Zion Baptist Church
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A brief history of Zion Baptist Church

The story of Zion Baptist Church begins in 1813 when the first meeting was held in an upstairs room in Wicker Hill, Trowbridge.

John Warburton

John Warburton was the first - and most famous - pastor of that fledgling church. Even today people come from all over the world to visit 'Mr Warburton's church'.

He arrived in April 1815, and soon the meeting room became too small for the hundreds of people who came to the services.

So it was decided that a new purpose-built chapel was needed. The new chapel and the land it stood on cost £1,232, and the building was opened in 1816.

zion church photo from 1913

All the members of the church helped financially in whatever way they could - from the wealthiest loans to penny subscriptions from the poor. By this time there were up to a thousand people in the congregation, all flocking to hear John Warburton's preaching.

Much of the income for the church came from renting out the seats. Pew rental continued for many more years of the church's life. In fact, it was not until 1962 that the rents were done away with.

In 1863 a hall was built to accommodate the growing Sunday School. The church also had a substantial renovation in the 1870s.


In the early days, baptisms took place in the open air and there were as many as twenty-four people baptised at a time - usually in the canal at Hilperton Marsh or Ladydown.

Even larger crowds would gather to watch these services than filled the chapel. As time went on, however, it became clear there were problems using the canal - it was not very clean. So an indoor baptistry was built within the church - and is still there today - hidden under the pulpit.

There has always been a strong tradition at Zion of working with children and young people. A Sunday School was started in 1828, and one of the teachers in those early days was one Isaac Pitman - later to become the father of modern shorthand. For many years there was both a morning and afternoon school. Children attending the Sunday morning school were expected to attend the morning service in the chapel. Some obviously had other ideas - there are stories of teachers standing at the end of the path to stop the youngsters escaping!

The Sunday School was still going in 2001 but, by that time, numbers were dropping off quite drastically. It was relaunched in September 2001 when a Sunday Club for children from three years to young teens was introduced. There has also been a strong tradition of music at the church. Singers originally led the congregational hymns from the gallery; an organ to accompany singing was introduced much later. Today, music is still an important part of the church's worship and there is an active singing group.


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Union Street Trowbridge BA14 8RU
Tel: 01225 752383

Registered Charity 1140359