Rural religions

HMS Neptune
HMS Neptune

In the history of the village of Swanborne, mention is made in the 1660s that George Deverell, a yeoman, allowed his house to be used as a non-conformist meeting place, where “not above twenty mean people are taught by William Giles, a shopkeeper, and Hartnoll, a thatcher.”

The latter of these two men, who lived in North Marston, was well-known as one of the leading Baptists in north Buckinghamshire.

Then, in later years, other people opposed to the established religion took an interest in the village.

However this early influence was not appreciated by one newly-arrived landowner, a Captain Thomas Fremantle.

In 1801, whilst engaged on naval duties, he wrote to his wife: “I am quite annoyed to hear you have got some Methodist preachers in the village; I wish they were here for an hour or two.

“I shall make a point of bowling them out of the line when I return.”

This was not Captain Fremantle’s only history of “bowling out of line” - on October 19, 1805, he commanded the warship HMS Neptune when it was part of Lord Nelson’s fleet at the Battle of Trafalgar.

The non-conformists continued the progress locally.

At Nearton End a small red brick Primitive Methodist chapel was constructed in 1858, only to be demolished in 1906, and then rebuilt in 1907.

As for the Baptists, their original chapel, built in 1809 along Mursley Road, would be rebuilt in 1863 to accommodate a potential congregation of 150.

Undoubtedly the early days of non-conformity had witnessed a great deal of religious acrimony. Yet it seems that by 1987 a mutual tolerance had developed, for at the celebrations of Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee it was reported that “Church and dissent were at one.”