No records have come to light about the beginnings of Primitive Methodism in Brailes in Warwickshire. The Rev. Joseph Preston “missioned” Chacombe, near Banbury, about 1830 and the work prospered and spread quickly into the surrounding villages in North Oxfordshire. The Primitive Methodists seem to have reached Brailes about 1840 and a Society was formed which met in a house at Lower Brailes. The first baby from Brailes to be baptized in the Banbury Primitive Methodist Circuit was Mary, a daughter of Edward and Ann Simms, Plush Weaver in 1842. Edward was also a Local Preacher.
Becoming well established
Primitive Methodism became well established in the village thanks to the work of Kenric Kench, an Agricultural Labourer who was born in Brailes in 1808. When he was a young man, he got into bad company and later described himself as a “drinking, swearing, profligate fellow.” It was not until he was 30 that he became a Christian, and it happened after he attended a meeting at the Wesleyan Chapel in Tysoe about four miles away. The day after the meeting he was walking to work when, as he later wrote “suddenly I saw the way of salvation by faith and obtained the pearl of great price.” When the Primitive Methodists arrived in Brailes, nine months later, he linked himself with them and soon became a leader and a Local Preacher.
He did much to establish the Primitive Methodist Society in Brailes and was later appointed as the Town Missionary in Banbury where he gained the esteem and affection of the Banbury people. When he died in 1874 the Superintendent Minister of the Banbury Primitive Methodist Circuit, Rev Henry Yeates, described him as “our sainted Kench.”
Moving to a new building
By 1848 the numbers had grown so much that the Society moved into a new building on College Green in Upper Brailes and this was used as a chapel. It had “36 free and 50 other sittings.” Kenric Kench was the Society Steward. The Ecclesiastical Census taken on the 30th March 1851 recorded that divine worship at Brailes Primitive Methodist Chapel was attended by 70 in the afternoon and 80 in the evening. There were also about a dozen children at both services. The Census also recorded that the average Sunday attendance over the previous 12 months was 100.
It is worth noting that the Circuit Statistics Book records that there were only 19 members at that time. Perhaps the church was reluctant to make new members too easily or were the people unwilling to commit themselves to the responsibilities of church membership. At any rate the church was growing and a report in “The Primitive Methodist Magazine in 1857 described the work at Brailes thus:
But how our hearts have been gladdened in seeing the grace of God at Brailes. Not confining all the religious services to the chapel, cottage prayer-meetings have been held in various parts of the parish, shaking the neighbourhood, and taking hold of sinners; and first one and then another have been emancipated from the thraldom of sin and Satan and brought into the liberty of the Gospel.
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.