Farnsfield Wesleyan Methodist Chapel
The form of worship devised by John and Charles Wesley and their associate George Whitfield in the 1730s which became known as Methodism was certainly in use in Farnsfield during the1780s. Services were held in the cottage home of John Astling (1722-96) the first local preacher who lived in Quaker Lane. The cottage was demolished around 1869 and later replaced by the workers’ housing we see today south of the point where Neddy’s Jitty joins Quaker Lane.
John Astling died in 1796 but his home continued to be used by visiting preachers. In 1798 the Rev William Bramwell, a visiting preacher from Nottingham, found that the number of worshippers had increased so much that holding meetings in the members’ homes was no longer adequate.The decision was made to build a chapel.
The First Chapel
The first chapel was erected in a small close on Siding Lane(now Station Lane), approximately opposite the rear wall of The Limes.
How the building work was funded is unknown but it was probably by subscription from each member and from loans.
The Chapel opened in 1799 when Miss Mary Barritt, a popular preacher from Nottingham, gave the discourse. After hearing her preach that day many who had previously been antagonistic towards the Methodist group in the village were now converted.
The population of Farnsfield in 1801 was 564 of whom 24 were Methodists. Classes were held for the Methodist members in the Chapel and at a house in Edingley.
The first Sunday School was established in 1812.
The continuing expansion of the village over the following 30 years brought about a steady increase in the size of the Methodist congregation and eventually the Chapel was deemed inadequate for their needs. A new site on which to build a larger chapel was sought.
The Present Chapel
In 1829, Richard Hall, a local farmer who lived at Burgess House on Main Street, gave land which was part of his orchard lying to the north of Burgess House for the new Chapel with access from Back Lane, now called Chapel Lane. He also provided the bricks necessary for its construction, some 55,000 bricks at a cost of £130. Many people from Farnsfield and as far afield as Southwell, Edingley, Kirklington, Mansfield and Staythorpe made contributions to the building costs.
The total cost of building the Chapel was £530.6s (£530.30p)
Built in typical late Georgian style, the Chapel is 39 feet long and 33 feet wide internally and built sufficiently high to contain a gallery. Originally, the south wall had two lancet windows with the high pulpit placed centrally between them and two round windows high in each corner. The pulpit was flanked by seating for the choir with the communion rail running across immediately below. Three large windows pierced the west and east walls whilst the north wall provided access to the building from the road through two front doors.
The old chapel was sold to Daniel Cooper in 1832 for £40 and was probably converted into a dwelling.
Only four years after opening, the new chapel could not comfortably accommodate the growing congregation and it became necessary to add a gallery to the north wall facing the pulpit. This new gallery was dedicated in 1834 and it was extended along both side walls five years later.
In 1829, services were held, not only on Sundays, but on a daily basis commencing at the early hour of 5am. This was later changed to 7am.
The Wesleyan Day School
In 1836 the Chapel trustees accepted an offer from Richard Hall of land for a school room adjoining the Chapel. Richard Hall also gave a house at the bottom of his orchard for the use of the Wesleyan Day schoolmaster and he further agreed to build a small school room to join the one already used. The Day School was built in 1837 but was not opened until 1840 when Mr Thomas Smith was engaged as the first Master.
The Wesleyan Day School continued in use until 1968 and was one of the last administered by the Methodist Church. Its administration was handed to the local authority in 1946.
Use the link to see photographs of the Methodist Chapel
The history given here is taken from “Farnsfield Wesleyan Methodist Chapel An Outline History” by Philip Marsh and appears by kind consent of the author. A copy of the full text has been gifted to The Farnsfield Local History Society and is available to view on request.