From the beginning of the industrial revolution at the end of the 18th Century, until around the time of the Great War, there was a large migration of people from the rural towns and villages into the growing cities and industrial towns. Warwickshire was no exception to this, the cities of Birmingham and Coventry grew rapidly (both cites were officially part of the county until 1974) while towns such as Atherstone, Nuneaton, Rugby etc. also grew attracting people looking to improve their lot.
The growth of a town, and a congregation
This was also a time of a religious revival, a lot of this concentrated on the non-established or non-conformists churches, who saw their congregations grow rapidly. A non-establishment or non-conformist church simply means not Church of England, which was, and still is, known as the established church. Most of these non-conformist churches preached different interpretations of the Christian message.
The growth of the small village of Leamington Priors into the fashionable spa town of Royal Leamington Spa, coincided almost exactly with these events. As such, as well as the parish church of All Saints growing to become one of the biggest parish churches in England, many small non-conformist chapels grew up. Most of these have now closed or amalgamated as church going has fallen, and their congregations dwindled.
However some of the buildings survive, often being converted into either office space or housing, to remind us of these times. Other items survive to remind us of these long vanished churches/chapels and the good work they did. This plate is an example of this, being clearly marked Wesley Chapel, Leamington.
The Wesley Chapel
The Wesley Chapel was built in Portland Street in 1825. However, as the congregation grew it needed larger premises and moved to Dale Street in 1870. While the majority of the 1870 building was demolished in the 1970s to be replaced by a smaller modern building, the 1825 chapel still exists. Following stints as a fruit and vegetable warehouse and an electrical wholesale warehouse, it has been converted in to apartments; this has restored some of its original elegance.
Unfortunately, there is no indication as to whether the plate came from the 1825 or the 1870 chapel. It does have Edward Clarke impressed in to the back, who manufactured stoneware pottery in Stoke on Trent between around 1865 until 1887. This of course covers the dates when both old and new chapel were open.
However, as this is just an impressed mark as opposed to the full trade mark that appeared on most of their wares, it may indicate that this was an early piece. That, plus the fact that it has Wesley Chapel and not Methodist Chapel on it, seems to suggest it was for the chapel in Portland Street.
There is also no indication as to what the plate was used for. Perhaps in the school attached to the chapel, perhaps it came from the Minster’s house, or perhaps it was used at some sort of luncheon club? However, whatever it was used for, it is a nice reminder of the days when the church was very much part of the local community.
This article was published as part of the Warwickshire in 100 Objects project, part of Warwickshire Bytes.