A Brief History of Methodist Chapels
Methodist Chapels have been a feature of Britain for over 200 years. The Methodist Movement originated in 1730’s within the Anglican Church and was founded by Church of England Minister John Wesley, who sought to question the religious assumptions of the day. Born in Epworth, Lincolnshire in 1703 he was the son of Anglican Parish Priest Samuel Wesley and his wife Susannah. He, together with his brother Charles and other students, held regular meetings whilst in Oxford, for Bible Study, prayers and to do acts of charity. The group became known as the “Holy Club’, or ‘Methodists’, as they were nicknamed due to the methodical way they carried out their faith.
In 1739, John Wesley began preaching to large crowds of men and women in the outdoors, forming societies of the converted, encouraging them to meet weekly in smaller groups. He travelled up and down the country visiting the societies and preaching, which, with such radical ideas in those days was not without danger. He and his followers were denounced in print and from the pulpit, his meetings were disrupted, he was physically attacked and had many death threats.
As the movement grew so larger buildings were acquired for use as a chapel, or ‘Preaching House’. The first was opened at the New Room in Bristol in 1739 and is the oldest Methodist Chapel in the world. The money to build a chapel or convert an existing building had to come from the local Methodist Society and until well into the 20th Century, private houses and other buildings were still being used.
Methodism as founded by Wesley remained largely as one during his lifetime, but after his death in 1791, there were many splits within the movement, some breaking away and some coming together. In the 19th century sizeable increases in membership led to the construction or enlargement of chapels all over the country, the size and style of which varied greatly. Often there would be several chapels in the same town or village, each representing a different branch of Methodism.
The 20th century saw decreases in membership, which led to a union of three major branches of the movement. The Wesleyan, the Primitive and the United Methodist Church, came together in 1932, to form the present Methodist Church as it is today. This led to large numbers of chapels becoming redundant and over the last few decades many of these building have been demolished or converted to other uses, including private dwellings.
There are records of a Society of Methodists consisting of ten members in Beckingham in 1788. John Wesley is believed to have visited Beckingham in that same year, staying at The Hall with the Waterhouse family with whom he became good friends. At one time there were two Methodist Chapels in Beckingham, a Wesleyan and a Primitive. The Primitive, situated on The Green, was in use until the early to mid 1900’s when it fell into disrepair before being renovated in the 1980’s and becoming the village Recreation Room as it is now.
Old Wesleyan Chapel
The land on which the original Wesleyan Chapel stood was the homestead of the Brumhead family in the High Street, which was then passed on to a Robert Cross. It is unclear exactly when the chapel was built, though believed to be 1842.
The Chapel was granted a certificate of licence for use as a place of worship for the Protestants of Beckingham by the Bishop of Lincoln in 1842. In 1885 it was decided that this chapel was inadequate for the needs of the Society and funds were started to build a new one.
Members and friends worked tirelessly to raise funds with events such as sewing teas, sales of work and subscriptions. After the new Chapel was built just a short distance away, this building was used as the Sunday School room for some years, then for storage, until it was eventually demolished in the early 1970’s. There are now bungalows where the Chapel once stood.
Wesleyan Methodist Chapel 2007
The land on which the second Methodist Chapel stands was donated to the village by the wealthy Cross family in 1894. The architects were Messrs Eyre and Southall of Retford and Gainsborough, the contractor was a Mr Theo Wilson of East Markham and the cost of the build was £1,050. The building work commenced in July 1895. The architects presented a silver trowel for the stone laying ceremony and a Mr and Mrs Barlow, who had both made donations to the fund, were given the honour of laying the first stones. The opening service was held in March 1896, with the chapel crowded to overflowing and with Ministers attending from Hull, Misterton and Gainsborough. There was a public tea held afterwards in the old chapel with 300 guests, necessitating several sittings due to the lack of space!
The Chapel is Gothic in style, built with the best-pressed red bricks of the time with Ancaster stone dressings. The front elevation above the entrance has a large stone wheel window and grouped lancet windows with stone mullions and panels filled in with ornamental terra cotta diapers. There are also Gothic headed windows to the front and down each side. The chapel floor stands four feet above the road and was originally approached by steps only from the pavement, though a ramp and handrail have since been added.
The porch entrance is paved with Minton Tiles and has doors either side leading off to the aisles. There is seating for almost 200 people with pews either side and in the centre, which are fitted with umbrella stands and bookracks.
In the past members were required to pay a fee in order to use a pew, though this is no longer the case! The roof inside, now covered in by a false ceiling, is of open timber with bracketed principles match boarded up to the first purloin and plastered up to the apex.
The walls are match boarded pew height and plastered up to the cornice. The inside woodwork is of selected pitch pine and varnished mahogany. The wooden floor, once bare with runners, is now fully carpeted. Surrounding the pulpit is an ornate communion rail inside which stands a communion table and chairs, made in 1953 by a Mr Harry Jervis a village resident who at one time was a draughtsman for the Watson Shipbuilders in Old Trent Road. On the right of the pulpit there is an American organ, which was fitted in 1901 and there is also a piano. On the wall to the left of the pulpit is a tapestry which came from Lea Chapel, made by Annie Gray in 1884 when she was just 13yrs old.
Wording on the wall above the pulpit once proclaimed “PRAISE WAITETH FOR THEE O GOD IN ZION”, now no longer there. Doors on either side of the pulpit lead into a corridor which leads into the vestry, where Sunday school meetings were once held. There were originally two rooms here, a classroom and the ministers’ vestry, but it was converted into one room in 1958. The chapel’s windows are glazed with tinted cathedral glass worked to the architect’s designs.
In 1941 the windows had to be replaced due to damage from bombs being dropped nearby. In the early days oil lamps provided lighting but these were removed in 1930 when electric lighting was fitted and the oil lamps sold. The heating was originally by means of hot air flues, the apparatus being fixed in the basement under the minister’s vestry, with a coal fire which had to be lit every time there was a service, heating warm air, this was then discharged into the chapel through metal grates in the aisles. The ventilation was by means of air pump ventilators and fresh air coming into the building through inlet panels, three each side. The cellar is now closed off and the heating is all by electric.
Outside the Chapel there are two toilets, a ladies and a gents, which were built at the same time as the Chapel. There is a memorial stone in the outside wall of the Chapel, in memory of Herbert and Florence Proudley who lived and farmed in the village. Florence was a member of the villages’ first ladies cricket team in c1935. There is also a small hall behind the chapel, built c1960, which was used for Sunday school and social occasions, including at one time barn dances. It has a small kitchen area for catering and used for occasional coffee mornings. The whole area is enclosed by a brick wall five foot high with a dwarf wall to the front and gates hung on piers with worked stone-caps. The front wall originally had metal railings but these were removed for the war effort.
Unfortunately, due to lack of members and finances, this Chapel is now closed, a sad loss to the village. The final service was a special circuit service on Sunday 19th August 2007, in which over 100 years of Methodism in Beckingham were celebrated. The congregation also included members of Beckingham Anglican Church. The service was taken by the Superintendent Minister Reverend Keith Lackenby and the Preacher was Reverend Stuart Gunson, who was previously the minister for Beckingham and is now on the Whitby circuit. Beautiful flower arrangements were on display and these had been done by the ladies of the chapel. A lesson was read by Mrs. C. M. du Feu. Mr Simmons was the door steward and Mrs D. Bell and Mr K. Bullivant were collection Stewards. The organist was Mrs J. Lynn and the hymns had been chosen by members of the congregation. Light refreshments were available at the close of the service.
However, the Methodist Church Council and Anglican Parochial Church Council agreed that both congregations will hold their services together in All St. Church. A formal arrangement was drawn up by both churches known as Local Ecumenical Partnership. The first service was held on 26th August 2007 at 10.30am, after which representatives of each church were to devise a pattern of services embracing and respecting both traditions of worship. This agreement did not last and is no longer the case. The Chapel has since become a private dwelling.
Primitive Methodist Chapel – Recreation Room
This was originally a Primitive Methodist Chapel, the date on the building is shown as 1836 but it is believed to be earlier. There are records of a Society of Methodists in Beckingham consisting of 10 members in 1788. The Chapel was built in front of the old Pinfold, which is shown on the 1777 Enclosure map but the chapel is not. Whites directory 1832 states that a Methodist Chapel was built in Beckingham in 1807 then extended in 1821, which may refer to this building or the original Wesleyan Chapel in the High Street. It was used as a “Free Prayer” Chapel in 1841. A Certificate stating that it was used as a place of worship before 1852 and would continue to be used as such by Primitives was granted in 1861.
Kelly’s directory states that there was still a Primitive Methodist Chapel in use in the village in 1925. It is unclear exactly when it stopped being used as a Chapel, but after the 2nd World War it was used for recreational purposes. When Misterton Rural Council existed, they used the building for their meetings. Other purposes included being used as a hairdressers’ two days a week.
Although no longer a place of worship it was still registered as a place to be married up until the 1960’s. However, it gradually fell into a state of disrepair and was eventually closed in 1971.
The Watson family obtained the building and Miss Nora Watson sold it to the Parish Council for £50 in the late 1970’s, on condition that it was used for the benefit of the whole community.
A major renovation took place at a cost of £14,000, with the help of donations from local firms, BP Explorations, Trent Wharfage and Brashes, as well as money received from Parish Council funds and a Bassetlaw District Council Grant. The renovations included an extension for toilets and a kitchen as well as furniture and fittings. It kept its distinctive Victorian appearance with the 2 arched windows on both its front and side and a clay tiled roof. The original low wall and the iron railings were removed long ago, the railings probably going to the war effort.
It was reopened as a new Recreation Room in October 1983 with a cheese and wine buffet, to which 70 people attended. The opening ceremony was performed by the then Chairman of Bassetlaw District Council, Mrs Connie Tucker. Rob Clarke of BP Explorations, Robert Marshall of Brashes, Richard Adams Chairman of the Parish Council and Councillor Derek Weir also attended.
There is a plaque on the outside wall of the building commemorating Beckingham winning the Best Kept Village Competition in Group B in 1985, for which the village was presented with an Oak Tree, £100 and a Commemorative Certificate. A ceremony was held with refreshments in the Recreation Room with everyone in the village being invited. People were asked for suggestions on what the £100 should be spent on, and it was decided to purchase a bench seat to be placed somewhere in the village, this was duly done.
The Oak Tree was planted on the Green and the certificate was framed and can be seen inside the building. Beckingham has come close to winning several times since then, including coming 3rd in 2007.
Also on display inside is a wooden model of a ship, presented by the Watson family and made by a Mr Jervis who was a draughtsman for Watson’s Shipyard. The model was later framed in a glass cabinet.
In the late 1980’s the Parish Council applied to have the building listed, this was refused. A ramp and railings were added to the front of the building in 1993. There is a useful map on the outside wall showing all footpaths in Beckingham and Saundby, along with a Parish Council notice board. Today, the Recreation Room is well used for small functions, various meetings and activities and also used in conjunction with activities on the Green. The location of the Recreation Room is particularly useful to those who are less mobile, being in the centre of the village.
It was well known for some time that the building suffered from damp problems, the outside rendering was in a bad state of repair and among other things the boiler needed replacing. After some discussion the Parish Council decided to undertake improvements and refurbishments and these were carried out in July and August of 2008, organised by the Parish Clerk.
This included removing some of the plaster on the walls inside and replacing, along with damproofing and complete redecoration. The kitchen was refitted with new units and worktops along with new flooring. A new central heating and hot water boiler was fitted. New carpeting, curtains and blinds were added generously donated by Baris Facades and Linings Ltd. A new facility of a projector and screen were also fitted with the expert help of Chris du Feu and is available for use by the community, local organisations and businesses using the building.
Outside the old rendering was completely removed, the walls damp proofed and re rendered with a Tyrolean finish as before. The outside was repainted, the guttering replaced and the flat roof of the extension was also replaced. These improvements to the building along with the Spinney landscaping and the already established Green will hopefully make for a far more attractive and useful amenity for the community.