Fuller Baptist Church

Northamptonshire has a rich history of Non-conformist movements, with Kettering a place of great religious diversity with dissenting voices outnumbering Anglicans in a poll in 1828 as Nonconformity was poised to mount a fierce and prolonged challenge to the political and religious establishment. After the Act of Uniformity in 1662 John Maydwell, the Rector of Kettering, left the parish church and with ninety others established an Independent Meeting, (now Toller United Reformed Church). In 1696 William Wallis, an elder in the church, with six others, formed a Baptist Church. Thomas Wallis succeeded his father as minister in 1711. After several moves the church acquired from the Wallis family the site in Gold Street in 1768 and converted an old warehouse into a meeting house. In 1782 Andrew Fuller (1754-1815) became minister. He wrote many theological books and is considered to be the greatest Baptist theologian. In 1792 he was a prime mover in the formation of the Baptist Missionary Society at a meeting at the Wallis family home, (now known as the Mission House opposite what is now Morrisons Supermarket) and was the secretary until his death, raising funds by travelling throughout the UK and Scotland, preaching and promoting the cause of the Missionary society. William Carey, often called ‘the father of the modern missionary movement’ went to India the following year. He formed a missionary community, translated the Bible into four languages and parts of it into forty, worked for social reform, founded Serampore College (now a University), a printing press and founded the Indian Agri-horticultural Society.

The present building in Gold Street was built in 1860 and named after Andrew Fuller. The new chapel is a fine statement of Victorian confidence and optimism. It is built in Lombardian style, characterised by thick walls, rhythmic ornamental arches, a lack of sculpture and seating for a thousand people.

At the rear of the Church is a small graveyard. It contains the graves of Andrew Fuller, John Keen Hall, Fuller’s successor, members of the notable Gotch family of bankers, architects and artists, and Beeby and Martha Wallis.

The Fuller Church houses a lovely Heritage Centre with many historical artefacts: Fuller’s desk and pulpit, items from the Mission’s work in India, Africa and China, precious books, items from the life of William Knibb who was born in Kettering and played a large part in the Anti-Slavery Movement, along with personal items including a snuff box belonging to Andrew Fuller and William Carey’s shoemaking equipment.

Fuller Baptist Church is a member of the Baptist Union of Great Britain, the Baptist World Alliance and Churches Together in Kettering.

Well-known Baptists include Billy Graham, Martin Luther King, Al Gore, Jimmy Carter, Johnny Cash, Warren Beatty, Kevin Costner, Aretha Franklin, Bill Clinton, Eddie Murphy and Kamala Harris, current Vice-President of the USA.

All are welcome at 10.30 Sunday services.

For open day dates of the Heritage Exhibition, chapel and graveyard or to arrange a group visit, please contact the curator: Rev. David Milner 01536 745589 or davidbmilner1@gmail.com

Further reading:
Fuller Baptist Church, An Outline History 1696-1991
Available from the Fuller Church, Gold Street

Researched by Maura Bright

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