Bernard J. Honeysett (1912-1997) was born in an old farmhouse in Sussex on 7 December 1912, the second child of Joseph and Lydia Ann Honeysett. The family were Gospel Standard Strict and Particular Baptists, attending Ebenezer Chapel, Bodle Street. Tilley Farm (150 acres) was initially rented and then purchased after the First World War, and remained in the family until 1960, being taken over by Honeysett and his brother when their father was unable to continue.
Bernard went to private boarding school in Heathfield for ten years up to 1926, developing a ‘great love’ of ‘gardening and horticulture rather than academic studies.’ After two years working in horticulture, he and his brother saved up and started a business growing bedding plants and cut flowers. But he became cold and ‘very much immersed in the world.’
With the beginning of World War II, the brothers had to move from a successful business flower growing and landscape gardening to grow tomatoes. Bernard married Gwendoline (a ‘land girl’ on the farm) on 8 September 1945. Both brothers were in the Home Guard. The farm was in ‘Doodle Bug Alley’, and bombs and mines were sometimes dropped nearby. This, he says, ‘stirred us up spiritually.’ They founded a pedigree British Friesian herd to help the farm business. Bernard became editor of The Southern Eastern British Friesian Breeders’ Club – a completely worldly pursuit. He became formal in his Christian life.
In 1955 God began to deal with him in his ‘backslidden state’, and he was baptised on 31 May 1956. The first preaching he did was at Ninfield Chapel at the end of 1956. His call to preach was affirmed by his own church on 3 Feb 1957. With several invitations to preach, he conducted an itinerant ministry throughout the country between 1957 and 1960. He became pastor at Jireh, Tenterden in 1960, but after seeing fruit, eventually opposition arose to his preaching – which was not deemed sufficiently ‘experiential’, and included the ‘free offer of the gospel’ – and there was division because of Hyper-Calvinism. He had to resign in April 1967. He was much helped and influenced in these years by Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones through the Ministers’ Fellowship at Westminster Chapel, by attendance at the annual Puritan Conference, and by reading Spurgeon.
Trinity Baptist Church, Tenterden was formed on 1 September 1967, with Bernard Honeysett as its first pastor. The church initially met in the Scout Hut, then from August 1969 in the former Free Church of England building, not used for worship since 1948. Bernard continued in this pastorate until his retirement in 1984. He was encouraged through these years by attendance at the Banner Leicester Ministers’ Conference and the Carey Conference. In retirement, he continued to preach, and he and his wife remained members at Trinity, supporting the pastor, Peter Sanderson. His chief interest became his garden, developed from scratch, which received several hundred visitors each year under the National Garden Scheme. It was said to contain ‘one of the largest collections of plants for a small garden in the south east of England.’
Bernard Honeysett went to be with the Lord on 25 October 1997, while taking a rest after tending his garden. His autobiography, The Sound of His Name, was published by the Trust two years before his death.