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Preacher Pratt by Malcolm Payne published 1996Page 1 2 3 4 5 6 7

The little stream still runs through beneath the road at Pratt's Bottom. It was once the border marker of Richard Pratt's land, as it rounds over the shoulder of the hill from the site of his mill, with Mill Drive cutting into the upper section. The land from Croham Road, with borders running down beside Trinity Hall, round into the Eridge Gardens estate and Millbrook Road, were markers of the acres belonging to Richard Pratt from 1862, as he added the next 15 acres bought from his father.

Once settled into this, and working hard with the help of his family, Richard experienced the next tragedy in his life, which does appear to become a series of sombre happenings. His son Jesse was killed while dressing the millstones, which moved in a brisk wind, even though the brake was set hard on the sweeps. Wear may have been the cause; whatever it was, the machinery came into action and Jesse's smock was caught in a cog, drawing him into the machinery. Despite the fact that the noise alerted Richard, who quickly threw out a gear, stilling the grinding wheels, Jesse was dead before he was carried into the cottage.

From this time Richard Pratt, seeking solace in his Lord, was drawn to become a Baptist lay preacher, even conducting services from his Mill Cottage. He was a changed man. From his book, 'Wilderness Journey', and his accounts, part of which are his journal, it appears obvious that his eldest son's death had a great influence on his outlook. He saw his son's death as a punishment. Keeping close touch with Forest Fold Baptist Chapel, which was his 'home' of worship, he decided to hold weekday evening services in his cottage.

Later, on the death of Pastor John Whatford, he was asked to preach at Gethsemane Chapel in Lordswell Lane - now a house, 'Queensbury'. John Whatford's grave can be seen in All Saint's churchyard, close enough to the front fence to be read from the Church Road (north side) footpath, to the left of the gate. Richard's reputation as a preacher spread, and he was asked to speak at other chapels, including Bethel at Rotherfield. By all accounts he was a good, noisy, pulpit-thumping, pessimistic preacher, who once roared, "And the evil wrongdoer shall he cast to the bottom of the bottomless pit!".