The congregation outside Peldon Chapel around 1945.
Peldon Chapel was built on the North side of Lower Road, Peldon next door but one to Peldon Common in 1893. There were three stages in its life; in 1893 it was built as a Wesleyan Chapel, it then became a Wesleyan Methodist Chapel and in 1933 became a Methodist Chapel. It was the smallest chapel in the eleven which formed the Colchester circuit. The building of the Chapel was clearly responding to a need for local non-conformist worshippers, who, before 1893 had met in a barn during winter months and then a cottage.
Photo: Pat Wyncoll (the little boy in the foreground)
In the Parish News in February 1970 a written account of the chapel's beginnings is published. The vicar, Anthony Gough, writes
About two years before dear old Ben Cudmore died [c 1966], I asked him to write for me a brief history of Methodism in Peldon.
Here are some remarks he made, little knowing that, so soon after his death, this little 'Bethel' (house of God) would be closed.
Rev Anthony Gough
'the sect of Wesleyan Methodists in the village was first brought here by mission bands, who came in from Colchester, on foot,
singing hymns and sacred songs as they tramped along. As time passed many meeting places were used ' ... a farmhouse known as
Ransomes ... a barn at the top of Malting Hill.
In such humble beginnings was fostered a society who began to express a desire to have a place of assembly of their own and
towards the end of the nineteenth century such was erected. A 'penny a brick' fund was opened, and the gift of a penny was to
be reckoned with when the agricultural worker laboured from six o'clock in the morning to half past five in the evening
(and no half day on Saturday) for one shilling and ten pence a day.
The present Bethel was erected by the firm of O S Locke of Colchester in 1893. This was incorporated into the Colchester Circuit.
Ben Cudmore 1899 - 1968
Much detailed information from the chapel's documents has been thoroughly researched by Carol Wyatt and copies are lodged at the 'Top Chapel' in West Mersea and at Mersea Museum. Carol's sources were from Essex Records Office (references C741 and D/NM 2/5/1). She writes,
there are a total of three books and one folder of papers for this Chapel including a Treasurer's Account Book and a Minute Book, ... all very small hand-written notebooks containing many entries that are mundane monthly accounts often of little interest eg cleaner's charges, minor repairs, heating costs etc.
The first note in the book tells us the land had been purchased from Mr Arthur William Nightingale who sold the land to the trustees for the sum of £20 in 1893. He went on to become a serving trustee of Peldon Chapel and was to become a preacher himself in 1894. He returned in November 1935 to preach at the annual missionary services and again for the Jubilee celebrations of the Chapel in 1943 and in 1944. At the Jubilee celebrations he announces that
'the late Robert Nightingale was the secret purchaser and the donor of the site on which the chapel was subsequently built'
Essex County Standard 6.8.1943
And this is borne out by the conveyancing documents.
The first meeting in 1893 is reported as follows
Meeting of proposed Trustees of land acquired at Peldon for the purpose of erecting a Wesleyan Chapel held at West Mersea April 27th 1893
Present Rev E O Coleman in the chair, Messrs Locke, Sands, Folkard, Mason, Rainbird, Heap, Arthur Nightingale and Cullingford of Colchester, Mr Ponder of Peldon and Messrs Isaac and Benjamin Pullen, Brand and Moles, Peldon.
Proposed by Mr Mason, Seconded by Mr Sands.
That a Brick Chapel with slate roof and ceiling be built to seat 120 persons if possible in accordance with the rough plans submitted by Mr Locke at a cost not exceeding £250 carried unanimously.
Then it is reported the building work is put out to tender
Copy of letter sent to those invited to tender June 20th
Dear Sir, you are invited to tender for the erection of a new Wesleyan Chapel at Peldon.
Plans and specifications may be seen at Mr Sands' Head Street.
Sealed tenders to be sent to me at 153, High Street on or before Monday 26th instant.
The trustees do not bind themselves to accept the lowest or any tender.
E Coleman for the trustees.
The first entry in the Minute book is dated July 10th 1893 and records the first meeting held. It goes on to list names and addresses of trustees, and a revised Board of trustees when the chapel becomes a Methodist place of worship in 1933. We learn from the Essex County Standard that there is a stone-laying ceremony on July 27th 1893.
From the Minutes book, we discover very little detail of the Chapel's work, mostly it records repairs or changes to the furnishings.
From Ben Cudmore we learn
'When the Chapel first opened and for several years following there was a congregation of from 35 - 40 and more at Harvest
Thanksgiving and Anniversary Services... one ought to make mention of such stalwarts to the cause such as Mrs Smith who
60 years ago lived at The Stores..other outstanding names were Dansie, Talbot and Ponder....'
Moving on to the 1930s, more information about the Chapel's work is given in the
'Neighbourhood News' columns of the Essex County Standard from 1931 - 1948. These were written by Mrs Dansie, whose family were
very active non-conformists so, not surprisingly, Chapel services and events are well-covered. Mrs Dansie, was the Chapel
Sunday school superintendent and choir mistress. Her husband, Edgar, played the organ for services and events for many years and
following his death his wife took over as organist. Both Mr Dansie's children (by his first wife), Leonard (who went on to become
the Dansie of Reeman Dansie the auctioneers) and Olive were also very involved with the Chapel, Leonard becoming a trustee of the chapel in 1933. The Dansie family ran the Peldon village stores for many years.
From the interwar period right through to the late 40s it is clear that the Chapel had a thriving congregation and Sunday School. It enjoyed a close relationship with the Church of England and rectors of St Mary's, Peldon with residents often going to a C of E service in the morning and the Chapel in the afternoon as well as sharing United Services.
In August 1939 it is reported
UNITED OUTING - An event believed to be unique in the annals of Peldon took place on August 2, this being a united outing to Clacton organised by [the C of E rector and Methodist steward]. The party which numbered nearly 90, was conveyed in three buses. Essex County Standard 12.8.1939
Sunday School outing to East Mersea. Photo: Pat Wyncoll
The Methodist chapel had been arranging annual outings for its Sunday school since 1921 when a half-day trip to East Mersea was organised. The Chapel also hosted annual Missionary Festivals, annual anniversary celebrations of the Chapel's beginning and that of the Sunday school and it was customary to have visiting preachers. The children were regularly involved in music and performance at any special occasions and services.
'By way of an experiment' a Methodist Fellowship starts in January 1937 meeting on Tuesday nights and is reported as being
'highly appreciated and well-attended', a book on New Testament subjects selected for study and weekly readings in the first season. This became a regular feature with different texts chosen for study. And in October 1946 an inaugural meeting was held for a united fellowship with the Church of England.
The coming of electricity to the Chapel was obviously a significant event and in 1935 the paper reports
A SERVICE was held in the Methodist Chapel to mark the installation of electric light, the cost of which has been defrayed by two local preachers... The proceedings started in candle-light... after the singing of a hymn the electric light was switched on. Essex County Standard 18.1.1935
During the war years the support and cooperation between Chapel and Church led to joint services, back in cottages where it all began.
..... COTTAGE MEETINGS In connection with the closing of the Parish Church and Methodist Chapel on Sunday evenings because of war-time lighting restrictions, it has been decided to
unite in holding a series of old-fashioned cottage meetings during the winter months. By invitation of Mr Harry Smith, 86 year old
church warden, the first was held at Forge Cottage on Sunday, Rev J R Wilson presiding. The People's Hymnary was used, the company
being free to call for the hymns of their choice and to take part in the discussion which followed a reading by the rector.
For the second meeting an offer of hospitality by the Methodist Trust Steward, Mr W Greenleaf, had been accepted.
Essex County Standard 14.10.1939
'TILL WE MEET AGAIN' Cottage meetings held during the winter months were terminated on Sunday there being now sufficient daylight for evening services at the Parish Church. Members of the Church of England and their Methodist friends have attended regularly since the second Sunday in October.
Essex County Standard 16.3.1940
Funerals were not held at the chapel but at the Parish Church or Colchester Cemetery, non-conformist weddings were generally held at the Culver Street Methodist Church and in 1945 it is reported
A BAPTISMAL REGISTER has been procured for the Methodist Chapel and the first name recorded is Richard Haward, infant son of Mr and Mrs E R Haward of Church Road, West Mersea and grandson of Mr E W Traylor, a trustee of Peldon Chapel.
Essex County Standard 2.11.1945
By 1951 the chapel needed to replace many deceased trustees and appoint new ones and although this information does not appear in the records held at Essex Records Office the documents still held by the current landowner along with the original conveyancing deed show lists of the those who agree to continue and those who are newly appointed.
The Chapel accounts finish on 31st August 1970 and a Reeman Dansie advertisement in the local paper in January 1970 offers the Chapel for sale (along with Methodist chapels at Langham and Wormingford). The decline of the Chapel's fortunes was picked up by the Essex County Standard when local, Les Mallett, is interviewed.
The news that three Methodist chapels in villages around Colchester are up for sale may well be diagnosed by unbelievers as a sign that in these rural communities the Methodist Church has finally laid down and died. But it hasn't.
The closure of three elderly halls in Wormingford, Langham and Peldon is simply a matter of economy, and to a certain degree, chance.
It's pure chance that in these areas none of the new families moving in over the last few years have been Methodists, that church members have moved away to a more urban existence and the elderly have died.
There are only three Methodists left in Peldon, so they've decided to do their bit for Church unity. The Church Assembly and the Methodist Conference may not quite have made up their minds yet but Mr Leslie Mallett, his father and Mr W Greenleaf are doing their bit.
Faced with the indisputable fact that the three of them simply don't fill the small brick chapel, and even the sounds on Mr Mallet junior at the American organ have a hollow ring, they have been welcomed into the fold of the parish church - and are quite happy to find themselves not alone in their worship any more.
'Once upon a time we had to put chairs in the aisles' Leslie Mallett remembers 'I went to Sunday School there as a boy, you know. It's sad to see the old place go.'
Essex County Standard Friday 6th February 1970
Reeman Dansie offer the Chapel with vacant possession and it is described as brick and slate premises (31ft x 21 ft) on a pleasant site with South aspect, and within an area scheduled for residential development. Its frontage is given as about 40ft x a depth of about 110ft with main services of electricity, water and drainage available. The price given is £1550 (subject to contract)
The building was subsequently bought, demolished and a new house built on the site in about 1971 by a Mr Vorstaker Field, hence the house's name Chapelfield. According to Mike Watson, who moved in opposite,
Mr Field cleaned and scrubbed every brick (these were of high quality made in Kent). He used all the bricks to build the present house, Chapelfield.
Peldon History Project
Many thanks to
Carol Wyatt for her research and advice
(Carol's research document is available - see CGU_BK1_009 )
The Essex County Standard
Methodism in Peldon by Ben Cudmore