforts for their
removal by liberal contributions to a fund for this purpose, they were
bought up, and in one day no less than twelve of these impediments were
destroyed.  The event is annually commemorated by a public dinner at the
chief inn and a bonfire in the evening.

There are two or three clubs for the assistance of members in a time of
sickness, to afford means of burial, and also to furnish clothing.



SECTION III.


Past religious state—Feeble instrumentality of its reformation—DAVID
SAUNDERS, the pious Shepherd of Salisbury Plain—His early life—Correction
of error in former narratives.

IN reference to the former religious state of this place the picture is a
truly gloomy one—a common ruin of all that is holy seems to have pervaded
society from the highest to the lowest; nor did the condition appear to
awaken any concern—bull and badger baiting, cock and dog fighting, with
all their concomitant evils, depravity of manners, pugilistic encounters,
drunkenness and profanity, were the characteristics of the people, not of
the lower classes only, but also the middle and upper, and not only
sanctioned but encouraged by the clergy; to such an extent did this run,
that a notoriety rested upon the place and its inhabitants for miles
round.  It is true the Society of Friends had long possessed a place of
worship here, but little benefit resulted to the morals of the people.
The peculiar tenets held by them, together with other circumstances,
tended to their decline, public service was confined to periodical
assemblings, called quarterly district meetings, the funeral of friends,
or the visits of some of their principal speakers.

In the Establishment the teaching was a meagre maudling something, for
neither in precept or example could it be called religion, or even
morality.  Its quality was of the same stamp as that which generally
pervaded the discourses of the clergy of that day, and which diffused its
baneful seeds over the country at large, such as might be expected, where
the sports of the field, the facilities for angling, and the pleasures of
good-fellowship were objects of pre-eminent attraction to clerical
ambition.  The submission of the poor to their superiors; reverence and
obedience to the commands of the priesthood; abject veneration for the
Established Church; punctuality in attendance on her rites and
ceremonies, with a full and prompt discharge of all her dues; these were
the staple of her instructions, and all that was required by her to
constitute a good man, a Christian, and to entitle him to heaven; while
every effort made to instruct and enlighten the mind received the whole
weight of her opposition and anathema, as it was considered far
preferable that the population be left in the grossest darkness,
perfectly and profoundly ignorant of the claims of God, so besotted in
vice were they, that to be the best fighter, to have the best bulldog, to
possess the finest game bird, or to have won the prize in any of the
sports was the highest felicity and enjoyment their minds could desire or
appreciate.

As in many of the most important conveniences and improvements of
civilised life, the origin or spring has been insignificant and
comparatively obscure, surrounded with every disadvantage and impediment
to success; so also has it been with our most valuable religious
movements, “For God hath chosen the foolish things of this world to
confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to
confound the things that are mighty; and base things of the world, and
things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are
not, to bring to nought things that are: that no flesh should glory in
his presence.” {13}  Look at the great moral and spiritual reformation
which commenced in the year 1503, when a change took place in Germany,
agitating the whole Christian world, shaking the papal kingdom from the
centre to the circumference, opening to the light its secret
abominations, overturning its iniquitous customs, irradiating its darkest
recesses, and pouring its healing waters into the abodes of suffering and
woe.  And what was the immediate instrument, and who was the artificer
selected or raised up to accomplish this?  The prohibited volume of the
Holy Scripture, which had long lain on the shelves of the library at the
Augustine monastery at Erfurt—here Martin Luther, a monk, found it,
secretly he conveyed it to his cell, and amid the solemn silence and
darkness of night, his solitary lamp tells his employment, and aids him
in exploring the mine of truth, the record of eternal life.  Celestial
light diffused itself through his mind, illumined his soul, and wrought
strong convictions that the principles and practices of that Church, of
which he was the avowed and sworn servant, were at perfect variance with
truth.  Arrayed against him as was the whole hierarchy of that apostate
Church, he clothed himself in the panoply of the Gospel, especially “the
sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God,” to do warfare in the
sacred cause.

So here an obscure peasant, inhabiting a cot so lowly that those
accustomed to more convenient and comfortable accommodation would be
disposed to spurn the humble abode as a mere hovel unfit for human
dwelling; whose days are devoted to toil amid exposure to all the varying
influences of weather, the father of a large and increasing family, whose
wants might plead excuse, and claim his undivided attention, together
with a heavily afflicted wife, whose ill-health prevents her sharing her
husband’s labours, or ministering to the comforts of her family, his
scanty pittance not exceeding one shilling a-day, save the help derived
from friendship’s gifts or dole of charity, or what his children (into
whose minds he had carefully installed those principles of right and
industry) could earn by cow-tending and other casual employment, the
younger ones collecting the knobs of wool found in the sheep-walks, which
the elder ones would in the evening card, clean, and spin, and either
dispose of to persons inclined to purchase, knit into stockings, or send
to Potterne or Cheverill villages in the vicinity, where a weaver or two
resided, and have it wove into blankets, or flannels for petticoats.
Boys and girls would accompany the father, and assist him to keep the
sheep from the corn.  He it is who is to commence a local reformation,
both by his own example and precept, introducing the Gospel, whose divine
light and effects are to spread and diffuse themselves around and onward
through subsequent years—yes, even into the boundless region of that
world of immensity—Eternity.

In the year 1717, in a very mean and humble cottage at Littleton Wells, a
hamlet of West Lavington, dwells a man of lowly occupation, a shepherd,
DAVID SAUNDERS.  Beneath this roof an immortal being commences his
career; an event which, when viewed aright, is calculated to awaken
thoughts of deep import even when unconnected with any remarkable
circumstances, how much more so when results of infinite moment follow.
No portentous predictions foreshadow his future course; the probability
is that the paternal lot will be his, and peasant toil with poverty’s
hard crust his only heritage.  Infancy and youth in their common
every-day occurrences are past, and to him the barest modicum of
instruction is afforded probably at the dame school of the village.  He
learned to read and write, beyond those rudimentary aids he does not
advance; the situation his father fills requires his early assistance and
help; he becomes an under-shepherd, and mid the variations of heat and
cold, rain and snow, wind and sunshine, his frame becomes nerved to
life’s rough path.  He rises to man’s estate, and quitting the
subordinate situation takes the head; whether this was before his
father’s death or after, is not quite certain; it is, however, an
authenticated fact he did succeed his father, and remained on the same
farm upwards of thirty years, although during that time the property more
than once changed hands; it was the same as is now occupied by Mr.
Hooper.  He married Lydia Bishop, and reared a family of sixteen
children.  His wife died in the year 1789.

David Saunders, the individual of whom we now speak, or as he is more
generally designated on account of his piety, the pious Shepherd of
Salisbury Plain, was early brought under the itinerant labours of some of
the followers of John Wesley; at what exact period is not known.  On one
occasion going to hear a Methodist preacher, probably at Imber or Seend,
with a young man, one of their society, he complains of a painful and
distressing disease, to which from early life he had been subject, which
not only caused him great trouble but was regarded by him as a great
affliction (the leprosy).  His companion, while compassionating his case,
took occasion to remind him that he was afflicted with a far worse
disease, that not only afflicted his body but ruined both body and soul,
making it loathsome in the eyes of a pure and holy God, and entailed upon
it eternal misery; recommending him instantly to apply to the great
Physician for that balm which alone can effect a perfect cure.  Thus made
acquainted with the Gospel, he continued the pursuit until he was brought
to a full realisation of its power: the sincerity of his profession
evidenced itself by the anxiety awakened in his mind with reference to
the condition of those around him; for, as was stated at the commencement
of this section, the religious state of the neighbourhood was awful and
alarming; he was a light in a dark place, and as was said of the church
of Pergamos, “Thou dwellest where Satan’s seat is.”  Pains and penalties
awaited those who dared to think and act in opposition to the authorised
teachers, and to disturb the heavy gloom that rested on the public mind;
for at this time the same person held the two livings of East and West
Lavington.  The statement in the tract published by the Religious Tract
Society would lead to the formation of a high estimate of the piety of
the neighbourhood and the resident clergy; there is nothing whatever to
warrant this, quite the reverse, and would apply to times of a much later
date.  There is also a very great inaccuracy as to the shepherd being
placed in the situation of parish clerk, and removing to the house of his
predecessor, where a Sabbath school is reported to have been commenced
under the auspices of the vicar and Mr. Johnson, who was no other person
than Dr. Stonehouse, the projector of the Infirmary at Salisbury and the
resident surgeon there, but having been unsuccessful in his treatment of
a small-pox patient, which affected his reputation and very much
depressed him, he quitted the medical profession and took holy orders;
the living of the two Cheverills, which were then united, being presented
him by Earl Radnor.  And it is further stated those individuals
established a day school for a few girls to be instructed by the
shepherd’s wife, who was incapacitated for out-door employment, being
heavily afflicted with the rheumatism.  These facts are utterly false;
she was chiefly employed in visiting and nursing the sick, being the only
person in the parish at that time able to do so: this employment she
continued till a short time before her death.  It is true the doctor was
a great friend to the shepherd and his family; and when down here, which
was principally in the winter, he would frequently have him to dine with
him at the parsonage as a special mark of his esteem.  He gave him a
small bible, which is now in the possession of the Rev. Mr. Wilton, of
West Lavington, and which was kindly lent to the Author for exhibition at
the jubilee.  He remained a Wesleyan to his death; of this he would
sometimes boast, saying, “I am a Wesleyan to my back-bone;” and he never
quitted the house where he was born until death.



SECTION IV.


His early efforts—Appearance before a Magistrate—Anecdotes—Cornbury
Mill—Death—Funeral—Inscription.

DENIED the spiritual enjoyments so abundant in the present day, which it
is to be feared from their very abundance are slighted, he was accustomed
to repair sometimes in the daytime, when he could leave his flock in the
care of another, but especially in the evening after the toils and
fatigues of the day, to Seend, probably where some of his own people
might be found, and unite with them in devotional exercises, returning
the same night, that so he might be ready for his daily duties, so strict
was he in regard to the rights of others, and lest his good might be evil
spoken of.  He soon began to collect a few of his neighbours beneath his
natal cot, at first at the time of his morning and evening orisons, and
on the evening of the Sabbath, for the purpose of reading the Scriptures,
singing and prayers, doubtless he would exhort them to seek the salvation
of their souls, as appears to have been the case from his own confession
in the instance that follows:—He was once summoned before a magistrate by
one of the overseers of the parish, who, by his officious interference,
sought to gain the approbation of those above him, upon the charge of not
only allowing but himself preaching in his own house.  Would he have been
so active if he had carried on a course of evil and seduced others to
sin?  I trow not.  When questioned on the subject by the bench, he
replied, “May it please your worship to hear what I have to say.  I think
it my duty to pray with my family night and morning, and if opportunity
permit, to read part of the Word of God to them.  On Sunday mornings we
rise an hour or two before I go to my sheep, that we may spend a little
more time than on other days in the worship of God.  Some few of my
neighbours frequently come in and join us.  We first sing a psalm or
hymn, I then read a chapter or two of the bible, and sometimes I
endeavour in my poor way to explain their meaning, we then conclude our
Sabbath morning’s exercise with prayer to God.  As for preaching, I never
attempt any such thing, but leave it to those who are called to preach.”
The justice, who was a clergyman, reproved the persecutor and accuser,
and admonished him to go and follow so good an example.

On Littleton downs he erected a hut for his own and others’ accommodation
when the weather was bad; (this was blown down in a violent hurricane of
wind, but was afterward rebuilt of firmer material, viz., brick, and made
more convenient by his friend, Dr. Stonehouse).  Beneath its roof, when
the flocks were placed in safety, he would collect the shepherds and
shepherdesses (for there were several at that time owing to the
deficiency of male persons to do the work), and read to them from the
Bible, or rather commentary, now in the possession of Mrs. Bartlett, of
Cheverill, and after talking with them would engage in prayer.  One now
living (1855), then young, has stated that no one knew where he put the
bible after reading, as she with others often searched but could never
find it.  He would sharply reprove the idle and careless, and then
encourage them to diligence in some way or other, saying, “we cannot
expect young ones to be old ones, I was young myself once.”

Among the other efforts which he put forth for the good of those around
him was the opening of an evening school, where he taught such as desired
it to read and write.  Finding his house too small to accommodate his
increasing family, but especially for those who came to hear and be
instructed, he obtained the one adjoining, which he chiefly devoted to
this purpose.  A gentleman by the name of Bartlett, frequently invited
him to his house; he had a son, an infant, who engaged the shepherd’s
particular attention; and it is remarked, when at Cheverill, he would
never leave the house until he had knelt at the cradle of the babe and
poured out his soul in earnest supplication for his eternal welfare.
Upon the death of the shepherd, that child, risen to the state of youth,
appropriated the money that had been given him and which he had suffered
to accumulate, to the purchase of the family bible, still in the
possession of his widow, and which the Author has seen; it was a
commentary, doubtless published by Wesley at the commencement of his
public career, soon after leaving college; the date is 1751.  He also
bought the sheep-bells and two pet lambs, the last he ever kept, which
was a privilege allowed by flock-masters to their shepherds.  A view of
the hallowed spot where this good man abode, and where stood the cot
within which he first drew his breath, may be obtained to peculiar
advantage, attended with great picturesque beauty (as if nature would do
honour to his memory), from a field adjoining Ladywood, just beyond the
grove which is approached through the churchyard; a spot of which a
respectable gentleman, formerly occupying an important position in the
Independent church of this place, was wont to speak in terms of the
highest praise.  “I can never pass this spot,” said he, “without stopping
to admire its peculiar beauty.”  Doubtless the eye, the inlet to the
soul, was instrumental in producing associations of the most pleasing
character bearing upon the man and events whose history we are now
recording, and contemplating those probable results which time would
develope.

            [Picture: Ladywood Vale, with Shepherd’s Cottage]

It was a favourite saying of the shepherd’s when any one was disposed to
stint a child or children in food, “Cut your last loaf as cheerfully as
the first, they are growing and want plenty of victuals, if God sends
children he will send bread.”

Sometimes when his daily allowance of bread, for this was the staple of
his food, became very dry and hard, he would put it into the pond where
his flock watered as he passed to the fold, intending after he had
finished to return and take it out.  On one occasion, having made the
deposit, his companion (his dog), influenced by the spirit that often
governs his betters, proved treacherous and false, slyly slinking behind
he approached the place and appropriated the coveted morsel to satisfy
his own selfish appetite, in obedience to the universal law, “Take care
of Number One.”  Upon becoming acquainted with his loss, and to him it
was likely to prove a great privation, as the probability was he must go
without food all day, he made his case known to his companions, one of
whom, Mary Shore (who was under him for several years), pressed him to
accept of hers, as she should not want it, having brought a double
portion that day and already eaten sufficient: upon her repeated
assurance to this fact he took it, pleasantly remarking, “Never mind, the
dog, poor fellow, was hungry, and dogs want food.”  Exposed as he was
upon the downs to some of those awful manifestations of the Divine power
in thunder and lightning, he was never known to exhibit the least fear or
alarm as to himself; this did not arise from a stoical apathy or
thoughtless hardihood, but a calm composure and preparedness of mind for
the Divine will.  He would say, “I am ready whenever it pleases God to
call me, here or elsewhere, and I do not care where they bury me, they
can bury me here if they like,” alluding to the hut before mentioned,
near which he was standing.

Although religion in humble garb is apt to meet with reproach and
persecution, yet in the case of this lowly follower of the Saviour there
appears a mysterious charm, an immortal Ægis thrown around him, by which
he was shielded from the many and bitter sufferings that often surround
the disciples of Christ, and which awakened towards him respect and
affection, not only of his own immediate class, for some that knew him
have testified he was a right-down good man and there is no David
Saunders now, but also of his superiors far and wide; a circumstance
which he appears to have improved to advantage, not to himself or his
family, but for the good of others and the glory of God, as he said,
“There is not a house in the parish in which I have not engaged in
prayer,” in which exercise he manifested a strong temperament, a blending
of confidence and enthusiasm bordering upon simplicity.  The following is
an instance:—Prior to a journey to the neighbourhood of Bath, he was led
to engage in prayer with his youngest daughter Sally, then near her time;
after commending her to God, he prayed that the child might be a boy.
Soon after he reached the place of his visit he received intelligence of
the birth, and finding it was according to his wish he immediately
retired to return thanks to God for answering his prayer.  His mind was
also tinctured with a belief in the supernatural.  On one occasion he had
been to Seend; on returning, he passed near to a house reputed to be
haunted; hearing a noise his curiosity was awakened, and on approaching
to reconnoitre, a voice (doubtless of some person engaged thereabouts)
accosted him with “What doest thou here?”  This he supposed to be a
reproof from above, which led him immediately to quit the spot: and it is
said he never after would go out of his direct road for anything.

Having relatives at Eastcote, he would sometimes walk over there on the
Sabbath afternoon, calling upon the several cottagers in his way and
invite them to come and hear the Word of God, devoting the time of his
visit to a meeting similar to those he held at his own home.  This place
has continued to have services held on the Sabbath, and forms an
out-station to Lavington, which is regularly visited alternately with
Easterton, a hamlet noted for the indolent and vitiated character of the
inhabitants, as far as it relates to the soul, if indeed they ever think
about it.

                         [Picture: Cornbury Mill]

In a short time similar meetings were held at Cornbury Mill, situated in
Spring road, then in the occupation of Mr. John Gauntlett, the
grandfather of the individual of that name now resident here, who with
several other branches of the family are still identified with the cause
of the Redeemer.  The humble shepherd devoted his efforts and energies
both at home and here to form a spiritual fold.  On the mornings of the
Sabbath he would gather the sheep and lambs of Christ, such as under the
influence of the Spirit hungered and thirsted after righteousness—feed
them from the pasture of God’s Word—lead them to the fountains of still
waters—direct and comfort the burdened and heavy laden with the precious
promise of salvation.  How long these continued is not exactly known.
The honoured servant of the Lord, labouring under the increasing
infirmities of age, especially lameness, probably the consequences of
that disease he in early life suffered from, as also blindness, which for
two or three years he experienced, he was unable to go far from home.
Some friends who held him in high respect, residing at Wyke, near Bath,
sent for him and desired him to pay them a visit.  It was while here the
messenger was sent to invite him to the home of his Heavenly Father, a
release he had long anticipated from the toils of this wearisome world.
On the night before his death he had engaged with the family in their
devotions, and afterwards in his own room with unusual and extraordinary
fervency.  Sleeping with the son of his host he spent some time
conversing on the things of God and eternity until his voice was silenced
in sleep—a sleep from which he was not to awake till the Archangel’s
trump shall tell the great day of the Lord draweth nigh.  Blessed servant
who was found watching; his last work on earth talking of heaven.  His
remains were removed to his own habitation at Littleton, and attended to
their last resting-place by a vast concourse of spectators and friends.
At his grave a request was presented to the officiating clergyman, the
vicar, for permission to sing over his remains, he replied, “When I have
done my part you may do as you like,” upon which, singing and prayer were
engaged in on the sacred spot, for “precious in the sight of the Lord is
the death of his saints,” so also is their dust purchased as the body is
with the soul by the Redeemer.

The place where he was laid is near the north-east corner of West
Lavington church, where a stone having a circular head, was erected to
his memory by a subsequent vicar, the Rev. E. Caswell, from the proceeds
of a small work containing letters and other pieces, the production of
John Saunders, his grandson, for the benefit of his mother.  Three of his
sons, who formed part of a family of sixteen, served in the armies of
their sovereign.  The following is the inscription on the stone:—

                          ERECTED IN THE YEAR 1829.
                               TO THE MEMORY OF
                               DAVID SAUNDERS,

                   KNOWN THROUGH EVERY QUARTER OF THE GLOBE
                           UNDER THE APPELLATION OF

                    The Pious Shepherd of Salisbury Plain,

            WHOSE LITTLE HISTORY HAS NOW BEEN READ WITH ADMIRATION
                         BY MULTITUDES OF CHRISTIANS
                                      IN
                      EUROPE, ASIA, AFRICA, AND AMERICA.

               HE WAS BURIED HERE BY HIS SONS SEPT. 9TH, 1796.
                                   AGED 79.

                         ALSO IN MEMORY OF HIS WIFE,

                               LYDIA SAUNDERS,

                           BURIED NEAR THIS PLACE,
                          MAY 28TH, 1789.  AGED 49.

Upon opening the adjoining grave lately (April, 1855) that of the
shepherd’s gave way, and laid bare some human bones, which, from their
remarkable size (he being of large stature and muscular build) were
supposed to be his; they were returned to their kindred earth.  It was
remarked by the Author’s informant, “If we had lived in the days of
shrines and relics, what a favourable opportunity would have been
afforded, and what a popular subject this! but such times have passed
away.”  The stone, which was in a decaying state, has, by the order of
his grandsons, Messrs. J. and J. Chapman, been renovated.

      [Picture: Church of West Lavington, with the Shepherd’s Grave]

It is much to be regretted that the humble abode where he first drew his
breath, and where his voice was so often heard instructing his own family
with others in the highest of all human learning, holiness of life,
inciting them by his precept and example to breathe after heaven, a spot
where began a reformation that has since pervaded the neighbourhood
around, and doubtless had some influence in the Established Church,
should, with the hut on the downs, like all mundane things, have suffered
under the ravages of the iron tooth of time and covetous innovation
(about two years since it was razed, and in its stead four brick
tenements erected).  But if the cot has disappeared, the site remains,
and will be regarded with veneration for ages to come.  It is on the top
of a lane, known as Saunders’s Lane, leading from Littleton to Russell
Mill, just opposite the fields.  May the relatives with the inhabitants
of this locality be favoured to breathe the same hallowed Spirit as its
long-gone tenant, and by drinking at the spiritual fountain that
refreshed his soul realize those blessings he so largely enjoyed.  The
nearest of his descendants now living are the Messrs. Chapman before
referred to, and Mrs. Holloway, their sister, of Littleton.



SECTION V.


Verbatim copy of two Original Letters—Poem to his Memory.

                                                  _Littleton Wilts Feb_ 26

Dear Daughter

I Recd your kind and Welcom Letter Dated 23 and wase glad to hear of your
Welfare I wase sorrey to hear of your loss of your master but are in
hopes that your Loss will be his gain I Recd a Letter from Limehouse in
ye forepart of last Summer, which Letter I Ansrd Immediately:—I Recd a
Letter from your Brother Jn° from spit-head a board ye Sibbley Transport
Sepr ye 11:—which gave me a sorrey full account of his then present state
that he was in ye 59 Ridgmt of Foot Sergant in captain poke Companey and
wase then waiting with 16000 men for ordors which they did Expect it
would be for ye west Indies but they could not tell and did Expect when
they set sail never to see ye Land no more—he wase verey sorrowfull for
his Dear Wife & 3 Children which he parted from 3 days before one of them
was a Boy Born in ye Isle of Iersey they wase set off for What-ley near
Froom in Somersetshire—it pierceth my Heart with sorrow to think what
they will do Amongst those strangers not having a Dish nor spoon or Bed
to ley on I saw one of ye Farmers of What-ley at ye Devizes and he
acquainted me they had a been thare a bout 1 weeck but he had not a seen
them—They are a boute 20 miles from me I should have a gone to seen them
my self but I wase not able being now under ye Doctrs hands in Cure for
Sore leggs I has nothing to give them for Assistanc your Brother
Benjamins Familie Incresseth a pace 2 days a go he had a 2nd daughter
born which is 4 in [_a small piece of the letter is torn away_] and his
Wife verey Heavely afflicted all ye last Summer so he hath nothing but
his own labour to main-tain himself Wife & 4 children so he cannot
assist—I recd a Letter from your Sister Jean about 3 months a go from
Ebley a near — Glouster and she acquainted me was Coock whare thare wase
master & mrs & 4 servts 2 men & 2 maids but she was not weel settled in
her place because there was no Religion practized in ye Familie—I saw
your Brother Iames & Joseph & Timothy Novr ye 3 which ware West Lavintons
Feast Day I was Glad to see them look so well Timothy is grown an
Exceeding proper young youth and I hope he will he will be to my
satisfaction viz to Fear ye Lord and serve him in his youth—I has none
but marey & David at home with me Sarah is married to Jonathan Chapn & is
near child bearing may she have a good hower Maray cannot get aney thing
towards her maintainance because trading is so bad no spinning the poor
with us is almost perishing for want marey is willing to come to London
if she could get able and you could hire of a place of service you
acquainted me you thought you should not continue much Longer in your
present situation.  But I would have you Enquire by Fervant Prayer of ye
Lord in what state you may be most profitable to promote his Glory for
now is ye Acceped time now is the Day of Salvation.  Beware you do not
let ye Flatterer deceive you to seek for Happiness oute of Christ, For I
have a been in ye World near 68 years and I find nothing but but ye love
of Christ with ye Pardon of Sin will make me Happy here in this World I
would not have you put yourself to Expence of Comming Down at ye spring I
should be glad to see you but I Expect shortly to be called of ye Stage
of this Life & to follow my Forefathers, let us pray for Each other that
we may meet in ye Upper and better World to Sing our Lord’s Praises for
Ever & Ever So prays your affectionate Father.  If you let me know whare
you are I will write to you so long as I shall be able.

                                                           DAVED SAUNDERS.

                                * * * * *

                                                         _Littleton Wells_
                                                               Oct 12 1791

Dear Son and Daughters

This is to a Quaint you of ower Wellfare having this Oppertunity Ones
more to take pen in hand and to Wright a few Lines unto you hoping thay
find you all well and Striving Earnestly to Eanter in at the Straite Gate
that Leadeth unto Everlasting Life I Bare you much on my Mind be fore the
throne of the Lord’s Grace Praying Earnestly that the Lord Would
accomplish the Whole work of your Salvation in your Inmost Souls Enabling
you to persevere in the way of Holiness and bring you at the last to his
Heavenly Kingdom

I hope that you are all Well at Bedford and my Earnest praier for you is
that you might be Saved from sin Hear by Belaving in the Lord Jesus
Christ and Walking in Sincere Obedeament Love in his Truth and
Commandments here so that in our Lord’s Due and appointed time we may
sing ower Lord’s praises The Father and the mother and Childern in ower
Blessed Saver’s Kingdom whare parting shall be no more for Ever and Ever
O my Dear Childern how do I long for your Salvation I know not what is
the Thoughts of your Harts pray make Sure work by Examining of your
Selves for De Lays are Dangerous Perhaps this may be the Last time of
your Dear and Indulgent Fathers Counsels I Expects shortly I shall be
Called home from Stage of this World Tharefore I Humbly Bagg of you as my
Last Request Be ye Reconciled to God Let fervent praier be your only
motive to Induce you to Love the Lord your God for what is all the World
with out Gods Love for ower Blessed Lord and Saver saith What shall it
profet a man if he gaine The whole World and Loose his own Soul or what
shall he Give in Exchange of his sould Let me freely ask you what would
be most desirable to you in Heaven my soul is Ready to anser and say to
See the Face of my God whome my soul Loveth For it is Gods Presents makes
Heaven and Jesus Christ who is the mediator and Interceader betwix my
soul and my God O how do I Long to Walk in the Streets of the New
Jeruslem but am detained by the Clogg of this Flish But I can truly say
Blessed be the Name of the Lord With David whome Lord have I in Heven But
thee and whome have I in Earth I do desier in Compaction of thee—Earths
but a Sorrey Tent Pitched for a few friel Days A short Seased Tenament
Heavens my song my Praise Oh happy Place when shall it be That I shall
Reign with Christ in thee methinks my soul is now filled with
transporting joy For the Apostle Saith to Romans Belivers that Eye has
not seen nor Ear heard neither has it entered in to the Hart of man to
Conserve what the Lord hath Laid up for those that Love him—Now my Dear
Childern and you my son in pertickler make trile Let Jacobs God and your
aged fathers God be your God Your father that are according to the Flish
has made trile and can Withess for more than forty years he hath a bean a
never failing God and he is the yesterdy to Day and for Ever I E centur
all upon hem are you sick he is a kiend Phisician always redy to viset
you are you Hungary he will feed you For Jesus Christ saith Blessed are
those that Hunger and tirst after Righteousness for they shall be
filled—are you werey and heave laden Jesus Christ saith Come unto me all
ye that are werey and heavey laden with the Burthen of your Sins and I
will give you Rest So we fiend he is Aurse and Good Phisician files not
in time nor Eternity Tharefore I Leave you un to his Blessed Care to wash
us all in that fountans of hiss most Prectous Blood that wase opened on
Moant Calvarey for sin and for uncleanness To wash us both you and me
that soon we may from our sinns be free wich is the sinceare Prayer of
your Aged father

                                                            DAVID SAUNDERS



TO THE MEMORY
OF
DAVID SAUNDERS.


   THY name be honoured, though the
   Historic bard no mention make of thee
   For deeds of prowess on the battle field;
   Nor science nor philosophy a garland drop
   Upon thy brow for vast discoveries in the fields of art;
   Nor record hand thee down to latest age,
   A politician, cunning, crafty, deeply skill’d
   In schools of wily usage, who by tricks
   And fraud, his own or country’s weal extends;
   Or by a lineal descent of princely worthiness
   Didst occupy a throne, or place upon thy head
   A jewell’d coronet.  Thy ignoble birth, thy mean
   Estate, thy humble occupation, thy poverty,
   May perchance excite a laugh, a sneer,
   A scorn; but thou shalt honoured be.
   E’en now the young, the aged shall pronounce
   Thee blest; and when the high and potent
   Things of earth shall sink to dust,—thou!
   Thou shalt shine bright like a star in the
   Cerulean vault! and in the heavenly sphere
   Shalt form a centre of intelligence; while
   Around thee gather thousands yet unborn
   To own thee parent and the consecrated
   Means of all they hope or do enjoy.

      Yes, honoured thou shalt be, for thou
   Didst fear thy God and serve thy generation;
   Thou hast done good service in the noblest
   Cause,—hast fought the direst foe in thine
   Own person; and in the hearts of others didst
   Incite to deadliest hate, not against human
   Kind, but against sin,—the fruitful source
   Of mortal ills, of deep dishonour to the
   God of heaven, the poignancy of sorrow’s tear,
   And the perpetual wailings of the lost.
   The science, the philosophy acquired and
   Taught by thee, was love to God, goodwill to
   Man; while the great mystery brought forth to light
   Was love incarnate, and the grace, the bliss
   That follows from the Cross.  The Cross received
   By faith, a purifying principle within
   The heart,—its light—its life.  This was the policy
   Much prized by thee; how to obtain eternal bliss:
   That bliss thou’st gained, and though to frail
   Morality, allied by common lot, its various
   Ills (perverse inheritance) didst feel; yet
   By the power of sov’reign grace, in thee so strongly
   Shewn, to heaven’s high only Lord thou art affianced;
   And to thee a throne, a crown, a sceptre, and a robe
   Belong,—nay, already are possessed, and ever will
   Be thine; thou shalt still enjoy them when
   Monarchs, kings, and lords, with all their
   Royal pomp shall shrink to nothingness,
   And envy those who poor were rich in faith
   And heirs of God.  Thus may e’en a shepherd
   Gain a lasting true distinction.

      We, the ingatherers of the precious seed
   So long ago cast forth in faith, now honour thee
   As God’s own instrument, by which the awful
   Gloom—spawn of satanic power that here fell
   Thickly—was dispersed.  The eyeball of the
   Blind bid upward look on heaven’s own orbs—
   The Sun of Righteousness, whose heavenly light
   Diffuses through the heart—the vital principle
   Of life.  The deaf to hear the music of the
   Spheres,—nay, His voice that wakes the dead.
   The stammering tongue, the tongue of blasphemy
   And foul deceit, accustom’d to an oath,—to bless
   His name, to speak His praise, or mercy seek
   For sins brought forth to light; or blessings needed
   To continue in the strait and narrow path.
   The troubled heart to find the peace, the joy,
   The hope, the balmy influence springing
   From the life, the death, and exaltation
   Of Him, the sinner’s friend; and here
   Each commence that song sung by
   The ransomed choir of heaven.



SECTION VI.


Immediate Results—Rev. H. GAUNTLETT—Cottage
Services—Persecution—Anecdotes.

OF the immediate results of the Shepherd’s toil (which, owing to the
erratic and wandering character of human existence, “for man continueth
not in any stay,” may be cast to the very ends of the earth), we gather
this much: two of the sons of the owner of the mill were brought to the
knowledge of the truth, and to feel the sanctifying power of religion, so
that the scenes before described, and in which they had largely
participated, were relinquished and abandoned, and a great interest felt
in the growth and promotion of all that was “pure, lovely, and of good
report.”  Of them it could be justly said, “Old things have passed away,
behold all things are become new.”  It was mainly through their
instrumentality a room in the mill was allowed for the meetings for
reading and prayer on the Sabbath mornings.  Another who probably from
this humble teacher beneath this roof first heard the simple tale of the
scenes of Calvary as revealed in the Gospel, of him it might be said, in
the language of God to Cyrus, which will be manifest as we proceed, “I
have called thee, though thou hast not known me.”  Having engaged, by his
intelligent look and manner (which for one in his situation was
considerable) the attention and notice of the lady at Clyffe Hall, Mrs.
Vince, she advised him to devote his entire time and attention to study
for the office of the public ministry; for this purpose he placed himself
under the instruction of Dr. Stonehouse, at Cheverill (before referred
to), and, after continuing there a suitable time, obtained ordination
(the qualifications for which were not so high as at the present time),
he became curate at Imber and Tilshead.  On one or two occasions he
preached in the church of this place.  His discourses, though not
evangelical, were much superior in quality to that usually afforded, and
excited considerable attention: this may in some measure be accounted for
by the spirit of inquiry that had resulted from the labours of the
shepherd.

He afterwards was led to clearer views of Divine truth, which vastly
enlarged his sphere of usefulness, and made him a great blessing, not
only in his own parish, but in the neighbourhood around, and when we find
that he frequently attended the meetings afterwards held in the cottages
to be named, there cannot be a doubt but he was made a chosen vessel of
mercy.  Having on one of those days denominated Saint’s days, probably
being disengaged from personal duty, come over to Lavington to hear the
vicar, it is remembered after the service visiting his father, then
living, his mind was in a remarkably perturbed state, and, walking the
room under great excitement, he remarked with solemn emphasis, “If you
continue to hear such preaching as I have heard this morning, and are
satisfied with it, you will all be lost.  The Gospel must be introduced
by some means or other.”  Nor did it rest in mere declamation, for he
with others immediately devised measures for the accomplishment of the
wish; he waited upon the Rev. R. Sloper, of Devizes, and entreated him to
adopt means to introduce the truth.  He afterwards removed to Reading.
It was his lot to experience the truth of the Divine word, “He that will
live godly must suffer persecution.”  When he left Tilshead the ringers,
whether at the instigation of others or not is not certain, rang the
bells to ring him out; and who does not know what that means?  Well had
it been for them to have pondered the kindred spirit manifested by the
Jews when they exclaimed, “His blood be upon us and upon our children.”
He published a work of considerable acumen on the Revelations of St.
John.

As a further confirmation of the good accomplished by these combined
exertions, in which was associated a humble but pious individual of the
name of Wastfield, who resided at Imber, and frequently came over and
preached in the Market Place, on a stone that formerly stood at the
corner of the butcher’s shop, as did also some others whose hearts were
stirred within them, when, like Paul at Athens, they saw the place given
to idolatry of the most debasing character.  Among these was a Mr.
Williams, who was much persecuted, and obtained the cognomen of
“Jehovah,” from his frequent use of that term of the Almighty, and the
“Dearly Beloved,” from his affectionate entreaty when urging home upon
his hearers the momentous concerns of the soul.  From these labours of
faith and love many were aroused to concern; and such “as had tasted that
the Lord was gracious, and felt the powers of the world to come,” made it
their practice to repair regularly to Devizes on the Sabbath morning,
taking with them their provisions for the day, that so they might remain
the afternoon services, “For the Word of God was precious in those days,”
and of them it might literally as well as spiritually be said, “they went
from strength (company) to strength,” each succeeding traveller or group
overtaking the preceding one, until by their mutual blending (and like
the disciples going to Emmaus, they talked of the things concerning their
everlasting welfare by the way; and who can doubt but that their risen
and exalted Lord would commune with them), until at length they appeared
before God in Zion.  But the true effects must be left for time to
develope, and the full extent of the benefit can only be disclosed by the
light of Eternity, when at the last great gathering of the precious
fruits of the Sun it shall be found “this and that man were born here,”
and when the righteous Lord, whose decisions will be according to truth,
shall make up His jewels, and acknowledging the efforts and labours of
His humblest servant, reward every man according to his work.

                   [Picture: Cottage in Parsonage Lane]

It was to be expected that these privileges, though so scanty, and which
were highly prized, should produce in their minds an earnest and growing
desire for the increase of the means of grace to themselves, and also for
the benefit of those around them, especially of their own flesh and
blood, as many would from family and other circumstances be prevented
availing themselves of the public ordinances which they enjoyed.  Now, in
the apostolic writings such a feeling is given as one criterion of a
renewed state, “To do good unto all men, and especially those of the
household of faith;” for them as yet nothing had been prepared; they were
prompted to special exertion, and their first step was to obtain a room
where an evening service in the week could be held, and when they could
obtain the assistance of some minister from the neighbourhood, this was
done, a cottage (chiefly through the instrumentality of the Rev. Mr.
Gauntlett, before alluded to) situated in Parsonage Lane (now in the
occupation of Hannah Love, a member of the Church) was obtained, William
Smith was then the occupant: here, it is believed, a regular service was
commenced.  Such proceedings excited in the public mind warm and bitter
persecution.  “The enemies of all righteousness, the children of Belial,”
manifested open hostility, every method was devised to upset their
proceedings.  They injected into the room where they were assembled,
through every available avenue, various substances of filth, disgusting
and fœtid effluvium, as rotten eggs, stale wash, asafoetida, &c.  In this
honourable employment the exciseman stationed here was one of the most
violent and bitter.  The people dwelling next door, themselves hostile to
religion, were open aiders and abettors, being prevailed upon by the gift
of spirits and malt liquor to increase the annoyance by pouring these
filthy accumulations down the chimney.  Finding that the friends amid all
these assaults displayed no disposition to retreat or yield, but an
heroic determination in humble reliance on the Great Head of the Church
to maintain their ground, and, if possible, make inroads upon the
territory of the Prince of darkness, they proceeded a step further,
blocking up the ventilation, and darkening the apertures for light,
assailing them with all the known but indescribable sounds of discord,
both vocal and instrumental, uttering the most disgusting and opprobrious
epithets, and insulting them personally as they came to and fro.  Still,
no cry for quarter, no compromise was even whispered by the followers of
the despised Redeemer, they not only remembered it was uttered by Him
when on the earth, “If they persecute me they will also persecute you,”
and “these things will they do unto you because they know not the Father
nor me,” but they counted it an honour to share in His sufferings.

The storm, without losing any of its general character or being drawn off
or diverted from the associated body, made itself felt in its individual
power.  The ties of family connexions, of friendship and acquaintance,
and even of business transactions, were broken up; and where before the
nod of recognition, the hand of friendship, and the salute of
relationship was given, now the sly averted look, the curled lip, the
knitted brow, told plainly and unmistakeably the bitterness of spirit,
the malevolence of soul dwelling within; but upon none did it beat with
more violence and vehemence than the humble tenant of the house, who soon
felt it in its own native malignity, and that, too, with the sanction and
influence of parties moving in the so-called respectable walks of life,
by which they sought to crush and ruin him.  What pleasure does the
carnal mind feel when, under the direct control of the god of this world,
it vents its venom on those who, by their life, portray a virtue of which
the other cannot boast?  He was required either to discontinue the
services in his house or to give up possession, supposing thus to cow the
spirit of one whose daily maintenance depended on his honest toil.  They
had recourse to promises, persecutions, threats, and intimidation.  He
manifested the true spirit of Christian heroism, for although he never
exhibited what some would term a decided proof of a renewed heart, being
of a timid and retiring temperament, rather courting the secluded shade
than the open blaze of publicity, which rendered the temptation more
fierce and trying, yet his unimpeachable rectitude, his moral propriety,
his constant and lively interest in the prosperity and progress of the
cause, his steady adherence to it through the fiery ordeal, and his happy
death, justify the conclusion that silently the sacred seed had
vegetated; and ultimately he received the end of his faith, the salvation
of the soul.  Alluding to the fact here stated, when visited in his last
affliction and in the near views of eternity, he expressed himself
thankful that he was not allowed to yield to the temptation, but was
enabled to do as he had done, for with the Apostle “he conferred not with
flesh and blood.”  Conscience dictated and he obeyed her voice, gave up
the cottage regardless of ulterior consequences (for he had been told by
his employer that he should visit with his heavy displeasure his
persistance in such conduct), and having one of his own in White Street,
which stood on the site of Mr. Hayward’s surgery, he removed thither,
carrying the ark of God with him, thus nobly consecrating his house to
the service of religion.  Was not this the spirit of the ancient believer
who said, “As for me and my house we will serve the Lord”?  What an
example is here presented, a noble sacrifice worthy of all honour, which
nothing but the conviction of the goodness of the cause in which he was
embarked could enable him to fulfil.  Verily the blessing he sought he
was permitted to realize, for “God, who is not unrighteous to forget the
work of faith and labour of love,” has left it on record for all to the
end of time, “Them that honour me I will honour.”  He was afterwards
elected to the office of clerk and sexton of the chapel, which he filled
with credit for several years; dying in a good old age in the year 1847.

The vicar being determined to suppress these irregular proceedings, as he
denominated them, probably imagining as all clergymen do, they are the
only authorised instructors of the people, used all his influence, and
having secretly encouraged those low assaults previously recorded, but
which to his chagrin had been unable to shake them from their purpose,
now proceeded to open remonstrance.  He placed a person to watch the
arrival of the expected minister, who from some cause or other had been
delayed; his anxiety to do what he thought God’s service, got the better
of his patience, or perhaps fearing his emissary might fall under the
evil influence of bad example, repaired thither himself.  The person
acting as precentor had commenced the service by singing, and was
preparing to read the Scriptures, when he was stopped by the rev.
gentleman (who had no fear of being cited into the Ecclesiastical court
for brawling) and severely reprimanded for his conduct, and admonished to
go home and not disturb the quiet of the place by such disorderly
proceedings.  By this time the minister had arrived, and the intruder,
either alarmed at his antagonist, or, it is to be hoped, ashamed of his
conduct, withdrew, and left the assembly to the enjoyment of their
evening’s exercise.  The following day he was waited upon by two
Dissenting ministers from Devizes, and in his turn received reproof and
admonition.  Not at all relishing the interview, he made it as brief as
possible, and gladly bowed them from under his roof, remarking to some
one near, “If they preach as they talk, I do not wonder the people go to
hear them.”  Satisfied with one visit he never coveted or sought another,
and though he did not approve, he would not again by his own overt acts
bring himself into collision with them.  Well had it been for him to have
learned wisdom of the Jewish Sanhedrim, “Let these men alone, for if the
work be of God ye cannot overthrow it, lest haply ye be found to fight
against God.”

A blacksmith in White Street, a worshipper of the jolly god, Bacchus, on
one occasion, after the indulgence of copious potations, entered the
place where they were assembled, and endeavoured to interupt the service.
Having come in the extreme liberality and charity of his warm heart
earnestly to expostulate with what he considered the deluded people,
especially the minister, whom he evidently imagined to act under the
impulse of sordid motives, begging him not to disturb the peace of the
village, saying, “If it is want that leads you so to act, here,” said he,
and accompanying the word with peculiar action, he drew from under his
leathern apron or some capacious pocket a large piece of bacon, adding,
“If you want something to eat, here is some for you.”  We can only hope
that he may have been brought to see and know that “Man cannot live by
bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.”



SECTION VII.


The encouragement from neighbouring Ministers—A Church formed—First
members—Sabbath schools—Chapel purchased—Opening sources—Separation—First
pastor—Enlargement, second and third pastors.

THIS little despised band of Christians, amid all the evil influences at
work for their dispersion, were much encouraged by the continued success
that attended them.  Had the Established Church provided better spiritual
food it is probable the growth of Dissent at best would have been very
slow and weak; and had she, instead of the bitterness everywhere
manifested, employed more conciliatory means, it would have tended
materially to retard the progress of events, which the course pursued
rather accelerated by producing conviction of error, and hence leading to
a perusal of that volume which is and ever will be the only statute book
of the court of hearers, to which duty they were specially and earnestly
directed for a solution of all difficulties, a solver of all doubts, and
the only safe guide in all practical matters.  They were much encouraged
and assisted by many of the ministers from the surrounding Churches.  The
Rev. Robert Sloper, of Devizes, who especially took the infant cause
under his fostering wing, and hence during his ministry regarded it as
part and parcel of his own particular charge,—a kind of out-station to
the Church of that place.  Mr. Honeywell, of Melksham, was also very kind
to them, visiting and encouraging them as often as his duties at home
would allow.  Mr. Jackson, of Warminster, and Mr. Sibree, of Frome, were
frequent visitors here.  The latter would invariably have a service on
the Monday morning early before he returned home; and it is believed was
the means of doing much good.  And there was the then youthful Jay, of
Christian Malford, a name that will doubtless continue in the remembrance
of the Christian Church for years to come.  Some of his earliest pulpit
productions were delivered here; he consequently ever after felt a deep
interest in its progress and prosperity.

“So mightily grew the word of God and prevailed,” that about this time
several persons of respectability were induced to attend; doubtless
various motives were in operation—some were attracted by the juvenility
of the preacher, Mr. Jay; others with the simple yet melting piety of Mr.
Sibree; and a third class would desire to hear what this new doctrine or
sect was which was everywhere spoken against; of many it will be
remarked, they were in the way, and the Lord met them—“a timid, feeble,
youthful hand may pull the string, but an Unseen One guideth the arrow,”
brought to a saving knowledge of the truth; they “laid hold of the skirts
of Him that was a Jew saying, we will go with you for God is with you,”
and cast in their lot with his people.

An onward course was now imperative; the next step was to organize a
Christian Church—a good sign when it springs not from the spirit of
faction and wish to appear something but from a healthy action—a desire
to keep the commands of Christ, and become local centres of influence,
lights to diffuse the Gospel.  Such we trust were the feelings that
animated the first band here—a desire to promote their own individual
well-being and the glory of God.  Their tried and constant friend, Mr.
Sloper, met them in conference, and making every proper inquiry, agreed
to form them into a distinct body.  Having laid before them the laws of
Christ, the Great Head of the Church, by which they were to be governed,
and to regulate their daily conduct, walk, and conversation, promising to
preside over them whenever his duties at home would allow.  The following
persons then gave and received of each other the right hand of
fellowship:—

Mr. RICHARD WARD.                   Mr. JOSEPH WARD.

Mrs. WARD.                          Mrs. ANN WARD.

Mr. WM. MOOR.                       Mr. JOHN GAUNTLETT.

Mrs. MARY MOOR.                     Mrs. MARY GAUNTLETT.

                                    Miss ANN GAUNTLETT.

The two last-named persons are the only ones remaining, the rest are, in
the language of the Apostle, “fallen asleep in Christ.”  Miss Ann
Gauntlett is a member of the Church assembling at Argyle Chapel, Bath,
lately under the pastoral care of the now sainted WILLIAM JAY: the other
continues a member of the Church here.

                         [Picture: Old Parsonage]

In the year following, feeling their strength increase, “waxing stronger
and stronger,” they proceeded to make provision for the young around
them, fully entering into the spirit of that great truth which has since
been so extensively carried out, viz., “that the future hope of the
Christian Church must be the young,” they opened a school on the Sabbath
for boys in the bakehouse of Mr. Gauntlett, the corner of Parsonage Lane,
under the joint supervision of that gentleman and Mr. Joseph Ward, and
one for girls at the old parsonage house, a little way up the lane, where
Miss Saunders had a seminary for young ladies.  This lady took the
superintendence of that department: what were the numbers of the pupils
and teachers there is now no record.  These things continued until the
purchase of the chapel, and the schools were removed thither, when Mr.
Saunders (who with his sister about this time joined the Church) took the
superintendency of the whole.

We cannot suffer an occasion like the present to pass without according
to the memory of that gentleman the respect due to him for those
efficient services he rendered.  The energy of mind, the business-like
habits, the sanctified talent, the spontaneous generosity, the
unflinching rectitude, and the unwavering firmness which so strikingly
formed his character, he brought to bear upon the prosperity not only of
the school, which for forty years he presided over with unvarying
regularity and constancy, never during that lengthened period been five
minutes beyond his time, but the cause of the Redeemer generally, which
in its various departments found in him a warm supporter, and especially
that part of it with which he was immediately connected as an office
bearer.  Many now risen to take part in the activities of life can bear
testimony to the tender amenities, the affectionate solicitude,
persevering and patient assiduity by which his instructions were
characterised.  We deeply deplore those events and circumstances which,
under the mysterious arrangements of Divine Providence, have withdrawn
the several members of his family from this locality, and thus denied the
Church of one of his descendants upon whom the Paternal mantle might have
fallen to supply his place, and hand down his name, zeal, piety, and
energy to future generations.  We trust that that family will continue to
feel a deep and lasting interest in the prosperity of this our Zion.

From the continued accessions made and the decline of those prejudices
and animosities which had so long vexed them from without, it became
absolutely necessary that increased accommodation should be provided.
Numerous difficulties at first presented themselves, every attempt to
obtain suitable premises or a plot of ground eligible for the erection of
a chapel was abortive.  After waiting some time, the meeting-house
belonging to the Friends before referred to, situate at the east end of
the town, was to be disposed of: such a favourable opening naturally
created a wish to possess the long-desired boon.  A correspondence upon
the subject was opened, and after due deliberation and counsel it was
determined to embrace the offer, and the property was delivered over in
trust for the especial use and service of the Church and congregation,
under the denomination of Independents, of the Pædo-baptist persuasion,
subject to certain conditions as to the right of the Friends to its use
occasionally if required.  These documents, with subsequent ones, are now
placed in the custody of the County Association, who have provided a safe
repository for such papers.  It was a square building built of rough
stone, having brick quoins, and a brick front on one side abutting on the
street, a narrow lane conducting to a cottage running at the back, the
other side and front standing in the graveyard, enclosed with a stone
wall; the admeasurement of which is 23 ft. by 39 ft., that of the
building 33 ft. by 22 ft.  Some considerable alteration was requisite to
fit it for its intended purpose, a pulpit and desk being necessary; these
having been accomplished, the place was opened by two public services;
that in the morning by the Rev. Josiah Bull, of Newport Pagnell, and that
in the evening by their warm friend, the Rev. William Jay, then settled
at Bath.  Most of the neighbouring ministers attended and united with
them in the joy of that auspicious event,—the possession of a sanctuary
of their own.  They still continued dependant on foreign aid for the
supply of the pulpit until about the year 1806, when the question of a
regular established pastorate was mooted, especially as their much and
deservedly esteemed friend felt the infirmities of advancing age coming
upon him, so as to require additional help at home.  The Rev. R. Sloper
was unable to give them that assistance so desirable.  This subject was
one calculated to produce disunion, and painful as it is to contemplate,
yet justice requires it should be told,—sad proof of the imperfection of
human nature, even under the professed sanctifying power of the Gospel,
the truth so long foretold by the Apostle became exemplified, “Whereas
there are among you divisions, and strifes, and contentions.  For while
one of you saith, I am of Paul, and another, I of Apollos, and I of
Cephas, and I of Christ, are ye not carnal?”—it ultimated in open rupture
and separation, not only of the Church and congregation, but also of the
Sabbath school, under Mr. Christopher Garrett, who withdrew, he and his
followers, to a cottage situated in the lane near the weighing engine.  A
barn which stood near was afterwards pulled down, and the cottage
enlarged to the size of the present building, from that time known as the
lower chapel.  The separatists have continued a distinct body of close
communionists holding Baptist principles, from whom have since seceded
the other body assembling in the new chapel in White Street, erected by
Miss Husband.

In the year 1809, the portion of the Church that remained at what was
then denominated the Upper Meeting, still desirous of a settled minister,
chose Mr. Richard Ward, one of their number, and called him to the sacred
office of pastor.  Considering it desirable to his standing among the
ministers, they proceeded to a public designation of him, and invited the
pastors of neighbouring Churches to unite with them and recognise the
mutual engagement.  The usual and varied services were gone through
embodying the profession of faith, the principles of Dissent, the nature
of the Gospel Church, the imposition of hands, and the charge to the
minister elect, with advice to the Church, in which various parties were
engaged.  He continued to labour among them with great acceptance until
the year 1818, when the infirmities of age coming upon him, he
relinquished his office.  The attendance was much increased under his
ministry, and several were added to the Church.  It was during this
period an addition was made of a gallery, which was soon filled, and an
enlargement of the building rendered necessary; this was accomplished to
the extent of 20 ft., its now present dimensions, rendering it capable of
accommodating about 500 persons.  By these alterations a heavy debt was
incurred, and remained a burden until the time of the Rev. T. Sturgess,
in the year 1829.  Mr. Ward lived several years after his resignation,
and died in 1839, full of years and faith; he was interred in the burying
ground adjoining, nearly opposite the lower door.

                      [Picture: Independent Chapel]

He was followed by the Rev. Mr. Slade, a young man who was educated for
the ministry at the Dissenting College at Newport Pagnell, under the Rev.
Josiah Bull; and in the year 1818 was ordained according to the usual
manner among the Churches of the denomination, but only continued with
them till when, from an inability to please some who were fastidious, he
resigned, and removed to Corsham, where he has continued ever since with
comfort and honour to himself and advantage to the people of his charge.
May he long continue, be made an increasing blessing, and with them
richly enjoy the benediction of the Great Head of the Church.

In the following year the Rev. John Guard, then supplying Portland
Chapel, Bath (a new Independent interest which it was attempted to raise
to meet the wants of the extensive population of that city, but from the
want of encouragement in certain quarters failed) was, from the
recommendation and with the advice of the Rev. Wm. Jay, invited as a
supply and, being approved of, he was requested to accept the vacant
pastorate: he entered upon it in the year and continued to fill it till
1827, being constrained through the occurrence of some trying and
unpleasant circumstances to relinquish his charge.  Although he passed
through the ordeal unscathed and with a clear conscience, yet he was much
bowed down in his spirit, and felt his soul keenly sensitive, deeply
lacerated.  From hence he removed to Wickwar, in Gloucestershire, where
he remained a few years, then went into Hampshire, where the cause being
in a very low and unpromising state, and there appearing but very little
prospect of its reviving, he did not remain long, but removed to
Mavagessy, in Cornwall.  How long he continued here is not exactly known.
The next account of him is, that he returned to Overton, in Hampshire,
and soon after terminated his trying pilgrimage.

The removal of this servant of the Most High had an injurious effect upon
the cause.  The circumstances alluded to produced a great convulsion; the
Church became divided, part spake one thing and part another, these
bitter waters of strife ended in a temporary separation, and those who
left occupied a room near the weighing engine.  The Rev. Thos.  Williams,
who about twenty years before had visited the town and preached in the
Market Place, then residing in London, was visited by an influential
member of that party, with whom he had previously become acquainted,
invited to come down, and settle among them, which he did, although he
afterwards much regretted that step, being, as he said, misled in the
representations made to him as to the state of affairs.  The pulpit at
the chapel being filled by casual supplies and some of the resident
friends, after about six months the breach was healed, and the two
parties re-united, when Mr. Williams became the pastor of the whole body.
Unhappily the calm was of a treacherous character, and the sky soon put
on a very portentous and ominous appearance.  The echo of discord broke
upon the ear, and instead of the sweets of harmony and heavenly
fellowship, a union of purpose and aim, the unhallowed conflict and
strife of party domination, so uncongenial to increase of grace, became
apparent; the good man’s peace of mind was destroyed, and his usefulness
impaired.  After remaining a little more than a year, he closed his
engagements with them, and withdrew to the lower chapel.  He died in the
year 1835, and was buried in the ground belonging to that place.  A
tablet was erected within the chapel to his memory.



SECTION VIII.


Cross-roads chapel—Ebenezer chapel—Fourth pastor—Chancery suit—Debt
paid—Fifth, sixth, seventh, and eighth pastors—Improvements—Jubilee.

IT was about this time and in some measure owing to the above proceedings
that the chapel at Littleton (known as the Cross-roads meeting) was
erected upon the site of a cottage and grounds purchased for that
purpose, which was put in trust for the use of the Independents, and
though never actually attached to the cause at Market Lavington, yet
mainly dependant upon the friends of that place and occasionally supplied
by the minister, its chief reliance is upon lay agency.  A proposal was
made to take it under the direction of the church here (in 1854), as it
was thought likely to promote its success, but as opposition was made
thereto by one of the trustees, the attempt was relinquished, and they
are left to their own resources.

From this, in the year 1839, a party seceded and formed themselves into a
distinct body embracing Baptist views, and built Ebenezer chapel upon
ground given by the Earl of Radnor.  They have never been able to
maintain a minister, but are dependant upon lay agency.

In the year 1829, an invitation was sent to the Rev. Thomas Sturgess,
then settled at Melksham, requesting him to supply the pulpit at
Lavington; at the termination of his probationary visit, he was requested
to settle over them.  He complied and took up his abode among them.
Alas! how varied are the forms of evil, and how diverse are the phases in
which it can appear; just as are the dispositions of the human mind so
will there be found an adaptation in error, in perfect accordance with
the nature of the reptile so fitly chosen as an emblem of the author of
all evil, “The serpent,” as one of our poets has expressed it, “takes a
thousand forms to cheat our soul to death,” compression or dilation, the
assumption of any device or colour, just as suits his purpose, so that
the progress of truth be impeded.  We have before noted how one after
another of the servants of Christ have been constrained, by sinful
perversity of their people, with wounded hearts and streaming eyes, to
vacate their post; but now the scene somewhat changes, and the cause is
to be assailed in a more vulnerable point.  Ruin hovers over it, and how
deliverance is to be obtained or from what quarter it is to come is a
mystery.  The debt arising from the enlargement in the time of the first
pastor, and which had been suffered to continue, presses upon them, and
assumes the form of a Chancery law suit: the property is attached, and
the people are quite inadequate to combat it; but as all who are
acquainted with law well know that as far as the defendant is concerned,
it admits of no delay, but if allowed, like a leech, will glut itself
with the very vitals of life.  The people put forth their utmost efforts,
and then made application to the Wilts Association of Independent or
Congregational Churches for assistance.  Having no funds available for
this purpose at their disposal, they recommended the case to the Churches
of Christ generally—the minister of the place travelling the county to
solicit their aid.  It was his privilege soon to realise the object which
enabled him to discharge the debt by which the suit was stayed.  He
remained till 1834, when he removed to Marlborough, where he continued
some time, then left for Sidmouth, and afterwards for Collumpton.  In a
few years he relinquished the stated ministry, and removed to the North
of England.  For the space of two years they remained without a shepherd,
in a great measure arising from the diversity of temperament the human
mind everywhere exhibits, and in no case more so than in matters of
religion, especially in the democratic cast of the Dissenting Churches,
which is an evil to be deplored, as too often affording to one individual
the opportunity of governing a Church through the power of influence
exerted over minds incompetent to a just discrimination of things; yet,
when compared with the other evil resulting from the concentration of
power in one individual, in the form of patronage is much to be
preferred, as less likely to be injurious to truth.  To the reflecting
mind, the fact herein advanced will receive abundant confirmation in the
diversity of creeds and professions with which the Christian world
abounds, causing more animosity and heart-burning than any thing else,
and from which very few Churches have escaped.  During this interregnum
their reliance was chiefly upon neighbouring ministers and what lay
agency could be made available, which, unless judiciously employed, will
of itself be productive of evil, by exalting some aspiring mind beyond
his proper sphere.

In 1836, the Rev. John Young was recommended and at their invitation
settled among them, but after about twelve months’ residence, owing to
some unpleasant affair of a personal nature, he deemed it advisable to
retire.  Recourse was then had to ministerial friends far and near, and
that for the space of about five years; during which they enjoyed
comparative quietness and prosperity.  In 1841, those who preferred a
resident ministry to the dissipating mode of mere supplies (which,
however pleasing to such as admire variety, is not the best for promoting
true genuine piety and a steady progress in the path of holiness; nor is
it calculated to foster some of the sweetest and tenderest of
associations—those between pastor and people), made an effort to realize
their wish; when the Rev. J. S. Gilbert was chosen to be their minister
with very encouraging prospects; but the fairest day may have its clouds.
A misunderstanding arose relative to his ordination; and although every
means were used to overcome the difficulties—much as his friends
regretted the issue, seeing he was not likely to be comfortable, they
advised him to withdraw, and with great reluctance he complied.  The
managers, for by that name the officers were known, opened a
correspondence with the Rev. C. P. Hobbs, of Highbury College; though at
first he manifested a disinclination to accept the call to the pastorate,
eventually he agreed, and was ordained in the year 1842.  During his
ministry the cause rose to a very respectable position, but the varying
atmosphere became again overcast and agitated from a quarter unexpected
and unlooked for.  Mr. Hobbs’s views of church polity which he publicly
professed at his ordination underwent a complete revolution; he therefore
resigned in the early part of 1849, and conformed to the Established
Church: he settled at Liverpool, but has since removed to the
neighbourhood of London; and our hope is he may be made an extensive and
lasting blessing.  At the close of the year the Rev. C. B. Holder took
the charge and remained until 1853, when, from some unexplained cause, he
followed in the wake of his predecessor; and after for a time vacillating
between the Establishment and Dissent, as the fane of interest varied, he
at last accepted the office of Scripture Reader under the Bishop of
Manchester, with the promise of eventual ordination.

The secession of these successive pastors, after solemn averment of
having well considered the opposite principles of Church government, and
selecting that from conviction of its scriptural truthfulness, was very
naturally calculated to shake and overturn the faith of many, and give
cause for rejoicing to their enemies.  The removal and death of some of
their warmest and best friends about the same time tended very much to
depress the Church and engender a state of languor.  But hopes are
entertained that the tide has turned, the crisis passed, and an amendment
commenced.  The present number of members is fifty.  It had been the wish
of many of the friends for a considerable time past to improve the
singing, and if possible to avoid those fruitful sources of evil which
many a devout mind has had to deplore and too often caused discord, by
the erection of an organ.  The promising appearances which have arisen
since the settlement of the present minister (this took place at the fall
of the year 1853), seemed to afford a favourable opportunity for its
accomplishment.  A committee was accordingly formed for this express
purpose; and after a general canvass so much encouragement was
experienced, that terms were entered into for one every way suitable for
the sum of £40.  Steps were immediately taken for its erection, and it
was opened in December of the same year, when sermons from Psalm xlvii.
7, were preached by the pastor.  The ladies of the congregation exerted
themselves to provide new cushions for the pulpit and desk, and curtains
for the organ gallery and windows.  About the same time a pupil of the
minister’s, by the productions of his pencil, not only gratified the
friends with drawings of the interior and exterior of the chapel, but by
the sale of these purchased a hot-air stove, which he presented to the
Church.

On Good Friday, April 6th, 1855, a balance remaining as a debt for
alterations necessary, and the period of a little over fifty years having
elapsed from the first establishment of the Church, a jubilee tea-meeting
was held, which was very numerously and respectably attended: a great
many friends came from Devizes and the neighbourhood around.  The place
was tastefully decorated with evergreens for the occasion.  At the back
of the pulpit was placed a perpendicular rectangle, in the centre of
which was suspended the quotation of Scripture, Heb. xiii. 7, 8.  On
either side of the pulpit were arches with similar inscriptions, taken
from Ps. cxxii. 7, and Ps. lxxxiv., 1.  In front of the pulpit was hung a
drawing of the shepherd, on the frame of which was:—“The memory of the
just is blessed,” the date of his birth and death with his age.  In front
of the organ, was a double arch with single mottoes of “Fear God,”
“Honour the King.”  The pillars of the gallery having branches of laurel
were surmounted with similar inscriptions of,—“Love the brotherhood,”
“Honour all men,” “Unity, and dwell in love.”  About 200 sat down to tea
at four o’clock; after ample justice had been done to the abundant repast
provided, a public meeting was held, when George W. Anstie, Esq., of
Devizes, was invited to preside.  The pastor read the history now given,
which was received with marked approval; he also exhibited the pocket
bible of the shepherd and two manuscript letters lent for the occasion;
after which several persons addressed the meeting.



CONCLUSION


MAY the Great Head of the Church, whose gracious Providence has so long
watched over this interest, and through the fires of persecution—the
troublous waters of discord—the agitation of envy and prejudice—brought
it to its present position, vouchsafe His high and holy benediction, that
Pastor and People in all their works of faith and labours of love may
combine in the unity of the Spirit a holy brotherhood, contend not for
Diotrephian supremacy, but for the “faith once delivered to the saints,”
and aim to perpetuate the cause of the Redeemer, whose beginning though
small has in its progress received marks of His divine hand, that
generations yet to come, while they do honour to the memory of the Pious
Shepherd of Salisbury Plain, may be folded by each under pastor, and at
last owned by him the great Shepherd of the Sheep, when each local
society of believers shall, by the powerful and purifying influence of
“the Truth,” lose each minor peculiarity which now marks them, and
generate a spirit of separation, unite in one universal, redeemed, and
glorified Church, to place upon the head of their adored Redeemer the
diadem of many crowns, uniting in the hosanna of a happy universe,
saying, “Thou art worthy, for Thou hast redeemed us to God by Thy blood.
To Him be glory, honour, majesty, and power for ever.”

                                * * * * *

                                 THE END.

                                * * * * *

                                * * * * *

          FREDERICK A. BLAKE, Printer and Bookbinder, Salisbury.



FOOTNOTE.


{13}  1 Cor. i. 27–29.





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