The Papists Act of 1778 repealed some of the more restrictive aspects of laws against Catholic assembly, and enabled the erection of a new chapel on land adjoining St James’ Passage. Parliamentary approval for the Act in 1780, however, prompted the Gordon Riots, of which one in Bath resulted in the Bath Missioner, Dr Brewer, fleeing his home. Here is part of his first-hand account:
I was hunted from place to place and pursued through several streets on the evening of the Bath riot; it was with great difficulty I escaped from falling a victim to the fury of the mob. Being here the public minister for people of our persuasion I am well known and was openly attacked in the street that evening by one Butler, who is mentioned in the incendiary letter and was then servant to Mr Baldwin, a gentleman living in this town. After pursuing me at the head of the mob he led them to my house and Chapel, both of which together with all the furniture and books, were entirely destroyed. The unhappy man was afterwards tried and hanged on the spot, though from motives of delicacy I did not give evidence at his trial.
The Belltree, which is threatened to be the first set on fire, is the house I now live in, in the lower part of which there is a long room set aside for divine worship. I beg leave to observe that all the Catholics here, most of whom are gentlemen of family and property, cheerfully took the late oaths of allegiance tendered to them by His Majesty and therefore, both on that account and for their constant peaceable behaviour, flatter themselves that they are entitled to His Majesty’s protection.
The corporation had to summon over 300 Troopers from Devizes and Wells and read the Riot Act before the mob could be dispersed 16 hours later.