he story of the chapel starts about 150
years ago when the pioneer Methodists looked forward to the
establishment of a society in the area which would have a permanent
seat of worship.
Wesleyan Methodism developed within the
Church of England but separated after John Wesley's failure to keep
the movement within the established church.
Methodism spread rapidly across the UK but
Kent was said to be one of the less fruitful parts of his mission and he
made frequent visits to Canterbury and Dover between 1750 and
The Toleration Act of 1689 allowed for the
registration of premises intended for use as a meeting place. Wesley
had advised his followers, as a matter of expediency, to register but
side-step the issues by describing themselves in some intangible
way. Thus Thomas Hobday notified the Archbishop on 20th May
"---that a barn in the Parish of Barham in the
occupation of Henry Bradley is intended to be used as a place of religious
worship by an assembly or congregation of protestants."
The barn has
not been identified and nothing is known of Mr Bradley. Thomas
Hobday was probably a member of the family whose name crops up frequently
in Chapel records.
In 1835 a deed was drawn up whereby John
Hobday, a cordwainer of Barham sold a plot of pasture land to a body of
thirteen trustees for "twenty-one pounds of lawful English
money." The preamble states that "Whereas the parties
of the second part being possessed of certain sums of money intended to be
laid out in the purchase of a piece of ground and hereitaments and in
erecting and building thereon a Chapel or place of Religious Worship with
such appurtenances as may be thought convenient for the use of the people
It is probable that both foundations and
building of the Chapel was carried out by local skilled workers as most
villages, at that time, had the relevant trades such as masons,
blacksmiths and carpenters.
The design of the Barham Chapel is
characteristic of small Chapels in the 19th century following the
influence of Wesley's own thinking and prejudices.
Wesley recommended that Chapels should be
of a 21 to 18 proportion with a roof rise of one third of the
breadth. There should be a square projecting pulpit, no pews
(but backless benches) and adequate doors and windows. The
Barham Chapel, therefore, largely leaned towards Wesley's guidance for
avoiding superfluous ornament by providing for standing worshippers and a
few backless forms for women, the elderly and infirm. There
was also a makeshift rostrum for the preacher.
A gallery was added in 1874 with access via
a single steep staircase and furniture being backed forms provided for children and
servants. The windows at the back of the gallery were glazed
partly by an obscuring glass to hide the ankles of the ladies from outside
passers by and to prevent worshippers from looking out and having their
distraction from the sermon.
The present bare appearance of the front
facade of the Chapel was softened at construction by a row of lime
trees. Records show that they needed cutting at two or three
year intervals. The last recorded payment for this was 1914
which may point to their removal at the time of widening of the Valley
Road through the village.
During alterations during the late 1970s, it
was discovered that the front and side walls are 15" (38cm) to 18"
(46cm) thick solid flint work but the rear wall a mere 4½" (11.5cm)
brick thick, probably for a later (but unbuilt) preacher's lobby which
would then have made the wall internal to the building.