Building the new Primitive Methodist Chapel in Upper Brailes

Upper Brailes Primitive Methodist Chapel, 2016.
Image courtesy of Peter Ratcliffe

The 1851 Census showed that the existing chapel was too small for the growing congregation, but the local landowners were unsympathetic to the needs of the Primitive Methodists. The Circuit Quarterly Meeting of July 1857 asked the Rev H Yeates to hold a Leaders’ Meeting at Brailes to discuss “the unhappy matter with their society.” If this was about their difficulty in obtaining a building plot the outcome was that six months later, the minister himself was asked by the Circuit Quarterly Meeting to negotiate with local landowners for a plot of land on which to build a chapel – again to no avail.

So three ladies of the chapel decided to pray for the Lord to provide a piece of land. Mrs Jemima Boyce, a Local Preacher, Mrs Lucy Hughes and one other lady held a prayer vigil. The next morning, Lucy Hughes, who was the Housekeeper at Brailes House, where the Lord of the Manor of Brailes, Henry J Sheldon, J.P., lived was summoned into his presence and told that the Methodists could have a plot of land on College Green opposite the existing chapel. This decision came as a complete surprise because Mr Sheldon had turned down previous requests for land on which to build a larger chapel. No time was lost, and that same morning the land was marked out in readiness to proceed with building a new chapel.

The new chapel

The new chapel was built by William Pickering, a Trustee at the existing  chapel and a local stone mason and builder, at a cost of £319. This was at a time when the average farm labourer’s pay was about 8/- a week. The Trustees were very cautious about the size of the chapel and actually changed the original plans to keep costs down – a false saving as they found it necessary to add an extension a few years later.

There was no money left after the building was completed to install an organ or harmonium, so the singing of hymns was accompanied by a violin and clarinet.

As the building neared completion, the Trustees passed a resolution:

That we apply for the services of Rev P Pugh for the first Sabbath Services and Tea Meeting the following Monday, and we apply for the services of Joseph Hunt, Esq., for the second Sabbath of the opening.

It would appear that both invitations were turned down as the Banbury Advertiser of 24th September 1863 carried the following report:


The New Primitive Methodist Chapel was opened on Sunday last by Rev J Herridge of Leamington. On Monday a Tea Meeting was held in the New Chapel when about 350 partook of the good things provided, after which there was a Public Meeting presided over by Mr Richard Brazier and addresses were delivered by Messrs Herridge, Platt, Tuck and E Cox. The proceeds of the various services amounted to about £100.

The first Trustees of the New Chapel were:

  • Rev H Platt
  • Thomas Hughes of Brailes, coachman
  • William Pickering of Brailes, mason
  • George Hudson of Brailes, gardener
  • Edward Simms of Brailes, weaver
  • George Clifton of Brailes, labourer
  • Joseph Bradley of Brailes, labourer
  • John Aubrey of Brailes, labourer
  • George Carey of Banbury, mason
  • William Lake of Banbury, tailor
  • George Hawkins of Banbury, coach builder
  • John James Harrison of Banbury, auctioneer
  • Thomas Gibbard of Mollington, farmer
  • Edward Cox of Hornton, tailor.

Regular services and prayer meetings

Following the opening of the new chapel, there were three services every Sunday and regular prayer meetings on weekdays at 5:00am before the men walked to their places of work. Open-air services were also held regularly as were processions of witness through the village. Members of the congregation were exhorted to attend chapel regularly, partake of the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper and join in the regular Lovefeasts1.

Efforts to hold a Sunday School proved difficult as in some villages, including Brailes, children had to attend Sunday School in the Parish Church in order to attend the Church of England Day School. Things improved in 1881 when elementary education became compulsory and the Primitives were able to build and open a Sunday School without their children being sent home from the Day School for not attending the Church Sunday School. The Primitive Methodist Sunday School Room was opened in July 1881 – built by William Pickering for £90. Some years later, in 1962, a kitchen and toilet accommodation were added.

1 A Lovefeast was a general gathering of all the members where a simple meal was eaten followed by hymn singing and personal testimonies.

This is an edited and abridged version of an article that first appeared on the My Primitive Methodists website, and is used with their and the author’s permission.

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