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Primitive Methodist Chapel

Primitive Methodist Movement

The Primitive Methodist Movement began in 1810 and was a low church form of Methodism.

At the beginning of the 19th century Great Britain was at war with the Emperor Napoleon’s France, the Napoleon Empire that had grown from the French Revolution.  Methodist leaders were concerned about the large outdoor camp meetings held by Hugh Bourne, William Clowes and others.  They felt there was a danger that large gatherings of working people could lead to revolution.  Bourne and Clowes were expelled from the Methodist Movement, which henceforth is called the Wesleyan Methodists, and formed the Primitive Methodist Connection in 1810/11.

The first camp meeting in England was held on Sunday 31 May 1807, between 6 a.m. and 8 p.m., in a field at School Farm, Mow Cop, about a quarter of a mile south west of Mow Cop Folly on the Staffordshire – Cheshire border.  It was a bleak spot on a limestone ridge rising to 1,091 feet above sea level.  The Camp had a crowd of up to 4,000 people.  Listen to Hugh Bourne’s words on the National Trust Mow Cop Trail.   Note the “Mow” is pronounced like “Mao” in Mao Zedong of China, as opposed to “mow” as in mowing the grass.  It is estimated that 100,000 attended the centenary event below the tower in 1907.

By 1932 the Wesleyan Methodists, Primitive Methodists and United Methodists realised that they were united by far more than they were divided and came together in the Methodist Union, now styled as the Methodist Church of Great Britain.

Mow Cop's steep hill (355 metres above sea level) dramatic backdrop for camp meetings 1807 and 1907
Mow Cop castle - a folly built as a summer house in 1754 by Randle Wilbraham
National Trust information board re Hugh Bourne's outdoor camp meeting 1807 and 100,000 attending centenary

Primitive Methodist Chapel

The Chapel at the Spring Lane end of Main Street was built in 1858 on an 81 square yard plot of land purchased from William Brinsley in 1857 by the chapel trustees – John Freeman, Hezekiah Soar, John Smith, Isaac Ward, Thos Lakin,  Geo Thompson, Jas Hoult, Robert Howe, Thos Starkey, Thos Asher, Wm Lakin.

Although the Methodist Union took place in 1932 the Primitive and Wesleyan Methodists of Swannington continued to meet separately until the 1950’s.

The building was then occupied by Midland Patterns who made wooden patterns for parts for many projects including Concorde and Rolls Royce.  The building

The Primitive Methodist Chapel in its hey day in the early 1900s, a time when children could play in the road in safety
Former Primitive Methodist Chapel- September 2020.

Primitive Methodist Chapel Services

Primitive Methodist Chapels were grouped in circuits.  In 1894 the Ashby circuit comprised 15 chapels in Ashby, Coalville, Coleorton,  Ellistown, Heather, Hugglescote, Ibstock, Lount, Measham, Moira, Newton Burgoland, Oakthorpe, Swannington, Thringstone and Whitwick.

The annual Anniversary Services were so well attended that they took place in the larger Wesleyan Methodist Chapel.  Read the service sheet for the 1955 Anniversary Service.  This is catalogue reference P2017.0175 in the Swannington Archive, there is relatively little material about chapel life in the archive, so if you have anything to share please get in touch.

Primitive Methodist Preachers Plan, Ashby-de-la-Zouch Circuit, August 1994, front page

Primitive Methodist Chapel Life

The Match Stick Church

The My Primitive Methodists website contains the following memories:

In the late 30’s and 40’s ,the Superintendent of the Chapel was Mr. Fred Buckley who took all the Sunday School services.  He lived in one of the houses on the left going up Station Hill.  He was married and at the entrance to his house was a beautiful model of a church made from match sticks.  This was such a beautiful piece of art that it must still, somewhere, be in existence.  There was always great rivalry between this church and the Wesleyan church on the occasions of the annual ‘Sermons’ as I think they were known, when the children sat on a stage in the Wesleyan chapel to give their rendition of hymns ,after much practice.  The two sets of children performed on two Sundays a couple of weeks apart.  These services were in Spring or Summertime and the larger Wesleyan Chapel was always full for both.  Lovely memories.  Ken Adcock

Temperance Movement

During the 19th and early 20th centuries the Temperance Movement waged a strong campaign to encourage people to abstain from consuming alcohol.  Some nonconformist congregations prohibited alcohol.  Supporters were encouraged to “sign the pledge” not to consume alcohol.  In some instances young children signed the pledge and a minority adhered to it throughout their lives.  Thomas Cook’s first railway excursion took 500 abstainers from Leicester to Loughborough on the 5th July 1841.  The Primitive Methodist Chapel was used for temperance supporting events.

Ashby-de-la-Zouch Gazette – Saturday 16 April 1881 – SWANNINGTON – TEMPERANCE MEETING – On Tuesday night a temperance meeting was held at Swannington, in the Primitive Methodist Chapel.  The speakers were Mr. A. E. Rawlins, Mr. T. Clay, Mr. H. H. Gibbs, and Mr. Ball.  The chair was taken by R. Plowright, Esq., of Coleorton.  The chapel was well filled by an enthusiastic audience.  At the close of the meeting six adults signed the pledge.  The above meeting was with a view to starting a Good Templars Lodge at Swannington.

Ashby-de-la-Zouch Gazette – Saturday 14 May 1881 – SWANNINGTON – TEMPERANCE SOCIETY – On Tuesday evening, May 10th, the members and friends of the above Society partook of an excellent tea in the Primitive Methodist Chapel of this place.  Afterwards there was an entertainment, consisting of songs and recitations, given by members of the Coalville Band of Hope, a good number of whom walked down in procession from Coalville to Swannington, singing lively temperance melodies.

On their arrival the chair was occupied by Mr. G. Roberts, who opened the meeting with a most able address.  Master S. A. Rawlins presided at the harmonium.  The programme was as follows :- Song, ” I’m going to enlist, boys,” Master John Smith ; song, ” Home, home,” Miss M. Hull ; recitation, Master Joseph Clay ; recitation, ” The Negro’s Complaint,” Master John Smith ; song, ” Let it pass,” Master S. A. Rawlins ; song, ” The Dying Child,” Mrs. Tivey, which received great applause ; song, No one cares for me,” Miss Hudson.  The Chairman then called upon Mr. Bartlett, a life abstainer, from Derby, who gave a few instances of the terrible results from drunkenness which had come under his own personal experience.  This brought a very enjoyable meeting to a close. The following ladies presided at tea : —The Misses Cheaters, Mrs. G. Lager, Mrs. Brownlow, Mrs. Johnson, and Mrs. Whittle.

Midland Patterns

Coalville man Ken Watts was a fitter in the Royal Air Force.  After he was demobbed he joined his father in Kenya and worked as a pattern maker.  The Mau Mau uprising in 1950s Kenya meant it was unsafe so Ken and his wife Olive returned to Coalville.  Ken bought the disused chapel for £100 and set up a pattern making business.  He soon employed carpenter Colin Baker whose previous employer had closed.

Colin wrote some fabulous notes in 2015 of his time at Midland Patterns during the late 1950s and early 1960s.   These describe how patterns and made and used and some of the things they made with customers including Rolls Royce, Concord and British Gas.  Colin had particularly fond memories of making a stand for an electronics exhibition at Earls Court in London.  The stand included a pool for fountains of coloured water.   Royal Navy officers saw the stand and arranged for Ken and Colin to spend a week  in Portsmouth so that the stand could be used for Royal Davy Day.

Read Colin’s Notes and an article that appeared in the Trust magazine Midland Patterns

After Midland Patterns closed the chapel was empty for several years and deteriorated.  Local builders Heathcote construction converted the chapel to two apartments around 2010.  Colin passed away in 2020.

The primitive chapel deteriorated to a derelict eyesore