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Religious Constraints

Until 1688 it was an offence not to attend the local Church of England parish church every Sunday and a fine of 12 pence was payable for each offence (about £15 today). 

Then, an Act of Parliament was passed that allowed most dissenters of the Protestant faith to hold public religious assemblies as long as the doors remained unlocked.

The founders of the chapel needed a certificate from the Bishop of Winchester to use the building as a 'Protestant dissenters meeting house'. Shown left is their application for a house at Beaulieu Rails, witnessed by John Fielder, John North, Robert Phillips, Sarah Giles, Edmond Sainsbury.


The certificate, shown below, is signed by George Ridding, deputy registrar on 26th November1810. This tallies with the date on the plaque above the chapel entrance as to when the church was founded.

John Fielder was a shoemaker, married to Mary (a schoolmistress) and they had 8 children. He lived in New Inn Lane and served as a deacon of the Beaulieu Rails chapel from 1830 – 1838.

The First Chapel

In March 1810, the Rev William Giles, pastor of the Baptist Church at Lymington, was invited to preach to two or three friend in Beaulieu Rails and Isaac Tinsley granted permission for them to meet in his house. This developed into regular, popular Sunday services and frequent weekday meetings. When Isaac's house soon proved small for the growing numbers Mr Phillips offered the temporary use of his barn until harvest time in a few weeks time. It was therefore decided that a house of worship was needed as soon as possible.

They needed funds and a site in short order (a bit like our project for a community shop!). Providentially, Capt Thomas Perry from Lymington bought a cottage and ground in a suitable location and granted permission for a building to be erected there. The church minutes record "by the assistance of friends here, and the generosity of friends at Lymington and Mr. Giles going a begging for it, a house was built and furnished with a pulpit and forms".


The ground granted was 40' x 60' and the building was 34' by 17'. (Coincidentally the length of the Vestry is 17' - so we do wonder if that is part of the original chapel - its roof timbers looked much older than those in the larger part of the chapel?).


The building was opened for the first service on 7th August 1810 only 5 months after the first meeting at Isaac Tinsley's house. For the next seven years the church continued and grew, people were baptised and joined the church at Lymington under whose auspices Beaulieu Rails chapel was initially run.

A 1906 record shows that the Baptist Church lodged various deeds relating to the chapel with  Paris, Smith and Randal solicitors. These deeds do indicate that Capt. Thomas Perry did not have an interest in any land at the chapel site until 1811 which potentially calls the above dates into question but there may have  simply been a delay in the conveyance of the property to Capt. Perry being recorded. 

In 1817 the members at Beaulieu Rails applied to the Lymington 'mother' church to form their own separate church. On 24th October the twenty members below were 'affectionately' dismissed from the Lymington church with their best wishes for the new autonomous church at Beaulieu Rails.

   James Farlow     Sarah Phillips           Jean Fry                William Purkins     James Paul           Judith Stoat          Sarah Tinsley      

   Francis Payne     Ann Stoat                 Richard Stoat       Fanny Bundy         James Bundy        Robert Ran           Richard Bennett

   John Wallis         Michael Peckham    James Gibbs       William House       Thomas Gregory  Thomas Button


Mr Clay, a probationer supplied them as minister once a fortnight. Francis Payne, John Wallis and James Farlow were the appointed as the new church's first deacons

Comyn's Notebooks

In 1817, Boldre was a sprawling parish occupying 12,645 acres and Brockenhurst parish a more compact 6,973 acres; Rev Henry Comyn had the living of the combined parishes. It is understood he compiled the 22 small notebooks (now lodged at Hampshire records office)  over some years and made his final production of the notebooks between June 1817 and January 1818 in order to assist the Rev Charles Shrub who was then to succeed him as vicar.

The date of the notebooks coincides with the founding of the chapel and so they provide insightful information about many of the individuals named above who founded the chapel and their families.

Each of the notebooks covers a distinct geographical area within the two parishes. They are effectively a full and descriptive local census, 24 years before the first national census in 1841 that was to list every inhabitant of every parish. The information they contain includes:

  • Finely detailed maps of both parishes showing every house in each village and hamlet

  • Owners of each property and the rent paid if tenanted

  • Personal details including the names and dates of birth of the occupants of each house (the wife's maiden name), relationships of the occupants (child, servant, mother in law etc), occasional comments on their health

  • In some cases the occupations are given too but not for those who were labourers and there was still a high degree of self sufficiency (probably including poaching and smuggling) too.

  • Health issues (sickly, crippled, has fits, blind, foolish) are identified although rather imprecise

  • Instances of murder, elopement and transportation are mentioned

  • The majority of the population were ostensibly Church of England and no specific mention is made of this in the notebooks. However, Comyn was deeply concerned  by the spread of religious dissent and typically annotated the homes of dissenters although the Rexon family were Baptists but not so noted.

The maps of Beaulieu Rails below show where the founders of the chapel lived. It would be great if you could help identify the exact properties where they still exist.

The Chapel's Founders

James Farlow was appointed as one of the Beaulieu Rails chapel's first deacons in 1817 but resigned his office on 20th October 1819. On 23rd March 1828 he was excluded for the congregation for improper conduct.

Michael Peckham lived at the end of Masseys Lane (possibly Keeps Cottage?) with Mary (a widow), his daughter Mary then aged 6 and his bedridden mother-in-law. He died shortly after the chapel opened and is marked in the Comyn notebooks as buried at New Chapel, certainly one of the first burials there.

Sarah Phillips was born in 1778 she was married to John they had 6 daughters with a son born later in 1819. They appear to have owned their property. She died in 1842 aged 64 and is buried in the chapel grounds.


William Perkins is listed by Comyn as living in Bull Hill in a house where Warborne Lane and Jordan's Lane meet with his wife Ann. They had 6 children. If this is the same William Purkins then he was not particularly local to Beaulieu Rails in 1817. Church records indicate he was born in 1776, died in 1856 aged 80 and is buried at the chapel.

Thomas Button - From Comyn there are two possibilities, the former thought to be most likely.

  • Recently widowed, he lived near the dissenters (Methodist) chapel in East End with his four children. Comyn lists his deceased wife as Jane Fryer - possibly the Jean Fry listed on the application to form a separate church above. Their son, also Thomas, suffered from fits. 

  • Another Thomas Button, born in 1793, lived with his mother, Martha Cole at the end of what is now Pages Lane.


James Paul -  Comyn notes them as dissenters and gives that in 1817 James was married to Mary Wheeler and that they had 8 children, 5 daughters and 3 sons.

Richard and Ann Stoat (Stote) - Richard was born in Everton, Bedfordshire in 1758 to George and Dorcas, one of three brothers. He married Ann Grace on 17th January 1786 in Fawley and they had a son John in 1796. Beaulieu's burial register shows that Ann died in 1830 aged 70 and Richard died in February 1835 aged 78.

Sarah Tinsley (nee Thurl) was born in 1764 and she married George Read on 17th October 1785 and they had 3 children. After George's death she married Isaac Tinsley on 5th March 1793 in Beaulieu and they had a daughter, Hannah who died in 1808. Isaac died 4th April 1817 just six months before the independent church was formed - Comyn describes Sarah as a dissenter. In 1817, she lived about halfway along what is now Pages Lane with her son Stephen and daughters Jane and Elizabeth and Elizabeth's illegitimate daughter Mary. Sarah died 11th March 1849 aged 85 and was buried at the chapel by J B Burt.

James  Bundy was born to Francis and Charlotte in 1784 and was baptised in Beaulieu on 19th October 1784. He married Lucy Lancaster on 1st March 1808. He was a brick maker at Beaulieu outside of the area covered by Comyn. Lucy died aged 63 in 1852. James died 20th March 1859 aged 74.


Robert Ran was born in 1789 he was from Beaulieu (which explains why Comyn makes no reference to him). Sadly, he was committed to the Lainston House asylum in Sparsholt run by Dr John Twynham. Robert died there in 1835 at the age of 46 and is buried in Sparsholt/Lainston. (The conditions at Lainston were considered "barbaric" even in this time period - poor sanitation, starvation rations, inmates were physically restrained with chains. The asylum was closed down in 1846).


John Wallis was born in 1784 to James and Elizabeth (living in or near Matthews Lane) he married Elizabeth Cole on 12th May 1804. In 1817 they lived just south of Pages Lane with their five children and later had two more sons. Elizabeth was baptised in 1820 to become a church member. The 1841 census gives John's occupation as shop keeper. John died on 11th March 1846 aged 62 and is buried at the chapel.


James Gibbs married Mary Hobbs in Boldre on 24th December 1765.


William House was born 5th March 1752 in Beaulieu to Moses and Sarah he had 3 brothers and a sister. He married Mary (nee Boyce) on 28th Feb 1777 they had 6 children and lived next door to Thomas and Ann Gregory in the southern part of the village. He died in Burghclere on 25th March 1827 aged 75.

Thomas Gregory - A widower, in 1817 he lived in Little Leverett in the south of the village with his son Thomas and daughter Harriet. His daughter Hannah had married William Phillips and they lived nearby with their two young sons, renting the property from Thomas.

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