The Story of Peasedown Methodist Church (1874 - 1974) from the Centenary Souvenir Programme
One hundred years ago a group of people made a decision. A chapel would be built in a hamlet called Peasedown, for a hamlet it was in 1873, groups of cottages housing mostly miners and farmworkers. However, it had been reported that a Colliery company would be building a row of houses there for their workers and it became apparent that the area would be developed. So Mr Joseph West put all his energies into securing the erection of a chapel at Peasedown. The Superintendent Minister at the time was the Reverend William Harvey. A group of trustees was obtained from different places, three coming from Single Hill, William Flower, Abel Horwood and James Veal. They met at the home of Mr Joseph West. It was decided to build a chapel and a schoolroom and a piece of land was obtained from Mr Daniels of Carlingcott.
So, on Whit Tuesday morning from Single Hill, came Mr James Veal, and in company with the Reverend C Shergold and Mr T Colburn, the builder, marked out the ground.
The stone was quarried in Mr Thomas West's garden and local people helped. The founders and trustees, chiefly coal miners used to long hard working days, gave unstintingly to the cause and laid the foundations of our present society.
This early building cost £324 and heating apparatus £21. By the autumn of 1874 the building was ready and October 14th saw the opening services. The new Houses at Fairfield were also being occupied.
A society was being formed, "and in a very short time one of the best societies I have ever seen was housed in the new chapel. The society moved off as if God were leading it. There was no rush, but a gradual ingathering of precious souls." This from Mr James Veal.
Mr Huish was appointed the first class leader and Mr William Andrews first Sunday School Superintendent. A Sunday morning Bible Class of twenty six young men, all members of the society, was led by Mrs James Veal whose influence was felt through the village.
For the first two years Mr J West was Chapel treasurer and after that Mr J Veal carried on this work for twenty years.
By 1889 it was obvious that the original building was not sufficient and as the debt had been cleared an extension was planned. Each trustee contributed £1 out of their meagre earnings towards this new venture. The same men dug out the foundations and quarried the stone. The building cost £400. At the first service in the new chapel there were four converts.
Years passed and the work in the church progressed, even though, as in all good families, there were differences of opinions, as in the case of procuring a musical instrument to enhance the sound of the human voice. A decision was approved to buy a harmonium for £20, Messrs William Andrews and Abel Horwood being given the honour of collecting the subscriptions. The story is told that, one said he would not contribute as he did not believe in music, whereupon Brother Horwood replied, "Then I hope you never go to heaven." "Why?" asked the one. "Because", said Mr Horwood, "you would be out of place, for it is all music in heaven."
Even the first harvest festival caused differences but all realised the £10 raised would be a great help to those who were giving regularly to clear debts incurred by the very success of the society. A pipe organ replaced the harmonium in 1909 and in its turn was also dethroned in favour of another pipe organ made and installed by Messrs Brock and Sons. A communion rail, new ceiling and more efficient lighting by acetylene gas all have their price.
But a church does not exist without people, men and women who meet in fellowship not only for worship on Sunday but during the week, as in the Christian Endeavour, the choir and the Sunday School. The church was also the venue of the Good Templar Order and the Peasedown Mixed Brotherhood.
The completion of he first 50 years was celebrated in November 1924. The Reverend Cushing spoke of the duties of men to succeeding generations. The pioneers of the church had not only provided for their own day but also made provision for others coming after them. A pioneer member, Mr James Veal, now in his eighties, presided over the afternoon meeting in which the Mayor of Bath (Councillor C Hacker) gave an address on the ministry of praise in church life. The Mayor spoke again in the evening on the business of the church which was to preach Christ Crucified. Music plays a great part in Methodism and so during the week a concert was given by the Beechen Cliff Male Voice Choir.
The Jubiliee services continued the following Sunday conducted by the Reverend G E Lloyd who spoke on the theme of the great refining and purifying power of the fire of God which was needed to rid the world of sin, following this in the evening with the magnetic influence of the Cross using the text, "And I, if I be lifted up will draw all men unto me."
The Sunday School, a vital part of the church, played their part in the celebrations by presenting a cantata "Mary of Bethany".
The celebrations came to a climax on the next day when the congregation met for a faith tea followed by a public thanksgiving service to which came Reverend Skinner, Vice President of the Conference, to speak of the wonderful power of influence and the God whom men and women needed was the God of the good person.
When the secretary gave his report he pointed out that one object of the Jubilee was to clear a debt and after several efforts during the year they were within £20 of their target. The chairman suggested that this was an opportune moment for generosity and made a splendid offer of help which was quickly followed by several others and the debt was cleared.
After the Jubilee work continued in the society. Individuals have their own recollections of these years, the varying meetings during the week such as the choir practices led by Mr Harry Derrick and later by Mr John Whittock, IOGT meetings and the Sunday School where Mr A Riddick held benevolent sway.
There was of course the social life of the church and the highlights of the year which included the Whit Tuesday parade by members and Sunday School, the banner held high and led by the village band would sing its way through the streets and back for a picnic tea. This was followed by sports and games in the field giving enjoyment to all.
During 1932 the separate members of the Methodist Church were formed into one society. This necessitated a revised hymn book which would be used in all the churches, whether formerly Primitive, Wesleyan or United Methodists.
1955 brought another change - the reorganisation of the circuit when we left the Redfield Road, Midsomer Norton one and became part of Radstock.
Soon for the first time a minister resided in the village. This was the Reverend L Edwards who stayed for six years. During this time Christmas morning services were inaugurated. There was a strong group of young people who formed part of the circuit youth club and were able to participate in the National Rallies in the Albert Hall. They also formed Mission Bands and under the leadership of Mr Summers were responsible for services throughout the circuit.
Discussions were taking place throughout the country regarding ecumenical union of the church of England and the Methodist Church. Although these meetings were interesting they did not continue.
Times were changing and the church to live must be alive to these changes and though the move was regretted it was decided to close the Wesleyan Chapel in Braysdown Lane and for the members to join Bath Road. So after about 50 years in 1960 the combined churches were dedicated on a Sunday in July. The Braysdown Lane font (in memory of Mr F Gould, given originally to their church by his two grandchildren) was placed on the communion table. The next year saw the first anniversary of this amalgamation in which the Sunday School took part, so changing the date of their anniversary from April to July.
A memorable year, 1961, for in August the church gave a tea to celebrate the diamond wedding of its two oldest members, Mr and Mrs John Whittock.
Once again much needed extensions were made and in June 1962, as the result of much voluntary work, the new kitchen and offices were dedicated by Reverend Donald Streat, Warden of Wesley's Chapel, Bristol. Celebrations included a concert by the Band of the People's Mission of Bath and services on the following Sunday led by the Superintendent Minister, Reverend D L Collings and Reverend L Edwards, enhanced by contributions of music and poetry from the young members of the church.
Several new groups were started in the next few years, morning family services once a month, a Young Wives Club with a wide range of interests and a circuit forum with men only in mind. The trustees also decided to launch an envelope scheme to enable regular giving for the necessary upkeep of the church. All these are still functioning. We must not forget the Ladies Guild which has been meeting week by week quietly but contributing much to the society.
So much has happened during the century since those three men first paced out the site for this church. Then the village was part of a large coalfield - now all the mines are closed. The building itself has been beautified by diverse means: gifts, in memory of loved ones, of vases, clock and pulpit Bible, and from voluntary effort of a section of the church a new pulpit cloth and carpet in the aisle.
A short history like this just touches on events in the life of a society. It is the day by day work, friendship and worship which welds and lends life to the church. It is meeting with faith all the changes within and without. Once more we are challenged to restructure the organisation in the hope that this will increase the effectiveness of our service to our church, neighbourhood and the world.
Let the ruby red Loving Cup used for the first Communion here, remind us of the faith of those who dreamed of a society where at the time were only a few homes and of the realisation of their dream which is with us today.
In 2005 the building underwent a huge transformation, with a complete reconfiguration of the Worship area, plus the additional of two new rooms, a new vestry and toilet facilities.
The following photographs of the building before the work took place (click to enlarge).
From Celebration & Thanksgiving Programme (2005)
As the Minister of the Methodist Church I invite you to come and share with us in our very special weekend of the 9th and 10th July.
As you will be aware building work is in progress. We are adding two more meeting rooms and a vestry as well as making other changes in the existing Church Premises. This will necessitate us vacating the building in July, August and September. We are very grateful that our Anglican friends have invited us to join with them for worship on Sunday Mornings.
For many, the Methodist Church is a place where they have fond memories, perhaps Weddings, Baptisms and even laying a loved one to rest. Very often we would like everything to stay as we remember it, and it’s not always easy to cope with change. It can be hard to face the reality that in order to accommodate the growing Church, change is inevitable.
But it can also be a time of great Celebration of all that God means to us and that He is still active in the world. He delights in our praise and thanksgiving.
We’d like, therefore, to give everyone the opportunity to come and ‘thank Him for all that is past and Praise Him for all that’s to come’, as the hymns puts it.
Please do join us over the weekend and write your comment in the Book of Memories.
Rev Ruth Farrant
The following photographs are from the reopening ceremony (click to enlarge).
From 110th Anniversary Sheet (1984)
On Whit Tuesday 1873 three men marked out the ground for the building of a Methodist Chapel in the small hamlet of Peasedown St John and by the autumn of 1874 Methodism had begun to make its presence felt in the village. From then on we read of a history of growth. Fifteen years later it was necessary to build an extension. In 1909 new acetylene lighting, a new ceiling, a communion rail and a pipe organ were installed. In 1960 the separate Methodist societies became one. In 1962 further extensions were made and most recently, in 1982, the heating system was renovated, the chapel was decorated and the carpet laid in the schoolroom and vestry.
Behind all these fats and figures lies the love and devotion to Christ of many men and women. Each one had contributed towards the growth of the church family. Through their witness others have come to know Christ as their Lord and Saviour.
That work and witness goes on today. The church continues to grow. This may not always show in physical numbers but the growth in fellowship and love is obvious to all who encounter it.
And what of the future? None of us can tell except to be sure that if we strive to serve God in all that we do as a church and as individuals then, our continued growth is assured.
Let us use today to thank God for the past and rededicate ourselves to walking with him in the future.