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Article by Carol Jones for Footprints, Vol 38 #1, August 2015
Intolerance at Ringstead

This story began when Thomas Stains was born in 1817 in Ringstead, but was not baptised due (I have assumed) to his parents being Baptists. No bother then, until he decided to marry Mary Roberts, also of Ringstead, in October 1842. Unfortunately the vicar of the local church was not happy and wrote across the Banns:

"It appears that after publication Staines was 25 years of age and of the Baptist persuasion.

"Having never been baptised by the church or any sect as allowed by the law now, I refused to marry him until he had covenanted in some way as he positively objected baptism by the church.

"They were subsequently unionised at the Baptist Meeting House in Ringstead. The first couple unholy joined together in the Parish."

In November 1842 a notice in Northampton Mercury reported:

"That a separate building named the Baptist Meeting situated at Ringstead, being a building certified according to law as a place of worship, was on the 19th October 1842 duly registered for solemnizing marriages therein pursuant to the Act of 6th and 7th William 4th c85."

On December 10th 1842 the Northampton Mercury reported:

"On Wednesday morning the 7th instant, at the Baptist Meeting House Ringstead, by the Rev. Young of Thrapston, Mr. Thomas Stains to Mary Roberts both of Ringstead.

"This is the first marriage that has taken place at the above meeting. The parties were to have been married at Ringstead church 8 weeks ago, but the clergyman sent for the bridegroom on the morning he was to be married, and informed him that he would not marry him unless he was christened first, which he refused, and waited until the meeting was licensed."

By 1843 this story had reached the New Zealand Colonist and Port Nicholson Advertiser under the headline:


The rest of the tale unfolds in this article. It continued to say:-

"that the disappointment was great as the wedding dinner was prepared and the invited guests assembled, so they kept the day as pleasant as they could.

"The young man, Thomas Stains, went to Rev Dr. Watson to have his money returned, for it seems that in that parish they demand the whole of the fees when the Banns are put in.

"Well,” says the Dr. “If Thomas Messer (the clerk) will give you up his share, then I will return my half of the fees.” The clerk refunded his portion. Stains returned to the parson saying “I have come for my money, Sir.” The poor clerical doctor, on examining his treasury, found it reduced to a solitary half-a-crown. This sum he gave to Stains and with a note written by him, to the clerk, begging him to pay the remainder.

So how was this marriage to be done? Their characters were irreproachable. The whole parish cried shame on the vicar! The dissenters, with several staunch church people, raised the 3 shillings requisite for licensing the Baptist Meeting as a place of marriage. In the interim, the bride elect, who by the way, was a church-goer as were her parents, returned to reside under the parental roof.

They were married at last on December 7th 1842 at the Meeting House by Benjamin C Young and witnessed by her father John Roberts and stepmother Alice (yes, Margaret Thatcher's ancestors).

The couple lived in Ringstead until Thomas's death in 1880 aged 64 years. He was buried at the church but in the column 'By whom the ceremony was performed' in the register is written 'Unbaptised' and by the side 'Notice of body having been interred given by John Staines (his son)'.

I think I have more understanding now of why one of their daughters Rebecca Staines and betrothed, Thomas Walker, both of Ringstead, moved to lodgings in Northampton to marry at St Sepulchre church before returning to Ringstead. Carol Jones

I have more information to add to this from a newspaper cutting. I think the Mercury.


The first funeral took place in this parish on Monday, when the remains of Thomas Staines, late a worshipper at the Baptist Chapel, were interred in the churchyard, by the Rev. Isaac Near (Baptist minister) officiating. By a singular coincidence the deceased was the first person married in a Dissenting chapel in Ringstead. The vicar kindly allowed the friends to select the site for the grave, and the service was conducted with becoming order and solemnity. Carol Jones, 2018 

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