There is a long history to the majority of English parish churches. 53% of those now in existence came into being prior to 1500. But in the three centuries from 1500 to 1799 only 6% of churches, of any denomination, were formed in this country. Landbeach Baptist Church is one of those 6%, being formed in 1798. In order to become a church the nonconformist Christians in Landbeach had to have the permission of the Bishop of Ely to register a house for dissenting worship. This permission was given on 1st December 1798 when the home of Thomas Webb was licensed for worship and Landbeach Baptist Church became a legal church after more than 123 years of secret meetings and forbidden conventicles.
1798, The birth of a church
What sort of world was this new church being born into? Well, the Webb family were the local Landbeach brewers. There are no records to show us whether or not the church was born in a brewery or in the cottage of one of the family members! In May 1798 the Rector had to list the inhabitants of the village and records that there were 55 houses and a total of 239 people living in them. The Webb family are one of forty-six families listed.
The church finally enjoyed the freedom to worship according to their conscience but there were still many restrictions on those who chose not to conform to the patterns of the Church of England. For instance, those people who first formed Landbeach Baptist Church had to submit to the Church of England marriage and burial. This meant that they could only have their weddings and funerals legally performed in the Anglican church by the Rector. The Rector was free to refuse to marry or bury them because they didn’t attend the Parish Church. They had to pay tithes (a 10% tax) to the Rector as did all Landbeach residents and had to pay Church Rates, for the support and upkeep of a church they did not attend and whose minister could refuse to serve them. They were barred from holding public office. This meant that they could not take part in local or national politics, they could not hold a commission in the armed forces and they could attend but not graduate from any of the British universities.
For the next eighteen years the Baptist Church met in this private home. There are very few records referring to them during these years. We know that Thomas Webb died some time before 1814 and his widow, Judith, continued to belong to the Baptist Church.