In 1800, 12 Backwell residents applied to the Lord Bishop of Bath to request that “the house of Arthur Hunt at West Town be registered as a place set apart for Protestant dissenters to worship God and exercise their religion”. Permission was granted and, in subsequent years, a number of different properties were used as a place of worship.
By 1853, Queen Victoria was 34 years old and had been reigning for 16 years. Charles Dickens was already established as a popular author. It was then that 10 men, all resident in Backwell, joined together as trustees to purchase a plot of land known as Moody Acre for the princely sum of £30. (equivalent to about £20,000 today). In the original Trust Deed it was mentioned that they wished to build “a chapel with the vestries and appurtenances thereof… for the use of the Society or church known as the Reformed Wesleyan Methodists”. Some of the men were craftsmen so were able to lend a hand with construction and the plaque above the door bears the date 1853.
However, little is known of the early days but it would appear that the Church flourished. Contemporary records show that there was certainly no lack of preachers willing to visit the area!
As may well be imagined, the fabric of the building deteriorated over time and it would seem that a lot of time and energy was devoted to fund raising.
In 1953, a Centenary Thanksgiving Service was held and an appeal was made to raise £200 for urgent repairs to the roof and floor of the existing building.
By the mid 1960s, the congregation numbered between 20 and 30 with an active Sunday School group. However, the building had a number of deficiencies (including no flushing toilets) and the heating was only switched on for the Sunday Service and the midweek Women’s Fellowship. As a result the building suffered from damp which affected the internal décor.
Over subsequent years the building needed further essential repairs and the church suffered badly in the 1980s from a combination of expenses and dwindling membership.
By 1991 it was established that the building was in urgent need of repairs and early indications showed that the costs would be around £15,000. With a membership of 29, a decision as to whether to carry on or to close the church was needed. It was decided to carry on since it was felt that a presence was required in West Town. Work was started and the refurbishment eventually cost nearly three times the original estimate. The church was closed whilst the work was undertaken and it re-opened on 5 December 1992.
It is clear that the 1992 refurbishment resulted in many blessings. The average church attendance doubled, income increased and the congregations are able to enjoy a modern building.
West Town is now a church which provides a warm welcome to anyone who wishes to visit. It also seeks to be informed about and involved in the local community.