Coventry, Lockhurst Lane Wesleyan Chapel, Foleshill

I am a distant relative of Martin Orton and initially discovered this story from newspaper cuttings.

An article in the Coventry Herald – Friday 24 September 1875, talks of the building of the new Wesleyan Methodist Chapel in Lockhurst Lane, Foleshill in 1875 and details the founding of the original Wesleyan chapel in the area.

I subsequently obtained a copy of the book “The Church in the Lane” Ernest Dennis (1925), which is a history of the Lockhurst Lane Chapel from 1809-1925. The story below covers details published in both the book and in the 1875 newspaper cutting. The book also contains some small details on other churches in the area, Primitive and Wesleyan, and goes in to great detail on the names of preachers and congregation members.

Lockhurst Lane chapel can be traced back to 1809 when Mr and Mrs Martin Orton, of Lime Terraces, Lockhurst Lane, opened their house to preaching services.
The story goes that a Joseph Kent, a baker from Longford, was perturbed by the “wickedness” of the people of Lockhurst Lane whilst on his rounds. The behaviour was so bad he could not get his mule down the lane. To that end, he called for a prayer meeting and Mrs Susannah Orton agreed to the use of her home, a weaver’s cottage, that evening. Present were Mr Kent along with two helpers, Miss Cox and Miss Daniels. Subsequently the Rev. William Timperley of Hinckley conducted services in the house.
In 1825 the community set about building a new church. Land adjacent to the Orton’s house was purchased from Mr. Richard Lenton for £65, and combined with some land donated by Mr Orton. A document records the land as being transferred on 9th July 1825. The new building was constructed at a cost of £400 and in use by the end of 1825. £200 of this was borrowed from a minister whose daughter lived in Leamington. Overtime the debt, which by now was due to this lady, was reduced to £90.

The new Church consisted of two square pews seating 12, four pews on each side, each seating seven, and several rows of benches at the back used for Sunday School. The building was crowded and records show one preacher demanded that men should sit on the backs of the pews with women occupying the seats – “Each pew thus accommodated fourteen instead of seven persons!” notes the Church records.

Susannah Orton died 26th November 1829 aged 58, and an inscription was placed on the wall of the 1825 Chapel.

In 1832 the congregation split when the superintendent of the circuit occupied the pulpit to prevent a female preacher speaking. The congregation, including Mr Orton his family, began a cause which became associated with the Arminian Methodists and later went on to become the Wesleyan Reform Church in Station Street (formerly Carpenter’s Lane).

Martin Orton died in 1859.

By 1874 the congregation had recovered and a meeting was held where it was decided to erect a new building. A sum of £60 was promised, with a further £50 committed a later meeting. Within 12 months, on September 21st, a stone laying ceremony was held. The Mayor of Coventry, (Mr. R. A. Dalton) led a procession and afterwards a crowd of some 600 people had tea in a marquee assembled in a nearby field. Within 6 months the building was complete, being larger than the 1825 chapel and therefore occupying both the site of the old chapel and that of a house next door which had to be demolished. The church could seat 200 downstairs and 100 in the gallery. The schoolroom was built underground owing to limited space and could accommodate 250 children. The total cost of the building was £1,400. The opening took place on Wednesday April 12th, 1876.
During construction, Susannah Orton’s body was exhumed and buried deeper under the new chapel. Her children and grandchildren were present to observe this. Census records show that a daughter, Amelia, was living in Lockhurst Lane next to the “Wesley Chapel” at the time.

The 1875 chapel was demolished and a new church constructed in 1957 designed by Architects Claude Redgrave and Partners. This building no longer exists and, in its place, stands the Gurudwara Ajit Darbar which appears to date from the 21st century.

Comments about this page

  • A booklet written by Walter Dunn published in 1959 in celebration of the ‘Triple Jubilee’ (1809-1959) brought the story of ‘The Church in the Lane’ up to date. The chapel closed in 1974 with a final Service of Thanksgiving held on 1st September.

    By Howard Smith (18/01/2024)

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