First Primitive Methodist chapel in North Wales

Image of Cloy Chapel taken from a centenary circuit leaflet.
Lightwood Hall - see comment below
David Young
Overton Poor House as it is today

The 1831 archives for Prees Green Circuit include “Cloylane”. The 1851 religious census states that Cloy Primitive Methodist chapel was built in 1832. Hugh Bourne’s journal records his preaching at their anniversary on 17th and 18th October 1833, implying that the chapel was opened in October 1832.

On 6th January 1833 minister William Fitzgerald preached there, and again on 13th February 1833, when he reported that “The people here have joined fourteen in society this last quarter.” By 1838 the society had a Sunday School, which in the 1851 religious census numbered 36.

The society became part of the Oswestry Circuit, in which William Doughty was a local preacher, having previously served the denomination as an itinerant and been imprisoned for a month after preaching in the open air in Oswestry. In January 1839 he records “Cloy Chapel. At 2:30 preached at the chapel; a mighty time.” Minister Richard Ward preached at their 1839 anniversary, when “The congregations were large and attentive.” He preached there again in March 1849 and reported that “The revival has broke out here, and is going well.”

There was a camp meeting in June 1844. In the period 1846-9 the membership was small, ranging between 8 and 14, and the 1851 census recorded 32 worshippers in the afternoon and 16 in the evening.

The chapel closed in the 1950s and is now a house called Mon Abri. By means of some local door-to-door visiting I located an elderly man who was connected with the chapel as a child, and who told me that the building still looks much as it did when it was a place of worship. The Wrexham and District Civic Society have been looking into the possibility of a local heritage plaque being fixed to the wall, noting its identity as North Wales’s first Primitive Methodist chapel.

Comments about this page

  • Cloy Chapel

    The red-brick chapel, built in 1832, had seating for 65 people. You entered by the double doors in the porch and turned immediately right into the worship area, which had pews down each side and a central aisle. Another pew was at the side wall by the harmonium on the left in the front of the pulpit. There was a stove which burnt coke, in a gap between the pews, on the left, with a chimney which exited at the back of the chapel. The chapel had no electricity, and was lit with oil lamps.

    There was no school hall. The shed, painted pale blue, at the side also served as a stable for the Lears’ horse and buggy. Railings stood in front of the chapel, with a small wooden gate leading through to the door to the chapel, and double gates giving access to the stable, which had its own entrance round the its side. Between the railings and the chapel wall was a pathway.

    The congregation was drawn from local farms, including from Lightwood Green and Knolton Bryn. The leading light in the society was local preacher Ted Lea, along with Maggie Lea, remembered as either his wife or his sister (sister seems the stronger memory). They lived at Lightwood Farm. Services or Sunday School were three times a Sunday.

    The Sunday School was taught by Ted and Maggie Lea, and one ex-scholar remembers being taken to Sunday School in the Leas’ trap or buggy, and sometimes German bombers were seen overhead, presumably on their way to attack Liverpool. There were Sunday School parties and Nativity plays. Sunday School children sang “Jesus loves me, this I know” among other songs. When needed, such as at anniversaries and Nativity, a stage was erected at the front resting on the window ledge and the pulpit

    A big tea party was held on Good Fridays, hot water being produced in a coal-fired boiler in the shed beside the chapel. Anniversaries were followed by a tea party and games at the Lears’ farmhouse. There was also an annual trip to Rhyl for the Sunday School children, parents, and others, together with people from the society at Overton, the journey being made in four or five hired coaches. This was followed by a party at Lightwood Hall.

    By David Young (24/11/2015)
  • Primitive Methodist meetings were held at Overton Poorhouse, at Lightwood Green, before the Cloy chapel was built in 1832. There is also a Lightwood Green in Cheshire, which still has a Methodist chapel. When I was researching the North Wales mission, I did not realise there were two places by the same name and I assumed that the references were to the place in Cheshire. Anyone wishing to research the early North Wales work needs to go back to the archives (which are at Shrewsbury, as the chapel was in the Prees Green, and later the Oswestry, Circuit) and read them through looking for Lightwood Green. Bearing in mind that there were two places by the same name,it  will probably be obvious which one is referred to, by comparing with other nearby places where meetings were held on the same day.

    By David Young (22/11/2015)
  • Dr Sandy Calder, no mean expert on Primitive Methodist architecture, comments thus on Cloy chapel:

    I’ve now had a look at the picture of this chapel on the website, and your associated commentary.  My reading is that the elderly gentleman has given a report only of the building’s recent history.  Look again at the image: noting first that the ground-floor windows are exactly the same height as the top of the arched door; second, that the small window above the door cannot be to light anything other than a single-storey space; third that only the two ground-floor front windows are sash (the gable windows are casements); and fourth that the front wall contains four pillar sections for strength. The most likely explanation for these four facts stems from the implied oddities, the first of which is why the builder declined to raise the height of the windows to maximise the light.  After all, the strengthening pillars meant that he could run to within a couple of brick courses of the eaves without weakening the structure.  I reckon that he didn’t because the 1832 structure had a roofline located only just above the present doorway.  The windows were thus as tall as the walls allowed.  Money became more of an issue for the Prims in the late Victorian and Edwardian era, so while others rebuilt larger more modern chapels, the Prims preferred to extend. And when an extension was required, it was preferable to raise the roof to insert a galleryrather than to extend sideways, since the resulting worship space would place those at the back too far from the preacher. The original walls were strong enough to support the lower structure, but not one raised to nearly double the height – and that’s when the pillars were added.   Casement windows were cheaper than sashes, so that’s what was used.  The gallery and the raised roof made the worship space a bit darker, but that gave them a problem.  If they retro-fitted taller windows flanking the doorway, that on the left would be obscured by the gallery anyway; if they retro-fitted only on the right, it would destroy the building’s symmetry.  So they compromised by putting in a small window above the doorway.  

    If I understand Dr Calder aright, his detective work is saying that the 1832 chapel was one-storey; at some stage the chapel was enlarged by the addition of a gallery and the raising of the height; in the late 1950s it was converted into a dwelling largely by means of only internal alterations. If anyone wishes to trace the history of this culturally significant chapel, circuit minute books or other archives might yield the requisite information and confirm Sandy’s deductions.

    By David Young (25/07/2014)

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