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One hundred years of Methodism in Cliddesden

First Methodist Chapel in Cliddesden erected 1880

Methodism was late in coming to Cliddesden. An appeal in 1870, titled A Methodist Wilderness, claimed that ‘Basingstoke and villages within two hours walk contain more than 17,000 people and not one Wesleyan Chapel’.[1] Basingstoke opened its first Wesleyan chapel in 1875 and from 1877 a group of Methodists met in Cliddesden.[2] On Whit Monday, 1880, the foundation stone of the first Wesleyan Chapel in the village was laid.[3] This small, single-storey building (20ft by 50ft), adjacent to Church Farm, cost £364 13s.8d., including land, architect’s fees, ‘lighting, warming and fencing’.[4] The earl of Portsmouth was amongst those contributing to the building fund.[5]

 In 2013 the building is used as a workshop and its features somewhat disguised, the chapel was not without character  - built of  ‘brick with a slate roof which has decorated ridge tiles’,[6] and having ‘Gothic style windows and decorative brick hood  moulds’,[7] The foundation stone, though worn, reads:

                                             THIS STONE

                                            WAS LAID BY

                                   J. DYMORE BROWN ESQ.

                                         (OF READING)

                                           MAY 17th 1880

After the stone laying ceremony, a public tea was held in Mr Cobden’s barn followed by a public meeting; the proceedings which closed at 8.00pm were reported as ‘most successful’.[8]   

The Revd A. Cooke, circuit minister, and Messrs. Shrimpton and Schofield each lent £50 towards the building costs and a grant of £65 was received from the central Methodist Extension Fund.[9] These debts were cleared by December 1884 and in 1886-7 a new project was undertaken to add a school room and extend the chapel at a cost of just over £100.[10] Seat-rents, collections, gifts, fund-raising efforts and the help of a further grant from the Extension Fund were used to meet these costs.

Numbers of worshippers continued to increase as in 1905-6 a much larger, redundant, chapel building was moved from Basingstoke and re-erected at Southlea, Farleigh Road, close to the site of the first chapel. John Bird, founder of the Hants and Berks Gazette and Cliddesden resident, played an important part in enabling this major undertaking.[11] The new chapel (33ft by 77ft), described by Pevsner as ‘large and very urban with an ironstone front in middle-pointed Gothic’,[12] gave greatly increased capacity. It was registered for marriages[13] and provided a venue for social as well as religious activities in the village.

Two events each year had particular significance: the Whitsun anniversary with special services on the Sunday and a ‘Meeting and Tea’ on Whit Monday, and Harvest Festival with a Harvest Home Tea at Viables Farm and a sale of produce.[14] Choir and band concerts were held, including a concert in aid of the unemployed in 1922.[15]  Contributions to Home and Foreign Missions were high for this small society and, over the years, included the descriptively named Horse Hire Fund and the Worn out Ministers Fund. [16]

The period up until the Second World War saw the zenith of Methodism in Cliddesden, followed by a slow decline. From the 1960s a few stalwarts maintained chapel life, foremost was Miss A. Taplin of Elm Cottage, chapel steward.[17] In 1972 alterations to provide a youth centre with a small chapel at the entrance were undertaken[18] but by 1979 chapel attendance had dwindled to nothing.[19] It was closed for services, although used by the Boys Brigade until sold in 1981.[20] One hundred years of Methodism in Cliddesden had come to a close.





[1] HRO, 57M77/NMC81.

[2] HRO, 57M77/NMS12, Cliddesden Wesleyan Methodist Chapel, Trust Account Book, 1877- 1980.

[3] Hants and Berks Gazette, 22 May 1880.

[4] HRO, 57M77/NMS12.

[5] Ibid. Lord Portsmouth gave £10.0.0.

[6] Hampshire Treasures, Cliddesden, Vol.2, 1979 , SU 631 492.

[7] Basingstoke and Deane, Conservation Area Appraisal, Cliddesden, 2003.

[8] Hants and Berks Gazette, 22 May 1880.

[9] HRO, 57M77/NMS12.

[10] Ibid.

[11] Arthur Attwood, ‘Basingstoke’s History, The Struggle for a Methodist Meeting’, The Gazette, 15 December 1978.

[12] Michael Bullen, John Crook, Rodney Hubbuck, Niklaus Pevsner, Buildings of England ,Hampshire: Winchester                    and the North, 2010, 227.

[13]  HRO, 57M77/NMS12.

[14] Ibid.

[15] Ibid.

[16] Ibid.

[17] Ibid.

[18] HRO, 57M77/NMS98.

[19] HRO 57M77/NMC74. Cliddesden had 13 members in 1964, 6 members in 1976.

[20] HRO, 57M77/NMS98. Sold to Holdyene Ltd, Sutton Scotney, for £18,778.00.


Content derived from research undertaken as part of the Victoria County History project