Upton, Hampshire

A chapel with some mystery about it.

former Upton Primitive Methodist chapel in Linkenholt Road, SP11 0JP in 1991. Keith Guyler's notes say it was used for storage
Keith Guyler 1991

We learn from Kathleen Innes’s Bourne Valley Anthology (Andover, undated) that Upton (the one near Linkenholt) was a centre of both farming and malting, was renowned for its strong ale, and was dominated by seven men known as “village champions”, one of whom was known as a thief, another for his use of bad language. These men were at a tree in the village centre one Sunday afternoon – we are not told in exactly which year, but I suspect it was 1831 – when five soberly-dressed strangers approached the tree, singing a hymn. Their leader was “a minister named Russell”, which means of course the Primitive Methodist pioneer, Thomas Russell. He prayed, and then began to preach. Following the preaching, as they were leaving, they were booed and pelted, but they returned night after night, and were joined by a woman preacher, a Miss Godden.

One of the “champions” was converted, a man named Thomas Cummins, and soon became a preacher himself. After becoming a well-known Primitive Methodist preacher in the area, he died in Newbury in about 1876.

An 1849 Primitive Methodist Circuit Plan lists 38 places, spread over a wide geographical area, including Upton. Membership rose from 16 in 1837 to 29 in 1850. Oddly, in the 1851 Religious Census there is no Methodist meeting recorded for Upton, only an “Independent” (i.e. Congregationalist) chapel, built in 1839, attended by 40 people in the morning, 73 in the afternoon, and 70 in the evening. This church was under the pastoral care of William Wainright, the Congregational (“Independent”) minister at Hurstbourne Tarrrant.

A gentleman I know only via email kindly wrote to me saying:

I looked at the Hampshire Congregational Union Annual Reports from 1880 to 1900. From these I got the impression that Congregational activity in Upton was spasmodic. The only specific references to the village were as follows:

1882: ‘Mr Charrett [the evangelist from Hurstbourne Tarrant] has recently commenced to preach on the Lord’s Day at the neighbouring village of Upton, where he also visits from house to house and conducts a week-evening service.’ There is no mention of the building in which preached and conducted services.

1885: ‘A special mission was conducted in the autumn at Upton …’

1887: Mr Jones ‘conducts a service in Upton every Sunday afternoon.’ Again there is no indication as to where the service was held.

There are no references to Upton in these reports during the 1890s.

To thicken the mystery, a Congregational historian wrote to me saying that:

As late as 1874 the Congregational Year Book says that Hurstbourne Tarrant and Upton are being served by an (unnamed) Evangelist, but in 1875 the same arrangement is given for Hurstbourne Tarrant only, with Upton no longer mentioned. Even then, there is a note saying that A. Johnson is “Resident without pastoral charge” at Upton. Perhaps this was the point when the Methodists were able to take over the chapel building.

In 1860 and 1905 Upton is in the Primitive Methodist Andover Circuit preaching plan.

The chapel in the photo has the date 1839 over the door, but no denominational identification. However, it is identified as “Independent” on old large-scale Ordnance Survey maps. It would seem that it passed into Primitive Methodist hands some time around 1875 or even 1890 – but those are only guesses. An elderly Methodist local preacher used to preach in it when it was on the Methodist circuit plan, and kindly allowed me to use his photograph. The chapel closed in 1963.

So here are the mysteries:

  • Why did a society with upward of 20 members not record any service on Census Sunday in 1851?
  • When and why did the chapel change from being Congregationalist to Methodist?

Maybe someone reading this can throw some light on the story of this society and their chapel.

Comments about this page

  • Mrs Elizabeth Farr of Bindly died on 10 January 1847, and her obituary appeared in the PM Magazine. It says: ‘When the Primitive Methodist missionaries first visited that part of the country in which she lived, she and her husband heard them preach the gospel in the open air, at a village rather more then a mile from their residence …’. There is also an obituary in 1876 for a John Farr. It says he was born at Fosbury in 1811, and early in life moved to Hurstbourne Tarrant, Hants, with his parents. ‘The Primitive Methodist missionaries visited the neighbourhood, and his parents’ house became the home of the despised, persecuted servants of God, and under their roof, for some time, they preached the word of life. Many in the village and neighbourhood, through their instrumentality, became the subjects of divine grace. Among those early converts was the Rev T Cummin, the Osmond family, and others, who became noted in the Primitive Methodist Connexion… From an old plan, which he [John Farr] preserved as a relic of those primitive times, I judge he became a public speaker about the year 1832 …’. There is no record of an obituary for Sarah Farr. Was John the son of Elizabeth?

    By Jill Barber (05/11/2014)
  • I had read what Kendall noted above but had not grasped its significance. He also wrote “ Among other of the earliest converts of Thomas Russell were Mr. and Mrs. Farr of Bindly, in whose house Hugh Bourne preached his famous sermon on “the Great White Throne.” No less than two hundred persons are stated to have been converted in that farm-kitchen.” Bindly (St. Mary Bourne) is nine miles from Fosbury. In the biography of Mrs. Mortimer that I mentioned in my earlier post we read of Mrs Sarah Farr young wife of the game-keeper. She  ”loved God’s Word above everything” and Miss Bevan enjoyed her company “I never knew anyone delight more in God, and yet be so little in her own eyes” she wrote of her. She died aged 51 around 1834 and had come to Fosbury at the age of 28 as the gamekeeper’s wife. Could there be any relationship here? I also wonder if anyone can point me to any record of the contents of the famous “Great White Throne” sermon. Was it ever published – in outline form for instance?

    By Christina Eastwood (04/11/2014)
  • I have just found evidence that Thomas Russell was in Hampshire in September 1832, so he could well have been in the area in October that year.  Although he was stationed in the Shefford circuit, this included a branch in Hampshire, centred on Mitcheldever. H B Kendall writes: ‘In turning to Hampshire, we cannot do better than preface our account of the fierce persecutions our pioneers underwent in this county, by describing a journey which Hugh Bourne took along with Thomas Russell in September 1832, from Shefford across the North Western borders of Hampshire on to Salisbury.’ (H B Kendall, The Origin and History of the Primitive Methodist Church, vol II, p.338). A mission at Andover was started in 1833.

    By Jill Barber (02/11/2014)
  • If he was moved to Shefford in June does that mean he actually went in June? If so he was probably not in Fosbury in October. If it was decided that he should go to Shefford in June perhaps he could have still been in the Wiltshire area in October.

    By Christina Eastwood (29/10/2014)
  • The travelling preacher could well be Thomas Russell. He began preaching in 1825, so 7 years engaged in the work would fit with a date of 1832. He was in Berkshire, Hampshire and Wiltshire from 1829-1832, leading a mission. In June 1832 he was moved to Shefford, in Bedfordshire.  The description of walking from village to village and suffering much opposition would apply to all the early Primitive Methodist preachers. It was also their policy not to preach at the same time as services in the parish church, as they did not want to take worshippers away. Their aim was to reach those who were outside the church.

    By Jill Barber (23/10/2014)
  • Fosbury is very near Upton. Louisa Clara Meyer mentions on p.40 of her biography of her Aunt Mrs Favell Lee Mortimer (Nee Bevan) The Author of the Peep of Day, (1901) that while the Bevan family were staying at their country home, Fosbury House, in October 1832 (could be 1831) a Primitive Methodist meeting took place. It sounds as if some members of the family including Favell attended. The preacher “had been converted by our Lord’s words ‘Except a man be born again’ and had been seven years engaged in the work, notwithstanding much opposition, walking from village to village, sleeping in the meanest cottages, and never preaching during divine service.”  Would this be Thomas Russell I wonder? Was it common practice not to compete with the Church of England by avoiding C of E service times?

    By Christina Eastwood (21/10/2014)
  • A further detail from my email contact: “I could find nothing about a sale during the 1880s in the reports of the Hampshire Congregational Union.”

    By David Young (16/07/2012)

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