The theme for #52Ancestors this week is Worship. I thought I would take a look at my tree and find the clues to how many of my ancestors were non conformists. My family attended an Open Brethren Chapel in Hailsham whilst we were growing up. But where did our ‘dissenting’ come from?
My maternal grandparents were also Open Brethren, part of the Plymouth Brethren movement. My grandfather, Ronald Pilbeam was one of the leaders of a small chapel, The Rest Gospel Hall, in Punnetts Town, near Heathfield which is now a Christian Outreach Centre. It was planted out by the Assembly at Maynards Green, the other side of Heathfield. I know that a Great Aunt, Eva Pilbeam wrote an account of the history ‘Growing up under the shelter of the Maynards Green Assembly’, copy of which is held at the East Sussex Record Office and hopefully one day I will get over there to read it, now that Covid is over.
I presume that my great grandparents George Charles Pilbeam and his wife Naomi were members too. Before that I am not sure where the family worshipped although I know that they along with 3 other generations of my family are buried at the Independent Chapel at Cade Street, Heathfield. This is a famous white building of the mid 1700s, a bit grand for an independent chapel and is reputed to have been used as a navigation aid by mariners on the sea. Amongst the gravestones I can find many ancestors and forebears that I either knew or were from before my time but appear on my tree.
My maternal grandmother belonged to the Lingfield Mission Room with her parents and siblings, her and grandad were married there in 1937. Unfortunately I was unable to find anything on Google about it. Something to add to the list for searching.
My x4 great grandfather James Vincent and his wife Sarah on my maternal grandfather’s side chose to have a number of their children baptised at Providence Chapel in Staplefield near Cuckfield which was an Independent Chapel. Four of the children were all baptised together on 18 November 1821, the year the chapel was founded. The register starts
‘In an Independent Congregation, worshipping
in Providence Chapel, Staplefield. In the parish
of Cuckfield, in the County of Sussex. The
Church formed in the year of Our Lord
The Minister Edmund Greenfield’
Amongst the Deacons is mentioned James Vincent.
The couple had a further 4 children, all baptised at Providence Chapel. The last child, Jesse Vincent born 1831 later emigrated to Salt Lake City in Utah, USA.
That is the result of just some quick searching of my family tree and it would appear that nonconformity was strong certainly on the side of maternal grandparent’s lines. There are probably others waiting to be found.