Great Bardfield Primitive Methodist Chapel

Chelmsford Circuit (Essex)

Great Bardfield Primitive Methodist chapel  | Keith Guyler, 1992
Great Bardfield Primitive Methodist chapel
Keith Guyler, 1992
Great Bardfield Primitive Methodist chapel | Philip Thornborow July 2019
Great Bardfield Primitive Methodist chapel
Philip Thornborow July 2019

Opened in 1862 and ceased to be used by the Primitive Methodists in 1977. Great Bardfield chapel sat 155 people with forms. By 1973 it has been altered so that 115 people could sit in the chapel. The school hall housed 53 people and one other room was added. By 1992 the chapel had been converted into a house called ‘The Old Chapel’.

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  • Essex was not an area of early success for the Methodists, and Great Bardfield became notorious in 1793-1794 for its spirit of persecution against Methodist missionaries. A mob disrupted the meeting of the Methodist society on Wednesday 10th July 1793, and assaulted the preacher on his way home. A mob also trapped the preachers, the Steward John Blake and his family inside the house and preaching place for 10 hours after the service on Sunday 14th July 1793. When the ring leaders were convicted of assault at Chelmsford assizes, the village boycotted John Blake, who was their baker, and excluded his daughter from school. Not surprisingly, the family left the village.

    The Primitive Methodists set up a Chelmsford Mission in 1854, and the Rev. John Guy preached in Great Bardfield in 1859, converting several, who met in a cottage near the village fountain until the chapel was built in 1862. John Guy reported in The Primitive Methodist Magazine
    “ But I write to tell you we have just laid the foundation stone of our new chapel at Bardfield under favourable circumstances. On Tuesday, July 29th, Mr. Dinnick preached the foundation sermon at 3 o’clock. A great number assembled who contributed freely. After the stone was laid we had a public tea in the Boy’s British School …After tea we held a good public meeting and we were cheered on the occasion, and since by additional donations. Our receipts are nearly £25, which we consider to be encouraging, in a part of the county where methodism, till lately, was not known.”

    The chapel was built with 80 free and 120 lettable sittings, and cost £380. In the 1890s the membership was 42, with about 30 Sunday School scholars, so it was decided to build a Sunday School in 1903 (the garage in the photographs). The cost was £145, and the fund was started by a gift of £20 from Rev. E Cook Pritchard (a former President of the Australian PM Conference, who had retired to the village). In her book, Gill Morrell notes that the chapel closed in 1956, but as “it was the only non-conformist chapel in the neighbourhood” a determined effort was made to save the cause. The chapel re-opened in 1960 with a membership of 13, but as with many other chapels the costs of maintenance were such that it closed for the final time on 23rd February 1975. Conversion to a house followed in 1979-1980.

    Sources

    Morrell, Gill Religion in Great Bardfield Great Bardfield Historical Society, 2007

    Primitive Methodist Magazine Vol. 44 (4th series, Vol.1) 1863 p 108

    By Philip Thornborow (07/08/2019)

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