Southampton, South Front Primitive Methodist Chapel

“The Primitive Methodists are about building a new Chapel, School and Class Rooms in South Front, at a total cost of £3500. The Rev. Aaron Smith respectfully solicits, and would thankfully receive and acknowledge, donations for the building fund.” (Advert, Hampshire Advertiser, 26 July 1884)

The South Front Primitive Methodist Chapel replaced the 1837 St Mary Street Chapel in 1884-5, the worshippers “having for a long time felt the need of increased accommodation for the proper carrying on of their work.” The foundation stone was laid by Edwin Jones on Monday 1 September 1884, with great ceremony and speeches. Three houses and their land had been bought for £1,000, and the building itself was going to cost £2,500.
By the time the new chapel was opened on Easter Tuesday, 7 April 1885, £500 pounds had been raised, and a further £1000 expected to come from the sale of the old chapel. It was an ambitious project: the builder was Henry Wyeth, of Southampton, architects James Kerridge & Sons, of Wisbech, and the clerk of works Mr. Butt. Mr F Shalders of the High Street had carried out the gas fittings.

The chapel was constructed of red brick, with Bath stone dressings. A deeply recessed Gothic doorway was approached by a flight of twelve steps. Inside were glazed doorways, ornamental ventilators, a twenty-foot communion rail and central heating.

“The dimensions of the building are:- length 75ft, width 45ft, height from the basement to the top wall plate 42ft. The basement contains a schoolroom 42ft by 40ft, and infant class-room 30ft by 14ft, and four class-rooms each 14ft by 11ft, all well-lighted and lofty, and with the church, warmed by hot water apparatus, supplied and fixed by Messrs Lankester and Sons, of Southampton. These rooms furnish accommodation for upwards of 350 children. The ground floor of the main building is 72ft and 40ft, and is seated to accommodate 850 persons with open framed seats having moulded rails and triplet capped pointed panelled seat ends, furnished with book boards, planned with a view to afford every facility for worship, and also comfort for sitting. This floor also contains a vestry 19ft by 8ft 6in. A rostrum 8ft by 5 ft is approached by staircases at each end, and is in part enclosed with a semi-circular pannelled from boarding, with bold bed and foot mouldinds, mahogany capping and bible board, and in part with open turned and moulded balusters to match with the staircases. the Communion pew has a frontage of 20 feet, and the railing is formed of turned standards and a curved moulded mahogany hand rail and newels, set back to give a kneeling cushioned step for the communicants. There are galleries on all sides, supported by stencilled metal columns, with foliated capitals picked out in white, lavendar and gold. the fronts of the galleries are enclosed with panelled moulded and capped half-open boarding, filled in with diagonal panels and ornamental metal scroll, and the pitch given to the gallery seats is so arranged that the line of sight from each ground floor and gallery seat to the rostrum is unobstructed and easy, and the occupants of the gallery and ground floor seats are brought together as much as possible, with a view to prevent the appearance of a separate or divided audience. The roof is a half open framed Queen Post structure in one span, filled in with Gothic pointed stop chamfered struts, the ceiling divided into compartments, each having at the centre an ornamental metal ventilator, picked out in white and gold, the bays being filled with plaster enrichments, which with the horizontal mouldings to the wall plates and the quirked vertical angle mouldings to the pilasters give a pleasing effect to the roof and side walls, and removes a difficulty which would otherwise be caused by the absence of side windows, the lighting being from the front and back walls. The front elevation has buttresses with ornamental cappings and roll mouldings, and filled in with trefoil sinkings, and the front gable is finished with splayed stone coping and pointed stone turrets and ornamental metal erminals. The front is also filled in with a large four-light pointed and cinque foiled stone window, hving hollow splayed mullions and jambs and tracery. This window has on each side of it one long two light window, with moulded tracery, jambs and mullions, and is relieved in length with intermediate stones with sunk panels and quatre-foil sinkings. The window arches are of stone, with hood arches and carved terminals. The building is entered by stone steps of easy rise through and open moulded gothic archway into an open vestibule, leading to an enclosed vestibule on each side, with doors ro galleries and church aisles. the arched entrance has Early English pillars on each side, with moulded capitals, bands, and bases, hood moulding, and carved terminals to the arch. In addition to the front entrance to the school and class rooms there is a back entrance from John Street.
The double folding doors which give entrance to the schoolroom from the front are panelled with glass, in common with all the doors throughout the building, the aim being to secure the maximum amount of daylight.” (Hampshire Independent 11 April 1885)

The Primitive Methodists worshipped and worked at the South Front Chapel for 45 years, until 1930. The Methodists were, by this time, working towards union, and the presence of the five-year-old (Wesleyan) Central Hall not far away across Hoglands Park rendered another large building redundant.

The South Front Evangelical Church occupied the building 1930-1946, and the Kingland Baptist Church from 1946 until redevelopment along South Front in the 1960s.

Comments about this page

  • The 1885 Primitive Methodist magazine (page 380) contains a note of the opening of a handsome and commodious new Primitive Methodist chapel in Southampton to replace the old chapel in Mary-street (sic). We are told there was an excellent Schoolroom and several good classrooms in addition to the chapel itself.

    By Christopher Hill (30/04/2020)

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