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Topics / Local Industry
The Methodist Chapel is one of the oldest in the country and of significant historical importance. Methodism was founded by John Wesley (1703-1791). His preachers visited towns and villages throughout the country spreading the Gospel and made converts who met to worship in each other’s homes. It was recorded in the Methodist magazine of 1825, that John Wesley held a service in the fields at Griffydam in 1743.
Around 1760 news that Wesley intended preaching in the area had spread far and wide, and there was a large congregation. A local squire (Sir George Beaumont) who had great influence amongst the colliers, resolved if possible to hinder the preaching and John Massey, an athlete and renowned pugilist, was appointed captain of the anti - Methodist gang. No doubt Wesley was aware of the plot against him and calmly proceeded with song and prayer. As he was about to commence the sermon, Massey looked at him savagely, but thought he would just hear a little of what he had to say. The colliers became impatient. One man cried out “John, why dunna ye give the word”, John’s reply must have come like a thunderbolt - “ If any mon touches the praicher I’ll straighten wi’ im on th’ pit bonk tomorrow marnin’ “. There was not a man who wished to meet John Massey on the pit bank or anywhere else. John Massey was converted and became a well-known, much loved preacher in the area drawing large crowds to hear him.
In 1778 a plot of land in Elder Lane was purchased for £6 13s and the Meeting House or Chapel was built.
The following year there was another visit from John Wesley who preached at the Chapel on at least two occasions, the second being on July 19th 1779. In his journal he wrote "About 9 00 a.m. I preached in the Market Place at Loughborough, about noon at Griffydam and in the evening at Ashby". The congregation was constantly reminded of his visits by his bust (pictured) which was placed under the pulpit.
The Chapel was enlarged in 1791 and again in 1862 from what is thought may have originally been a single storey building. It seated 200 people. The building’s certification as a place of worship is dated 1.6.1854 and it was registered for marriages on 8.2.1870.
The Providence Wesleyan Methodist Chapel on Gelsmoor Road, Coleorton was a branch chapel originally built to take the congregation overflow from the Griffydam Methodist Chapel.
The Wesley Guild originated as a youth movement aimed at countering secular influence, and retaining young people within the Church. The Guild idea was first suggested by the Wesleyan minister W. B. Fitzgerald, and was championed at the Liverpool Conference of 1896 by C. H. Kelly, Book Steward and former Secretary for Sunday School affairs. The Guild was defined as a "Young People's Society closely linked to the Church, holding weekly or periodical meetings for devotional, literary or social purposes, and centring around various branches of Young People's work". There were however, no age limitations imposed, and the Guild gradually acquired a membership which was not particularly youthful. Fitzgerald served as the first General Secretary of the Guild, and by 1909 there was 2,200 local Guilds with 152,000 members. There was then a sharp decrease attributable to the effects of the First World War, and an increase in secular attractions. From 1922 however, membership again increased, reaching a peak of 174,202 senior and 57,790 junior members in 1934, after which it again declined to a membership of between 25,000 and 50,000 by 1970.
The Chapel was renowned for the Easter Monday Love Feast based on a meal shared by early Christians and introduced by John Wesley into Methodism. It was probably held from when Methodism arrived in Griffydam until the early 1960’s thus spanning 200 years. It attracted visitors from miles around including Derby, Leicester, Birmingham, as well as towns and villages of the neighbourhood. The service commenced at half-past one, filling the whole afternoon and ending with a sermon, usually in the evening. Many conversions took place during the service. Water was passed around the worshippers in two-handled glass cups, and also slices of bread.For a further insight into the Love Feast please click here to read an article by Michael Green.
In 1932 the Sunday School to the left of the Chapel was erected.
To the right of the Chapel once stood a cottage which can been seen in the top photograph. It was used as a preacher’s house then later occupied by the caretakers. The last person to live here was a Mrs Sarah Witham.
For years the Chapel was the focus of village life but after the Second World War attendances began to decline and in 2005 the sad decision was made to close it. At this time it was the oldest Chapel in Leicestershire still in use. The former Chapel has now been very tastefully restored as a private residence.
John Wesley Bust
Part of a pew seat discovered during recent removations by the new owners. This is an important find as the engravings confirm that this was made at the time the chapel was restored and enlarged in 1862. The initials could be those of the carpenter who made the pew leg and possibly stand for Thomas G!
The Wesley Guild Parade” marching down “The Tentas”
and on to Elder Lane near the Chapel in 1931. The first gentleman on the left is Tom Saddington. The lady watching the parade from the Chapel grounds is Sarah Witham who lived in the caretaker's cottage.
A Wedding re-enactment by children of the Sunday School.
Sarah Witham sitting outside the Chapel caretaker's cottage