This distinguished North Midlands chapel can trace its history from 1666. Following the passage of the Act of Uniformity in 1662 a number of Presbyterian ministers were ejected from their livings. The persecution intensified with the Oxford Act of 1666, and eight ministers sought refuge in Mansfield under the protection of Rev. John Firth. The eight worshipped together until the Act of Toleration was passed in 1689. John Whitlock, William Reynolds and John Barrett returned to Nottingham and established High Pavement Chapel. Robert Porter remained in Mansfield as minister of the Mansfield congregation until his death in 1690.
The current meeting house, on Quaker Way, was erected in 1702, making it the oldest non-conformist place of worship in Nottinghamshire. By 1783 the congregation was described as Unitarian. The meeting house was enlarged in 1870, financed by William Hollins, the local owner of Pleasley Vale Mills.
Records of the Old Meeting House are held at The University of Nottingham (OL). Unfortunately the early history of the congregation is not recorded. Apart from registers (see below), no records date from before 1811. The collection, however, contains material dated from 1811 up to the early 21st century, mostly administrative records and correspondence. The correspondence includes papers concerning the acrimonious dispute between William Linwood, minister between 1842 and 1848, and Henry Hollins, cotton manufacturer and a trustee of the Meeting House.
Committee and Annual General Meeting minutes are present from 1886 to 1974, and there is an almost-complete set of church magazines, 1889-1950. Papers relating to the Sunday School include admission registers, 1836-1841 and 1851-1878.
There are two original registers in the Old Meeting House Collection held at The University of Nottingam:
- Baptism register, 1738-1936 (OL R 1). The first part of the register, baptisms from 1738-1837, is a copy of the original.
- Marriage register, 1839-1936, and burial register, 1858-1884 and 1888-1912, in one volume (OL R 2). Extracted details from this register are available in PDF format: marriages, 1839-1910; burials, 1858-1912.
Pre-1837 registers from the Old Meeting House are held at The National Archives:
- Baptism register, 1738-1835 (RG 4/1583)
- Burial register, 1800-1811 (RG 4/1583)
Microfiche copies of these registers can be seen at The National Archives. A microfiche copy of the baptism registers, filed under 'Mansfield Presbyterian Church' can also be seen at Nottinghamshire Archives.
The website www.bmdregisters.co.uk offers paid access to digital images of the registers via a subscription. It is free to search the registers on this website.
Indexes to the baptism registers are also available as part of the International Genealogical Index (IGI) and can be searched for free on www.familysearch.org.
Dalgleish, Paul. 1702-2002, Three Hundred Years of Service: The Old Meeting House, Mansfield (Mansfield: Portland College, 2002) [King’s Meadow Campus East Midlands Collection Not 272.M74 OLD]
White, John Harrop. The story of the Old Meeting House, Mansfield (London : Lindsey Press, 1959) [King’s Meadow Campus East Midlands Collection Not 272.M74 OLD]
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