its history and its people


Fig.1 Stapleford Methodist Church-Eaton's Road


Early years

Methodism is in the Nonconformist tradition of churchmanship. In 1662[1], two years after the restoration of the monarchy, an Act of Uniformity was passed. It prescribed that the church should adhere to the rites and ceremonies as laid down in the Book of Common Prayer. All clergy were required to take an oath to this effect in order to hold office in government or church and those who did not conform, including 2,000 clergy, were ejected from the church. The curate at Stapleford took the oath but there were 28 ejections in Nottinghamshire, including Beeston, 39 in Derbyshire, including Sandiacre, and 39 in Leicestershire.[2] Further legislation was enacted that established the supremacy of the Anglican church and ended religious toleration.

However, in 1689, under William and Mary, nonconformist pressure led to the passing of the Toleration Act which granted freedom of worship to nonconformists and accepted that the concept of an overarching Church of England had been abandoned.[3] Nonconformists were allowed to have their own clergy and places of worship, subject to certain oaths of allegiance. Places of worship had to be registered with either the Justices of the Peace or the bishop. A certificate was to be given recording the fact, for which a fee of no more than sixpence was to be charged.

On the 4th October 1773 the Minutes of the Quarter Sessions for the 4th October 1773 contain the following entry: -"Upon the humble petition of John Greasley of the town of Stapleford in the said county (a protestant dissenter from the Church of England called Presbiterian) praying that a certain building formerly used as a barn in the town for the publick worship of Almighty God may be Licensed and Recorded as such. It is ordered by the Court that the same be licensed and recorded accordingly."[4]

Methodism found a welcome reception in Stapleford. In 1829 the Parish Constable, Joseph Butler, made a return stating that there were two places of Publick Worship exclusive of the Church of England both of the Methodist persuasion. These were Wesley Place and Providence Chapel on Church Walk.[5]

In the 1851 Religious Census it is recorded that a total of 997 worshippers were present at the four Methodist churches compared with 367 at the Parish church.[6] We do not know how many attended both morning and evening worship and were double counted, so it is difficult to say what proportion of the village's population of 1968 was at a religious service of some kind on that Sunday. However, the figures clearly indicate the relative strengths of the denominations.

In 1932, when Methodist union took place, all three of the uniting churches, the Wesleyans, the Primitive Methodists and the United Methodists, had churches in Stapleford. The history of the Methodist church in England between 1791, when Wesley died, and 1932 is one of division and reunification. The story of the church in Stapleford closely follows the national scene with splits, ill feeling and deeply felt hurt. As an example of the way that the situation changed, Wesley Place- at various times-was used by all three of the joining churches. (A more detailed account summarising the national picture and the various divisions and reunifications, with brief details of the reasons, can be found here.)

Wesleyan Methodism

John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, visited Stapleford in 1774 and 1780.[7] In 1774 he records that he preached in a meadow, because no house could contain the congregation. In 1780 he records that he was passing through Stapleford and was stopped by some who begged me to look into their new preaching house. Many followed and the house was soon filled.

The first building used for Methodist worship was a converted barn.The application for its use as a place of worship was made by John Greasley and its use was approved by the Justices at the Quarter Sessions in October 1773.[8]

Fig.2 The first church 1776

It soon proved to be inadequate and a purpose-built building was constructed in 1776. Called the 'Meeting House', an application for its use as a place of worship was made by Henry Taft, John Hanbury, John Wheatley, David Wolley and William Walles. This was approved by the Justices at the Quarter Sessions on the 11th April 1776.[9] It was described as “a small low building with a flat ceiling' and a drawing of it appears in an account of the history of the church written in 1907.[10]

Fig.3 The new church 1782

This soon became too small and a new church was opened in 1782 which forms the nucleus of the present Wesley Place building. Some sources state that John Wesley, himself, laid the Foundation Stone but unfortunately this is not corroborated by his Journal although he does appear to have been in the area.An old account book has been recently discovered for the period from 1782 to 1820 which lists the pew rents. It was clearly a simple building with five rows of pews on the east of the chapel and five more on the west. Each pew appears to seat five people. [11]

John Wesley autocratically controlled the Methodist Connexion and, before his death, appointed as his successor a group of ministers known as the "Legal Hundred". He died in March 1791 and, whilst Methodists were prepared to accept autocracy when it was exercised by JW, tensions appeared and murmurs of dissent were heard when it was exercised by a Conference of Ministers. The first break with Wesleyan Methodism took place in 1796 when Andrew Kilham was expelled because he called for greater lay participation.[12] Those who supported him were called the 'Kilhamites'. They formed their own Conference in August 1797 and called themselves the New Itinerancy - later the New Connexion -with about 5,000 members. [13] Nottingham was one of the strongholds and Stapleford, particularly, welcomed their cause with enthusiasm.[14] In 1797, 40 of the 44 members in Stapleford supported the 'Kilhamites' and they retained the chapel, one of the few in the country where this happened.[15] It was reported "The society held possession of the chapel for a few years, when they were dispossessed of it and turned into the street by ONE of the trustees! The cause of this strange proceeding is still remembered in the village, but it had nothing to do with religious disputes, and is really unworthy of report. It strikes us at this distance of time with surprise that ONE trustee should have had so much influence, and regret that he should have used it thus."[16] The chapel, thus, came back into the hands of the Wesleyan Methodists. We do not know where they worshipped in the meantime.

Fig.4 Wesley Place 1848

The Wesleyan cause continued to grow and in 1848 the chapel was enlarged- the old chapel being very low and inconvenient. The entrance was improved by a lobby being added; a gallery extended each side, and a vestry built. The Circular announcing the Opening Services contained the following statement : -" In consequence of the old Chapel being very low and inconvenient, the friends have for a long time felt the great necessity of a better Place of Worship. The building has been improved at- considerable cost. There are excellent family pews as a moderate rental. Ample accommodation has been made for the poor, in the shape of good substantial rail back benches, which occupy the entire centre of the Chapel. A large and commodious room has been erected at the back for the twofold purpose of Sunday School and Vestry."[17] The re-opening took place on Wednesday, November 29th, 1848, when Dr. Beaumont preached. The Rev. W. Fox followed on Sunday, and Charles Richardson, the Lincolnshire Thresher, a week later.

The cause made considerable progress, there being over one hundred members in the Society; the Rev. Geo. Buckley was the Resident Minister. This advance was very short-lived. Four years after the re-opening, the Methodist " Reformation " took place with disastrous results. In 1849 three ministers were expelled by the Wesleyan Conference on suspicion of publishing flysheets strongly critical of the Wesleyan hierarchy. They rapidly gathered a large following of likeminded members and over 100,000 were either expelled or seceded. Stapleford, always eager to espouse reformist ideas, supported the new party in large part, and out of over 100 members only 17 remained as Wesleyan Methodists.[18] These included Mr. W. Ward and family (whose son Mr. William George Ward, was twice Mayor of Nottingham, 1871 and 1877) ; Mr. and Mrs. Pendleton, Mr. Joseph Hooley, Mr. James Cooper, Mr. William Lester, Mrs. Towle, Senr, and a few adherents.

Fig.5 Hallam's Yard.

Wesley Place chapel remained as the home of the Wesleyan Reformers and the original Wesleyan Methodists had to move out. They were able to find a room at the back of the Square in Hallam's Yard opposite the top of Albert Street. The room was used by lace workers during the week. In Methodist fashion it was called the 'Upper Room' and was used between 1852 and 1859.[19]

Fig.6 First chapel on Church Street

The congregation was further depleted during this period but plans were soon put in hand towards raising funds for a chapel of their own. Three cottages with gardens were bought in Church Street for £200. A loan was received from Mr. Crompton for this purpose which was repaid in July 1878. The land at the rear of the cottages was used to build a church. The ground rose at the back and excavation was necessary to level the plot. The foundation stone of the new church was laid on the 26 Oct 1858 and the opening service was held on the 26 April 1859. The total cost of construction was £251. [20] Most of the costs were raised locally but there was a shortfall and a loan of £50 was received from the connexional Chapel Building Committee. No pictures of this chapel exist but it is understood that it was built to the same design as the Methodist chapel in Stanton -by-Dale. Some publications show a pastiche done by Fred Cooper superimposing a photograph of Stanton church on to a photograph of the cottages in Church Street.

Fig.7 Church Street

The Society entered upon a new lease of life and soon these premises were too small. It was decided to build a new church on the same site, the cottages were knocked down and the full extent of the plot was used. The plot sloped quite steeply and the schoolrooms at the back of the plot were on the same level as the gallery of the church. The foundation stone was laid in June 1885 and the opening service was in March 1886. The total cost was £1947. The cost of the new church could not be met from funds in hand and £500 had to be borrowed. The outstanding amount was finally cleared in 1903 with a grant of £60 from the connexional General Chapel Committee.

Fig.8 Church Street-finally completed

The next stage of expansion was the building of an infants room and two vestries schoolroom at the rear of the church. Land was bought in 1905 at a cost of £170 . Work did not start until July 1924 when the foundation stone was laid. The school hall was opened in November 1924 at a cost of £780.

In addition to the church in the centre of the town a small "commodious" place of worship was opened at Stapleford Fields in 1830.[21] The chapel appeared on the Plan of the Ilkeston Circuit in 1839 with one Sunday service at 6p.m. It is described as being in New Stapleford. [22] Nothing is known of this chapel apart from the two references above.

In 1933 the Wesleyan Methodists merged nationally with the Primitive Methodists and the United Methodists to become The Methodist Church. (See below for the history of Methodism in Stapleford after 1933.)

Methodist New Connexion

The history of the Methodist New Connexion in Stapleford began when they became the majority party in the Wesley Place Chapel and retained the use of the building. (See above). After they had lost the use of the building because of the "unprincipled trustee" the Society was reduced to 17 members. One of the members opened his house for preaching and afterwards they worshipped in an old barn. In 1806 they erected a simple two-story building on Church Walk known as “Providence Chapel'.[23] This was situated towards the lower end of Church Walk indicated by the word 'School' on the OS map. Some indication of its 'simplicity' can be gained from the Minutes of the Meeting of the Trustees of the Methodist New Connexion church[24] when it was agreed that the Baptist friends be permitted to use the building on condition that they boarded the floor. Access to the Upper Floor was by unguarded steps later boarded.

Fig. 9 Nottingham Road-1830
Fig.10 Nottingham Road-1884

In 1830 a new chapel was built on Nottingham Road seating 500 people.[25] [26] This building became inadequate for their needs and in May 1884 a replacement building on the same site was opened. The architect of the new chapel was A H Goodall and the builder was Mr Chas. Moult. [27] The 1806 building was retained as a schoolroom.

Fig.11 Nottingham Road 1884

Considerable growth took place in the 1880s when Rev. Robinson was minister and a mission church was opened near the station. (See Brookhill below) In 1932 the name was changed to St. Paul's. [28]. In 1933 the school building on Church Walk (Providence Chapel) was sold to a Mr. Ellam for £150.

Events in the wider world did not go unrecorded. On the 31st January 1916 the minutes state, 'At this point the meeting was adjourned owing to the German Zeppelin Raid. The Sunday School children were meeting for a concert in the School. The lights had to be extinguished which caused great confusion.'

In 1907 the New Connexion Methodists had joined with the Bible Christians and the United Methodist Free Churches to become the United Methodist Church.

In 1933 the United Methodists merged nationally with the Primitive Methodists and the Wesleyan Methodists to become one Methodist Church. (See below for the history of Methodism in Stapleford after 1933.

Fig.12 Stanton Gate 1899

The Sandiacre Circuit of the United Methodist Free Churches had already built a small chapel on Moorbridge Lane. It was known as 'Stanton Gate United Methodist Church.' The foundation stone of the new chapel was laid on the 7th October 1899[29] and it was opened on the 9th December 1899. [30] 'In the afternoon a meat tea was prepared, of which a goodly number partook, the proceeds realising over £4.'

The land for the new chapel cost £75 and at first a small wooden structure was erected there as a place of worship. Then, helped by collections from weekly services and a loan, money was raised to build the present chapel. It cost over £500 and was built by Bastables of Sandiacre. The chapel was built to respond to a need for a place of worship in the area. In December 1899 the Pioneer reported that there were about 400 inhabitants in the area and plans for over 100 more cottages. The Methodist cause appeared to struggle and, in spite of pleas to the Circuit for help in 1908, the work here ceased and the building was acquired by the Anglican Church in September 1910 and is now known as St.Luke's.[31]

Fig.13 Brookhill

In 1885 it was felt that there was need for a chapel at the west end of the town near the station. Services had been held in the house of Mrs Goodson but in Dec 1895 the new building, now known as Brookhill, was opened on what is now Derby Road. The School Board used Brookhill as an Infants' School for twelve years from May 1894. [32]

Wesleyan Reformers

The Wesleyan Reformers broke away from the Wesleyan Methodists in 1852 and because they were the largest party in Wesley Place Chapel, they retained the use of the building and the Wesleyan Methodists had to move out. In 1857 the Wesleyan Reformers united with the Wesleyan Methodist Association to form the United Methodist Free Church.

Fig 14 Wesley Place

In 1907 the United Methodist Free Churches New Connexion Methodists joined with the Bible Christians and the New Connexion Methodists to become the United Methodist Church. At an earlier meeting Wesley Place voted against Union, 2 in favour, 12 Against and 15 were neutral. [33] However, the doubters were persuaded and they agreed to join in June 1907. Clearly uncertain as to what they were involved in 1908 they agreed to buy 3 dozen copies of the Rules of the United Methodist Church and sell them at £1 per copy.[34]

In 1933 the United Methodists merged nationally with the Primitive Methodists and the Wesleyan Methodists to become one Methodist Church. (See below for the history of Methodism in Stapleford after 1933.)

Primitive Methodism

Primitive Methodism may be said to have started when in 1808/10 when Hugh Bourne and William Clowes was expelled by the Methodist Conference on the grounds that they attended camp meetings contrary to Methodist discipline.

Fig.15 Primitive Methodist Chapel

Primitive Methodists began meeting in New Stapleford in 1833. The 1851 Religious Census states that the place that they met was not a separate building. It held 60 people and the average congregation was 40-50.[35] Nothing is known of it subsequent to 1851. The first Primitive Methodist Church in Stapleford was opened in 1839 on Mount Street seating 241. It cost £250. A gallery was installed for £60 in 1850 and it was extended in 1852 at a cost of £150. [36] When this proved to be too small a new chapel on Derby Road was built in 1900[37]

In 1933 the Primitive Methodists merged nationally with the United Methodists and the Wesleyan Methodists to become one Methodist Church. (See below for the history of Methodism in Stapleford after 1933.)

Methodism in Stapleford from 1933 to the present day

Church union in 1933 did not seem to have much effect locally. The old pre-1933 circuits were still in operation. The Wesleyan Circuit, for instance, followed the Erewash Valley with churches in Long Eaton, Sandiacre, Stapleford, Stanton, up to Kimberley and Eastwood. It was not until 1947 that some degree of rationalisation took place and the Long Eaton Circuit was formed. At this time there were five Methodist Churches in Stapleford. Wesley Place-ex United, St. Paul's-ex New Connexion, 'Prims'-ex Primitive Methodist , Brookhill-ex New Connexion and Church Street-ex Wesleyan.

In November 1953 St Paul's experienced serious structural problems and preaching appointments ceased after 31st March 1954 and it was agreed to sell the premises. In 1957 it was sold for £1800. [38] The members of St Paul's joined with 'Prims' and the church was renamed as Trinity.

In 1962 a joint meeting of the Trustees of Church Street and Trinity met to discuss the siting of churches in Stapleford. Extensive building had taken and was taking place on the outskirts of the town yet all the churches were in the centre. It was agreed to invite the District Planning Committee to review the situation and give advice with the ultimate aim of siting churches on the new estates. Many meetings were held. Trinity and Brookhill were sold and the three societies began to meet in Church Street on the 10th October 1965 calling themselves 'The Methodist Church, Church Street, Stapleford'. Eventually plans were made to combine in a newly built church on Eaton's Road. The Church Street site was sold and the combined society began to meet in Wesley Place. Wesley Place had, in 1964, decided not to participate in a central church but asked to be kept fully informed of events.[39] However, when the other churches began meeting on their premises the trustees decided that they wished to be part of the larger church[40] and decided to join with the other societies, and they all moved into the Eaton's Road site in 1976.The new building was opened on the 31st January 1976.[41] The architect was William K Gill and the builder was Bradbury Construction (Nottm.) Ltd

As they are today

Fig.16 Brookhill
Fig.17 Trinity (Prims)
Fig.18 Church Street
Fig.19 St. Paul's
Fig.19 Wesley Place

Wesley Place is the only one of the original buildings still standing. It was sold to a Christian education charity and is now used by the Volunteer Bureau. Brookhill and Trinity have been replaced by housing and shops, St. Paul's was used by Carr Fastener but has now been demolished. It occupied the garden and car park area between the present Cambridge House and the white cottage. Church Street is now a car park.

Many thanks to Nigel Brooks for some of the photographs

A brief account of the history of Methodism in Great Britain can be found here.


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  1. 14 Car 2 c 4
  2. Edmund Calamy &Samuel Palmer "The Nonconformist's Memorial" 1778
  3. 2 Will. & Mary c.18
  4. Notts. Archives C /QSM /1/30 Quarter Sessions Records
  5. Notts. Archives C/QDR/2/7 Quarter Sessions Records
  6. Michael Watts "Religion in Victorian Nottinghamshire: The Religious Census of 1851" Vol 2 p. 311.
  7. John Wesley's Journal for the 27 March 1774 and 5 July 1780.
  8. Notts. Archives C/QSM 1/30 Quarters Sessions Records
  9. Notts. Archives C/QSR 87 Quarter Sessions Records
  10. 'A History of our Church' which appears at the end of a programme for a church bazaar in 1907.
  11. This account book is held by Robert Butler.
  12. Proceedings of the Wesley Historical Society Volume 47, p.243
  13. A New History of Methodism,(1909). Ed. W J Townsend, H B Workman & George Eayers, 475.
  14. Notts. Archives DD1702 Notes of Rowland Swift for his book "A Lively People"
  15. Proceedings of the Wesley Historical Society Volume 36, p.11
  16. Jubilee Memorial Volume of the Local Preachers' Conference
  17. 'A History of our Church' which appears at the end of a programme for a church bazaar in 1907.
  18. 'A History of our Church' which appears at the end of a programme for a church bazaar in 1907.
  19. R P Taylor 'A Collection of Views of
  20. Notts Archives NC/MR /2/110 Stewards Account Book 1858-1905.
  21. 'Nottingham Review' of 23 July 1830. Notts. Archives MR2 178/16
  22. Smith W 'History of Wesleyan Methodism in the Ilkeston Circuit, 1809 to 1909' p.20.
  23. Swift. Notts. Archives 178/14
  24. Minutes of the Trustees Meeting Notts. Archives MR 2/18 June 1864
  25. Religious Census.
  26. A deed of Indenture of 1810 between Andrew Gideon Fisher and Millicent his wife and John Greasley of 3 acres 25 perches called Bottom Sand Holes has inscribed on the reverse details of a sale in 1830 of 436 sq. yards to the Trustees of the New Methodist Chapel. Notts Archives DD/AN/178.
  27. Minutes of the Trustees Meeting Notts. Archives MR 2/26 May/June 1883
  28. Trustees Minutes Jan 1932
  29. Ilkeston Pioneer 3 November 1899
  30. Ilkeston Pioneer 15 December 1899
  31. St. Helen's Parish Magazine October 2010
  32. Trustees Minutes. Notts. Archives MR2/45
  33. Church Meeting Minutes Notts. Archives MR 2/116 January 1906
  34. Church Meeting Minutes Notts. Archives MR 2/116 February 1908
  35. Religious Census
  36. White's Directory 1885
  37. Swift. Notts. Archives DR1702 178/11-12
  38. Trustees Minutes NA MR2/26
  39. Minutes of Joint Trustees Meeting NA MR2/61/1-17
  40. Verbal account given to Keith Goodman by Mr. R Cunnington.
  41. The Methodist Church in Stapleford. Notts. Archives NC/MR/2/68