Woodhouse Eaves Wesleyan Methodist chapel, Leicestershire

Woodhouse Eaves, Main Street
Philip Thornborow, 2019
Woodhouse Eaves, Main Street, from side
Philip Thornborow, 2019
Woodhouse Eaves, Main Street. The original data stone
Philip Thornborow, 2019
Woodhouse Eaves, Main Street. The burial ground.
Philip Thornborow, 2019
Woodhouse Eaves, Main Street. Graves
Philip Thornborow, 2019

The first mention of a society meeting at Woodhouse is in the Leicester and Nottingham Circuit accounts for 1780.[1] The Society was founded by Benjamin Squire who was converted in 1768, and there is evidence that the meetings were held in his home. [2]

The chapel was built on Main Street in 1800 by Benjamin Squire’s son John, with Joseph Foulds, Jonathan Tilson, Daniel Bates, William Bates, William Smith and Joseph Spencer, to whom the land was conveyed on 3rd July 1801 by John Getleffe, Cow leach of Woodhouse Eaves for £5. The deed specified that the building could only be used by those who subscribed to Wesleyan doctrine, and that the Stewards could have a veto if Conference stationed anyone as their minister for more than two years. The deed also specified the uses to which the pew rents would be put.[3]

The original chapel occupied the back half of the current building.[4] The date stone that has been preserved, and was inserted into the outbuilding, as shown in the photograph.

The chapel was enlarged and reopened in 1828

WOODHOUSE – EAVES, in the Loughborough Circuit. “On Wednesday, in Whitsun-week, the Methodist Chapel at Woodhouse-Eaves was re- opened, after a considerable enlargement; when two sermons were preached by the Rev. W. Dalby. The collections amounted to upwards of £20; after a subscription of about £36, and the gift of the ground by Mr. Getliffe, the gentleman on whose estate the Chapel was at first built, and who then manifested much interest in it. It was first opened by the late Rev. George Button, in the year 1800.”[5]

On 31st March 1851 John Squire reported that there were 140 free sittings, and 40 others. There were morning and afternoon Sunday schools, attended by 40 and 36 scholars respectively. An afternoon service had been attended by 81, and 136 had come to the evening service. [6] These figures should be compared with a reported membership of 35 in 1846, and 30 in 1853.

The 1873 returns indicate that 245 could be seated.[7]

The present chapel was erected in 1887, in front of the original building. Six foundation stones were laid on 6 July. The chapel opened on Wednesday November 9th, as described ten days later.

“ New Wesleyan Chapel – On Wednesday week a new chapel, erected at a cost of about £700, was opened at Woodhouse Eaves. It was built by Mr. Wesley, of Woodhouse Eaves, from designs prepared by Mr. G. Hodson, M.I.C.E., Loughborough, the estimated cost being £646. The building is constructed of brick, with stone dressings, and is in the Gothic style of architecture. Accommodation is provided for 190 worshippers, and the chapel has been so constructed that a gallery to accommodate an additional 100 can be erected when required. Adjoining are two schoolrooms, one for boys and the other for girls, each capable of seating 40. At the opening service on Wednesday, a sermon was preached by the Rev. J. Handley, governor of Handsworth College, and several friends from Loughborough and the adjoining villages were present, the collections during the day amounting to £28. The services were continued on Sunday, when the Rev. W.C. Williams, of Sherborne (formerly superintendent minister of the Loughborough circuit), occupied the pulpit.”[8]

The Mr. Wesley who built the chapel has yet to be positively identified, although there were both a John and a Charles Wesley living in the village at the time, along with a Susannah Wesley. The baptismal register from 1841 onwards includes a number of children of George and Sarah Wesley

Sixty years later, the chapel  could seat 170, reducing to 150. [9] Membership was numbered in the thirties for much of the chapel’s history, but the church was close to closure in 1980 when membership had fallen to 13. A concerted effort to save the church led to it being completely refurbished in 1997 and further improvements were made in 2018. It is still an active presence in the village, with a membership of about 25.

Woodhouse Eaves is unusual in having had its own burial ground. Entry was limited to those families involved with the original chapel, and the burial records have been transcribed https://www.mywesleyanmethodists.org.uk/content/research-resources/registers/woodhouse_eaves_wesleyan_methodist_chapel_burial_register_1862-1934

The burial ground was re-ordered as part of the 1997 refurbishment, as can be seen from the photographs.

Grid reference SK530145

[1] Richardson, S.Y. Bright Hope: Methodism in Loughborough 1. Heritage vol 7, no.3 April 2006 p 10

[2] Richardson, S.Y. Bright Hope: Methodism in Loughborough 1. Heritage vol 7, no.3 April 2006 p 21

[3] Leicestershire Record Office N/M/207/142

[4] Ordnance Survey. 25 inch series, Leicestershire XXIV.4 1884

[5] Wesleyan Methodist magazine v 51, 1828 p 767

[6] 1851 Religious Census, HO 129/416/38.

[7] Returns of accommodation … 1873. London: Wesleyan Conference Office, 1875

[8] Leicester Chronicle and Leicestershire Mercury Sat. November 19, 1887 p.8

[9] Statistical returns … as at July 1st 1940. Manchester: Methodist Church, Department of Chapel Affairs, 1947

Statistical returns 1970. Manchester: Methodist Church, Department of Chapel Affairs, 1972

 

 

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