Primitive Methodists in Swaffham

Drawing of the Swaffham Primitive Methodist Chapel in 1877

The town was first missioned by William Green Belham, travelling preacher at Mattishall. A society was formed despite troublesome opposition and in 1836 became head of a circuit. Numbers fell to a low level and only slowly grew again.

The Norfolk News reported on 4 April 1849 that ‘the quietude of this town was disturbed…by an attempt to supress the field preaching’ by Rev. Henry Alderslade who had been ‘addressing a large and attentive assembly in the market place.’ Two policemen were instructed to arrest the preacher and he was taken before a magistrate, the Rev. W. Woodhouse, who forbad him to preach in the open again. Henry Alderslade refused to agree and indicated he would again preach in the same place before long.

The Primitive Methodists met first in a barn in Lynn Road and then a meeting house originally consisting of two old cottages. In 1849 a chapel was built with 295 sittings. Here on 3 May 1852 the first Primitive Methodist African Missionary meeting took place. A schoolroom was built at the rear in 1853.

On Census Sunday, 30 March 1851, there were 76 persons at the morning service with 73 Sunday school children, 155 in the afternoon with 79 children and 135 in the evening with 18 scholars.

In 1873 a new chapel was begun. It cost £1066 and was opened in March 1875. By 1907 the debt on the chapel had been completely paid off.

In 1936 the chapel was closed, the congregation was united with the Wesleyans and the Primitive Methodist building was sold. It was finally demolished in 1966.

Comments about this page

  • There are accounts of the laying of the foundation stone and the opening celebrations in the Primitive Methodist magazine of 1862. I have transcribed them and attached them to the chapel’s own page at:

    Sorry to tell you it doesn’t comment on how gloomy the local population were.

    By Christopher Hill (01/03/2019)
  • Looking for the preacher involved in the establishment of the Primitive Methodist Chapel in Sporle 1862..
    I have seen an account of the spread of Methodism in West Norfolk and an account stating that “the people of Sporle were somewhat surly and resistant” but I can’t find the reference anywhere!
    I want to do a montage for the Chapel vestibule..
    Can anyone help?

    By John Winlow (25/02/2019)

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