At the Commencement
Dereham Baptist Church was birthed over 200 years ago, when a small number of people walked 15 miles from Norwich with a vision to plant a church here. Since that time the town and the church have changed significantly. DBC has now around 200 people of all ages and backgrounds meeting together each week, sharing a vision to see individuals grow to become truly God’s people in today’s real world.
The Church was first formed in 1783
A need was felt to form a regular Dissenting Church and a request was made to Mr Thomas Wright, although not ordained, to be their Pastor. The Chapel became officially recognised on Oct. 4th 1784.
First Church Building
There is no record of the building of the first Baptist Chapel. From the tombstone of Thomas Wright we learn that it was built during his five years of ministry, with a passage leading to it from Norwich Street known at that time as Silver Street. And in his will we read “…the place of worship late erected in East Dereham aforesaid and where the people called Baptist usually attend”.
There are no extant records concerning details of the purchase of land, although it is known that the original building occupied part of the rear of the present site behind the 17th and 18th Century shops and houses fronting the angle of Norwich and High Street. The first conveyance of the Chapel is dated 1793. It was registered as a Particular Baptist for marriages.
The New Chapel 1859
The original building was hidden from public view and had become dilapidated. It was agreed to purchase property, a bakery adjoining the Old Chapel, in the High street then known as Baxter Row, A new building was commenced and the foundation stone was laid in the June of 1859. The new Chapel was opened on October 13th 1859.
Church Documents Going To Decay
Records of the Church were contained in old books that were going to decay, these were copied and bound together with the minutes of meetings into a substantial volume, from which much of the early Church history has been compiled.
The New Organ
Between 1909 and 1913 the church raised money to purchase a new organ. The pulpit was moved forward and the organ fitted behind. That layout still remains today.
Church Front 1973
A new entrance to the Church replaced the large window in the centre, with smaller windows on either side replacing the two doors.
There have been many famous people connected with the Church but it’s James Phillippo who needs a special mention.
James Phillippo was born October 14, 1798 in Dereham. He had a desire to go to the Baptist Church at about the age of 15 and on attending he was directed to a seat near the pulpit. After a number of visits and under the conviction of sins, he accepted Christ has his Saviour. After study with the Baptist Missionary Society. He married Hannah Selina Cecil in Chipping Norton, Oxfordshire and almost immediately they sailed for Jamaica. Slavery was a key issue.
As a missionary who had campaigned fearlessly, both in Jamaica and England, for the abolition of slavery it seemed only natural that James would take a leadership role in the housing of the newly freed slaves. He was well respected by the Jamaican people at all social levels and died May 11, 1879 in Spanishtown at the age of 81.