Village marks its Methodist church anniversary with celebratory service
PUBLISHED: 17:30 16 July 2017
A celebration was held this week to mark the 200th anniversary of a much-loved village church.
A Methodist chapel was first built in Wedmore in 1795 on the site of the current village hall in Cheddar Road.
The land had been donated by Abraham Dyer, who gave up a plot behind his shop and home in Church Street, which is now Lloyds Pharmacy.
Before the church was built, worshippers would often meet in their houses, but even after its construction there remained a lot of opposition to Methodism in the village.
In 1798 Hannah More, a religious writer and philanthropist, attempted to set up a school for poor children but there was plenty of objection to the pupils singing Watts Hymns for Children, claiming they were a form of Methody.
She wrote: “It was recorded that Farmer Stone the Methody Man sent his children to the school.
“The school survived and thrived, but Hannah wrote to a friend that Wedmore would prefer a Mahomadon to a Methodist.”
The school’s headteacher also had to be removed due to his previous role as a Methodist preacher in Bristol, which caused so much uproar that the school was threatened with closure.
But the religion was beginning to grow in the village at the turn of the century and plans to create a new Chapel in Sand Road were beginning to take shape.
Hazel Hudson, who is both a village historian and the church’s current organist, told the Mercury: “In 1801 there were more than 300 Methodists in Wedmore and it was eventually decided to raise money to build a new chapel in Sand Road.
“The old chapel was sold to the Church of England and became the free school. This was knocked down in the 1870s and the building is now the village hall.
“Some burials were removed to the new chapel graveyard.
“No records have been found of the building of the new chapel but the names of some involved are Abraham Dyer, Jeremiah Wall, George Millard, Joseph Stickland and John Tonkin.
“John Tonkin bought Abraham Dyer’s business with the old chapel behind. He was a fervent Methodist from St Ives in Cornwall, he later knocked down Dyer’s shop and house and erected the present buildings.”
The new chapel was built in 1817 while in 1895 it was decided to build an adjoining school room.
The new extension was estimated to cost £175 by architect Edward Wall, who lived in Grants Lane, so villagers decided to host a bazaar on June 4 to raise the money.
The event raised a total of £116, with the outstanding money paid for in subscriptions.
One of the most popular ways of raising money through subscriptions was by letting people write their name on a small patchwork square in exchange for a donation.
A total of 163 patches were then sewn together and embroidered with the words ‘Wedmore Wesleyan Bazaar 4th June 1895’.
The money raised allowed work to begin on the Wedmore Wesleyan Sunday School building on October 4, 1895.
Hazel added: “The Stickland’s Workbook shows that George started work on the building on October 4.
“A few days later it records that George had been working five and a half days at roofing for the chapel.
“His workmen, Alfred and Albert, usually helped him.
“Albert made the doors in the workshop and Arthur spent a day painting the sashes for the windows.
“Many days were spent in November working on the roof and other jobs for the Wesleyan school.
“By the end of December George and Albert were putting in the windows.
“At the beginning of January 1896 to the beginning of April, George and Arthur worked in the building laying floors and inserting doors to the interior and the porch.
“In their workshop they made benches. A small stage was put up, a kitchen built and an outside toilet added.
“The chapel’s final restoration took place in 1901.”