Willington Primitive Methodist chapel, Flintshire

a mystery chapel

The 1851 religious census lists a Primitive Methodist chapel built in 1840 in Willington, Flintshire. It had a morning congregation of 82 (+ 41 in the Sunday school), 24 (+ 40 scholars) in the afternoon, and an evening congregation of 230.

It must have been a big building, unless the evening congregation overflowed to the outside, but I have recognised no other reference to it, not in the Primitive Methodist Magazine, nor the Oswestry and Prees Green Circuit archives, nor the 1873 25-inch Ordnance Survey map, which identifies chapels by denomination. What was it? Where was it? Is the building still there, even if no longer a chapel?

Part of the problem is that Willington seems to sprawl with no obvious centre and to extend over several OS maps. And the answer does not seem to be Threapwood, which used to be in Flintshire, as that place is listed elsewhere in the Census. Can anyone help?

Comments about this page

  • I did wonder at the time. I’ve now set up a separate page in the Unknown chapels category

    By Christopher Hill (22/08/2020)
  • Christopher, Are you sure your 1887 PM Magazine reference to Willington is the one in Flintshire? There are places by the same name in Bedfordshire, Derbyshire, Co. Durham, Kent and Warwickshire. I believe the first Flintshire chapel was opened in 1845, and the present one in the 1890s: I have a photo of both, and I preach at the present chapel which is in Talwrn Green (Cheshire South Circuit, despite being in Wales).

    By David Young (21/08/2020)
  • The May 1887 Primitive Methodist magazine (page 316) records the opening of a “new and commodious place of worship” at Willington “with every prospect of success”. ” We note with some pleasure that the vicar readily afforded the friends the use of the schoolroom for the tea meeting. If vicars generally would show more sympathy with our people it would be none the worse for their parishes”

    By Christopher Hill (21/08/2020)
  • The 1880 Primitive Methodist magazine (March page 187) records the laying of memorial stones for new chapels at a number of places – including Willington. No detail is given, other than to name J Pease as the person who laid the stone.

    By Christopher Hill (09/05/2019)
  • John Dolan’s “The Independent Methodists – a History”[1] supplies in an appendix a list of Primitive Methodist groups which defected to the Independent Methodists in the period 1830-55. He includes some from Oswestry and Ellesmere from 1843 onwards, including eight in 1851. There is a fair amount about William Doughty, who became an Independent Methodist minister. Some of the groups applied to join the Independent Methodists formally and were accepted, but never pursued their acceptance to actual membership. That was in 1852. They presumably include the other group listed in the 1851 religious census, who were meeting near the Sarn bridge.

    [1] Cambridge: James Clarke & Co., 2005

    By David Young (21/06/2016)
  • After further investigation, I suggest the solution of the mystery is as follows.

    The 1833 Primitive Methodist Magazine (pp. 434-8) gives selections from the Journal of itinerant minister William Fitzgerald for that year:

    Wednesday 9th January 1833 Preached at the Sarn. A large congregation. A good time. Held a prayer meeting: many wept. One professed to be made happy.

    Wed 16th Preached at the Sarn. Had a large congregation and a good time… they want a chapel.

    Sunday 24th February At the Sarn. These people have formed a prayer meeting on the Sabbath morning. Sometimes one of the brethren give a short exhortation. I went to the meeting and gave a short exhortation. This was a glorious time amongst us. In the evening was assisted by Brother Eaches. We had a powerful meeting and many wept because of their sins. At night led the lovefeast. The people spoke with great liberty. The converting power of God came down, and many were brought to the ground. Some of the friends told me there were six converted to God. Praise the Lord, in this place he is laying hold of our persecutors; in particular one young man who has been a great despiser of our people. It had pleased God to convert one of his sisters… and he said that if ever he should see her down, he would kick her… On Sunday night he went to the meeting; he cried to God for mercy; the praying labourers prayed for him, and in a little time God, for Christ’s sake, set his soul at liberty. In this place we have hundreds coming to hear us. Our preaching house is not near large enough for the people; but our kind friend, Mr Holland, has fitted up his barn, which will hold some hundreds.

    Wed 27th February At the Sarn. I arrived at the place before the time, and it was crowded with people. [after the meeting] the people would not go away, so we formed two praying companies; the people prayed, and sinners cried for mercy; and the friends told me that many were converted to God. Truly this was a powerful meeting. We intend to build a chapel here in the spring.

    But the Oswestry circuit report for 1844 records that several local preachers had imbibed and propagated erroneous doctrines, causing great disturbance, and were put out of their offices, left the society and tried to draw as many as possible with them. Samuel and William Fitzgerald, Edward Davies, John Jones, Thomas Hughes left and joined R. Thomas’ society. They said sin is not hereditary, babies are born pure. R Thomas, local preacher, held the same doctrine, and that man has the inherent ability to fulfil God’s requirements.

    The 1846 circuit report again recorded that some official characters had left: six men through disaffection to the connexional rules and system who formed a party themselves. Kendall (II 285-90) says that William Doughty also joined the secession with William Fitzgerald in 1846.

    June 1848 Bad relations are recorded with the Independent Methodists: “Several of our Local Preachers have occasionally preached for the Independent Methodists (so called) and as such conduct has been productive of more injury than good to the Primitive Methodist Connexion, and is likely to be attended with similar consequences, no Travelling or Local Preacher in this circuit shall be allowed to preach for, or amongst, the aforesaid party… and that their invitation to our preachers to labour amongst them be regarded as an expression of policy and design.”

    The Ordnance Survey maps show a Methodist chapel opposite Sarn bridge, not at all far from the 1845 Primitive Methodist chapel. I suspect that it was listed in the 1851 religious census as Primitive Methodist, because it was led by people who had seceded from the Connexion along with William Fitzgerald but still called themselves Primitive Methodist. This might explain the “so called” in the Oswestry Circuit report, and not be a reference to the real Independent Methodists.

    Secessions happen probably from any religion, but it was rare for splits to be caused from Primitive Methodism on the grounds of doctrine. The Connexion’s doctrines are listed in the 1849 consolidated minutes, and a careful watch was kept that preachers should abide by them.

    It turned out that the 1845 chapel was replaced by a later one in the village, which is still in use, but there is now no other Methodist congregation there.


    By David Young (29/04/2014)

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