Loughborough, Ashby Road Wesleyan Methodist Chapel, Leicestershire

1. Loughborough, Ashby Road WM Chapel, site of chapel, 17.4.2019
2. Loughborough, Ashby Road WM Chapel, school facade, 17.4.2019
3. Loughborough, Ashby Road WM Chapel, school back gable, 17.4.2019

Ashby Road Wesleyan Methodist Chapel was built in 1899. The configuration of the site suggests it was intended to conform to a common pattern of development (eg Carlisle, Currock Road and Hull, Derringham Bank) whereby the building to be erected first would be at the back of the site and be dual purpose in the short term. When a chapel was erected on the land fronting the main road was built it would become a school in accordance with the plaque (Image 4) on its façade. In the event the chapel was never built and its site became a car park (Image 1). In 1940 the chapel measured 50 feet by 34 feet and seated for 350 on forms. The schoolroom was 20 feet square and there were four other rooms. Subsequently the Methodists ceased to use the building and it is now occupied by the Salvation Army.

Sources
John Rylands Library University of Manchester DDPD2Wesleyan Accommodation returns, 1931/595
John Rylands Library University of Manchester DDPD1Methodist Accommodation returns, 1940/697
Site visit 17.4.2019

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  • Loughborough expanded greatly during the latter part of the Nineteenth Century, and Ashby Road Hall was the culmination of a mission effort which had started in the Wesleyan schoolroom in Rectory Place, and moved into rented accommodation in a factory in Regent Street in 1895. The mission moved in 1899 when the building illustrated was built as a School. A new manse for the Superintendent minister was erected on an adjoining site in Radmoor Road, the architects being Barrowcliff and Allcock, who went on to design a number of public buildings in the town. The school cost £1168 and the manse £904.

    The Hall was subsequently enlarged and improved, and a smaller hall erected adjoining. In 1909 the four cottages on Ashby Road next to the Hall were bought by the Trustees “with the view to future development in shape of a better frontage”. The time appears never to have been ripe for further extension, but the income from rental paid the interest on the loan the Trustees had taken out.

    When the Mission celebrated its Golden Jubilee in 1938, the Rev. David Lambert (Minister 1922-25) sent a message which included an encapsulation of the work carried out in the early twentieth Century by Methodist missions.

    “I believe that the type of Methodist work represented by the Ashby road Mission should exist in every town. There is a place for the homely sanctuary, and the free and easy style of Christian work. It is the same Gospel that is preached. The Sunday School work is as effective as in the larger churches. The week-night work among the Young People gathers its group from the neighbourhood around. There is always a place for such work.

    I found the Mission always ready to join in heartily with any larger campaign for reaching the outsider.”

    He went on to highlight a major Evangelistic Mission held in the town in 1922, directed by twenty Cliff College evangelists, and had high hopes for a Team mission to be held in 1938, concluding “And I am sure that the Ashby Road Mission will again show its real interest in aggressive work for God.”

    The nature of the work done in the Ashby Road Hall is evidenced by the opening of a Brotherhood Room in 1908. The Brotherhood movement, linked with the P.S.A. (Pleasant Sunday Afternoon) brought together men for a programme of enlightenment and worship. They also had women’s meetings, of course, and a Wesley Guild – an evening meeting with devotional, literary and social purposes. Twenty-six men had served during the Great War, which had an effect on the work, but in 1938 the members were proud of their Sunday School (14 teachers and 103 scholars), the Monday evening prayer meeting, and their increasing membership.

    If membership figures are any guide, the Mission seems to have survived well. In 1904 they recorded 98 members, and following a dip during the Great War, had 80 members in 1938. After the Second World War there was a slow decline, but the membership was still 40 when the Hall closed for Methodist worship in 1962.

    Sources:

    Richardson, S.Y. Bright Hope: Methodism in Loughborough 5. Heritage vol 9, no.1 February 2008 pp 35-37

    Transcription by [S.Y. Richardson] of parts of a booklet to mark the Jubilee of the Mission, 1938

    Loughborough Wesleyan Methodist Circuit. Notes respecting chapels, schools and other trust properties … presented to the Quarterly Meeting held on Saturday, 15th March, 1930

    By Philip Thornborow (06/09/2019)

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