Methodist Churches in Fontmell Parish

October 27, 2004

There have been Methodist chapels in three parts of the parish.

Methodist Chapel, village shop,malthouse and maypole

Methodist Chapel, village shop,malthouse and maypole

 Fontmell Village Chapel
This is the oldest Methodist chapel still in use in Dorset. Built in 1797, opened 1798, it stands on the corner of Church Street and Lurmer Street, next to the post office, opposite the war memorial.
It cost £720 to build,

Fontmell Methodist Chapel interior

Fontmell Methodist Chapel interior

and had 250 sittings at first, reduced when the gallery was removed early in the 20th century. The Sunday school room adjoining to the east has been widely used as a concert hall, a committee room for village organizations, a venue for sales and exhibitions, even the village surgery between 1965 and the early 1990s, on Monday evenings and Wednesday and Friday mornings.

Methodist Sunday School class ticket

Methodist Sunday School class ticket

The donor of the land on which the chapel was erected is thought to have been one of the owners of the brewery next to Cross House, though his name is not known. By 1868 a Sunday school was started, and with senior classes (a standard adult bible study group) also organized in small groups on various nights during the week, the hall was in constant demand. A typical class ticket is illustrated.
Mid-week meetings for women have superseded these classes in the last few decades.

Fontmell Methodist Women's Fellowship

Fontmell Methodist Women's Fellowship

The school room cost £320 to build, and a handsome porch was added at the same time

In 1891 Mr. Robert Edwards, a retired builder aged 75, gave £200 to be invested to give the Sunday school an annual treat and tea. The families most concerned and active in Fontmell Methodism included the Edwards, Stainers, Millards (from Sutton Waldron), Fudges, Becks, Harts, Merrifields (or Merefields) and Rideouts.

Hartgrove Methodist Chapels

Hartgrove Methodist Chapel

Hartgrove Methodist Chapels

These stand at the top of Hartgrove Hill, between Bedchester and East Orchard, two miles distant from Fontmell village. The first chapel was built in 1826 at a cost of £250, with 150 sittings. The cause prospered, and a larger chapel was built in 1881, just to the east, at a cost of 658 pounds. The earlier chapel was thereafter used as a Sunday school hall.
Hartgrove Methodist Church served the western end of Fontmell parish, East and West Orchard and Margaret Marsh. These are large areas, sparsely populated, but fervent and supportive in the nineteenth century.
The builders of the first chapel are not yet known. But from 1844 Job Rose

and his wife Hannah came to Woodbridge Mill as tenants and are particularly associated with

Job Rose

Job Rose

the Hartgrove chapel. Job was also the tenant of Fiddleford Mill in Sturminster Newton. The plaque to the memory of Mr and Mrs Rose has been relocated at the west end of the Fontmell village chapel. Kate Rose, their daughter, was educated at Fontmell village school and later married Henry John Tapper, a farmer at Gupples Farm, Hartgrove.

Mrs Job Rose

Mrs Job Rose

The couple farmed Cowgrove Farm, Hartgrove. They then moved to Twyford Farm, eventually retiring to Woodbridge Mill, always living in Glyn Estate buildings. Henry John was the Sunday school superintendent for 50 years.
Hartgrove chapel closed in the mid 1970s, and both former chapels are now private dwellings.

Bedchester Methodist Chapel
Bedchester was initially served by Hartgrove Chapel, but it was a

Bedchester Methodist Chapel

Bedchester Methodist Chapel

long way to walk and hilly. The local grocer, James Hart, gave his garden on Bedchester crossroads to the local Methodist Society. The new chapel was built in 1878 for £130. This cause also failed in the mid 1970s, and as with Hartgrove, the remaining members went to Fontmell village chapel to worship. This chapel was too small to be a dwelling, and is now a shed.
The family which provided most of the leadership in this society were several generations of the Greens from the farm at the top of St Andrews Lane, and latterly, Ivy Collins, their long serving housekeeper. When you gaze at the hamlet, it is astonishing that a Methodist chapel existed and prospered at all. But it did. The chapel housed 50 people at most, but it worked, it worked for many years.

General
All three Methodist churches in the parish of Fontmell Magna were main-stream Wesleyan. Globally, Methodists have joined together in a common communion since 1932. The greatest strength of the Methodist Churches lay, probably, in their Sunday schools. The Fontmell Archive has the minute book of the village Sunday school, issued from the Wesleyan Conference Office in 1875. The entries on page 1 are as follows:
1875 Anniversary Collection £2 17s 1d, Collection for Children Home 17s 0d, Children Christmas Offering £2 2s 7d
1876 Anniversary Collection £2 7s 0d
1877 Anniversary Collection £2 17s 9d
1878 Early Attendance Tickets: 61 children
On the next page a list of missionary offerings of £10 18s 6d collected by 10 scholars in 1889 is given. These ten were William Stainer, Harry Edwards, Joseph Chaldecott, John Merrifield, George Brockway, Tom Still, Bessie Tucker, Emily Tuffin, Elizabeth Jenkins and Emily Beck.
These are family names that lived on in the village well into the 20th century.

Author: Geoffrey Tapper