Chapel of the Month – November 2016

Old Meeting House - A glimpse from the street

A glimpse from the street

This month our Chapel of the Month author is Dr John Clements, current Pastor of the Old Meeting House Congregational Church, Colegate, Norwich. He writes:

Built during a period of religious persecution, the Old Meeting House Congregational Church is one of the most hidden chapels in Norwich – even residents living on the same road are often unaware of its existence!

The Old Meeting House facade revealed

The Old Meeting House facade revealed

Very little has been altered to the building except in 1842 part of the graveyard was lost when a Sunday school building was built which has sadly been sold and converted into private dwellings.

By the western gallery is an organ with gilt pipes and a pretty carved case. It was made by Robert Dallam around 1660, but it did not arrive at the Old Meeting until 1838.

The Old Meeting church book is one of the oldest set of non-conformist records in the country, and one of only a handful of surviving non-conformists church books to contain records from the civil war period. (This is now housed in the Norfolk County’s archives.) While Old Meeting itself first gathered itself into church fellowship until June 1644, its origins are earlier.

Atmospheric interior of the Old Meeting House

Atmospheric interior of the Old Meeting House

The founding members of Old Meeting had been followers of the Puritan minister William Bridge. He was ejected from St Peter’s Hungate in 1637 and had to flee to Holland. Until the Act of Toleration in 1689 members of the chapel had met in secret but after the Act was passed land was purchased and the chapel was built in 1693.

The Chapel remains open as an active Congregational Church.

As a Grade I listed building it is kept in good repair as the Chapel entered into a repair-lease with Norwich City Council.

A 32 page booklet, Our Story, was published in 2016 and can be purchased from the Old Meeting House website for £4.00 (which includes post and packing).


A visit to this attractive and fascinating Chapel is well worth it – but for those who aren’t able to make the trip the Old Meeting House website contains a wealth of information too.


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Cumberworth update

Date Stone, Cumberworth

Date Stone, Cumberworth

Having kindly contributed our June Chapel of the Month, Mr & Mrs Ella (Ray & Marie) recently got in touch to say that they have now restored the 1859 stone plaque on the former Primitive Methodist Chapel, Cumberworth in Lincolnshire, now their lounge.

We hope that you enjoy seeing the fruits of their labours – and we congratulate them on their careful guardianship of the former chapel.

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Nonconformist heritage

The Historic England website contains a great deal of material of interest to architectural historians, building on the work of its own in-house research teams.

A summary of the resources related to Nonconformist heritage can be found in the Faith and Commemoration section.

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Chapel of the Month – September 2016

Tewkesbury Baptist Chapel

Tewkesbury Baptist Chapel font

Tewkesbury Baptist Chapel

Tewkesbury Baptist Chapel from the gallery

Tewkesbury Baptist Chapel

Tewkesbury Baptist Chapel gallery

Tewkesbury Baptist Chapel

Tewkesbury Baptist Chapel interior

Simon Lawton, Curator of the John Moore Museum in Tewkesbury, recently wrote to us to highlight the charms of the newly repaired Old Baptist Chapel in Tewkesbury. He says:

“The building has recently undergone a period of repair, refurbishment and reinterpretation and is now open to the public on a regular basis. Of particular interest has been our project to transcribe the church’s  minutes book which dates back to the middle of the seventeenth century.  This can currently be accessed as a touchscreen interactive in the OBC, but will also soon be available as an online resource on our website.”

Additional details, including information about visiting the chapel, can be found at on the John Moore Museum website.

The Tewkesbury Old Baptist Church website offers the following information about the chapel’s history:

“The original church building, known simply as ‘The Old Baptist Chapel’, is located off the Old Baptist Chapel Court, an alleyway running from Church Street down towards the river. The street is presumably named, not after the chapel, but after the grand Abbey building which stands opposite, forming a marked contrast to the small chapel building.  A burial ground is located next to the chapel.

The chapel was originally a medieval timber framed hall house, built some time in the fifteenth century. It was first used as a place of worship some time in the seventeenth century, and in about 1720 is was modified to make it more suitable for this purpose.

Later on, after the church had moved to new premises, it was divided up and parts of it were converted into cottages, with just the central part retained as a meeting room. However, it has now been restored to show how it probably looked in about 1720. The one exception is the rear balcony, which was probably built around 1905 but which has been retained.”


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Chapel of the Month – August 2016

We’re cheating a little this month in that this building isn’t a chapel but the connection to John Bunyan seemed like a good reason to include this unusual Grade II listed heritage asset…

John Bunyan’s Chimney

Bunyan's Chimney

Bunyan’s Chimney

John Bunyan’s Chimney can be found in a small public garden on a walk through Coleman Green, near Wheathampstead in Hertfordshire. This mid to late 17th century brick chimney is all that remains of a cottage where John Bunyan is said to have stayed and preached. Today, John Bunyan is perhaps best known as the author of ‘The Pilgrim’s Progress’ but he was equally well known in his day for his Nonconformist sermons. He was a frequent visitor to Hertfordshire and preached in many of its villages.

The list description notes: “The SW side of the base appears to be a C18 addition, blocking the original inglenook. Timber bressumer visible within the stack. On SW side is a commemorative plaque to John Bunyan who preached at the cottage on this site from time to time.”

The rest of the cottage, and the two buildings next to it, were demolished in 1877, when new cottages were built across the road.

The Chimney features in a series of Heritage Trails put together by Wheathampstead Heritage.

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Chapel of the Month – July 2016

Blythburgh Chapel in the early C20

Blythburgh Chapel in the early C20

This month we bring you an overview of Blythburgh Primitive Methodist Chapel, Dunwich Road, Blythburgh, Suffolk by Alan Mackley.

This delightful building is sadly ‘at risk’ and the Chapels Society is deeply concerned about its future.

The first chapel on the site was built in 1837 however, the present building has an 1870s date stone on its front elevation. Whether this represents a complete rebuild or an enlargement of an earlier building is not known. The chapel is a modest brick building, with an original exterior but no surviving interior furnishings.

Blythburgh Chapel in 2000.

Blythburgh Chapel in 2000

It is not listed and there is no reference to it in James Bettley’s East Suffolk volume in the ‘Pevsner’ series of Buildings of England.

However, the chapel has a very important place in Blythburgh history.  The Primitive Methodist nonconformist sect was attractive to the poor farm labourers who made up the majority of Blythburgh’s population.

The 1851 census of religious attendance shows that many more people worshipped at the chapel than in the parish church (Holy Trinity – Grade I listed).

Blythburgh Chapel today.

Blythburgh Chapel today

Sadly, since its closure in the 1970s the physical condition of the chapel has steadily deteriorated though it has been used very occasionally for art exhibitions.  It is located on a very small plot and the lack of parking space and land at the rear has no doubt made finding an alternative use difficult.

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New OUP books on Whitefield and Wesley published

George Whitefield: Life, Context, and Legacy
Edited by Geordan Hammond and David Ceri Jones – Whitefield flier 

  • Offers a reassessment of Whitefield’s life, and interprets him in a wide range of new contexts.
  • Includes examination of Whitefield’s chequered relationship with the Church of England, his engagement with the British overseas Empire, and Whitefield’s appropriation of elements of enlightened thought.
  • Explores Whitefield and the literary tradition of affectations.
  • Examines Whitefield’s understanding of evangelical conversion, his theological development, and his contribution to the formation of evangelical piety.

John Wesley in America: Restoring Primitive Christianity
Geordan Hammond – Wesley flier

  • This is the first book-length study of John Wesley’s experience in Georgia (1736-37)
  • Provides insight into a formative period in the life of John Wesley and the history of colonial Georgia
  • Contributes to the debate on the importance of the Georgia mission for later developments in Methodism by providing a detailed and clear picture of the mission and its context

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Building the Church – new Chapels Society publication available!

The Chapels Society is pleased to announce the publication of Building the Church (The Chapels Society Journal Volume 2) edited by Chris Skidmore.

The volume contains essays on James Weir: a Wesleyan Architect (Alan Brooks), The Building of Wesley Memorial Church, Oxford (Martin Wellings), Beautiful Zion: the transformation of Nonconformist identity in a Yorkshire mill town (Kenneth C Jackson) and Garden City Religion: the Free Churches of Letchworth and Welwyn (Clyde Binfield).

Chapels Society members will receive a copy of this volume, the second in The Chapels Society Journal series, as part of their membership. Non-members can obtain a copy for £15 including postage and packing

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Taking Stock – and online resource for Roman Catholic churches

The results of the Taking Stock exercise for Roman Catholic churches have been put online.

This initiative began in 2005 and aimed to assess the historical and architectural importance of every Roman Catholic church and chapel within a diocese, with details shown on the Taking stock website.

The project is a partnership between the Patrimony Committee of the Bishops’ Conference, Historic England and individual dioceses.

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Chapel of the Month – June 2016

This month we have a contribution from Ray and Marie Ella who were keen to share some information about their cherished home – a very small Primitive Methodist Chapel built in 1859 in Cumberworth near Alford, Lincolnshire.

Cumberworth Date Plaque

Cumberworth Date Plaque

Ray, a retired historian, and Marie bought the chapel in late 2015 and have carried out a great deal of research into its history. The results of their diligent efforts can be found on the My Primitive Methodist Ancestors website. This is a great example of the value of local research and the potential to be able to share this information widely via the internet.

Ray and Marie are also the proud owners of two Primitive Methodist Centenary plates. An interesting article illustrating the Centenary plates can be found on Dave’s Little Blog.

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