An Outline History Of Methodism in Bridge

This outline of Methodism in Bridge has been assembled from details available from the Bridge & District History Society local archive via along with further details from my own researches.


Early Non-conformity in Bridge

CommunityAd Exclusive - An Outline History Of Methodism in BridgeNon-conformity was first recorded in Bridge in 1823 when William Fordred was authorised to rent a house for Wesleyan meetings at no more than 2/6d per week. The mission was well supported, which led the trustees in Canterbury to decide to develop a chapel in Bridge. This image shows a building known today as the Bridge Village Hall. It was earlier called the Reading Room, and it began life as a Wesleyan Chapel in about 1825, along with a new house next door. The chapel was about half the length of today’s main Village Hall. The Wesleyans grouped their chapels into a Circuit with services led by ordained and lay preachers. Fortunately a preaching plan has survived for the Canterbury Circuit from 1827. It lists 14 chapels and shows most had one Sunday service and four (including Bridge) had two. Bridge Chapel flourished for a while but then its congregation diminished. It was said that the Revd John Stevenson, Vicar of Bridge attracted them to the parish church.


In 1854 Mr Richard Pilcher, the agent to the Dowager Marchioness Conyngham, wrote “No attendance of late years at Wesleyan Chapel – hence their desire to sell”. The chapel was rented to the Primitive Methodists (nicknamed Ranters) but “they disturbed the whole neighbourhood.” In August 1852 the Wesleyan Annual Conference held in Sheffield had given its “Consent and Approbation… to the sale of the Wesleyan Methodist Chapel and house… in Bridge”. ” The sale to the Marchioness did proceed and it became the Bridge Reading Room.

The Ranters left the chapel and continued by meeting in a private house until 1868 when they built a chapel in Dering Road. It became private house in about 1910 and was demolished in 1951.


The Wesleyan revival in Bridge

An Indenture signed on 5th April 1893 by 14 persons including William Perry (of Bridge), the Revd William Rodwell Jones (then the Superintendent Minister of the Wesleyan Methodist Circuit in Canterbury) and Edwin Lansdell (of Bridge) showed that they were “desirous of acquiring a piece of land for erecting a chapel” in Bridge. A site with “the absolute purchase… was conveyed for the
sum of £20” for the site in Patrixbourne Road with a 37’ frontage and 60’ depth. This report on the New Wesleyan Methodist Chapel in Bridge was published on Saturday 7th July 1894 by the Kentish Gazette (and other local papers). “A new wood and iron Chapel capable of seating 150 to160 persons has been erected in the village for the Wesleyan body; through the exertions of Messrs W Perry and Lansdell. The dedication service took place on Thursday [5th] afternoon with the Revd W Rodwell Jones, the Presiding Minister of the Canterbury Circuit, as its chairman and a tea meeting was held afterwards. A public meeting was held in the evening with addresses from the presiding minister and the Revd W Langdon Brimmell and other friends.”


The Bridge Chapel through the years

The Revd W Rodwell Jones certified the Wesleyan Methodist Chapel in Bridge with the Registrar General of Births, Deaths and Marriages on 22nd July 1894 for those said registrations. The Wesleyan Methodist’s One Million Guinea Fund invited members to donate 1 guinea (£1.05) for expanding its mission in Britain and overseas. The 10 chapels in the Canterbury Circuit raised £294 from 264 donors, with 14 from Bridge (including William Perry living in Lynton House).

The chapel held regular morning, evening and Sunday school services, together with occasional baptisms, funerals and weddings. The use of chairs allowed flexibility and the easy rearrangement of the chapel made it suitable for various meetings and tea afternoons. Edwin Lansdell’s widow Mary died in July 1929. Her funeral was led by a Wesleyan minister and her remains were interred in the Wills’ family grave in the Bridge Churchyard. This was a local example of inter-denominational cooperation in 1929. Also in that year national consideration was being given to the joining together of the Wesleyan, Primitive and United Methodist churches. It was finally agreed by a conference held in the Royal Albert Hall on 20th September 1932 and consolidated by the publishing of The Methodist Hymn Book in 1933.

The chapel’s flexible space was utilised for the baby clinic during WW2 and that continued until 1987. It was equally used for other church and community activities. By 1989 Bridge Methodist Church had reduced its worship to Sundays at 11am.

CommunityAd Exclusive - An Outline History Of Methodism in BridgeBoth the Bridge Methodist Church (formerly the Wesleyan Chapel) and the Bridge (Civil) Parish Council celebrated their centenaries in 1994.
The Revd David Marshall was the last minister whose name was displayed on the church notice board. He was appointed as a Circuit Superintendent in 1993 and he lived in Whitstable with his wife Judith. He was very popular and well-loved in Bridge but despite all his efforts the regular congregation was shrinking. It was a sorry situation and he hoped that if the church had to be closed, then its premises could be ‘gifted’ for use by the Parish Church and the community. The Bridge Methodist Church closed when Revd David Marshall retired in July 2008.

This Wesley information panel now hangs on the south aisle wall of St Peter’s Parish Church Bridge. It was transferred soon after the closing of the Methodist Church. Sadly the ‘gifted’ use of the premises was prevented by the Methodist authorities who required it to be sold to the highest bidder. It was above the bid from Bridge and the winning bidder converted it into a private house. The Revd Simon Rowlands (then the Vicar of Bridge) offered hospitality and a Methodist service was held monthly at 11am under the pastoral care of Revd Gareth West, a Methodist Minister from Whitstable. This continued until August 2010.


by Alan Barber

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