Carey History


Who built the Church?  Why is it called “Carey”?  How long have Baptists been established in Hemel Hempstead?

Early Beginnings

Baptists have been worshipping in Hemel Hempstead since the middle of the seventeenth century.  The harsh laws governing church worship at that time forced those who wished to dissociate from the established church to meet in secret.  Local “Dissenters” travelled to the village of Kensworth for Sunday worship.  In 1679, a group of Dissenters under the pastoral leadership of Rev Samuel Ewer left the church at Kensworth to meet as Baptists in Hemel Hempstead.  The first chapel was built in 1688 in the grounds of what is now Old Marlowes House at the bottom of Midland Road.  A little while later, in 1711, a piece of land was acquired in Bury Road for burial purposes. Then, as now, Baptist Dissenters were in the forefront of the fight for human rights and respect for individual conscience.

The original chapel was soon too small for the congregation and a larger chapel was built on land to the rear of the Rose and Crown Inn in the old High Street.  The church migrated to this new building in 1731.  A burial ground adjoining the chapel was also established; this is now part of Fig Tree Hill gardens.

Just over a hundred years later a piece of land in Marlowes was purchased for the erection of a new church, schoolrooms and a manse.  The newly built church was opened on October 15th 1861, the schoolrooms were completed by 1865, and the manse a year later.  The whole building project cost nearly £5,000. These are the premises that Carey Baptist Church inherited from the earlier Marlowes Baptist Church.

Local Baptists have always been alert for opportunities to establish new churches or worship centres.  In 1841 a small chapel was built in Leverstock Green as an offshoot from the Marlowes church.  This maintained a preaching ministry for more than 120 years before it gave way to new developments in the area.

In a similar way, a committee of representatives from Marlowes and Boxmoor Baptist churches was formed in 1938 to consider the possibility of building a new church in the rapidly developing housing area at Bennetts End.  A site in Belmont Road was available but building was delayed by the Second World War and the Belmont Road Baptist Church eventually came into being in 1962.

Why ‘Carey’ Baptist Church?

Carey Baptist Church was formed in October 1980 by uniting the memberships of Boxmoor Baptist Church and Marlowes Baptist Church.  Joint discussions had been taking place for some years and it was eventually agreed that the new church should use the Marlowes premises in the town centre, which needed less renovation, and to sell the Boxmoor site for residential development.

The name "Carey" was chosen for the new church because it was important that the links with the Carey family should not be lost.  William Carey was the forerunner of the modern missionary movement.  In 1792 he was instrumental in calling together a group of his fellow Baptists in Kettering to form a Society to take the Christian gospel to "the heathen".  This became the Baptist Missionary Society with William Carey as its first missionary to India.  In 1822, largely through the influence of Mary Carey and Ann Hobson, sisters of William Carey, a room for worship was obtained in Two Waters. Three years later a church building was erected in London Road, Boxmoor.  In the following year, 16 people formed themselves into a Christian Church of the Particular Baptist Denomination.  No fewer than 14 relatives of William Carey joined the church that, by 1863, had outgrown its accommodation.  The old building was pulled down and a larger one erected in its place, but even this proved hardly big enough for a church that had grown by the end of the 19th century to over 200 members and a Sunday School of more than 360.  Unfortunately the numbers worshipping in Boxmoor declined during the middle of the 20th century and the cost of building upkeep became prohibitive.

The Carey link was perpetuated in the name chosen for the combined congregation in 1980, and the original memorial stone erected over the grave of Mary Carey and Ann Hobson in front of the Boxmoor church was moved to the forecourt of the church in Marlowes.

New Developments

In the late 1960s, the three Baptist churches in the town decided that they should work more closely together.  The first development was group ministry in which the three ministers began to work together and occasionally exchanged pulpits.  It was then decided to maximise the particular strengths of each minister by sharing the various tasks in the three churches in a team ministry.  Under this arrangement, ministers were called to serve all three churches although they would take particular responsibility for the pastoral care of members of one of them.  A Baptist Council, consisting of the ministers and three representatives from each church, was formed to coordinate the work of the ministers and the churches.  Each church paid a share of the costs of ministry to the Baptist Council who then became responsible for all aspects of ministerial finance.

The town continued to grow as new neighbourhoods were developed.  Each neighbourhood was planned as a separate entity with a small shopping centre and other central community services.  In each area a site was allocated for a church, if one was not there already.  In the early 1970s the Development Corporation planned the Grovehill area and decided that it should have a combined church and community centre. They hoped that one building could serve the needs of Roman Catholics, Anglicans and Free Church worshippers.  After much discussion between the denominations it was agreed that a joint church should be built and that the funds be provided by the local Roman Catholic diocese, the local Anglican diocese and the Hemel Hempstead Baptist churches (supported with funds from the Baptist Union and the Hertfordshire Baptist Association).  The first church and community centre was temporarily housed in a hut while a permanent building was erected.  This was completed and consecrated a few years later.  The ministry at the Church of the Resurrection, Grovehill, is provided by a Roman Catholic priest and an Anglican vicar with the help of a Baptist or URC minister until the end of the 1990s

The Current Situation

Belmont Road and Carey Baptist Churches have now returned to individual ministry and the Baptist Council has been dissolved.  The two Baptist churches continue to work together in many different areas and also continue to share a concern and an interest in the work in Grovehill.

And so the work goes on.  Baptists in Hemel Hempstead have continuously adapted to the local situation under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Only God knows what further changes will need to be made in the future.