An (1891) extract about:

History of the General Baptists of Cauldwell & Burton on Trent


CAULDWELL is a pleasant little village in south-west Derbyshire, on the borders of the County of Stafford, four miles from Burton-on-Trent and twelve miles from Lichfield. JOSEPH NORTON, who lived at this place, by attending the services at Packington had been led to know and feel himself a sinner, and then to find salvation by faith in the Lord Jesus. He was soon afterwards baptized and received into fellowship with the church at Melbourne. He was married and had several children at this time, but lived under the parental roof, and was largely dependent upon his father who was a person of property. Unfortunately Mr Norton, senior, was violently, opposed to his son's action in joining the Melbourne church, and threatened, if he did not break off the connection he would turn both him and his wife and young family out of doors. But the father's threats did not produce the effect intended, they only made the son cleave more closely to his Saviour and Lord. He continued to attend the services both at Melbourne and Packington though the former place was twelve and the latter nine miles away from his own village. Nor was he content simply to enjoy the blessings of the gospel himself, but was anxious that his relatives and friends should also be partakers of divine grace. So he laboured hard to persuade them to go with him to Melbourne and Packington; and so successful was he that he sometimes took as many as twenty persons at once to the services, numbers of whom hearing believed unto salvation.

His father, however, was not to be won so easily, and consequently another method had to be adopted to gain him. As he could not be induced to travel to a distant village to hear the gospel it was decided in some way to bring the gospel to him. Knowing his father's prejudice against the Melbourne preachers he arranged with Mr Abraham Austin, of Sutton Coldfield, to come and commence operations. Having thus formed his plan he told his father that Mr Austin intending waiting upon him on such a day, and might perhaps be induced to preach if a proper place could be found; adding, that if he was not prepared to receive him, there was another person in the village who was very willing that the service should be held at his house. This bold and adroit move had the desired effect. The old gentleman's pride was roused; occupying as he did his own estate he did not wish it to be thought that any of his neighbours could act more independently than himself. So he at once replied "Mr Austin shall not seek any other accommodation, but shall preach in my house."

Notice was accordingly given to the neighbours; Mr Austin came, preached to a large and attentive congregation, and won the good opinion of his host. Mr Norton thus encouraged by his father's approbation of Mr Austin's preaching assured him that the Melbourne ministers proclaimed exactly the same truths as those he had heard from this stranger's lips. At length the old man expressed a willingness to hear them, and authorised his son to invite them to Cauldwell. Messrs Francis Smith and Thomas Perkins eagerly accepted the invitation, and without waiting for much pressing repeated their visits. Soon Mr Norton had the great satisfaction of seeing his father's prejudice entirely removed and the truth becoming triumphant. The old man was baptized and joined the church, other followed his example, and a room was licensed for the purpose of regular preaching. At first the services were held once a fortnight, on the Thursday evening, but the favour of the people increasing they were ere long conducted every Lord's day. The room became too small, and it was found necessary to erect a chapel, and Mr Norton, senr., gave them a plot of ground both for that purpose and for a graveyard. The friends exerted themselves liberally, and at the cost of 180 a convenient structure was reared in 1778.

The enemies of gospel truth, however, could not endure that things should go on after this fashion, and so stirred up opposition, the chief force of which was directed against Joseph Norton. They spoke strong words of evil against him, which they followed with actions as bad. But patient persistence in Christian kindness and integrity on the part of the persecuted won the day, so indeed as to further the interests of the Saviour's cause and promote the temporal welfare of those who had suffered loss for Christ. Two years after the opening of the chapel Job Burditt, who has been referred to, was called to the work of ministry, and such success crowned his efforts that in 1785 there were forty members in association with this branch of the church; and these with six others were formed into a separate church. For a short time success followed, but their young and promising pastor being suddenly called away by death the infant church was overwhelmed with dismay and distress. When the friends scarcely knew which way to turn for ministerial help the Lord called out from their very midst the man they needed.

This was CHARLES NORTON the son of the pioneer of the cause. He had been made a partaker of divine grace when only seventeen years of age, and was now twenty-five. He was unanimously called to the work of the ministry, and was sent for a few months to be instructed in ministerial duties by Mr S. Deacon, of Barton. And there is an interesting account in the memoirs of Mr Deacon, recently re-published, of the wise counsel given, and the system of study recommended. Mr Norton was ordained September 16th, 1788. His constitution, however, was not robust, and he suffered much from pains in the head. His great labours and many journeys increased his ailments, and being obliged to travel through a deep fall of snow when he had scarcely recovered from an illness he partially lost his sight while on the road, and in less than a year was totally blind. He had studied his Bible diligently while he had the use of his eyes, and so was able to continue his work for some time, his discourses being experimental and edifying. His health gradually failing he at length on August 6th 1800 passed into the eternal light. His funeral sermon was preached by his old tutor and friend Samuel Deacon - from Hebrews vi, 12. From the Barton church book it appears that during his illness a contribution of several pounds was sent by the friends for his relief. He left a widow and six small children to mourn his loss.

After Mr C. Norton's death the cause remained stationary for many years, and the yearly reports to the Association were of a depressing kind. The supplies for the pulpit were neither regular nor powerful and the church rather declined than progressed. In 1805 the church in a "case" sent to the Association, earnestly requested that a minister might be procured for them as there appeared "a favourable prospect of opening a meeting-house at Burton-upon-Trent," and the recommendation is "to apply to brother William West, a member of the church at Beeston." No favourable settlement, however, was secured until 1808, when Mr J. Pollard, of Swithland, accepted their invitation and went to labour among them. But his anticipations in regard to secular matters not being realised led to his soon leaving them, though very much to their mutual regret. He was succeeded by Mr Jarvis, who in like manner only continued for a brief period, though his ministry was useful while he remained. But in 1813, a bright and cheering alteration occurred. They invited Mr Gamble, from Leicester, to settle over them, and his preaching was greatly blessed. The annual report is jubilant. "Poor Cauldwell can once more lift up her head, and sing aloud for joy. We entreat our brethren to bless the Lord with us for the revival which has taken place among us." After the church had been almost stationary for about twenty-eight years, the membership ranging between forty and forty-six, twenty-six persons were baptized and added to the roll; and by 1816 the number was eighty-two. A brief notice of this pastor is here appended.

THOMAS GAMBLE was born June 14th, 1789, at Belgrave, near Leicester. He was baptized in Friar Lane chapel in that town in September, 1806 and soon sought to make himself useful as a preacher in connection with the village churches round about. His first settlement was at Cauldwell where he remained four years. He removed thence to live at Nottingham, but before long returned to Leicester, and in the summer of 1822 began preaching in Wharf Street. His exertions resulted in the formation of a church and the erection of a sanctuary in Carley Street. He laboured hard for the infant cause, watching over it with parental solicitude, until laid aside by a serious illness which terminated in his death on December 19th 1836, aged forty-seven years. His preaching was evangelical, earnest, and affectionate, and was owned of God both at Cauldwell and at Leicester.

Several attempts were made by the Cauldwell friends to introduce preaching into Burton-on-Trent, and in 1814 a room was licensed for the holding of services. A Mr Moss officiated in it for a short time, but somewhat abruptly leaving, the friends procured the best supplies they could and appealed to the Association for help. It appears that the wish of the people was to build a chapel at once, but this the Association could not advise them to do. It recommended them to continue to occupy the room they had rented, and promised to pay the rent for them for one year out of the Itinerant Fund. Burton remained a branch of Cauldwell until 1822. In that year the Cauldwell church reports "Our number of members has considerably decreased this year by the separation of the Burton friends from us." It appears that some eligible property in the town, obtainable at a reasonable rate, was secured by the Home Mission Committee who had taken the cause in hand. Part of this property was let and the remainder transformed into a chapel, which was opened in May 1824, by sermons from Messrs. J. Goadby, of Ashby, and J. G. Pike, of Derby.

The following year this church was received into the Association, and henceforth appears on its minutes. Mr J. Amner was the first minister, being followed by Mr G. Naylor, and Mr S. Reeve. The two latter afterwards emigrated to America. Mr J. Staddon was minister from 1837 to 1845, and Mr J. Peggs from 1846 until his death, at the age of fifty-seven, on January 5th 1850. About the middle of that year Mr R. Kenny was called to the pastorate, and remained in office until 1867, when Mr J. P Tetley succeeded him. Mr Tetley left for Taunton in 1873, and was followed at Burton by Mr A. Underwood, M.A. Mr S. S. Allsop who then came has recently retired from the ministry of the church after eleven years of successful toil, leaving a membership of two hundred and twenty-eight. In 1879 or 1880, a number of friends seceded and formed what has since been known as Parker Street church, over which Dr W. Underwood, and Mr A. Underwood, M.A., have presided, and which later still was under the care of the writer's present colleague, Mr G. E. Payne, but which now seems to be in a condition of suspended animation.

WILLIAM NORTON was minister at Cauldwell from 1827 until 1853, when he was called home to his everlasting rest on November 20th of that year. He had been preaching on the previous evening as usual, and on arriving home felt unwell, retired to rest and at midnight his spirit had departed. Mr Norton belonged to the family that was largely instrumental in founding the cause at Cauldwell. He was born of pious parents, and feared the Lord from his youth, early avowing also his attachment to the Saviour by baptism. For many years he served the church freely both at Cauldwell and Overseal, and was esteemed and beloved by a large circle of Christian friends.

On the death of Mr Norton the people to whom he had so long ministered not knowing where to find a successor sought for union with Burton, and since 1854 Cauldwell and Overseal have appeared in the Association minutes as branches of the town church.

Quoted from:
"Historic Memorials of Barton & Melbourne General Baptist Churches"
by J R Godfrey, Senior Pastor of the Barton Church
Leicester: Printed & Published by Buck, Winks & Son, High Street
London: Elliot Stock, Paternoster Row (1891)

Note: I am not a lawyer, but this book having been published in 1891, I understand it to be well out of its 50 years' copyright. Should I be badly informed, please contact me and I will remove this page immediately. Meanwhile, Baptist records being notoriously difficult to source, I hope that it will be as helpful to others as it has been to me.

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This page was last updated 12 June 2007
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