St Michael's Church
The Parish Church of St Michael the Archangel, Church Street.
Before the Reformation in the mid-16th century, England was a Catholic country and its citizens worshipped in the Parish Church. It is salutary to remember that the first Catholic Church in Mere
was the Church of St. Michael the Archangel.
Services would have been said in Latin.
Henry’s VIII’s dissolution of the monasteries and the establishment of the Church of England between 1535 and 1540 (The Reformation) with the monarch, and not the Pope, as its head, meant that Catholic worship was officially replaced by a more sober liturgy read and sung in English. There is no evidence that this transformation caused much disturbance in Mere, and the displaced faithful simply continued their Catholic worship in various quiet corners throughout the ensuing centuries.
Delightful church mentioned in Best Churches book. Part 13th and 14th century but most 15th century with a 38m High Tower. The beautiful interior features a 15th century Parclose screen, carved Jacobean pews, alabaster tablet from 1375 and Mediaeval glass in the South Chapel.
Rev Elizabeth Kemp
Tel 01747 861252
During the last quarter of the 20th century, moves were made to bring together the diverse family of reformed churches worldwide. The Church aims to work with Christians of all traditions and is committed to theological and cultural diversity. In this country it has brought together English Presbyterians, English, Welsh and Scottish Congregationalists, and members of the Churches of Christ, through unions in 1972, 1981 and 2000. Mere Congregational Church joined the United Reformed Church at the very start, in 1972. The congregation celebrated the 35th anniversary this year.
The Independent (later Congregational) Church
Independent congregations began to form when, in 1662, 2000 or more clergymen of the Church of England gave up their livings rather than obey a legal requirement to conduct worship as prescribed in the Book of Common Prayer. In 1831, Independent churches formed the Congregational Union of Churches by recognising the scriptural right of each separate church to maintain complete independence to govern and administer its own affairs.
The Independent Church in Mere
In his Introduction of Dissent into Mere, (1890), John Farley Rutter writes that a little while after the establishment of the first non-conformist (Presbyterian) church in England, in Horningsham, Wiltshire, not far from Mere, a few families that had worshipped there migrated to Mere ‘bringing their religion with them.’ According to Mr. Rutter, in about 1700 these families built a small Presbyterian chapel at the corner of what is now called Castle Hill Lane and Manor Rd., and religious services were conducted there for several years. It is certainly true that there are records in the Churchwarden’s accounts for the years 1705, 1706 & 1707, of sums collected ‘at ye Meeting House’ for special community needs. It is also recorded that a ‘Friend’ (i.e. another non-conformist, a Quaker) preached in this chapel. But in time the congregation dispersed, the chapel fell into disuse and was eventually demolished.
The First Independent Chapel in Mere
In 1795, in thanks for recovery from illness, Robert Butt, a successful grocer originally from Mere, returned there and built at his own expense a small Independent chapel and an adjoining minister’s house on a plot of land purchased by Butt on ‘Chapel Lane’ (now Dark Lane) and Boar St. The chapel was opened on November 16th 1795. A watercolour of this first chapel survives.
The Agreement of the Independent Church of Christ at Chapel Lane, Mere, Wilts, is recorded in the Chapel’s first minute book, dated 26th October 1796, and is signed by 17 members of the congregation.
The Second Independent (by then Congregational) Chapel in Mere
It was not long before the tiny independent chapel with its two pews and a few moveable benches was outgrown by the congregation: J. F. Rutter records that 100 families worshipped there. In 1852, it was pulled down and (with money largely provided by Charles Jupe, the silk throwster) was replaced by a much larger chapel with a schoolroom underneath. The building was dedicated on September 13th 1853. This building still stands, though now put to somewhat different uses.
The Third Congregational Chapel in Mere
The congregation continued to grow and, within a few short years, the second chapel was proving to be too small. Once again it was Charles Jupe who acquired, at his own expense, further land on Boar St and the Square and proceeded to build a third Congregational Chapel, next to the second chapel but large enough to hold 600 people. It was opened on 27th October 1869, having taken just 13 months to build. It stands today much as it always has, a commanding feature of that part of Mere.
Rev Ros Hollingsworth
Tel: 01747 823777
Methodism was founded by John Wesley, who was born in 1703. His upbringing was puritan, but he was ordained (like his father) in the Church of England. However he held liberal views in matters of social justice, prison reform and universal education, and vigorously opposed slavery. Such views led to his often being banned from preaching in the established church. As a result he took to preaching outdoors, beginning in a field at Bristol, and he continued in this open air, peripatetic ministry until his death in 1791.
Wesley had taught his fellow students at Oxford to study the Bible in a particular, methodical way. This led to their being named ‘Methodists’, a nickname which stuck.
During WWII, the Methodist Chapel was used by all Mere Churches for evening services as it was possible to black out the windows. The schoolroom was used as a rest room for soldiers stationed in Mere.
The Gallery, 5 pews deep, added in 1859,
to accommodate the iincreasing congregation. The clock was made by F. Stier of Mere.
Methodism in Mere
According to John Farley Rutter, John Wesley may have passed through Mere on his way to Motcombe, where it is known that he preached in 1779. However Wesley appears not to have preached in Mere, and Wesleyan Methodists were never a force here.
However following the revival of Wesley’s teaching in 1807, the new ‘Primitive Methodists’ were certainly a presence in Mere. They established a mission in 1840 but were aggressively opposed by the townspeople. Nevertheless, in 1846, the Primitive Methodist Chapel was built.
The gallery was added in 1859 to accommodate the growing congregation, and in 1874 a schoolroom was built at the back of the chapel. Refurbishments and renewels were made in 1877 and 1936.
In 1890, J. F. Rutter wrote of Mere’s Methodists that they ‘are an active flourishing body, and have a capital Sunday School.’
The Primitive Methodist Chapel became Mere Methodist Church in 1932 at the ‘Methodist Union’.
The former Manse (the second), built in
1903, now converted into flats. The lower flat is reserved for the minister.
The original Manse, built in 1852 next to the Chapel. It was later used as a caretaker’s cottage.
An altar in the former schoolroom, now
the church hall. The hall was refurbished and improved in 2003 with the help of a grant from Wiltshire Historic Churches Trust. A service of re-dedication was held on Sunday May 24th.
Tel: 01747 861004
From about 1932 it was agreed to try to establish a Catholic Church in Mere. Mass was celebrated in places as diverse as an upstairs room at The Butt of Sherry (1932 – 1939), a classroom in the Grove Buildings (then part of the Secondary School), and in Mrs. Deverill’s front room at Milestone Cottage, Castle St. The services continued to be taken by Downside monks.
Shortly after the end of WWII, Mrs. Glencross, a member of the Catholic congregation, bought a plot of land next to ‘Greystones’ on Pettridge Lane for £100 as a site for a permanent church, in memory of her son who had been killed at Dunkirk. The money was raised from the sale of her son’s car and the encashment of his savings certificates. The community was then able to acquire a Nissen Hut from the Army Surplus depot at Warminster. Fundraising through whist drives and jumble sales enabled them to convert the hut into a church and gradually to furnish it. A ‘west’ front was created using red brick partly faced with cement, with a pedestal supporting a statue of the Virgin and Child over the entrance. It was blessed and opened on Sunday 18th August 1946, in a service conducted by Bishop William Lee of the Clifton Diocese, in the presence of a large congregation. It was the first new church in the Diocese of Clifton since 1939. The church is now served from Ss Luke and Teresa, Wincanton.