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Methodist Church

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Verwood Methodist Church

  Celebrating 100 Years in 2009.   

(A lot of information in these articles comes from the 75th Methodist Church Anniversary booklet extended by the webmaster to 2009.)




    1909  to  2009



There are references to Methodism in Verwood from the mid 19th century. The present site was obtained in 1908 and the foundation stone laid on the 26th May 1909 and the first service in the Church being in November 1909. The year 2009 therefore is the centenary of Methodist Worship in this place.



In 1819 an Independent Chapel was built in Verwood, but Anglicans still had to travel to their parish Church at Cranborne. However in 1829, with a village population of about four hundred the Anglicans built a chapel which became, with alterations, the present Church of St Michael and All Angels. Other buildings were erected, some of them cob-walled. Their successors are now the United Reformed Church in Manor Road and the present Methodist Church in Vicarage Road.

There was a Methodist Society meeting in Verwood from some time after the middle of the last Century, but records are so scarce that no exact dates can be found. Reference has been found to a mud and wood building with eighty free seats, but in 1901 there was said to be fifty seats available for letting and thirty set apart for children, at "an overlap of fifteen inches each". The same record states that the Wesleyan Chapel be continued from 1865.

A small building stood on what is now the car park, on which a lease was negotiated in 1888, but at a Trustees Meeting in 1905 it was noticed that the lease had expired, so a new one was negotiated.

In 1876 there were no Trustees, but Mr C King was treasurer of a building valued at 200 which was insured for three shillings. The income for the year was L1.18s. The first time a balance in hand is recorded is 1894 - it being 1 .

After a good deal of discussion and negotiation the site was enlarged and on November 5th the decision was taken to build. Correspondence took place with the Methodist Chapel Committee in Manchester and a letter dated May 1905 on the purchase of land for a new building points out that "there is no idea of the prospect of the neighbourhood so that the secretaries cannot say what area should be secured. A guiding principle is that you need at least seven feet for every person to be accommodated".

The plans were agreed on December 17th and a public meeting and tea initiated the building scheme. Tenders were in on March 25th and Mr Hodder of Shaftesbury was given the contract for a cost of 1015 - after the Trustees had checked his credentials. The bricks used were supplied by a Verwood brickyard.

The heating system was by hot water apparatus and the lighting "to be by a newly patented system of petrol and air". The plans included "provision for offices and stables".

One of the deciding factors in proceeding with the work was a "donation" of 250 from Mrs Bracher, for which the Trustees undertook to pay her 4% during her lifetime. She was subsequently invited to lay a stone.

The stonelaying was on May 26, 1909 when the Chairman of the District (Reverend Josiah Mee) presided and the Reverend Llewellyn of Ringwood spoke. Mr Fryer of Verwood Manor, who had helped with the freehold, was invited to take the Chair at the evening meeting. A circular was issued "setting forth the cost and soliciting donations".

The building was to be completed by the middle of November 1909. So it took just six months from laying the foundations to being ready for worship.

The Congregational friends were asked to lend the British Schoolroom for services on October 17th and 24th. The Opening was on October 27th. The Pleasant Sunday Afternoon (PSA) Band played selections of music and the Broomhill band led the singing.

By February 1910 the builder was asked to "get the vestry ready as soon as possible and also to get the seats ready for the Choir". It was decided to call Mr Chincher's (the architect) attention to "vacant places in the ceiling of the church at each end.

In the discussion of Church seating the cost of whitewood as against pinewood was debated: pinewood was preferred. These pews continued to be used until they were replaced during the church extension which occured during 1993 and opened in January 1994. The Pulpit and existing pipe organ were replaced at this time, the organ being replaced with an electronic one with large speakers on shelves high up at the rear of the church which is in use today (2009).

At the Annual Trustees Meeting on March 29, 1911, Mr A Hopkins, the Trust Treasurer reported a total income of 31.11s.4d. There had been a balance of 12.4s.9d. from the previous year. 10 was spent as interest on the f250 loan, 3.12s.11d on lighting, cleaning and heating, 18/- for insurance, including the Chapel Keeper, and 18/- for the organ and choir. Nothing was given to Connexionial Funds, and all other expenses came to 3.17s.8d., with nothing to carry forward for the following year. Mr Bollom was thanked for his efforts in money raising. By 1914 there was a balance in hand -of 32.16s.7d.

The pump in the copper house was out of order in February 1918 and Mr Hopkins promised to have it repaired. This is a reminder that there was only limited mains water in the village before 1959 and a comprehensive sewage system had to wait until 1970. Both gas and electricity were late arrivals.

It cost f21.11s.2d. to light and heat the buildings in 1929 and the fire insurance was 1.17s.6d.; 10.13s.6d. was expended under the heading of "Organ and Choir". The first Bazaar was held in December 1930 and raised 65, which was deposited in the Bank in the names of V Thompson and Y Reeks; (did they not have a Bank account?). That year a new boiler was fixed for 27.19s.3d.

The petrol and air lighting seems to have been giving trouble by 1934 when a special meeting decided to approach Mr Lyston about wiring the Church "in the event of electricity coming to Verwood... in the meantime wiring to be done and use of a dynamo employed at a cost of 45". By 1939 "better lavatorial accommodation" was discussed. An auction sale was arranged to raise funds to pay for a new gas heating system, estimated to cost approximately 500.

The New Church Hall in current use was built and then opened in 1984 during the tenure of the Rev. Derek R Chapman. It replaced the wooden huts which had till then been found at the rear of the church. One of these huts found its way to the Dewlands Park Caravan site after it was removed from the church.

During the tenure of the Reverend Chris Blake the church itself was extensively enlarged and redesigned extending nearer to the pavement and also to the side taking in the original vestry. At the same time the side hall had a second floor meeting room created within the existing building. The new extended church was opened in January 1994 with new more comfotable seating and a new electronic organ.


THE MINISTERS 1919 to 20023

There has been a resident Methodist Minister in Verwood since 1919 and twenty-five have given service here. Some served for only short periods of six months or so, to fill in before going to India or Africa. For a time this was a Probationer's appointment; this meant the minister was a young man finishing his training for the Ministry.

Before 1919 the minister, then resident in Witchampton, had Verwood in his charge; then during the 1914-18 war there was only one minister in the whole Circuit, so Verwood was administered by the Wimborne Minister.

Here are the names and dates of service of Verwood resident Ministers until 2023:-

Robert J Rider

1919 to 1922

T W Wilson

1922 to 1924

Robert Flenley

1924 to 1926

Arthur S Howarth

1926 to 1927

A Cecil Day

1927 to 1928

F Berry Hoare

1928 to 1929

Joseph Austin

1929 to 1930

Clifford F Diffey

1930 to 1931

William T Price

1931 to 1932

Gordon Johnson,BA,BD

1932 to 1933

J Owen Clutterbuck

1933 to 1936

A E Hugh Fielder,BSc

1936 to 1940

Maurice W Kirk

1940 to 1944

John Milns
- (6 months,then India)

1944 to 1945

David A James,MA -
- (6  months - furlough fm India)


Frank Brice

1945 to 1946

Francis H Kelly,BD

1946 to 1947

Kenneth J Holt,BD

1947 to 1952

Douglas A Brown, BA

1952 to 1957

Paul T Brooks, BSc

1957 to 1958

Alexander Bush

1958 to 1961

Dennis Bussey

1961 to 1967

Peter A Fry

1967 to 1972

Richard A Heafield

1972 to 1977

Derek R Chapman

1977 to 1985

John Stanbury

1985 to 1990

Chris Blake

1990 to 2001

David Hookins

2001 to 2006

Ralph Ward

2006 to 2011

Nigel Deller 

2011  to 2021

Nick Wood 2021 -

The picture shows
Derek Chapman in the Manse
which was then situated on Crane Drive

For the period 1945 to 1947 when the Circuit had arranged to have two ordained ministers, Mrs Flemington offered "Lystra" at a reasonable figure that could not be refused, though it was two years before the second ordained minister could be appointed. Pastor Ernest Hill was therefore invited to occupy "Lystra" whilst the Reverends Frank Brice and Francis Kelley each served a year as probationer ministers.

Among the remembered quirks of the ministers the story is told of the Reverend Gordon Johnson who cycled round the Circuit with a book open on the handlebars, enabling him to read as he rode; the book-rest was made for him by Mr Evan Brewer.



Mr James Thompson, father of Mrs Gwen Reeks, was Choirmaster until 1945 when Mr Herbert Baker took over owing to Mr Thompson's ill-health. Mrs Dulcie Froud/Sims remembers Mr Thompson sitting beside her when she played the organ in 1912 when she was twelve years old. Mr Fred Fry, who taught Dulcie, was also our organist (Fred Fry was Rosie Pitman's uncle). Victor Sims and Miss Lily Sims were also on the rota.

The hymn boards now in use were presented by Mrs E Crawford in memory of her sister, Mrs L Bower. The original organ was behind the pulpit when Mrs Gwen Reeks was organist. This organ, costing 200 was bought from Wallace Green on June 25, 1936 and Mrs Eric Shearing became organist for nine years.

Several violinists helped to accompany the hymns, these being Mr Joe Shearing, Mr Ewart Goodfellow, Mr Thompson and Mrs Gwen Reek when not playing the organ herself.

Mrs Daphne Shearing, Mrs Brenda Morey and Mr Douglas Thorne each gave faithful service as organists over a period of thirty to forty years. Mrs Ruth Thorne, Mr Fred Bailey, Mrs Mary Wareham and Mrs Paddy Reeks were also on the organ rota, and were joined in more recent days by Mr Cliff Jones and Mrs Olwen Webb.

Mrs Rosie Pitman joined the rota in 1954 and was also temporarily put in charge of the choir. She was appointed official organist in 1980 and Mrs Jean Ewing was appointed to conduct the choir in 1982. 



The earliest recorded baptisms at Verwood were in 1903, but in those days the Minister often carried a register around with him and on occasions Local Preachers conducted baptisms, which may account for one which took place at Remedy Oak. Possibly the first baptism in the new building was of Mildred Emma Brewer on November 7, 1909, the daughter of Fred Brewer; then on November 28, Kathleen Thurza Irene White was baptised.

When the present site was conveyed to the Trustees in 1908 there were a number of names of men whose descendants still serve in the Church or the Circuit. There were twenty of them who signed the document with the Reverend Toft Walker Cook, the Superintendent Minister who lived in Wimborne. Of that twenty, three were farmers, three were brick manufacturers and three were brick makers; there were two bootmakers, a brick burner, a potter, a schoolmaster, a labourer, a grocer, a gardener, a wheelwright, a florist and a builder. This gives a picture of the social background of the area at the beginning of this century in contrast to a modern count of members of the Church Council (who are now the governing trustees). In 1984 there were thirteen men of whom seven were retired and seven ladies without gainful employment. Those in, or who were in, gainful employment consist of three teachers, one lecturer, two in insurance, two in computers, one engineer, one clerk, one carpenter, one farmer, one solicitor, one sales representative and a post office executive.

A Trust resolution records the death of Sidney Hopkins, killed in France on September 7, 1917, with appreciation of his valued services to the Wesleyan Methodist Church. "The deceased brother was untiring in his effort to do all it was possible for him to do in connection with the building of the new Church and premises".

Relations between the Parish Church and Methodism were not always as cordial as they are to-day and the June Quarterly Meeting of 1902 objected to the Education Bill "now before the House of Commons on four grounds:-

  • Because it will destroy the Board Schools.

  • Because it will place the education of children in thousands of parishes in the hands of the clergy, many of whom are not Protestants.

  • Because the people will have to pay for schools over which they have no control.

  • Because the children of non-conformists will be excluded from the teaching profession in many towns and villages unless they renounce their non-conformity and become members of the Church of England as by law established, as is the case at the present time.

They therefore pray that you will not proceed with the Bill in its present form."

But exactly a year later there was a Tea Table resolution urging all Free Church Parents who had children attending Church Day Schools to claim their privilege, withdraw their children from Religious Instruction in those schools, "And this meeting further resolves that this resolution be read from all the pulpits in this circuit- "Carried Unaimously"

On January 29, 1923, 5/- (25p) was voted for the "Worn Out Ministers' Fund". At the same meeting, Methodist Union proposals were discussed and it was unanimously agreed that the meeting was in favour of the proposals, "but that the Church was not yet ripe for union" (Methodist Union took place in 1932). In the following year Mr. Fry was re-elected secretary, Mrs. L. Sims oraganist and Mr. J. Thompson Choirmaster, but by February 1926 Mr. Thompson had resigned. However, by 1928 he had been asked to become Choirmaster again.

Because the occupations of many Verwood people were concerned with pottery, the making of besoms and market gardening, the village could not absorb all these products, so there grew up a few men who, with horse and cart, took the village products to the surrounding towns and sold them there. They were called 'higglers'. One of these was Mr Frederick Brewer, a devoted officer in this Church and Sunday School. The Photgraph shows one of Verwood's higlers' distibuting Verwood Pottery.

A remembered Sunday School Superintendent was Mr. Charles Hibbard, a white-bearded cobbler, who worked in his cottage on Dewlands Common. He used a hymn book as an implement of correction as well as an aid to worship. But he was a great example of consistency as, with only a pair of wooden crutches and one good leg, he never missed a Sunday.

The earlier 1920's had already seen the end of the Sunday School Boys' Band, which helped to serve as a nursery for the Verwood Prize Band. Mr Fred Fry, a potter, a preacher and Sunday School Teacher had taught and led the Band for some years and many will remember the set of musical flower pots which he made and played. His connection with the Band ceased when he entered the Congregational Ministry.

Is it true that we no longer breed characters like this?

The Youth Music Group was formed around 1980 after a visit to "Youth Makes Music" at Bristol. Other Churches were found to have music groups, so it was decided we must have one in Verwood. Originally six met under the leadership of Mrs Jean Wadge. The numbers rose to twenty-two and have now settled down to about a dozen regulars.

On several occasions they have assisted at worship in Verwood and at several places in the Salisbury Circuit. They have conducted worship on a visit to Torquay and now say they will welcome anybody who can play any instrument or sing.




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