The return from the Primitive Methodist society in Charlton Marshall to the 1851 Census of Places of Public Religious worship showed that they were meeting in a house.. The return was completed by the minister, Robert Langford of Lady’s Walking Field, Poole.
15 people attended the afternoon service and 20 people attended the evening service.
The 1887 Ordnance Survey map shows that a chapel was built later in The Close although there is no evidence of it on Street View.
Mark Churchill tells us the full story:
According to Barry J Biggs in “The Wesleys and the Early Dorset Methodists”, by 1799 the house occupied by Joseph Compton in Charlton Marshall was registered as a Methodist meeting place.
The next reference to Methodists that I have found is in Kelly’s Directory for 1848 which says there are places of worship for the Independents and Primitive Methodists in the village. This is a bit of a puzzle; I assume the Independent place of worship would have been the chapel in Gravel Lane which the Primitive Methodists were later to acquire, and that the other is the preaching house recorded in the 1851 census but where this was I do not know and in later Directories that I have had access to, during the 19th century only an Independent or Congregational chapel is mentioned.
In 1877 Mr W Hunt bought a row of cottages in The Close and made two of them into a Primitive Methodist Preaching Room which was opened with a public tea and platform meeting in July. The previous year, a site for a chapel was bought in Albert Street Blandford, and the first named trustee was ‘William Hunt late of Charlton Marshall but now of Spettisbury (sic), Dairyman’ – presumably the same person. The work flourished. Prominent workers were Charles and Sarah Easton who had come to the village from Fontmell Magna north of Blandford. The Blandford Express often reported Harvest Thanksgivings, Sunday School Anniversaries, Missionary and Circuit Meetings and, in a field loaned for the occasion, annual Camp Meetings. In The Close, the 1901 census records ‘Primitive Methodist Chapel. Closed’.
The chapel in Gravel Lane had started life as a Wesleyan meeting place and may have been on or near the site of Joseph Compton’s house. It was built in 1837 and later was in use as a privately owned chapel for services and Sunday schools; in 1845 Mr Hodges a hatter from Blandford and a member of the Independent (Congregational) chapel there, bought it. There are many accounts in the local press of services and meetings there. Henry Mayor who built Blandford chapel, taught an adult Bible class and was very involved in Temperance meetings. However, by 1899 it had closed.
Around the turn of the 19th/20th centuries the Primitive Methodist congregation moved to the chapel in Gravel Lane; it was probably larger and certainly more soundly constructed than the preaching room in The Close. Records of its time as a Primitive Methodist chapel are scarce but preaching plans and other records at Dorset History Centre show regular worship including communion services and Sunday Schools up to the second world war, but it declined until it was closed some time before 1951. It was not registered for marriages and these took place in Blandford.
The building in The Close was largely unused for 40 years or so after it closed, except as an animal shelter, until it was eventually demolished and bungalows built on the site. The chapel in Gravel Lane was sold in 1951 and became a dwelling house. It still contains a baptismal pool under the floor which had been used for baptism of believers. Part of the proceeds was given to Winterborne Zelston for needed refurbishments which seems appropriate as Robert Compton and Joseph Palmer of Charlton Marshall had been two of the first trustees of WZ and Robert’s daughter Betsy had loaned money for the building.
You can read more in the attached scan from Mark’s 2011 book “Charlton Marshall Aspects of our Story.” Thanks to Mark for permission to include this.
The Story of The Congregational Churches of Dorset. Densham and Ogle. 1899
Congregational Year Book 1855
Charlton Marshall Aspects of our Story. Mark Churchill. 2011.
Blandford Express. 1859-1891
Kelly’s Directory. Various dates
Dorset History Centre. File NM7
Blandford Museum Archives