Work in progress, researching the origins of the Methodist Chapel(s) in Harwell
There is a transcript of an article in the Primitive Methodist Magazine 1907/282 by Rev. Ernest Lucas called Our Centenary – Storming the Villages IV. How Thomas Russell led the van in Berkshire
The names of John Ride and Thomas Russell are inseparably connected as the founders of Primitive Methodism in Berkshire. John Ride was a man mighty in prayer and wise in counsel, of boundless energy and unwearying zeal, a sound administrator, a skilful strategist, an organiser of victory. Thomas Russell was the intrepid pioneer, a man of dauntless spirit, the leader of forlorn hopes, sure to be found where the battle shafts were flying thickest, ever ready when the strongholds of evil were assailed to stand in the perilous breach and to bear the brunt of the fiercest resistance. The most significant scene [Feb 1830] in the history of Berkshire Primitive Methodism is that which shows us Ride and Russell kneeling on the snow-covered ground in the coppice at Ashdown Park corner, wholly oblivious of their surroundings, while for many hours they pleaded with God for the conversion of Berkshire.
From the summit of the “open, elevated ridge,” which forms the backbone of the county, the eye wanders over a lovely pastoral landscape, rolling, treeless downs sinking to trim meadows, winding country lanes, straggling villages, while away to the north is Wantage, Alfred’s birthplace, which was to be for Thomas Russell a scene of fiercest persecution, bravely borne and manfully overcome.
It is a scene rich in historic memories. A Roman road crosses the summit of the downs, known locally as the Ridgeway. Along this road the legions marched with emperors at their head; along it Augustine’s monks carried the cross; along it the Danes, advancing from Reading, came to struggle with Wessex for the supremacy of England; up the slopes of these hills swarmed the men of Wessex, led by Alfred, to attack the heathen hordes and to win the great victory of Ashdown which meant for England deliverance from the dominance of the invading pagan power.
They faced much opposition from farmers and landowners, and from mobs of farm workers, but
In little more than three years from the pleading at Ashdown Park corner, there were in the Shefford Circuit 1,284 members, of whom 268 were on the Farringdon Mission.
The website My Primitive Methodists documents a Harwell Primitive Methodist chapel
In the 1851 Primitive Methodist Magazine G Wallis records that “the populous village of Harwell” was missioned in 1834-5, but “for want of a suitable place to preach in, the cause dwindled away.”
It was remissioned and in June 1850 a second-hand chapel was purchased from the Wesleyans. It measured 28′ x 18′, built of brick and slate and was fully equipped with pews and a gallery. It was opened on 20th October 1850, by Mr Bell of Hungerford New Town.
On the Ordnance Survey 1:2,500 map of 1899 there is only a Wesleyan chapel shown in the village.
Reference Primitive Methodist Magazine January 1851 p.52
By 1867 there is no Primitive Methodist chapel listed in the Berkshire register of chapels, although they note “that registration was not compulsory. As registration was valid until cancelled, however, there may be duplication: i.e. both the old and new chapels in a place may be listed. We have also discovered that the official location may not be the same as the name by which the chapel is commonly described.”
The website UK and Ireland Genealogy lists both a Primitive Methodist Chapel and a Wesleyan Methodist Chapel
Methodist Chapel, Harwell, Primitive Methodist
It was founded before 1850. It closed before 1899.Not found on Old Maps. Only a Wesleyan chapel shown in 1915 Kelly Directory. More information about this church may be available from Church History, by clicking on the church name above and/or on the place name at the top of this page. If you can help by providing corrections or additional information, then please follow the instructions at the bottom of this page under “Help required”. This church has an entry in the Religious Census of 1851.
The Primitive Methodist church was an early 19th century (1807) secession from the Wesleyan Methodist church and was particularly successful in evangelising agricultural and industrial communities at open meetings. In 1932 the Primitive Methodists joined with the Wesleyan Methodists and the United Methodists to form the Methodist Church of Great Britain.
Methodist Chapel, Harwell, Wesleyan Methodist
It was founded before 1850. It closed after 1972.More information about this church may be available from Church History, by clicking on the church name above and/or on the place name at the top of this page. If you can help by providing corrections or additional information, then please follow the instructions at the bottom of this page under “Help required”. This church has an entry in the Religious Census of 1851.
The Wesleyan Methodist church was formed in the 18th century from religious societies founded by John Wesley and his preachers. It suffered many secessions, but was the largest Nonconformist denomination in the 19th century. In 1932 the Wesleyan Methodists joined with the Primitive Methodists and the United Methodists to form the Methodist Church of Great Britain.
You can also see the location of these churches plotted on a map.
Founded Closed Location Methodist Chapel, Harwell, Wesleyan Methodist 1850 1972 Green teardrop pin St Matthew, Harwell, Church of England 1100 Red teardrop pin Methodist Chapel, Harwell, Primitive Methodist 1850 1899 Square pin – approximate location
A history of the County of Berkshire, Vol 3, Harwell states “On the same side of the street [as Middle Farm] is the Wesleyan Methodist chapel, built in 1850. ”
The Genealogy site notes where archives are kept.
- Records of some Berkshire Methodist churches are held by the BRO (see Vol 72, 2015 of the Berkshire Echo).
- Wantage and Abingdon Circuit: documents are archived with the Oxfordshire History Centre.
The Berkshire Records Office (BRO) links to the OHC.
|Harwell||Wesleyan Methodist Church||Records excluding registers 1862-1972||Oxfordshire Record Office|
The National Records Office NRO does the same
Oxfordshire Record Office
NM6 WANTAGE AND ABINGDON METHODIST CIRCUIT 1763-2007
These records relate to the Wesleyan
Methodist, Primitive Methodist and Methodist Church Circuits covering the Vale of White Horse area, which formerly lay in Berkshire.The complex history of Methodism, compounded by various circuit reorganisations, makes it difficult to arrange the records of the Wantage and Abingdon Circuit coherently. Minute and account books often include entries from more than one circuit or branch of Methodism. In such cases documents have been listed under their original circuit, and cross-referenced.Wantage, for example has surviving records as follows:
1837-1905 Wantage Wesleyan Methodist Circuit
1905-1911 Wantage and Swindon Wesleyan Methodist Circuit
1911-1934 Wantage section, Oxford Wesleyan Methodist Circuit
1934-1959 Wantage and Wallingford Methodist Circuit
1959 onwards Wantage and Abingdon Methodist CircuitAbingdon, too, was once part of the Oxford Methodist Circuit, from 1905-1958, and researchers should also consult the NM5 catalogue for records from this period.The collection includes records of individual chapels, some of which are no longer in the circuit. It is not always possible to state whether a chapel belonged originally to the Wesleyan or Primitive Methodist connection, especially in villages where there were chapels of both denominations.
The documents in this collection include property deeds, registers of baptisms and marriages, circuit plans, minute books, accounts, membership registers, Sunday School records, and newsletters. They were deposited at various times as accessions
5596 (deposited in 2006),5631 and 5683 (both in 2007),
5738 (2008), 5825 and 5900
(2009). Other Wantage and Abingdon Circuit material formerly listed under the reference code W&AMC has been recatalogued and combined with the accessions listed above. A concordance at the back of this catalogue indicates the new references for the relevant documents.
The collection is organised as follows:
NM6/13 Harwell, Wesleyan
NM6/14 Harwell Methodist Church
Further information on chapels in the Circuit can be found in ‘Berkshire Nonconformist Oxfordshire Record Office Meeting House Registrations 1689-1852’,
published by the Berkshire Record Society (2003).
Catalogued by Hannah Jones, October 2009
The The History of Charney Bassett website, documents extensively the history of their Wesleyan Methodist Circuit, and some of the information relates to Harwell. Credit to the Charney Basset website for providing this material.
Charney Bassett Wesleyan Methodist Chapel [and Harwell] was part of the Wantage Circuit; records of which are given below [from ‘Hall’s Circuits and Ministers’ 1765-1912].
Circuit Plans & Minutes Books
The two Local Preachers’ Minutes Books (1868-1928) give little detailed information about to Charney, but are chiefly interesting for the names recorded. So we find that at the meeting on December 27th 1881 at Harwell Chapel ‘Bro. James Moss of Charney having been on Trial for nearly three years was examined by the Superintendent and having passed a very satisfactory examination was unanimously accepted as a fully accredited Local Preacher for our pulpits’. The Circuit Plan reproduced below shows that he took services at Charney on 19th November 1882 and 28th January 1883; at Letcombe Regis on 5th November, which included the circuit fund collection, and again on 31st December and at Childrey on 26th November, which included the Quarterly collection – a total of ten in the quarter – quite a commitment!
From Village for a thousand years. / / A Visit to Harwell
On Sundays there was little activity in the village and all wore their “Sunday best”. At about 10.30 a.m. there was a trickle of worshippers along the footpath to the Methodist Chapel to hear the preacher. About a hundred and fifty people could be accommodated, of which ten per cent were Days. Some twenty farm-labourers and their families sat in pews at the left of the entrance door and all joined heartily in the singing. The usual chat outside the Chapel after the service and back to a hot lunch. A favourite Sunday afternoon walk was to the south end of the village, across Wantage Road, up Winnaway and along muddy footpaths past Baggs tree, over to the Horse and Jockey public house; turn left up over the Ridge where Icknield Way crosses the road, past the reservoir, down to the Folly and back to the village by footpaths through orchards.
Please use the comments option below to add any further information you may have (or correction).