Christchurch Methodist Church, Shepshed in Leicestershire

Christchurch Methodist Church, Shepshed in Leicestershire
Christchurch Methodist Church, Shepshed in Leicestershire

Once thought to have been the largest village in England, Shepshed in 2015 has become a fast expanding small town with a present population of around 15,000 people.  Set within the Loughborough circuit, Shepshed lies near Leicestershire’s northern borders with Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire. 

Methodism provoked a riot when it first came to Shepshed in 1757.  Less turbulently the Primitive cause arrived in 1822.  Following years of grim poverty in the mid-19th century a new optimism emerged in the 1870s.  Accordingly the thoughts of Wesleyans and Primitives alike turned to providing suitable places of worship for their increasing membership. 

A recently published booklet Written in Stone explores the building of their chapels by unlocking the stories behind a total of 19 foundation stones in addition to numerous named bricks.  Beneath a tangle of family relationships it tells a tale of dreams beyond the immediate capabilities of the respective congregations, finally achieved with great sacrifice and lingering debt.  The account may not be untypical of Methodist chapel building of the period.  

The booklet concludes with a brief overview of the post-war development of the buildings.  It then describes their eventual assimilation in 1969 into a new church taking Christchurch as its name and making its home in the then recently modernised former Wesleyan church.  Finally it outlines an ambitious scheme now under way to make the premises fully accessible, energy efficient and attractive for community use.  

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  • Shepshed Field Street Wesleyan Methodist Chapel was built in 1875/7. In 1891 the seating capacity was said to have been 360. Ten years later it had fallen to 286. What had changed? Or was the 1891 figure an error? Was this when the pews reported in 1941 were installed? The capacity continued at this level until 1931 but had risen slightly to 300 by 1941. At this date the chapel measured 51 feet by 37 feet and there were two halls (37 feet by 21 feet and 26 feet by 21 feet) and a vestry.
    Although the façade of the 1875 chapel has been obscured (?or replaced) by the modern frontage the side walls are still much as built and the surviving quoins and a damaged Corinthian capital suggest the original building had an impressive classical façade. The side walls also display six well preserved memorial stones, one of which, unusually, was written in verse.
    Sources
    John Rylands Library University of Manchester, MAC Lawson Returns of Accommodation provided by Wesleyan Methodist Chapels and other Preaching Places, 1891/618/, 1901/630, 1911/595
    John Rylands Library University of Manchester DDPD2Wesleyan Accommodation returns, 1931/602
    John Rylands Library University of Manchester DDPD1Methodist Accommodation returns, 1940/697
    Site visit 17.4.2019

    By G W Oxley (04/06/2019)

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