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Wesleyan Chapel

 

The Chapel's First Trustees
Name Trade Lived at
George Arnold Coachmaker Wooton

Henry Gibbon

Farmer Wooton
John Page Baker Lyminge
John Perch the elder Gardener Barham
John Perch the younger Gardener Barham
Montague Hodges Farmer Wooton
Norwood Woolett Farmer Lyminge
Richard Hanbrook Farmer Lyminge
Richard Hogben Farrier Lyminge
Thomas Uden Shoemaker Lyminge
William Hobday Shoemaker Barham
William Hogben Farrier Lyminge
Vincent Page Tea dealer Barham
 

T

 

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 1789.

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 1814: -

"---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 called Methodists".

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 4" (11.5cm) brick thick, probably for a later (but unbuilt) preacher's lobby which would then have made the wall internal to the building.