Oakridge Methodist Chapel
1. Lovely stained glass at the front of the Chapel
2. Oakridge Methodist Chapel
3. Inside the Chapel, lit by paraffin lamps, c. 1900. Little changed thereafter except for the lighting and heating
4. Ladies in their fine dresses and hats congregate outside the chapel, ready to attend the service c. 1900
5. Coming from Chapel
6. Oakridge Methodist Chapel
7. The Revd David Edwards, in pastoral charge of the Chapel from 1967 until May 1978
8. Chapel Interior
9. Chapel Memorial Stone to S.S. Starling
10. Chapel - In Memory of Oliver Hunt
11. Chapel School Memorial Stone
12. The Hymns sung at the laying of the foundation stone in 1861
13. Notice for the 1873 Bazaar to raise money for the rebuilding of the Chapel
14. Oakridge Wesleyan Bazaar - Funding the 1874 Rebuilding
15. Hymns to be Sung at the Opening of the Oakridge Wesleyan Chapel, Thursday October 8th, 1874
16. Oakridge Lynch Methodist Chapel Centenary 1874 - 1974
17. An informative article from the Wilts and Gloucestershire Standard 15th October 1938. Whilst much of this is repeated in the Oakridge Book it also contains interesting information on several individuals.
18. The Story of Oakridge Methodist Church by Wilfred Merrett, 1997
19. The Duties of Stewards of the Methodist Church, from the Notice Board of Oakridge Methodist Chapel
The Story of Oakridge Methodist Chapel
Like so many of our hillside villages, Oakridge Lynch has its origin in a few houses built round the upper part of a combe, a depression in the face of the hill down which runs a stream, the natural water supply of the inhabitants. The area possessed few amenities and the inhabitants would have needed to visit Bisley or Chalford for provisions or, on rare occasions, Stroud, some 5 miles distant. As Elizabeth Whiting described at that time, 'My dear mother was born at Bournes Green, a small village in the parish of Bisley, in the year 1770, and died January 19th, 1831, aged 51 years. Elizabeth was the eldest daughter of Thomas and Elizabeth Parsons: 'They were poor but moral people. This part of the world was then in a state of spiritual darkness, and there were no means of grace in the place [Oakridge] where my father had removed to, a Sunday school was not so much as thought of' Elizabeth's parents lived according to the course of this world, without God or any hope beyond the grave. Most were occupied as weavers, many working in the surrounding mills. To them a bad harvest meant not merely severe hardship - to which they were inured - but actual starvation.
Despite the general feeling of spiritual ignorance, in 17 42 a certificate to the Bishop of Gloucester announced that 'some of His Majesty's Protestant Subjects intended to hold a meeting for worship in the house of Giles Davies at Okeridge Lynch [this being one of a number of ways of spelling Oakridge], called Wherr Corner, which they desire to be registered in the Bishop's Court according to an act of Parliament of I William and Mary.' Wherr Corner is now remembered as Weir Farm and Little Weir, above and below the school. In 1744 Daniel Jew of Oakridge Lynch registered another meeting and this was followed in 1784 by a certificate for holding a meeting in the house of Thomas Peacey at Oakridge.
It is unlikely that the villagers attended a place of worship, the nearest church or chapel being in Bisley, which was over a mile away. Stroud, the nearest town, had long been a centre for nonconformity and possessed a number of chapels, one of which dated back to 1711. The Methodist chapel in Acre Street was established in 1763.
In 1794 the Revd William Jenkins was stationed in Gloucester, for Stroud was not then the head of a Wesleyan Methodist circuit, but was made so in 1797, three years later. During his visit to Stroud he had a dream that he ought to go to a place called Bisley. He had not heard of the place, but shortly afterwards he dreamed again he was to go there. He enquired if there was such a place, and was told there was, about 4 miles from Stroud, but he was told that it was a very wicked place and he would be risking his life. But he was resolved to go and some of the circuit members from Stroud went with him. They went to church in the morning and on leaving church one of them stood upon a tombstone and told the people there was going to be preaching in the market house. After preaching, William Jenkins was approached by a man who said 'that is just such preaching as we want in Oakridge'.
Mr Jenkins accepted the invitation and crossed Bisley common. He was well received in Oakridge. Miss Elizabeth Whiting informs us that her mother went, and that it was the first sermon that anyone could remember preached in the village and the first that her mother had heard, though, she was so ignorant that she did not know what he took for his text. Elizabeth and her father and mother attended whenever anyone came to preach. Mr William Davis decided to open his house for them to hold sermons and Elizabeth's grandmother and mother joined.
The Building of the Chapel
Mr Pickersgill, a local preacher on the Stroud circuit, was the principal person in getting the chapel built in Oakridge, and by many he was called the founder of the chapel. From a minister's strange dreams the teaching of the Wesley brothers were introduced to the inhabitants of Oakridge. Mr Pickersgill must have been head of affairs when the chapel was built for he is concerned in a legal indenture, dated 19 March 1798, 'made between William Pickersgill of the one part, and Rowles Scudamore and seven others of the part', Although the building and existing schoolroom were erected in 1797, the legal document transferring the property from Mr Pickersgill to the trustees was dated 19 March 1798, A licence was granted to the chapel on 11 April 1809;
To the Right Reverend Father in God George Isaac by divine Permission Lord Bishop of the Diocese of Gloucester, These are to certify your Lordship, that some of his Majesty’s Subjects being protestant Dissenters, intend holding a meeting for the Worship of Almighty God in a Building erected for that purpose in the village of Oakrige in the parish of Bisley in the said County of Gloucestershire. We therefore pray that this Certificate be registered in your Lordships' Registry pursuant to an Act of Parliament in that case made and passed in the reign of their late Majesty's King William and Queen Mary as Witness our hands this ninth day of April, in the year of our Lord,, one thousand and eight hundred and nine,
William Restall, Thomas Crook, John Whiting, Reuben Phelps, James Blackwell, William Cook, 11 April, 1809.
I do hereby certify that this certificate was duly registered in the Consistory Court of the Lord Bishop of the Diocese of Gloucester as the Act directs.
Elizabeth, Susan and Jabez Whiting were all pillars of society at Oakridge. They entertained the preachers for many years, and tea being very expensive in those; days, it is said they put some fresh tea in the pot for the preacher on Sunday and used the same all the week after, Jabez was a class leader as long as he was about, he was liked, but peculiar in some of his ways. He was very much in earnest about Sunday morning prayer meeting, and for years he went round the village on hill pony between 6 and 7 on Sunday mornings, singing to wake the people to go there.
Members of the chapel used to walk together through the winding roads of the village and congregate outside the chapel gates, so many interesting things to talk about, before entering the chapel. In those days they wore their Sunday hats and dresses. Although poor, people took pride; in their clothes, and there were many dressmakers and mothers used to make their children's clothes.
In 1872 the chapel was thought unsafe to worship in and too small for the congregation, sitting five in it pew and with no seating for the children during the service, The Sunday school and Methodist chapel had flourished and an appeal had to be launched to raise funds to enlarge the chapel: 'In a small chapel that will only seat about 140 persons there is a Sabbath School, containing 230 children and a population within a short distance of 400 adults without any other place of worship. It is with considerable difficulty that the school is conducted in so small a place and when there is public worship, the children are obliged to leave the chapel.' As part of the fundraising initiative, a bazaar was organised and held on Friday, Saturday, Monday and Tuesday, 11, 12, 14 and 15 April 1873. J.H. Carpenter, Esq., of Longcourt, presided at the opening of the bazaar on Good Friday morning. After the devotional exercises he addressed those present in an easy, conversational style, saying he must first find fault:
‘How is it that three or four do all the singing, Were you singing Jabez? (How is it?) Have you been up all night preparing? ('Not quite.') He hoped they should have a profitable gathering. Twenty or thirty of their people from Randwick were coming up presently, Why should they come? He could tell them. 'It was because they had a good name. They had been doing a good work many years, and "precious ointment" smelt a long way. 'Oakridge ointment had reached Randwick, and so twenty or thirty of their scholars had laboured hard and liberally made sacrifices on their behalf; never having seen their faces. They were coming to-day to see what they looked like, he hoped they would like them
The bazaar was very successful and raised £50.
On the 10 May 1876 the cornerstone of the new chapel was laid. By the following September the work was nearly complete and the chapel was reopened on Wednesday 21 September. Collections were made after the sermons towards the funds and people also gave individual donations where possible. On one occasion, following two very good sermons, the place was so crowded as to be uncomfortable and there was a good deal of music which drew more people than money. A lot of the congregation were on the 'truck' system, by which wages were paid in goods rather than in money.
The chapel interior was greatly improved, with more pews and gallery seating. In those days members paid what were plied 'Seat Rents' which entitled the people concerned to sit in what was regarded as their own pew or seat. It was not unknown for people to have to wait several months before a pew or seat became available.
Paraffin lamps were used to light the chapel, but it could still be a gloomy environment on occasions. As one ascends to the gallery there is a lovely stained glass circular window, and, although it has been there many years, it is in perfect condition. Although obviously from the outside you can see the window, you would not realise that in the middle is a beautiful image. The gallery is not used anymore because of health and safety rules and regulations.
Albert George Smith, father of Kathleen Hunt, became superintendent and also lay preacher. He was heavily involved with the overall running of the chapel between 1907 and 1912. Albeit used to run the Sunday school and also started the boys' Bible class in 1907, which was held each Wednesday evening. Boys would attend from the age of 14 upwards and dressed in suits and ties (white or coloured) with shoes that where always clean and shiny. Sadly, Albert George Smith died in 1918 while serving his country in the First World War.
John Peacey’s daughters Lizzie and Annie also played an important role in the chapel as they ran the Sunday school from the early 1930s until the early 1940s. Kathleen Hunt and Daisy Gardiner remember them very well:
They were excellent Sunday school teachers, one was very strict, there would be no answering back from the children, and the other more gentle and relaxed, but they were loved by the children, and their parents appreciated their way of running the Sunday school. There were prizes for best attendance and marks for good written work. We loved Sunday school, Kathleen used to love dressing up in her special dress, and also Daisy. These were sometimes made for them because of the limited amount of money available and parents and friends were very good at dressmaking.
The Revd David Edwards came to Oakridge from Peterborough on retirement after forty years in the Methodist ministry, during which time he had served in eleven circuits in many different parts of the country. He became an active supernumerary in the Stroud and Cirencester circuit and had pastoral charge of Oakridge from 1967 until May 1978 when ill health overtook him. He died at home in Spring Cottage, Far Oakridge, in September 1978.
During the Revd Edwards time at Oakridge he did much to revitalise Methodism in the village. He was responsible for considerable members. The ladies played very important roles, taking care of the building and the graveyard. Many hours were spent keeping it neat and tidy. Regular bazaars were and still are held each year, now organised by Grace Cooke and her team. In October 1995 a service of thanksgiving was held for the life of Oliver Hunt and in 1996 a charitable trust was set up in his memory.
The above is an extract from 'Oakridge a History' by Pat Carrick, Kay Rhodes and Juliet Shipman, available from Oakridge History Group, price £15 through the ‘Contact Us’ page or from the Oakridge Village Shop.
The congregation was around 130 in 1851 but over the next 100 years numbers attending the chapel gradually fell, reaching a low of 13 in 1933. However, by 1972 the congregation had increased again, numbering 20 adults and 22 children attending the Sunday school.
The church was closed by 2008 and as it was sold in that year to be converted to a private dwelling.
1. Minutes and Accounts, 1797 - 1899, ref. D2770
2. Minutes, Accounts, Trustee papers and correspondence, Sunday School Accounts, 1841 - 1977, ref. D3931/2/11
3. Cutting from Gloucester County Advertiser on the history of the Chapel, 1936, ref. D3931/2/11/9
4. retirement and appointment of Trustees, 1901 - 1969, ref. D3931/2/11/2
5. Plan of house built on land sold by the Trustees, 1971, ref. D3931/2/11/6
6. Missilaneous, Centenary Pamphlet, 1974, ref. D3931/2/11/10
7. Letter referring to Deeds, 1901, ref. D3931/2/11/3
8. Provisional Valuation, 1915, ref. D3931/2/11/4
9. Grants towards repairs, 1956, ref. D3931/2/11/5
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