WETTON CHAPEL


Wetton Chapel


The chapel building at Wetton is situated next to the former Manse of the Wetton and Longnor Circuit. It is one of the larger buildings, with a schoolroom across the rear.

The original building was built to seat 130 in 1828, as a result of a gift of £50 from a Wetton man living in Manchester.

The present building is of later date, 1870, and was opened by Dr. Punshon (any connection with the Punshon Memorial Chapel in Bournemouth?). I do not yet have details of how the new building came to be built. But its existence bears witness to a prospering of the Methodist cause there. Yet again, there are signs of revival during the 19th century. These revivals appear to have happened independently of the larger scale revivals of Christianity which are noted during that century.

The Wetton And Longnor Circuit was formed in 1875, five years after the rebuilding of the Chapel. That would be the occasion of building the Manse.

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The 1853 Leek Centenary Book records of Wetton

"The origins of Methodism in this place, like some others, is veiled by an impenetrable cloud of obscurity. It is known that as far back as the year 1780, preaching was conducted at the house of a person named Chadwick; and that a Class (1) was formed, of which Mr. Ratcliffe of Biggin was the leader. The duties of this office, he, in all probability, continued to discharge until the growing infirmities of age compelled him to give it up. Some now living (1853) can recollect him when he was a venerable old man, coming regularly every Sabbath morning on his favourite grey mare, to lead like a shepherd the small flock which was kept together by his self-denying care. The names of the members appear in the Circuit-book for the first time in 1790; and were - 'Jer. Chadwick, Ann Chadwick, Thos. Woodward, Ralph Adams, Lydia Adams, Ann Newbold, Martha Twigg, John Alcock, Thomas Wall, Elizabeth Wall, Elizabeth Woodward.' This samll number was reduced. Indeed, early Methodism in Wetton seems to have been but a feeble plant, and for some years struggled for existence. The daughter of -'Zion hung her harp on the willow, And sighed and wept from year to year.'

This state of things continued until the year 1819, when under a funeral sermon preached by Mr. Graham, for John Barker, a pious member of society who was killed in a mine, many were awakened and joined the society. The cause continued to advance until the year 1822, when the revival received a powerful impulse under the first visit of Mr. george Bull, who had just begun to preach. Under the word as preached by him many were awakened, and brought to a saving knowledge of God, who continue steadfast to this day. There was at that time, an excellent old woman named Nanny Birch, who received her good under the second John Nelson. Nanny used to take her stand by the side of the pulpit, and Aaron-like, endeavour to bear up the hands of the Preacher, by her earnest ejaculations of prayer and praise. Her end, like her happy life, was joyous. Several farmers in comparatively easy circumstances were brought in during this revival, amongst whom were Messrs. Lowndes and Sheldon, who are Leaders, and at whose houses the Preachers are hospitably entertained.

From Wetton the revival quickly spread to Stanshope, where every family, except one, participated in the gracious influence. Here a Class was formed, of which Mr. Nuttall, of Stanshope Hall, was the leader. This Class is now merged in the Alstonefield Society.

The Chapel at Wetton, which is a neat structure, was built in 1828. Prior to this, the Society had been almost driven out of the Club-room (2) which they had for some time occupied, and were compelled to hold their meetings in a house. Man's extremity was, in this case, God's opportunity. One of the Preachers while on a visit to Manchester, met with a Mr. W. Johnson, a native of Wetton, but then resident in the former town. Mr. Johnson began to enquire after the friends and the cause in his native village. On hearing of their trying circumstances he said, 'You must tell them they must have a chapel, and here is my £50 towards it.' This put the Society in motion, and in a short time the chapel was completed and opened by Mr. (now Dr.) Newton. From that time to the present, there has been a goodly proportion of the leaven of Methodism in the village."

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We should note that the Methodist Society at Wetton was Wesleyan. The writer of the Leek Centenary Book is not concerned with the effects of Primitive Methodism. It may be possible that Primitive Methodists Preachers contributed to the number of converts in the vilage, but that they joined the Wesleyan chapel as being the most suitable place of worship.

Many of the names given in the extract above are no longer to be found in the village. Possibly many of the early Methodists were either farm labourers who owned no property in the village, or workers in the mines. The population of the village in 1960 was about 200. Because of the labour demands of farming and the mines (mainly at Ecton but the remains of mines are to be found at Wetton Low), the population around 1800 (3) would have been higher.

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Notes

(1). Class - A small pastoral group in which the members of a Methodist society are grouped. return

(2). Club-room - perhaps the Reading Room, which Alec Gilman says was used as a kind of young men's club. return

(3). Census - The population of Wetton parish was as follows: -         1801 -- 540     1831 -- 497     1841 -- 485


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First draft August 2000