Broadmead Baptist Church, Bristol UK
                                                           "The Church Above the Shops"

Thomas Ewins (1617-1670)

EWINS was the name given to the Minister's Vestry in this church (re-built in 1969). It was the name of a man of God who braved the rigours and tribulations that attended any dissenter who dared to oppose the Government established Church of England. Thomas Ewins had some strong differences of opinion with the established church!

In the late 1630s and early 1640s the young Thomas Ewins was in open communion at All Hallows Baptist Church in London and a tailor by trade. With five other friends, Ewins was sent out to preach the Gospel to the people of Wales at Llanvaches in Monmouthshire in 1642. This was during the Civil War; the church at Llanvaches emigrated to the safety of Bristol in 1643 where Parliament had been set up. On the fall of Bristol in 1643 to Prince Rupert, the whole congregation moved to London.

Many strange and new ideas were abroad during their stay in London, including discussion about believers' baptism. On their return to Wales in 1646, it was believed that believers' baptism (by immersion) was necessary before the partaking of Communion at the Lord's Table, and they formed themselves into a new church at Llantrisant, Ewins eventually taking pastoral oversight of the new church. In 1650 the Propagation Act mentions him “as fit to be a Puritan Minister in Wales”.

Late in 1651, a certain Mrs. Hathway, wife of a Bristol brewer, went to Wales to hear the, by now, famous preacher and was convinced that this eminent man would be suitable to be the Pastor in Bristol.

At first, he did not want to come, but by a special invitation extended to him by the Mayor and Aldermen plus the Steward of Bristol in pursuance of an Act of Parliament, he settled in the church appointed as a lecturer and teacher. He was requested to preach at St. Nicholas "every third day". On Lord's Day mornings, he preached to his own people at Christchurch; and in the afternoon, by desire of the Corporation, at the Church of St. Mary-le-Port. On alternate Fridays he would preach at St. Philip's and St Michael's Almshouses. Ewins did not wish to be regarded as a Minister, and always referred to himself as "a Preacher of the Gospel in Wales and Bristol". By this time, the minds of some members began to be much exercised on the subject of infant baptism and sprinkling.

In 1660, in consequence of the return of Charles the Second to the now restored Monarchy, the troubles of the church at St. Nicholas and Christchurch set in like a Spring tide! They were deprived of their churches; they met at their pastors home - to which, in January 1661, the Mayor (still a staunch Church of England supporter) sent his sergeant with the king's proclamation, to Mr. Ewins, and prohibited him from preaching in his own house.

In June of 1661, Mr. Ewins was summoned before the Mayor and charged to preach no more. He was arrested on the 12th of August 1661 and imprisoned in his own home. For his continued disobedience of the Law, as it then stood, he was in and out of the prison situated at Newgate Hill (now the site occupied by The Galleries where the linking footbridge leads to the new Castle Park). He was often seen preaching from a high-up window in the prison to the passers-by below. Eventually, he, and several other dissenting ministers were baptised in the River Frome at Baptist Mills in 1667.

Mr Ewins died on April 29th 1670 , aged 53 years.

After meeting in many places (often clandestinely) the faithful congregation secured the Broadmead premises, 'Four great rooms made into one square room about sixteen yards long and fifteen broad' where they first worshipped on August 20th 1671. Broadmead Baptist Church stands on this site today.

Vic Lewis 1998