Above: The rear of the old Congregational Church in about 1960. Below: 2009 the rear after conversion to a home. The old roof lines of the original meeting rooms above, can still be seen on the modern photo.
Below is a copy of a print of the Reverend Richard Elliot in 1831- courtesy of the Wiltshire and Swindon History Centre.
Congregational Church (St.Mary's) Northgate Street, Devizes.
Two early religious meetings were said to be Congregationalist. That at John Freme's house registered in 1669 which became Baptist and by 1672 a meeting at Edward Hope's house, with Obadiah Wills as minister. From 1763 a group of churchmen in the town were receiving teaching from Richard Baddeley, rector of Hilperton. In 1771 they were taught by Rowland Hill, who came to Devizes twice, and in that year they came together as a congregation and certified a meeting house.
In 1776 the nucleus of a chapel was built in Northgate Street and called St. Mary's Chapel as it was in St. Mary's Parish. It was assigned to Calvinist Methodist worship but could have a minister of any denomination. In its earlier years the chapel was served voluntarily by the Reverend Robert Sloper. His 1803 portrait is on the left. He also fostered a Congregational Church in Market Lavington and with nine people formed a church in 1808. In 1809 they bought the former Quaker meeting house and enlarged it to hold 500 people. A detailed life of Robert Sloper can be found by clicking the next link. Robert Sloper died in 1818.
The Reverend Richard Elliott was the first settled Minister. He had assisted the Reverend Sloper since 1808, and succeeded him in 1818. Richard Elliott raised the Chapel to its peak of popularity and attracted many of the leading townsmen. His wife Frances ran a high class Girls boarding school in Long Street where they both lived. In 1841 the school had 6 teachers and 33 girls; 12 of whom were resident outside the County.
Towards the end of his Richard Elliot's pastorate congregations averaged 525 people. He was an important figure in Congregationalism, and for 28 years he was secretary of the Wiltshire. and East Somerset Congregational Union. In his time Devizes became (1842) the head of a district in the Union and so remained for 50 years. In youth he was vigorous and eloquent. His wife Fanny Elliotran a high class boarding School in Long Street for over 20 years. The Reverend Elliott later became a champion of the anti-slavery movement and an opponent of papal aggression. Richard Ellitot died in 1854 and his wife Fanny in 1860.
His successor, William Kingsland (1852–62), was less popular and constantly wanted his salary raised to equal that of the Reverend Elliot - but without the congregation! During his time there was a secession of much of the congregation to the New Baptist church on Sheep Street.
The original chapel was small and oblong and in 1790 this was enlarged into a square building. In 1811-12 a schoolroom and assembly room were added on the southern side and other improvements occurred in the 1830s and 1850s. In 1868-69 a lecture hall and another schoolroom were built in the Early English style on the northern side of the chapel. There were more improvements in the last quarter of the century and again in 1925. The congregation declined in the late 1950s, there were 107 in 1956 but only 50 in 1964, but revived in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Photogallery - the old, demolishment and 1990s
In January 1984 the chapel was closed and the congregation joined that of the Methodist church forming the St. Andrew's Methodist and United Reform Church in Long Street.
F. Broster-Temple has written a small booklet entitled " The story of St. Mary's Church 1772 to 1972.This contains alist of all the Ministers who have served the Church. It was printed and produced by Massey and Co., Castle Street, Trowbridge, Wiltshire in 1972.
The Church has been sold and converted for residential use.