Derry Hill Primitive Methodist Chapel, near Studley, Wiltshire

1856 Derry Hill Primitive Methodist Chapel, semi derelict in 2000
Keith Guyler 2000

I can give no information about this former Primitive Methodist chapel for sale on a main road outside Studley in Wiltshire: I merely pulled up in a lay-by opposite, took the photograph, and drove on.

However, maybe I can offer some thoughts which such sights prompt about how we feel when we see a chapel closed down and up for sale, or already transformed for some other use, or simply demolished? I have been to meetings for people interested in Methodist history, and although I know that I may well be mistaken, I seem to sense a wistful nostalgia for a lost era which cannot be repeated – a resigned surrender to a situation beyond mending; perhaps like the psalmist Asaph in Psalm 77:

I think of God, and I moan… and I say, “It is my grief that the right hand of the Most High has changed.”… I will remember thy wonders of old.

But how did the early Primitive Methodists respond in 1853, when after decades of advance a decrease in membership of the Connexion of over a thousand was reported? Here is what the Primitive Methodist Magazine brought to members’ notice:

The Conference appoints a day of humiliation, fasting and prayer, to be held on the 4th of October 1853, on account of our decrease, and in order to promote spiritual and numerical prosperity, which it hopes will be devoutly observed throughout all the Connexion, and that the God of all grace will mercifully hear the united supplications of the societies, and vouchsafe rich effusions of the Holy Spirit through the mediation of Jesus Christ.

Now – how do we respond today? With a sense that there can be neither hope nor help? Or more like those who led the Connexion in 1853? Or even like Isaiah, touched with a burning coal from the altar, who prayed:

And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Then I said, “Here am I! Send me.”

Editor’s note

This article was originally published as Studley PM Chapel, and renamed in light of the information contributed below.

Comments about this page

  • I used to own this Chapel and I feel I should most definitely apologise for my yellow beetle choice of car.

    For me, I hate seeing these buildings shut, but also acknowledge that retaining the history of such a building far outweighs the need for it to morph in terms of its purpose.

    When we bought the Chapel, we received a number of keys, one of which was to the original green doors. It was the size of a brick and I couldn’t help but wonder how anyone ever carried it. We also had some beautiful documents from the original church of the records of attendees and helpers, it truly was astoundingly amazing. Inside the radiators had been kept and reused, from what I can remember.

    I was at my happiest in this home and miss it greatly. If truly had been renovated very sympathetically at the time and brought joy to a lot of people.

    By Emma Britton (15/06/2019)
  • The Primitive Methodist magazine for August 1857 (pp.504-505) contains an account by John Richards of the opening of Derryhill (sic) Primitive Methodist chapel on Sunday 28th 1857.  Rev J Best of Bath preached at the opening, as did Rev J Richards, Rev W Harvey, Mr J Smith,  Messrs Breach, Samson, White, Butler and Mills.  Over 300 sat down to tea in the chapel and a tent erected in front.  

    The chapel was 33′ x 23′ and 16′ high, with brick walls 14 inches thick with freestone windows, door jambs and quoins and a slate roof. The Marquis of Lansdowne gave the land (complete with fence) and a donation of £10, and the overall cost was about £190. £90 had been raised.

    John Richards describes Derry Hill as having a considerable population in its location near Bowood and on the Chippenham – Devizes Road. The society had been in existence for twenty years.

    By Christopher Hill (12/01/2017)
  • Derry Hill always hosted a Good Friday afternoon service attended by other members of the circuit. A fair few would always walk the couple of miles from Chippenham. There would be afternoon hymn singing followers by tea then an evening service. My friend couldn’t believe the tea included only bread and butter and cakes but no jam. Subsequent years she brought her own jam to be surreptitiously spread! This caused much amusement.

    By David Watts (05/09/2015)
  • Thank you!

    By David Young (18/09/2013)
  • This is actually Derry Hill PM chapel and I believe it closed c.1990 (Studley chapel is still open).

    By Adam Miller (12/09/2013)

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