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The Chapel's Story

While our main focus is the shop and Post Office, we think it important to capture the history and interpret the heritage of the chapel at the point its role in our community changes.


Our village's first church, the chapel is an intrinsic part of East Boldre's social history, founded in 1810 to serve the spiritual needs of our community's predominantly Baptist congregation, services, Sunday school, Harvest Festivals and Carols by Candlelight. Its secular role encompassed fetes, youth clubs, summer outings, barbeques, messy breakfasts and a Happy Hour for local Mums.

There is no visible trace of the 480 plus graves onsite, save for 54 headstones tucked in an overgrown corner of the site. The burial plan has been lost so we hope our research will enable us to commemorate most if not all of the people buried there.


The project includes:

  • A permanent exhibition in the old vestry space.

  • A revised edition of Eric Smith's history of the Baptist Church - A Light in the Forest bringing the history up to the present day.

  • Interpretation of the heritage, in particular:

    • Recording the headstone inscriptions and other 430+ graves, a third of which are children under 7.

    • The baptistry which will be left intact but permanently covered over by our plans.

  • The exterior of the building will be repaired with new rainwater goods and a breathable exterior paint finish to let the very damp walls dry out


We are partnering with St Barbe Museum whbring a wealth of expertise, knowledge and contacts in this field. 


We have secured National  Lottery Heritage Fund to cover the majority of this work.


Chapel History



  • Recent history

The early years from 1810 to 1985 are documented in a booklet called “A Light in the Forest” written by Eric Smith.  However, there is no information collated in one place such as this from 1985 onwards. This is what we are trying to piece together. We have Freda Smith's written permission to produce a revised edition of this history. 

  • Graveyard - as we take responsibility for it we'd like to know more

    • The burials remain in situ if not headstones, just one tomb remains.

    • Remaining gravestones - we believe 54 gravestones remain on site but have been displaced. 26 are accessible the others hidden by brambles and ivy until cleared by volunteers during our Big Help Out. We aim to make a record of all of their inscriptions. If possible we'd like to identify their original positions. In September we plan to bring archaeological experts in with their technology. They will teach local people how modern techniques can reveal and capture the eroded inscriptions.

    • Of burials before and after these dates we have little info but there is evidence to suggest burials may have started as early as 1823 and continued until 1939.

    • Mr Biddlecombe's tomb - interpretation, who he was and his role in the church.

  • Baptisms

    • Transcribe the baptismal registers

    • Link to history of baptisms - Hatchet pond, the Baptistry and water sources.

    • Capturing information about the baptistry before it is covered and identifying its potion in the flooring.

  • The Members

    • We've visited the records office in Winchester and obtained the 1837 - 1894 burial register.

    • The whole team was involved in transcribing this into an excel spreadsheet which will form a framework for additional information we collect to create a core record of those church members.

    • The Excel record will also be used to produce statistics on the burials onsite.

  • Create a timeline of chapel history

  • We aim to link various sources of information to provide a more complete picture of the chapel's early years and its members.


Do you know where the original painting is ? If so



please contact us




This picture of it is in "A The Light in the Forest"



written by Eric Smith in 1985 



Judith - Leading Our Heritage Work

My background is far from anything associated with history or archives. In fact, I disliked history so much at school I dropped the subject as soon as I could.  I’ve worked in HR and Admin roles and the NHS in a Medical Practice.

If you had said to me 7 months ago I would be researching the history of a Baptist Church in the village and finding it really interesting I probably would have laughed and said I’d rather be up at my allotment!  I have to admit I have found it fascinating and am very pleased to have had the opportunity to be involved.

If you'd like to join the heritage team - researching the chapel's history, collecting living memories or helping to put the exhibition together - please get in touch.

We Want to Hear Your Chapel Stories

To Baptists, the Church is the people, not the building.


We'd love to hear from anyone who went to any of the Church services, or Sunday School, the Youth group or Messy Breakfasts?

Did you get married or go to any weddings there?

Do you remember the Christmas or Harvest Festival events?

We could meet up or you could just email a few sentences, including the date you are writing about and any photos. If you know someone with memories maybe you can put them in touch with us?

In so doing you are given us permission to use the information you provide for our research and it may be published.

Gravestone Recording - Coming Soon

We plan to have a team of professional archaeologists on site for a week later this year to help us capture the inscriptions on the 54 gravestones before they are further eroded. Thanks to National Lottery players, the costs of this will be covered by the Heritage Fund award we received in Spetember.

They will bring the technology and teach local people various imaging techniques to reveal and capture inscriptions that to the naked eye are illegible.

We will let you know how to get involved. Meanwhile you could take a look at a similar project carried out at St Michael and All Angel's in Lyndhurst.


Living Memories - Your Stories So Far

A key part of our exhibition and modern history will draw upon local people's living memories and photographs.

The early years from 1810 to 1985 are documented in a booklet called “A Light in the Forest” written by Eric Smith, Freda’s husband.  However, there is no information collated in one place such as this from 1985 onwards. This is what we need your help to piece together. We have Freda's permission to produce an updated edition of this history.

We have already spoken to members of the congregation and people who worked at the Chapel, including:

  • Freda Smith - attended the Chapel for over 90 years

  • Doug and Beulah Read - whose family have been long associated with the Chapel.  

  • Steve and Sharon Aplin - who ran the youth club, Steve was the Church secretary.

  • Shaun Sweeney - Pastor 1994 -1995

  • Colin Clark - Part time Pastor 2007 - 2010

  • Nick Humphreys - Part time Pastor 2012 - 2015

  • Anne Thomas - went to the Sunday School

  • Kevin House - went to the Youth Group run by 'Uncle Eddie'

  • Kimberley Kitcher - who got married there

Fireguard made by Mark Read.jpg
EBBC 1960.jpg
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