History of Loughwood Meeting House
The history of Loughwood is a story of secrecy and persecution. The first known record of the chapel is in 1653 when a Baptist parish from nearby Kilmington sought an isolated place to worship. Find out more of its story up until it was handed to the National Trust in the 20th century.
Baptists meeting in safety
By deliberately constructing the building into a hill surrounded by woodland, Baptists hoped that they would be able to meet in safety at Loughwood. The meeting house may have been positioned on the county border to allow preachers to flee into the neighbouring county when threatened.
A dangerous time for Baptists
Attending a service was risky and guards were often stationed outside to warn of approaching soldiers. Tales recount how the congregation arrived one morning to find an armed soldier at the door, with orders to attack the first person attempting to enter.
Another story describes worshippers arriving to find a huntsman blowing a horn while hounds sniffed around the pews.
French refugees at Loughwood
Protestant refugees (Huguenots) fleeing persecution in France were crucial to the founding of Loughwood. A Huguenot named Jean de Phippen may have provided the site on which the meeting house was built. It is believed these refugees were nicknamed ‘French’, which they adopted as their surnames.
The mother church
As attitudes towards Baptists softened so Loughwood became a mother church creating new parishes in the region. In 1832 a new church was openly established in Kilmington and it retains close links with Loughwood.
By 1969 damp and rot forced church services to move permanently to Kilmington Church and Loughwood was given to the National Trust to care for. A restoration programme was launched to halt the decay and restore the thatched roof which had been replaced with slate in 1871.
Explore the historical features of Loughwood Meeting House, one of Britain's earliest surviving Baptist meeting houses, as well as what to see and do in the surrounding area.