Sunday School memories of Stewkley Primitive Methodist chapel

Stella Rosa Rowland (nee Moxon) recalls Sunday school in Stewkely

Stella was born on February 2nd 1912 the first child of Cyril and Edith Moxon, who were living with Edith’s parents, Joseph and Lucy Woodwards, in Stewkley, Bucks.   Stella, in fact, spent the first 6 years of her life with her grandparents, for when she was 3 her parents and younger brother Bertram moved to Pearith, near Didcot, where Cyril took up work on a local farm.  When Stella joined them she was unhappy at the local school and returned to Stewkley and the grandparents to whom, she often said, she owed so much for their love and guidance.  Her grandmother kept a shop selling everything from groceries to pots and pans.  The village and Stewkley Primitive Methodist Chapel became, and remained, dear to Stella’s heart as becomes clear in the many notes she wrote about her life.  The following are extracted from “War years”:

“ Opposite my grandmother’s was the Primitive Methodist Chapel, a beautiful building, with big Sunday School and the Manse.  As soon as I was old enough I was sent to Sunday School, morning and afternoon.  How well I remember the Superintendent, such a kindly man, who was a real shepherd, caring for us all.  Those days we were given a small ticket with a text each Sunday.  After four Sundays w were given a larger one and when we had sufficient we exchanged them for a Sunday School hymn book.

The big event of the year was the Sunday School Anniversary as far as I can remember the 3rd Sunday in May.  People from all around gathered for the great day.  Old scholars who had moved away and people from other churches, the church would be full.  The choir filled the choir seats and we children sat on a platform in front of the pulpit.  Everyone had a new dress and hat.  I am sure that the young ladies in the choir vied with each other for their choice of hats – hats trimmed with ribbons and flowers, and the little girls with their streamers – a pretty sight indeed.

Weeks before there had been much rehearsing for children and choir, so that on the day every song was near perfect.  There was always a special preacher for the day, but most of the services were given up to singing.  At the end of the evening service there was much talking as people who had moved away met up with their old friends and there was much news to catch up with.  A really happy, inspiring day.

The Anniversary was continued on Monday, everyone meeting at the church at 9 a.m. and then walking the length of the village, stopping at strategic places to sing some of the favourite hymns from Sunday.  At the end of the village there was a large house and garden where we went in for refreshments.  Then there was a long walk across fields and along the country roads leading to the other end of the village when those who had any voice left and were not too tired would start to sing again.  Tea had been prepared at the church – for children first, followed by that for the adults; then down to one of the farmer’s fields where there was racing and scrambling for pennies etc., then back to church for the final service of the weekend.  Many of the younger children would be missing from their seats for that service, everyone was tired but happy.  As a young child it left an impression that has never left me.”

Stella re-joined her parents and the family became part of the Primitive Methodist church in Didcot.  You can follow more of Stella’s story here.  But the Woodwards family remained in Stewkley.  Edith’s brother George (1897 – 1962) served in World War 1 and was gassed, suffering the dreadful effects of that for the rest of his life.  He married Ada Dickens (who at some point was Caretaker of the Church) and they had two daughters, Olive and Dora.   Edith’s sister Rosa (1889 – 1946) married Sidney Hedges.  They had three sons, two of whom died in infancy  The other son, Ernest, married Freda (……. ) and also remained in the village.  As for Joseph and Lucy, Joseph (b. 1869) died in 1949 and Lucy (b. 1871) in 1956.

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