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  WOODLANDS METHODISM

     COLLECTED BY A DORSET GENTLEMAN - A. J. (TONY) FROUD   

Methodism first reached Woodlands from Salisbury.  A Mr J Farmer from Woodlands attended a Class Meeting in Wimborne.

In an 1828 account of the Poole Circuit Stewards Quarterly Meeting held at Wimborne, the membership at Woodlands was shown as 39 and the quarterages paid at £2-15-0.  The first chapel was situated behind the “Round House” under a yew tree and in a pit.  The construction was of cob (clay bound with heather) and roofed with thatch.  The cottage to whose end it was attached was held on a life lease from the local Estate.

  In about 1836 the person whose life held the lease died and although a respectful application to continue using the building for worship was made, it was denied them and a week after the pulpit, forms, hymn books, bible etc were removed and given away.  This building was still standing in the 1950s and the bricked up arched doorway still as it was when closed and turned into a cottage.

For several months the congregation worshipped in the open air or where they could find anyone bold enough to allow them to use their premises for fear of the Squire and his steward.

At last in a cottage still occupied at the end of the lane under Boys Wood, east of the present chapel, they decided to have a twenty four hour, prayer and fast meeting.  Nothing to eat and only water to drink.  The theme of this meeting was that if possible, the stewards heart would be changed, but if not, that he should be removed.  About this time the steward was in Ireland, and he suffered a heart attack and died.  The new steward was then approached about a site which was owned (leased) by a member of a different denomination and he is said to reply “Let the Methodists have the plot or they will pray us all to death”.  This site was at the end of the lane, west of the present chapel and about 150 yards from the prayer meeting cottage.

When you remember 1837 was only about three years after the Tolpuddle Martyrs were transported for asking for an increase in their 7 shillings a week wage, money was hard to come by to build a new Chapel. But by their own labour and collecting through the circuit and neighbourhood they managed to build another cob walled and slate roofed Chapel although the cob was later replaced by brick.  This building was destroyed by fire in 1955 but part of the walls are used in the present bungalow.

In 1879 it was decided to build the present chapel at a cost of £600 and application was made for a site from the Seventh Earl of Shaftsbury.  The site suggested by the trustees was near the previous chapel up the lane but his Lordship chose the present site himself.  Everyone did what they could in bringing building materials right down to donkey carts.  As the bricks came from Sutton brickyard the wood probably brought down through Boys Wood and past the old chapel.  The seating capacity was about 250 including the gallery, which was used as a Sunday school.  Later a Sunday school was built on including a kitchen and offices.  Even at this time the site was only on a 21 years lease to be followed by 3x7 year leases.

            About 1920 a law was passed allowing religious denominations to buy the sites their buildings stood on and Woodlands was one of the first to take this up.  The first the Minister Rev. W. Newly knew of a change in the law was when he was shown a small item in the “Children’s Newspaper” and he at once checked and found it to be so.

The Chapel was lit by candles until sometime in the 1890s as a member, now passed over, could remember the item in the chapel stewards report relating to the sale of the candle sticks sometime after her marriage in 1891.

            It was heated by 2 slow combustion stoves. If both were burning well it was very hot but usually one or the other did not like the way the wind was blowing, one or the other would go out then it was cold. Sometimes the wind blew smoke back into the chapel so that people could hardly  see each other.  A MacClary hot air system was put on but it was very costly to maintain, extravagant on fuel and in the end filled the building with gas fumes.

In1970 an electrical powered oil fuelled hot air system was introduced and is proving very satisfactory.  As there were at least 5 tea meetings a year, the water was heated in a 15 gallon copper after being carried out 100 yards from a neighbouring well.  This also caused problems with the wind and no draught for the coal fire.  When it did get going you couldn’t see each other for steam.

One of the outstanding older members was William Jacobs who, according to his stone in the parish church yard, entered the Wesleyen Church in 1828 at the age of 21.  He worked in the Sunday School for 60 years, 42 years being Superintendent.  He died in 1900 being a member for 72 years.  In his membership the old cob and thatch Chapel had been taken away, a new building erected which became too small, and the present building erected and in use 21 years.  It is said by some of the lads who came under his sway in the Sunday school that he followed out the old Hymn “Watch and Pray” because he used to open his eyes when praying and if any of the school were misbehaving, he stopped short, went to the person concerned, gave them a jolly good slap in the ears then go back and finish the prayer.

The late Mr C Moore, when preaching at Woodlands, about the last time he preached there, about 1920, talked to us children and told us what a heritage we had to live up to.  He told us that the nanny for Lord Ashley, later the 7th Good Earl of Shaftsbury, was a member of the Woodlands Chapel and it is on record that her influence on the young lad when he was neglected by his own parents was the reason why he was such an outstanding Christian Reformer when he succeeded to the Earldom.

Another old family was the Dowlands and quite a few remember Joseph known to most people as Uncle Joe.  He was born in 1860 and in the class meetings he loved to tell about the Revival Meetings in the old Chapel, and how a number of people had the burden of several young people  on their souls and prayed without ceasing for them.  He said a number of young people, including himself. Had been to Revival services at Poole .  As they were walking back something told them to hurry so they started to run and as they entered the Chapel they were just in time to see those  they were praying for go to the communion rail and give their hearts to the Lord Jesus.

About the turn of the century, Revival meetings were being conducted by a Mr Burrows and when he gave the invitation to follow Jesus he gave it again and again.  Finally he said “I have never done this before and I hope never to do it again, but it has been laid before me that there is one person here tonight will never have another chance if they do not accept him now”.  The service ended but during the following week a young man was taken to hospital but died before anything could be done for him.  As can be imagined, this caused very serious talk.

Some time before 1914 a Mrs Hubbard conducted Evangelist services throughout the Wimborne and Poole Circuits and again many young people at Woodlands responded to the call of Christ and until their death were the backbone of the Church.

This was repeated in the 1930s when most of the present officers in the church answered the call.

Among the men building the present Chapel was a young man called Albert Forward.  He was a drunkard and neglected his wife and family.  When the roof of the Chapel was finished he went to the top and walked on the ridge from one end to the other.  Later he gave his heart to the Lord Jesus and is still remembered by some of the older members as a local preacher and his son followed in his footsteps.

Although a very sincere and devoted disciple he had no time for frivolous talk or behaviour and when preaching, told us boys to behave or else go outside if we whispered during the service which often lasted 2 hours.  Another preacher was Job King from Verwood who used to hawk Verwood pottery throughout a radius of about 40 miles and his bible was still in a pub near Dorchester until a few years ago.  When finishing his sermon he would say “just a few more rambling remarks and I will have and done”.

Mr Talbot of Verwood needed glasses but did’n’t know it and he used to carry the bible to the window and say “why dont em have sensible glass in these windows so that a preacher can read”.

Old Mr Robert White of Horton Heath used to tell the children about a man who stayed in a grand hotel.  When signing the register he noticed several ‘Bas’ MA’ and other letters.  So when he signed his name he followed it by BBBBBB.  When asked to explain this unusual title he said Best Bugle Blower in Bury Brass Band.  Another tale was about ambition and when a boy was asked, replied “sit on a gate post all day and eat rasher fat”.

Among the Wimborne Preachers was Mr Curtis who had a grocer’s shop in East Street now occupied by Messers Ensor and Son, Estate Agents.  Us children used to go to Sunday school 9.30am until 10.30 then into chapel and Mr Curtis never let us out until gone 12.30 and it was Sunday school again from 2.00pm to 3.00pm. His sermons no doubt took a lot of preparing but to us they were as dry as sawdust and we used to dread his coming.

Another preacher, Mr Charles Hopkins took for his text “Put on the whole armour of God”.  After talking for some time he came to the breastplate so he said “You know what a breastplate is it is like a pair of womens stays or corsets”. Always after this the youngsters said ”Mr Corset tonight”.

One preacher was on the short side so a platform similar to the woolsack was put in the pulpit in order for him to appear average height.  But he was not having any of that and stooped down, picked it up and threw it down the steps then carried on preaching with his head only just above the pulpit.

Mr Sam Cable of Holtwood had a habit of putting “so to speak” in many of his sentences.  This was taken as a challenge by the young people who had a competition to see who could count the highest number of times this sentence was used.  Mr Rose of Verwood used to read his sermons in a monotone and always finished up with the hymn “The sands of time are sinking”.

Some people have wondered why such a big chapel should have been built in Woodlands but when it was built every seat was filled often both morning and evening.  In living memory every house in Sutton was occupied by Methodists making between 30 and 40 all told.  They all walked through the woods coming out at the old chapel or at the bottom of Jubilee Hill.  So many people at Sutton were Methodists that one member tried to persuade others to have their own chapel but no one else seemed interested.  


 Wimborne Circuit

In 1849 Wimborne divided from the Poole circuit.  Peter Hawke associated with early Methodism in Wimborne.  His parents were converted Under John Wesley at Stalbridge.

In 1801 Peter Hawke moved to Wimborne soon after a flannel manufacturing company was started, foreman, John Parsons, a Methodist and formerly an local preacher in Salisbury, he received permission to preach in a house in Strait Borough but persecution took place At Colehill-drove him finally ‘uphill’ where Peter Hawke met John Parsons.  Classes were formed at Wimborne Mr. Hawke and Mr. Sims being appointed leaders.  A house taken in West Borough for preaching and Sunday School classes continued till 1820 when Chapel was erected.

In 1831 revival in circuit Mr. Barnes preached on two successive Sundays and his wife exhausted.

Chapel at Woodlands built 1837 costing £200, seating 170 persons.

Wesley visited Shaftesbury many times.

1979 was the celebration of the centenary of the present Chapel building but Methodism came to Woodlands more than a century ago.

 

MINISTERS IN POOLE CIRCUIT. (1815 to 1896)

1815

James Burnstead, William Jewett 362 members

1816

James Burnstead, Richard Shepard 382 members

1817

George Butler, John Coats 428 members

1818

George Butler, John Coats 420 members

1819

Charles Haine, George Banwell 450 members

1820

Edward Millward, James Sydserff 482 members

1821

Edward Millward, James Sydserff 470 members

1822

Robert Wheeler, Isaac Phenix 466 members

1823

Robert Wheeler, Isaac Phenix 480 members

1824

John Squarebridge, Robert Mack 508 members

1825

John Squarebridge, James Hyde 530 members

1826

John Willis, James Hyde 570 members

1827

John Willis, Francis Burgess 553 members

1881

Thomas Hulme, William Gill 438 members

1889

George Reid, George A Currier 404 members

1890

George Reid, Amos Cleaver 473 members

1891

George Reid, John E Jones 474 members

1892

John Mack, John E Jones 481 members

1893

John Mack, John E Jones 473 members

1896

James Langley (2), John Crawshaw(3) 426 members


 Extracts From The 100 year Brochure

The present building of Woodlands Methodist Church in the Wimborne Circuit is 100 years old this year (1979) and the brochure is offered to mark the occasion.  The foundation stone was laid on 8th May 1879 and the building opened in opened for worship 23rd October that same year. The land was acquired at a cost of £10 on a 21year lease and the total cost of the new building was £582.2.7.  But whilst we celebrate the centenary of a building we remember that the witness of Methodism in Woodlands is confined neither to a building nor to 100 years.  Methodism in Woodlands preceded the building of the present Chapel and Woodlands Methodists have not been restricted in their witness to their Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ

The story of Woodlands Methodist Church is not primarily the story of a building but that of a family to whom that building is home and even when we note structural alterations during the years, these reflect the changing needs, customs and practices of the people who have worshiped and witnessed there for several generations.  No family customs can ever be complete and even if every known fact and detail of the Woodlands Methodist family were recorded there would still be much that would remain untold.

This brochure cannot do justice to the work and witness of numerous souls whose joy and aim it has been to commend the faith but it is offered as a mark of tribute to much faithful endeavour.

Much valuable information has been gleaned from the 75 brochure, the circuit centenary booklet and the county circulars.

 Hornington Chapel in Salisbury Circuit Closed about 1960

In the 1880's a farm workers wife living at Pinnings, an isolated farm near Coombe Bissett, was visited by some gypsies one of which pinched some onions from the garden.  She told them off but a short time after, her daughter of about ten or twelve, complained about knocking noises.  The parents also heard them and called the doctor.  He ordered her to be taken to Salisbury Infirmary but the knocks continued there and kept the other patients awake, so back home she was sent.

Among the members of Hornington Primitive Methodist Chapel were two young men named James Hewlett and Earnest Moody. As it was believed the gypsy women had bewitched the girl of the devil they went to the cottage and the knocks became so strong that they prayed with the family and demanded the devil to come out of her but with no result.  Then they asked questions if it was the witch, if so give so many knocks.  The right number of knocks came and they carried on a speech and knock conversation.  In this way they found where the gypsy women was camped.  They went to this place and inquired for her but she was not to be found but the rest of the gypsies were very amused.  In the end, they left money for the old lady and the knocks ceased. All this was reported in the Salisbury Times.

Also a member of this chapel was James Furber, who was very disturbed because a local farmer used to drive his sheep and cattle to Salisbury station on Sunday mornings to catch the London market on Mondays where a better price could be fetched than later in the week owing to other farmers not sending on Sundays for religious convictions.  So Jim inquired of a girl who served in the village shop where it was in the bible “What shall it profit a man if he gain the whole world and lose his own soul”.  She told him and on the following Sunday morning Jim absented himself from chapel and went on the Odstock road and waited.  When the farmer, his workers and cattle arrived, he went into the middle of the road, Bible in hand, stopping the animals.  The farmer said “get out of the road you silly old fool” but Jim held his ground and read “What shall it profit a man if he gain the whole world and lose his own soul or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul”.  The farmer was furious but it was the last time he railed animals on Sunday.  Jim worked on a farm for a wage of 9 shillings a week and one day the farmer told him he was going to reduce it to 8 shillings a week.  Jim said I can’t live on it boss so I shall have to find other employment.  The farmer said “If you leave I will never employ you again”.  He left but the farmer told all his friends not to employ him. This went on for some weeks and the cupboard was empty so he had  to go and ask for his job back. The farmer reminded him what he said about not re-employing him but Jim said “a bad promise is better broken than kept boss” and as he was a good worker he went back at 8 shillings a week


 

 
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