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Abthorpe Methodist Chapel

Author: John Riches Published: 7th November 2011 18:04

The 1859 Chapel taken in about 1912. The girl in the white pinafore is thought to be Marjory Rush, who was born in 1905.The 1859 Chapel taken in about 1912. The girl in the white pinafore is thought to be Marjory Rush, who was born in 1905.

Abthorpe Methodist Chapel sadly closed in 1996. A most interesting article about the chapel has just appeared in the latest edition of ABTALK our parish newsletter. It is well worth reading.
The modern chapel and school room in Wappenham Road was built in 1925 on land sold to the Methodist circuit by Ted Holton, much of the cost of £1,200 being raised from outside the village.
Abthorpe families who supported the chapel included Richardson and Holton.
The architect was F H Allen and the builder H J Newport; the minister was Rev J M Gunson. Lay preachers mostly came from Northampton often walking 12 miles each way to preach. Prominent names among them were Messrs Singlehurst, Moore and Britten. There was enough spare land for two grass tennis courts to be built which were used by Abthorpe and Wappenham residents. These fell into disuse and for  time had hens scratching around until the circuit sold the land for building the adjacent bungalow. It was assumed by many that the money from the sale would be used just for the upkeep of Abthorpe chapel but some of it went to Buckingham Methodist circuit.
As the chapel congregation had become very small by 1996, with the agreement of Mrs Betty Salmons (née Holton, sister-in-law of Bob and Kath Salmons) it was closed by the circuit. She had been responsible for the care of it as well as playing the organ; she had been baptised and married there. By the end she was the only regular Abthorpe resident attending the chapel although some from other villages occasionally joined her. When the chapel was sold the profit was used for the benefit of the whole of the circuit.
This was the last link in the long history of Abthorpe’s connection with Primitive Methodism which started in Lancashire in 1811. Its original ethos was to care for the poorer working people and encourage them with outdoor rallies and preaching in their homes. Primitive Methodism had reached Abthorpe by 1856 when open air and cottage meetings were held. In 1859 a large chapel, holding 120 people, was built in the garden of Stone Cottage in Main Street, then the property of Mr Flowers, close to the boot makers’ workshop. This predated the decision of the village group to join the Northampton mission of Primitive Methodists in 1860. There was some
controversial debate before it was agreed that the Northampton circuit should
take over the building. Although there were only 33 members there was an average attendance of 110 on Sundays and 50 on week nights.
In 1861 a certificate of worship was registered for ‘the building known as Primitive Methodist chapel at Abthorpe’. An earlier chapel in Tinker’s Close, opposite (where the bungalow, The Close, now stands next to the footpath
to Slapton) may have originally been a house because in 1851 a Meeting
House certificate was granted ‘for a room or building in Abthorpe which joined the house which was occupied by Elizabeth Linnell’.
The photo on the previous page, owned by Eric Snelson, shows the chapel about 1912 and had a note on it stating that ‘in 1841 the original chapel was opposite this building in the field adjacent to the footpath from Slapton’. Mr Flowers told his family that if the chapel was no longer needed he wanted his garden back. This would explain why white stones from the first chapel were still in the field in the early 1930s but no sign of any loose bricks from the second one - which may well have been put to other uses.
The 1859 building looked sturdy but by 1923 it needed £150 of repairs so the trustees decided to build a new chapel on a larger elevated site. The name stones around it ensure that the generous benefactors can still be identified. Without outside contributions the local congregation would instead have found the means to repair the 1859 building which had been so proudly built with hard-earned money. There are baptism registers (NRO NMC 23) for the Northampton mission 1844 to 1941 which include Abthorpe baptisms, mostly children of Abthorpe shoe makers: familiar names such as Rush, Snelson, Hurst, Foster, Osborne, Holton, Wills. The National Records Office also holds a programme of the opening of the 1925 chapel (NMC 63) and an historical account by preacher Britten of the previous fifty years (NMC 294b).

M E H and R B



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