The United Reformed Church at The Common Close, Warminster

The origin of the church at Common Close goes back to the 16th Century.   The conflict between Protestant and Catholic in that era is well known and recorded.   The accession of Queen Elizabeth Tudor in 1558 recognized Protestantism as the established religion.   However, the subsequent Act of Uniformity imposing the Book of Common Prayer and later the enactment of the 39 Articles, caused dissent in the church.   Some of the clergy desired ‘a simpler ‘purer’ ritual’ and were nicknamed ‘Puritans’ and in 1566, several ministers seceded from the Established Church.

By coincidence in that same year, a small chapel was erected at Horningsham, four miles from Warminster by Scottish Presbyterian artisans brought in to build the nearby Longleat House.  These were soon joined by other dissenters from the locality, and eventually services were held alternately at Horningsham and Warminster.    In the 17th Century, Parliamentary Acts curtailed the liberty of the nonconformists, who in this area then met secretly in Southleigh woods.    In 1687, the Declaration of Liberty of Conscience allowed more freedom of worship and in Warminster the dissenters met in a barn situated in what is now The Avenue.   In 1691, they moved to a larger building in nearby North Row, eventually building the Meeting House (now Dewey House) there in 1704.    Their worship was in the Presbyterian tradition; however in 1719 the presiding minister was accused of Unitarianism, and several members left to form the Independent Church which they built in The Common Close.   In 1798 that church was rebuilt at a cost of £1000, and again in 1839-40 for £2069.   During the 19th Century the church flourished and schoolrooms and ancillary buildings were added.   There was a Sunday School of almost 300 scholars, and many prominent townsfolk were members of the congregation

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