Wesleyan Reform Church
Almost as soon as “the people called Methodists” eventually broke away from the Anglican Church, divisions and schisms developed. These arose principally not due to theology but to matters of government, which many found autocratic and overbearing. There were a number of offshoots, but the one that had the most reverberations was the formation of the Wesleyan Reform Society in 1849 as a result of what has become known as the “Fly Sheets” controversy. The Fly Sheets, anonymously written, sought to expose the arbitrary rule of the Wesleyan Conference. They were often disparaging towards certain personalities including the Conference Secretary Rev. Jabez Bunting. It was strongly suspected that the author was a Rev James Everett (who neither admitted or denied it) and he ws expelled, along with two others, Samuel Dunn and William Griffiths. The controversy cost Wesleyan dearly. These had a host of sympathisers, who, in turn, were expelled for their sympathies. Early in 1850, four hundred delegates representing the “Reformers” met in the Albion Street Chapel, Moorfields, London, and a document, outlining a constitution was drawn up. This embraced sixteen points and was in conformity with the “Reform” proposals.
The new Griffydam Wesleyan Reform Chapel was opened on 27th April 1858 by Rev Jabez Burns DD of London, and services were conducted on 2nd May 1858 by Mr J W Acrill of Mansfield. Sabbath School was resumed on 16th May, when forty children attended.
The following are notes copied from the minute book:
“The Wesleyan Methodist Reformers at Griffydam being summarily turned out of the old house in which they had conducted their Services for several years, by the interference of the newly appointed Steward of the Nobleman whose property it is, had no place in which to conduct their Sabbath School and hold their Religious Services. At this period, namely Nov10 1857, Application was made to Miss Mary Farmer of Worthington for a peice (sic) of ground on which to build a Chapel, she consented to give a peice, but dying three days afterwards it fell through, she leaving the Field to her brothers, they at once consented to give a peice of land on which to erect a Chapel.”
Richard Page was engaged to superintend the erection of the Chapel. John Ison was appointed Treasurer. The following were all appointed Trustees:-John Ison, Francis Pope, Joseph Smart, Thomas Coulson, Charles Walker, Richard Cooper, William Usherwood, William Stinson, John Biddle, William Harrison, James Langham and Richard Page.
The Chapel was extended in 1890 and was opened on the 9th November by Mr J Parker, and further renovated in the 1950s and again recently.
Previous church Presidents and Superintendents included John Wilton, Bernard Hutchinson and Kenneth Hutchison. For over 60 years Mrs Sarah Barkby was the church organist.
The highlight of the Church calendar was the Sunday School Anniversary which was held on the first Sunday in May, when the children and choir would sing songs and hymns that they had been practising for many weeks. There would always be a treat for the children sometime after the event, in the early days there would be a tea, with sweets and games, in a local field. All the local chapels and churches had a Sunday School Anniversary or “Sermons” and would close their own church to support others in the area.
Today, the CHAPEL IN THE VALLEY is open and active with normally two services on Sunday and various activities for all age groups throughout the week.
Sunday School Anniversary at the Wesleyan Reform Chapel, Griffydam c.1968