Religious Conflict in Canewdon 200 Years Ago.

Baptists attracted local opposition

By B Meldon

In today’s multi-cultural society it is hard to think of the small village of Canewdon as a place for religious conflict but 200 years ago this was indeed the case.

By the year 1814 Rev. Mr. Austin had collected a small Baptist congregation in Canewdon and these so called ‘non conformists’ had started to attract some local opposition.

The protests had started in a small way with mild comments of disapproval and general taunting of those involved but this had no effect. So on September 11th some thirty protesters assembled outside the Baptist meeting house in Canewdon and using ‘horrid noises and more horrid imprecations’ they managed to interrupt the service inside.
On October 30th one individual, described in reports as the ‘ring leader’ took things a step further and entered the meeting house, insulted the minister and assaulted members of the congregation, this compelled them to discontinue their religious service.

This individual was subsequently arrested, but quickly found bail and on returning to the village boasted of his actions and the lack of any punishment. This however was a bit premature as indictments were soon prepared against him and several witnesses arranged to attend court to give evidence. Realising his position and the penalties that could well be coming his way, he gave up his resolve, acknowledged his guilt and supplicated pardon.

In the end he had to pay Rev. Mr. Austin £5 to be distributed to the poor of the parish and £10 towards expenses incurred, back in 1815 £15 was a considerable sum. In addition he had to sign an apology that was then inserted in two county wide newspapers, the intention being ‘the encouragement of other ministers and for the terror of other offenders’.

Historical reference:
The Monthly Repository of Theology & General Literature. Volume 10. 1815. Page 383.

A previous version of this article was published in the September/October 2011 edition of  ‘The Broomstick’ the official journal of Canewdon Community Association & Village Hall.

This page was added by Brian Meldon on 20/06/2014.
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