Tunstall Primitive Methodist Chapels, 1811-1865
Origins and growth (1811-1865)
From the Christian Messenger, 1865
Tunstall is a small but thriving town at the north end of the Staffordshire Potteries numbering about eleven thousand inhabitants. When the Primitive Methodist Connexion was originated in the year 1810 Tunstall was only a village consisting of a few scattered houses. In the early part of 1811 Mr J. Boden a master potter had a large unoccupied room. In this room the infant Connexion taught its first Sunday-school. (Later Sabbath preaching here also).
It soon became necessary to seek larger accommodation. On the 11th June 1811 the conveyance deed was signed for land for a chapel. The first chapel in the infant connexion was 16yds long and 8 wide and galleried at one end. It had no ceiling and the walls were not coated. Its plainness and neatness however gave great satisfaction. It was built in such a form that it might easily be converted into four houses.
In a few years this building also became too small and an eligible plot of land was procured as the site of a new chapel. In the year 1821 this chapel capable of holding five or six hundred hearers was built. In this new home of prayer ……. the congregation increased, the classes multiplied, and in 1834 an enlargement was effected making the building near as large again.
The chapel thus enlarged was not proportionate especially in its height which when full of hearers occasioned a great deal of oppression by the accumulation of bad air. As the Jubilee Year approached, the propriety of taking down this chapel and building another in every way larger and better was mooted, and after the conference of 1859 which appointed the next ensuing Conference to be held at Tunstall, the matter began to be gravely talked about. Several trustees meetings were held to discuss the subject, and towards the end of September it was finally arranged to commence this important undertaking.
The foundation stone of the new chapel, the Jubilee Chapel, was laid by Mrs. Thomas Allen on Monday afternoon November 28th 1859 in the presence of not fewer than two thousand spectators. The width of the building is 51’ or an increase on the old chapel of 9’, the length is 88’ being an increase of 19’ while in height it is in advance of 10’. The side and end walls are of substantial brick wall and the front is of stone, the lower portion of which is a colonnade of 7’ in advance of the old front and has columns and an entablature of the ionic border with a bold dentel cornice and pediment. There are three entrances from the colonnade to the body of the chapel and two to the gallery. The ceiling is panelled and the pews are completely re-arranged. It has sitting accommodation for 1,400 persons but the writer has seen two thousand inside its walls. The entire cost exclusive of the materials of the former chapel which stood on the same site is about £300, £5,000. It justly ranks among the best chapels in the kingdom. It was opened on May 6th and 13th 1860. Not less than £2,000 including £600 given by the school have been collected towards this important undertaking, and £100 was raised at the opening services….
They also have a large Sunday School in the town consisting of three rooms with vestries attached and worth at least £2,000. According to the returns of last March there were 117 teachers and 1,233 scholars in the institution. Room on the ground floor is devoted the tuition of boys and in the vestry annex there is an infants Sunday class acting as a feeder to the larger rooms. Visiting the middle room we find it full of interesting girls, partly adults, while the top room is appropriated to young girls and adult males. To a person visiting this room, especially on a Sabbath afternoon, the site meeting him is truly pleasing and deeply affecting. Here, (the writer has often said to himself when gazing on nearly 200 young men) is ground for the good seed of the kingdom, here are the materials with which to build up our church.
Christian Messenger, vol 1, 1865