While changing buses, and operating on the ‘photograph first, ask questions later’ principle, I took advantage of a rare gap in the traffic at Ferndown’s main road junction to photograph the gabled, ornately windowed fire station. It turned out to be one of the most short-lived Primitive Methodist churches in existence anywhere, and one which had eluded my prior research into this pleasant but sprawling East Dorset town. Although a chapel of some description was registered in 1909, replacing one opened in 1886 on a different site, the present building dates from the late 1920s
The 1932 Methodist Union brought into proximity chapels which were originally Wesleyan in nearby places like Stapehill (2 miles away), Holtwood, Verwood and Kinson (Bournemouth), and there were in any case ex-Primitive Methodist chapels close by in Three Legged Cross and Colehill; so Ferndown was no longer required. It closed and was deregistered in 1940, not even being included as a ‘recently sold’ chapel in that year’s comprehensive Methodist Statistical Returns. It immediately became a fire station; and apart from the addition of fire appliance doors (and the consequent trimming of the window), the loss of the roof lantern, the fitting of a clock to the gable and the addition of an extension to the left side in the 1990s, it remains the same now as it was when built.
Amazingly the original (1886) chapel, which closed in 1909, survived in secular use for another 103 years. It stood further north at what is now the busy junction of Wimborne Road East and Victoria Road. Its brickwork had been painted over and it had been extended to the west to form a post office and commercial offices, but it retained its unmistakable chapel-like appearance: two arched windows to the front and sides, a recessed arched doorway with an arched niche above, and a steep gable. The post office operated between 1952 and 2008. Flats now occupy the site: a shame, as it was one of the oldest surviving buildings in this very modern town. (Even the Anglican church, originally a chapel of ease to the medieval parish church of nearby Hampreston and designed as a slavish copy of it, was not started until 1933!)
This article first appeared in Newsletter 84 of The Chapels Society (https://www.chapelssociety.org.uk/) – a registered charity which seeks to foster public interest in the architectural and historical importance of all places of worship outside the Established Church.