The Primitive Methodist Chapel in Upper Brailes. 1930s to Closure

Former Primitive Methodist Chapel, Upper Brailes, 2017, with former Sunday School attached. The plaque above the entrance reads 'PRIMITIVE METHODIST CHAPEL ERECTED A.D. 1863'. It appears on OS maps and in trade directories from 1850-1932 (a former chapel built in 1848 accounting for the earlier entries). It is currently let as offices.
Image courtesy of Anne Langley

In 1932, Brailes Primitive Methodist Chapel became part of the Banbury Circuit of the Methodist Church. In Lower Brailes, the Wesleyan Methodist Chapel also became part of the Methodist Church but continued to belong to the former Chipping Norton Wesleyan Methodist Circuit. The Wesleyan Chapel sadly closed in the 1960s and even more sadly the former Primitive Methodist Chapel closed through lack of members in 2011.

In the 1950s it boasted a Sunday School of more than 40 scholars that met twice on Sundays at 10:30am and 2:30pm under the leadership of Miss Alice M Matthews, Miss Marion Laflin, Mr Trevor Wilde [before he became a Local Preacher], Mr Edwin Boyce and Messrs David and Derrick Matthews. Later Miss Sylvia Painter was Sunday School Leader but when she resigned the Sunday School folded and the congregation subsequently declined.

Sunday School anniversary and outing

The Sunday School anniversary each July attracted large congregations and was followed by the Sunday School outing each August usually to Wicksteed Park at Kettering, the Dassett Hills or to Sutton Park near Birmingham.

There was a resident Minister in Brailes in the 1950s. Among those remembered with great affection were the Rev James H Watson [Supernumerary Minister], Rev David A Clarkson who boarded with Mrs Alice Wiggins, Rev Reynolds J Le Page, Rev Robert Rowlands and Rev Peter Burnett.

Circuit Ministers who came from Banbury in the 1950s-1980s included Rev Walter Budd, Rev Ian H Field, Rev Ernest N Goodridge, [Grimsbury], Rev H Gregory Taylor, Rev Stanley M Weary, Rev John Hully and Rev Derek Softley..

Regular Local Preachers included Mr Albert H Cross [Brailes], Mr Victor Messer [Epwell], Mr W Soden [Epwell], Mr Ross Atkins [Greatworth], Mr Stanley Hollis [Woodford Halse], Mr Cyril Cross and Mr Peter Neale. There were also regular visits by students from Handsworth Methodist Ministers’ Training College in Birmingham, one of whom was Rev Stanley M Weary before he was stationed in the Banbury Circuit. Major Hills, a retired Salvation Army Officer who came to live in Brailes in the mid 1950s was a regular preacher for many years, as was Rev Eric Butler, a Supernumerary Minister who came to live in the former Wesleyan Methodist Chapel in Lower Brailes.1

Services, parties and magicians

The best attended services were the annual Harvest Festival Services in October when the Chapel was always beautifully decorated and the scent of flowers and garden produce made the services extra special. After the Monday evening service the produce, other than tins and packets, was sold by auction by Mr W P Manley in his inimitable style. He always donated several bags of potatoes at the end of the auction to help swell the funds. After his death, his son, Mr William [Bill] H Manley auctioned the harvest gifts. Bill was also an accomplished “magician” who for many years enthralled the Sunday School scholars at their annual Christmas Party.

Many families attended the Chapel in the 1950s. The regular organists were Miss Marion Laflin, Miss Alice M Matthews and Mr Derrick Matthews. In the latter years Mrs Margaret Gibbs from Tysoe [ Kineton Circuit] regularly assisted.

The Sunday School Room was extended in the early 1960s and a kitchen and modern toilets installed and was regularly used during the week by Girl Guides, Brownies and Playgroups while the kitchen was used by the local “Meals on Wheels” service.

A decline in use

By 2010 the Chapel only had one service each Sunday at 11.00am and there was no Sunday School. Attendances had dropped to under 10 with and so the decision was taken by the remaining members, Mr and Mrs Foster, Mrs Barbara Manley and Mrs Vera Hibberd and the Circuit Meeting to close the Chapel. The final service was held on Sunday 22nd August 2010, conducted by Rev Dorothy Hewitson, Banbury Circuit Minister, assisted by Canon Nicholas Morgan, Vicar of St George’s Parish Church, Brailes.

1 In Chipping Norton Circuit but closed in the early 1960s and converted into a dwelling house.

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. Written by Richard Ratcliffe from information in the Centenary Booklet and personal reminiscences from Peter Ratcliffe and Jennifer Sibley [nee Ratcliffe], Sunday School Scholars from 1946-1964. 

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