Guilsborough, Nortoft Baptist Chapel

Nortoft burial ground

Guilsborough Baptist church which was located in the hamlet of Nortoft opened in 1777 and closed in the 1960s. We are fortunate that a Mr W Page recorded the gravestones that existed in the graveyard in 1890. The following interesting article appeared in the Northampton Mercury, 4 January 1890.

THE OLD MEETING-HOUSE AND GRAVEYARD NORTOFT, GUILSBOROUGH

As my grandfather, Richard Lord, of West Haddon, was a member of the Baptist Church at Guilsborough, founded in the year 1777, and used to worship in the old Meeting-house previous to its being burnt down, Christmas, 1792 (to which he refers in his diary in my possession*), I have for a long time had a desire to visit the sacred spot, and inspect what was to be seen there. I may at once say that I took that step very recently. Subjoined are a few particulars:

Proceeding down Nortoft, about 150 yards or more on the right, one comes to some rather massive iron gates, erected by the second pastor of the church, the Rev. James Clarke in lieu of some worn-out wooden ones. Here is to be found what remains of the past – a grave-yard only. Above, in a line with these gates, to complete the frontage, is a cottage, brick-built and slated, standing upon part, at least, of the site of the old chapel. As a proof of this, it is but recently, in making some alterations in the building, that traces of the fire on the wall &c., were still visible. On entering the graveyard by the gates, and taking but a glance at things, it is but natural to say that my thoughts, without effort, would revert to the past. I conjured up in my imagination leading Nonconformists – some who had preached in the chapel, others who had worshipped there – who lie in that graveyard. Again, others who had conducted the funeral services. These I beheld as nobly and fearlessly standing up for evangelical truth, civil and religious liberty, at a time when persecution was rife, and I seemed in spirit to be thoroughly one with them.

I took the measurement of the graveyard from the cottage, and found it about 19 yards long, by 14 yards wide, with an extra piece of about nine yards, by six yards, at the back of some buildings, left of the entrance. It is enclosed at the right and extreme boundary by stone and brick-built walls, which are in efficient repair. The graveyard also is neatly kept. There are not very many gravestones to be found, but what there are, are truly representative of leading Nonconformist families past and present. For instance, the Harrises figure very prominently, mostly at or near the extremity of the pathway. There is a stone:

SACRED
TO THE MEMORY OF
JAMES, SON OF JAMES AND
ELIZABETH HARRIS,
TWENTY YEARS MINISTER OF THE
GOSPEL, AND SEVERAL YEARS PASTOR
OF THE BAPTIST CHURCH
HUSBAND’S BOSWORTH, LEICESTERSHIRE
HE DIED AT LEAMINGTON, JAN, 28TH 1837
AGED 51 YEARS
ALSO CATHRINE HARRIS
SISTER TO THE ABOVE, WHO DIED
IN NORTOFT JAN, 15TH 1859
AGED 76 YEARS.
Those that sleep in Jesus will God
bring with Him.”

On a flat stone at the foot hereof (alongside another of the kind, also to the Harris family) is another inscription, as follows:

J. H. 1837
IN MEMORY OF
JOB HARRIS,
SON OF WILLIAM
AND
ANN HARRIS,
DIED SEPT, 15TH 1845
AGED 41 YEARS
ALSO
ANN HARRIS
MOTHER OF THE ABOVE
WHO DIED
MARCH 25TH, 1851
AGED 80 YEARS
AND ALSO
THE ABOVE-NAMED
WILLIAM HARRIS
WHO DIED
MARCH 16TH 1868
IN HIS 90TH
YEAR
C. H. 1859

The last-named was better known as “Bank Harris.” He had a son William, a chemist at Northampton, and a grandson Harry, who was clever in that profession. Both are deceased.

Then there are gravestones to the Wrights (of Naseby, about midway of right-hand boundary wall), the Hobsons, Haddons (of Naseby), Pells, Ashbys, Johnsons (the latter mostly along the far boundary wall); also one to the Clifton family, as under:

IN
MEMORY OF
SARAH, WIFE OF
SAMUEL CLIFTON
WHO DIED APRIL 11th 1873
AGED 73 YEARS
AND OF THE ABOVE
SAMUEL CLIFTON
WHO DIED SEPTR, 1879
AGED 81 YEARS
ALSO, ELIZA DAUGHTER
OF THE ABOVE, WIFE OF
THOMAS DAVIS
AUDLEM, CHESHIRE
WHO DIED JAN, 12th. 1863
AGED 27 YEARS
ALSO THE CHILDREN WHO DIED
IN THEIR INFANCY.

The above Samuel and Sarah Clifton are the father and mother of Dr. Clifton, of Northampton.

Again, there is a stone near to, to the Cleaver family, Inscription as under:

TO
THE MEMORY OF
RICHARD CLEAVER
WHO DEPARTED THIS LIFE
DECEMBER 18TH 1854
AGED 75 YEARS
ALSO OF
HANNAH CLEAVER
DAUGHTER OF THE ABOVE

An honoured descendant of this family is Mr. Richard Cleaver, J.P., of Northampton. There is also a stone close by, to

“WILLIAM BIGGS (of Coton) who died … 1876, aged 64 years, and ANN his wife who died … 1879 aged 73 years.”

Another stone about mid-way and a little to the right of the pathway is:

IN
MEMORY OF
BENJAMIN WILSON
WHO DIED APRIL 20TH, 1864.
IN HIS 79TH YEAR
ALSO, PENELOPE, WIFE OF THE ABOVE,
WHO DIED, DECR. 25TH 1871
IN THE 90TH YEAR OF HER AGE.
AN INDUSTRIOUS MAN
AND A PEACEMAKING WOMAN.

The above are father and mother of the late Mr. Wilson, coach-builder of Northampton. There is an old stone about mid-way of the wall to the right, half imbedded (sic) in the earth, to the Laundon family (of Thornby). The inscription is illegible, but the date, which is visible, is 1790. There is yet another old stone at the top corner of the same wall, and inserted therein, to the Gulliver family (probably of Clipstone), inscription imperfect, date 1793. The last stone I describe is one very old, and near to another quite as old. It is found about seven yards from the last-named, and a few yards from the extreme boundary wall. The inscription is very imperfect. As far as it could be deciphered, the following is a copy:

IN
MEMORY OF MARY
DAUGHTER OF JOHN EDMONDS
MINR & ALICE hi WIFE sh
DIED JAN. . . 1789
AGED, . . YEARS.

The Rev. W. Carey, of Moulton (afterwards Dr. Carey, of Serampore), conducted the funeral service of the latter. It is believed that the above John Edmonds (for 40 years minister of the Baptist Church, Guilsborough, and who died at West Haddon) was buried near, as well as his son Isaac and daughter Elizabeth. A few of the many others buried there are:

William Kilworth wife and two daughters,
Stephen Reed and wife,
William Hollis wife and five daughters,
William Smith and wife (the former was a very acceptable lay preacher),
John Wormleighton and wife,
Richard Jennings (of Coton),
James Smith,
Benjamin Claridge and wife,
William Evans and wife,
Elizabeth Halford,
Cathrine Green,
John Johnson wife son and daughter,
William Baker wife and daughter,
Elizabeth Soames,
Ann Dawes,
John Wilson and wife,
Priscilla Patrick and Sarah Patrick,
Hannah Webb and Charles Webb,
Solomon Johnson and wife,
Hannah Johnson,
Valentine Hanbury and wife,
Naomi Weston,
Mary Nichols (of Thornby),
Eli Hobbon wife and son,
Benjamin Hobson,
Mrs. Ashby and Mrs. Peacock (sisters),
&c., &c.

The last person buried there was Elizabeth Clifton (wife of Fohn Clifton), in April, 1889. The graveyard is now closed by the Home Secretary

W. PAGE, West Haddon, Rugby.

Jan. 1, 1890.

* In the above-mentioned diary the destruction of the Meeting-house is referred to thus: “It was wickedly set on fire, and burnt to ashes, … persecution seems to threaten the Dissenting interest. … Mr. Edmonds on the following Sunday took up the matter, his discourse being based on Matt. 13 ch., 28 v., “An enemy hath done this.” Where this took place is not recorded.

© 2021, Graham Ward. All rights reserved.

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