A Fuller History

History 1851 to 1951

This is an extract from the 'Hanham Ebenezer Methodist Church - Centenary Souvenir 1851-1951

(Written in 1951) 


WE BEGIN

One hundred years ago our Church opened its doors for the first time. Unfortunately there is no written record and we have to depend on the story as handed down by our forbears. Mrs. Harriet Weeks died in 1923 at the great age of 92 years and was the last survivor of the founder members. She gave us most of the information we have of our beginnings.

Why was Hanham Ebenezer ever built?  The story of the stormy times in Methodist history a century ago can be read else-where and is much too long to narrate here.  In short, some Methodists in all parts of the country held and expressed views at variance with those held by Conference and its remarkable President, Dr. Jabez Bunting. They desired a larger measure of self-government, but Conference took the extreme step of expelling these malcontents, members and ministers,  from  the  Church. Kingswood and Bristol, so deeply and  closely  connected  with Methodist   history,   suffered heavily and thousands of members were lost to the mother Church.

At Hanham, famous for its Mount and outdoor preaching, the same sad story was repeated. Our deed of 1851 states
"Holding the same doctrines as the Society of Methodists established by the Reverend John Wesley, but no longer members due to expulsion by the preachers known as The Methodist Conference."

On a certain day in 1850, a party of men and women gathered outside the present Post Office. Their names had just been removed from the Members, Roll and they were now Methodists without a home. At that same time some Baptists came along after a service at their own historic 'Hanham's Meeting'. They sympathised with the plight of their friends and offered to share their Chapel with them, until other accommodation could be found. This fine act gave our founders their first encouragement on the way. "Hitherto hath the Lord helped us" they could truly say, and they met at the old Baptist Chapel whenever possible. Soon, however, one of their own members sold them a plot of land and here our Church was built. There were many difficulties. The men were mostly labourers and colliers, who worked long hours and had little money. They had, however, unbounded faith, energy and enthusiasm and they made their plans.

Their Church should be built by them in their spare time! Stone was generously given from neighbouring quarries (Hanham Pennant) and so, after working-hours, these stalwarts repaired to the site and often toiled far into the night. The long summer evenings gave them their best opportunities, sometimes they worked by the light of the moon and sometimes even the humble colliers' 'dip' was pressed into service.

 

The women helped by bringing the evening meal and those early days saw many a supper party amongst the growing walls of our beloved Church. Our Candlelight Service in December is a yearly reminder of this truly great period.

The original deed is dated 27th November, 1851. The denomination is referred to as the Reform Movement Party. With regard to preaching, it is clearly stated:

"That they do and shall preach no other doctrines than those which are contained in certain notes upon the New Testament and the first four volumes of sermons published by the late Reverend John Wesley".

Amongst the signatories are some well known names :-
MOSES BRAIN (Mrs. Weeks' father)
JABEZ BEVAN
SOLOMON DARK
WM. FURBER (Whites Hill)
THOMAS GULLY (Longwell Green)
FRANCES MARTIN (Crews Hole)
WILLIAM BUTLER (St. George)
JONATHAN OLDS Hanham Green)

The Church when completed, was small and square and very plain. We still have, however, one piece of original decoration - the back of the Preacher's Chair, beautifully carved with grapes and acorns.

The strength of the Church in the early days can be gauged by the following extracts from the Samuel White's School log book (as taken from the Church Magazine of September 1949):-

"Nov. 16th, 1863.
Enquired as to what Sunday School each child went to yesterday and found the following to be the result :-Church 9, Tabernacle 13, Baptist 17, Free Methodist 46, Wesleyan Methodists 12. To no School 5.

Feb. 23rd, 1870.
Wesleyan 33, Free Methodists 72, Baptist 24, Independent 31, Church 10, No Religion 7.

It must be remembered, of course, that there was also the Church of England day school in the village.

From time to time enlargements of the Chapel became necessary. In 1891 the little lean-to vestry was removed to make room for the present vestry and Men's Bible Class Room. 

Ebenezer in 1901

In 1901 the front was removed and the Church extended to its-present position. Now, all that is left of the original building are the side walls beyond the main gallery. We had a considerable forecourt until road-widening took place in 1932. Then we lost our bushes and grass and trees and became very much a 'wayside chapel',

The village pound stood opposite the Chapel - an untidy spot, surrounded by a low wall and still used on occasion. This was purchased by JABEZ BEVAN in 1875. It cost him £55. Important men were interested in the sale, for the Deed was signed by the EARL OF SHEFFIELD, JOHN WHITTUCK and GEORGE HARE LEONARD.

Ebenezer and Pound Chapel


Jabez sold it to the Church at cost price in 1878 and here the SUNDAY SCHOOL was built and opened in 1888. The foundation - stones were laid by WILLIAM BUTLER and HANDEL COSSHAM. The original medieval walls were retained and must be some of the oldest stonework in Hanham. The village stocks stood at the narrow end and it is interesting to contrast the original and -the present use of this ancient village centre. The name 'POUND CHAPEL' was early given to the Church and is still largely used by Hanham and Kingswood folk. The members of the Church, however, rarely use the term and some definitely dislike it. The writer, however, much prefers it to Ebenezer, for there are many Ebenezers, but only one 'Pound'.

WE GROW

The story of the building of the church is simple in comparison with a record of the people who have faithfully served her. The records of 1890 still show many of the names of the early days, and JEREMIAH BEVAN'S name is conspicuous in the school-building and chapel-enlargement accounts.  He was a boot-manufacturer (the Anchor) and Sunday School Superintendent. His brother Samuel was also a member and owned the factory now included in the Kleen-Ee-Zee buildings.

A little later came Rev. FRED. CLEMENTS and his wife, who both had a great influence in the early days of the Christian Endeavour Movement. Mrs. CLEMENTS is still living and has sent us a message.

The greatest evangelist in the Church's history was perhaps the blind preacher, Mr. MORMON. He did a great work here and in all the churches in the circuit. This was the time when the' Hanham Band' was formed with strenuous out-of-door evangelism and with Mr. - WALTER JONES as a conspicuous convert and leader.

Later came Rev. W. J. CLARKE, whom many of us remember well. He was a most imposing figure and would have made a fine bishop. To see him leading the Whitsun Procession in clerical attire and wearing his broad-brimmed black hat, left no doubt but that here was the Shepherd and 18 stones of him, too! His untiring and magnificent work still affects us. He was instrumental in building both Cockroad and Wesley Memorial Churches and would have built a new one at Hanham if the trustees of that time had been less cautious. However, during his ministry, the front of the church was extended and altered considerably.

Next came Rev. WILLIAM VEALE ("Farmer" Veale)-a man very much beloved. He stirred the Church, not so much by preaching, as by his untiring efforts in all good works. The organ at that time was a poor affair and there was much talk of getting a new one. After the trustees had been quite unsuccessful in gaining help from the famous Carnegie, he wrote and got the promise of half the cost of a new instrument. The organ was installed in 1911 and has been of inestimable value to us as Church and Choir.

It would be too long a story to speak of all our ministers who have laboured so faithfully, or of all the splendid leaders of about this time. Mr. FRED BRITTON the Sunday School leader was a famous raconteur and a great lover of local history and tradition. How we still remember the famous rambles to delectable spots like 'Lime Tree Valley' and 'Waterfall Glen' and other places fancifully labelled by his fertile imagination

Mr. ISAAC HARRIS and Mr. WALTER GODFREY (Class leaders), Mrs. JONES (Band of Hope) and Miss WEEKS (Christian Endeavour) were outstanding workers at this time.

Miss Weeks was an ardent Missions supporter and was honoured by being elected the National President of the W.M.A.  Mr. HARRY SMITH held many important offices and is still our Church steward.
On looking back, these appear to be halcyon days, but 1914 rolled on and the war brought many changes, some difficulties and certainly fresh opportunities.

WE PROGRESS

In the twenty years between the two wars, a great many structural improvements took place in the church and schoolroom, the first being the enlarging and lowering of the choir-stalls in 1927, at a cost of £610 This alteration included the erection of a side pulpit, which although not acceptable to everyone at the time, has proved to be a blessing, for it enables the preacher to include the Choir with his congregation. At this time, the nine beautiful side-windows were given by Mr. H. J. POTTER, to commemorate the service of Mr. and Mrs. LOVELL, his wife's parents, to the Church. Mr. Lovell was president of the Men's Bible Class from 1917 to 1925.

By 1934 it was decided that work had to be commenced on the schoolroom, which had fallen almost into decay.  The original estimates for this work were £800, but when operations commenced, many unforeseen difficulties were encountered, so that upon completion the actual cost was £1,250. Many ingenious ways were found of raising money, but the best was a voluntary-gift scheme, whereby our members promised a weekly gift for a year. This scheme proved a great success, particularly as at this time Mr. Potter again make us a very generous offer.   He  would double any amounts given by the members of the Church.  The results were so good that at the end of the first  year,  it  was decided to continue with the scheme. At -the end of three years, £470 had been given by our members, which, together with Mr. Potter's gift, considerably reduced our debt. In fact, the whole amount was completely settled in four years.

In 1938, the debt on -the schoolroom having been cleared, improvements in the lighting of the church were considered. It was felt that pendant lights would not be satisfactory, and flood-lights from the roof were advised. At this time the roof was in its original rough state, the ceiling having been removed many years before, and was not really suitable for the fixing of the lights. Again the trustees received a generous offer from a member to pay for the panelling of the roof; which work was done, and the flood-lights sunk into the panelling. An electric blower was fixed to the organ at a cost of £60, and this amount the Choir made themselves responsible for settling. The total debt of £250 was completely settled in the matter of three years.

Ironically the war with its black-outs commenced just when our new lighting was installed, and although for a short while Evening Services were conducted in the vestry at the back of the church, we are thankful to God and proud to be able to say that we did not miss a Service throughout those dark days and hazardous nights. Members from other churches sometimes joined with us, and we realised God's presence in a very real manner.

Hubert Hales - hubert_hales.jpg (34646 bytes) Mr. HUBERT HALES, brought up in the Church, was asked in 1919 to take over the conductorship of the Choir. Although he was rather reluctant to take this responsibility as the Choir held quite a reputation in the district, he did so and continues on in an honorary capacity right up to the present time. During those years oratorios-" Messiah", " Elijah", "St. Paul", and "The Creation "-have been performed to packed audiences, by the Choir which at one time boasted 56 members, and now has a membership of 50. Stress has always been laid on the essential function of a choir to lead the worship, and in addition to warm, heartfelt hymn singing, an anthem is rendered at almost every Evening Service. Many ministers and laymen have expressed their thanks at the very real inspiration and help afforded to them by the music of our Church.

There had been a Sunday School Class for the very young, which, owing to lack of space, was held in the gallery of the chapel. Miss CLARA COTTLE, a grand worker, was very anxious to establish a Primary department, and although handi-capped by lack of accommodation and proper equipment, the work there made great progress. To-day it is the largest Primary school in the district, and in the recently acquired hut, tastefully decorated and beautifully furnished with pictures, small chairs and other necessary equipment, every Sunday afternoon the little ones meet their twenty teachers under the splendid leadership of Mrs. MABEL ATKINS, a granddaughter of one of our Founders. Here we know a grand foundation is being laid and here the future of our Church is assured.

Our Senior Sunday School is a large one with 150 scholars, and here the good work begun by the Primary is carried on by a faithful band of teachers-, with Mr. PERCY WILLIAMS as superintendent.

The Men's Bible Class, a very strong department of our Church, is ably led by Mr. GEORGE MERRITT, who also serves faithfully and well as a local preacher. Mr. Merritt has two fine sons, both of whom have grown up with us in Sunday School and Church, and ARTHUR is now a Methodist minister working in the Bridgwater circuit, while ALAN is away at Handsworth College training for the Ministry in the foreign field. This is truly a wonderful record, and one of which we can be justly proud. Yet another of our young members, Miss CHRISTINE 'ISAACS, is doing a fine work as a local preacher.
How grateful we are to be able to say that our Church still flourishes and grows, particularly with its work amongst the young people.

A 'Children's Corner' was added in 1948, and our Junior Church turns out in strength each Sunday morning, whilst boys and girls clubs are held on three evenings during the week.

The aged, too, have not been forgotten, and the 'Ardente' system of deaf-aid has been installed for those who are able to come, so that they, too, can join fully in worship, prayer and praise.
 



We hope to add the rest of the History 1951 to today one day.


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