THE CHAPELS AT OXTON
THE WESLEYAN METHODIST CHAPEL. The Society of the Wesleyan Methodist chapel at Oxton is well on in its second century, though of course the present building is the successor of the one for which, according to the Faculty Books of the Registrar’s office at York, an application was made on 11th May, 1790. A certificate was granted ten days later, on 21st May, 1790, in the names of Francis Knowles, James Pearson, John Matthews, William Ashmore, William Burton and William Naylor. This building still stands, and is used as a farm cottage, in Chapel Lane, Oxton. The key of that first chapel, which was built in the lifetime of John Wesley, is to be seen in the memorial case in the present building.
The chapel used now was built in 1839, and the foundation stones were laid on 12th June of that year. The edifice was completed in six months, at a cost of just over £562, and was opened on 12th November, 1839, by Dr. Robert Newton. Subscriptions andcollections brought in £381, leaving £180 to be borrowed, and a sum of £1 9s. 4d. was forthcoming from the old Chapel Trustees. The stewards of those days were entrusted with the care and maintenance of the building, and the levy of pew rents was a mainsource of income. The sums received varied from over £11 in 1875 to £1 4s. 6d. in 1912 when the rents were discontinued. The trustees were to make a reasonable system of pew rents, to keep the building duly insured against fire, to subscribe at least five shillings annually to the Wesleyan Chapel Fund, and to contribute, from any surplus trust income, to the Connexional and Circuit Funds. The men given these tasks were tradesmen and farmers. The seat rents were 7½d. per sitting for each quarter, and a total of nearly £600 was raised in this way.
Too many historians have imagined that Methodists were illiterate people. This was probably true of the majority, but the records of village chapels show wonderful handwriting from village chapel stewards. The neat handwriting of William Baguley, who was secretary at Oxton for nearly twenty years, was exemplary. John Wesley desired to raise up an intelligent as well as a holy people.
There were amongst the early Methodists a number of competent physicians and surgeons, some of whom reached distinction in the medical world. Their loyal membership of the Methodist Society made the contemporary critics more cautious of expressing superficial judgement on Methodism as a whole.
The details of expenditure from time to time make interesting reading. Under the entry for 19th September, 1840 we read : `A scrubbing brush for Chapel 2/6 and for six squares of glass 2/6d.’ Mr. Harvey was re-appointed as Trustee and Steward, and Mr.Richardson in connection with him on 4th October, 1840. The chapel cleaners have served well, John Foulds, Henry Glover, Mrs. Woodward and Mrs. Minns. Their remuneration has gone up from £1 per year at the beginning to £75 per year now.
Decorations and repairs were undertaken by Messrs. Samuel Wood and Son of Oxton, and completed, in August, 1869, to the satisfaction of all concerned. Two sermons were preached at the re-opening, by the Rev. Joseph Bush, of Manchester. Tea was served to230 people in the interval between the sermons, in the spacious lodge room adjoining the Green Dragon Inn and the proceeds for that day were over £27.
The Jubilee, in 1889, was a great occasion, when the income was £186 0s. 7d., and the disbursement £193 13s 0d. This meant on the income side the cash received for subscriptions, bazaar and teas, as well as the collections at the re-opening services conducted by the Rev. James Hind and Mr. Robert Allcock.
The Anniversary Services year by year have been most helpful, under such preachers as the Revs. Thomas Champness, Amos Burnet, H. H. Kelshaw, W. A. Labrum and others, while as chairmen there have been men like Mr. W. E. Knight of Newark. The efforts made on those days were exemplary, and contributions to the Quarter Board have varied from £4 per year to the modern sum of £80 per year.
The Organ Opening took place in August, 1894, when an instrument procured, it was said, on most advantageous terms by Mr. R. S. Newman, the organist of Trinity Wesleyan Church, Wolverhampton. A Sermon was preached by the Rev. Joseph Stringer of Mansfield, and at a public meeting over which Mr. W. E. Knight of Newark presided, the whole cost of the organ, amounting to £40, was defrayed.
The Aaron Richardson Memorial Hall. The high light of the years was the building, opening and dedicating of the Aaron Richardson Memorial Hall. It happened that the donor was the chapel steward in the early years of the century. He left a legacy of £780 for a hallwhich should be the centre of the corporate life of the village. The building was to be attached to the Methodist chapel, serve as a Sunday school, and be used for many social purposes. It was designed to enable cinema performances to be given, thus adding to the pleasure of the folk, and, although in those days a mere mention of a cinema would frighten some people away, this venture proved its worth in the years that followed. The stonelaying ceremony gave an opportunity for remembering many of the former residents and workers in Oxton, especially those connected with the chapel.
The sum of money donated was £780, but with the accrued interest and added subscriptions, it totalled up to £1,300. The cost of the Memorial Hall was £2,300. The scheme included full kitchen accommodation, and a minister’s vestry, erected in memory of Mrs. and Miss Bonser. Foundation stones were laid by Tom Shipside in memory of his father, Thomas Shipside; by Mrs. Appleton, remembering the work ofMrs. and Miss Bonser; by Mrs. Whitelock on behalf of the Sewing Meeting; by Mr. Levi Hopkin in memory of James Hopkin; by Miss Kathleen Hopkin, Mr. B. Shipside, Mrs. A. Green, Mrs. Barmby, the Rev. W. Carvosso Carlyon, Mrs. T. Richardson, Mrs. Crane,Mr. F. Richardson, Master Thomas Flower, Mr. John Hopkin, and on behalf of Mr. Frederick Reeve. A service, conducted by the Rev. J. Davison Brown, followed in the chapel, prayers were offered by the Rev. W. Paulson, and the lesson was read by the vicar of Oxton, the Rev. W. J. Hunt. The soloist was Mrs. H. B. Goodhead, and the financial statement was read by Mr. Tom Shipside. After tea in the Institute, formerteachers and scholars gave their testimonies to the instruction they had received in the old Sunday school.
The opening of the hall was on Thursday 30th March, 1933, when the Rev. J. Davison Brown preached, and Mrs. E. Bond was the soloist. The new vestry was dedicated by Mrs.T. Shipside, and the hall was opened by Mr. J. J. S. Richardson, under the chairmanship of Mr. George Kenning of Sheffield. The speaker at the public meeting which followed wasthe Rev. Walter J. Morgan of Nottingham, who was supported by the Lord Mayor and Lady Mayoress of Nottingham. The collection for the day was devoted to the New Hall Building Fund, and during the week that followed a concert was given, followed by anamusing and instructive cinema programme, presented by Mr. Levi Hopkin. It was intended that the hall should be made available to groups and meetings of all denominations, and Nottingham organizations were invited to hold their summer meetings there. Mrs. F. M. Hopkin is the secretary to whose indefatigible labours much is owed.
Memorial Service. On 26th July, 1953, a memorial service was held for twenty-seven men of Oxton who paid the great price in two world wars. A roll of honour was dedicated, when the local British Legion branch paraded under the command of Colonel A. E. Phayre-Mudge. Representatives of another branch of the British Legion were also present. The roll was designed and executed by Mr. G. Fenton, and unveiled by Mrs.McLean, whose son lost his life in the second world war. The solo was rendered by Mrs. Palmer, and the sermon was preached by the Rev. J. Henry Martin. The Book of Remembrance (inscribed by Mr. A. Francis) shows the names of all who served in two great struggles for freedom.
Scroll of Thanksgiving. At the evening service, conducted the same day by the Rev. J. Henry Martin, a scroll of thanksgiving was unveiled by Mr. Tom Ship-side cf the Manor House. It marked the gratitude of his wife and himself for the work of the ministers of theSouthwell circuit, and also for the labour of the officers and Sunday school teachers of Oxton chapel. The scroll was accompanied by the gift of two memorial windows in stained glass, which will beautify this House of God.
The Primitive Methodist Chapel. It was early in the nineteenth century when both the city and shire of Nottingham were ablaze with Primitive Methodist fire. The county was divided into two circuits, one called Nottingham, Canaan Street, and the other Hockley, which included Oxton. Those were the days when a united prayer meeting was held on the Lowther Hills, near Oxton, from nine in the morning until three in the afternoon.
The services in the village began in a cattle shed in a field near the Bridge Inn—a field owned by Mr. Burgess Thurman of Church Farm, who later gave the land on which the chapel was built. The first minister was one named Cole, who lived in a cottage belonging to Mr. Edward Palethorpe. The preacher was a veritable firebrand, who held open-air meetings everywhere he could, and camp meetings on every occasion. One of the earliest members, Mr. James H. Reavill, now an old man, tells of those who came to the services. There were Messrs. H. Bird, J. Bird, C. Lawrence, J. Shelton, T. Saunders, W. Berridge, J. Pettner, J. Bass, E. Martin, J. Pool, Osborn Moore, G. Moore and G. Gibson.
For the record of the old Primitive Methodist Church we turn to the story of Mr. James H. Reavill. His father and mother, born at Oxton and married there in the Parish Church in 1853, died at the ages of thirty-six and ninety-one years respectively, and after the untimely death of the father, the mother had to bring up the family of six children. She refused parish aid, and at one time had only twopence-halfpenny left. She would sometimes go for forty-eight hours without food so that her children might have something to eat, and she went Charing at farm houses for one shilling per day. The children went into farm service, and the boy James was given a little private education at Miss Bird’s school. After a period at Fallows Farm he got married and brought up a large family. Then, suddenly, he was converted, and found a task in the Sunday school, subsequently being called on to preach in the open air. He became an exhorter until, in 1894, he came `on trial’, and in 1896 he was received on full plan. He then came into the Southwell circuit and at the age of over ninety years continued to preach. Mr. James H. Reavill, and his sister Mrs. Carter of Oxton, who was hale at ninety-two, say their mother told them about the Oxton main street going down by the Garden House and the churchyard wall, and also that the village stocks were at the entrance to the Manor House, near the 1870 Church of England schoolyard, and opposite the church. In those days the Manor Farm buildings were all along the side of the road opposite the church, and when they were pulled down, about 1885, Mrs. Carter’s mother, Mrs. Reavill, helped todress the old bricks so that they could be used again. Along with these buildings belonging to the Manor, was a barn which was used by the pioneers of the Primitive Methodist cause at Oxton before their chapel was built.
Another outstanding Primitive Methodist of the past was Henry Bird, who died in 1891 at the age of sixty-nine years. He lived in Water Lane, in a very small house called Salt Box Hall. He first followed the trade of a stocking-maker, and later worked at breaking stones for road repairing, using a heavy two-faced hammer to break the large boulders gathered from the fields. He had a sort of box on wheels, with a small anvil fixed inside, and for his pay he received from the Southwell Rural District Council half a crown for a full day’s work. He used to bring his two-faced hammer to have a piece of metal welded on each face, at a cost of eightpence from the Council. Over his eyes he wore a piece of perforated metal to keep any flying stones from injuring him, but it was only partially protective, and he would bathe his face in the blacksmith’s slake trough, lest the congregations on the Sunday should think that he had been fighting! He was always poor, but he wore a top-hat on Sunday when preaching. The day of his funeral brought an amazing revelation ofhis popularity.
Eventually the Primitive Methodist Chapel was closed, and the cause amalgamated with that of the Wesleyan Methodists.
Singing in former days. Singing has always been a great feature in the services of the Methodists. They sung hymns by the Wesleys, Isaac Watts, Henry Lyte, Frances Ridley Havergal and others, whose verses have stood the test of time. About the middle of the last century, Moody and Sankey, two American evangelists, came to this country, and their services were a great attraction to our parents and members of the church. Carriers’ vans, loaded with people, went to hear them when they came to Nottingham, and theyreturned singing the songs which Sankey had rendered at the meetings. One can remember how folk talked for months about the way Sankey sang until the congregation was in tears. The effect of his singing of `Knocking, knocking, who is there?’ and manyanother hymn, provided opportunity for contact and conversation in the village, and was found in Sunday services, for the second hymn at evening worship was always taken from their collection. The results were to be found also in the workaday world. Two of the converts of that movement could be found in the village singing as they worked. They were William Steemson and Samuel Argyle, and they continued in the work of the Church, Steemson becoming a Local Preacher and leader of the Primitive Methodist chapel. Later he migrated to Canada, but his sister, Sarah Steemson, attended the Oxton Methodist Church for many years.
The Village Choir Contest. The Choir Contest of the circuit of Southwell was held at Oxton, and the test selection was the anthem, `What are these that are arrayed in white robes?’ The Oxton Choir was very enthusiastic, and practised every night for weeks. Theyeven went to the length of having a tutor from Blidworth (Mr. Hinchcliffe), at a cost of five shillings per lesson. In the choir were Messrs. C. Reeve, H. Wells, W. Flower, Minns, G. Cottingham, A. Reeve, G. Hindson and G. Martin, and the ladies, Miss K. Thornhill, Mrs. Gilman and Miss F. Wells, who, together with others, were accompanied on the organ by the writer. The anthem was not an easy one, for it lent itself to considerable modulation in tone, and consequent loss of time when the choir sang softly. This, we knew, would lose us marks in the competition. The judges were Messrs. Lowater and Morris, and they awarded the first place to Lowdham, the second to Calverton, the third to Southwell. Oxton was a close runner-up, and was high commended. Those who tookpart in the competition much enjoyed it. In addition to the anthem another hymn was chosen, a different one for each choir, and the marks obtained for this effort were added to those given for the anthem.
The old records show that ten shillings a year was given to the village choir from the trust funds. When William Baguley was the harmonium player he insisted on an introit every Sunday. It consisted of the hymn, `Come, Holy Ghost, our hearts inspire’, and nominister or preacher was allowed to interfere with the arrangement. The singing of this chant was continued Sunday by Sunday until the death, at sixty-three years of age, of the old harmonium player. He had a chant book about ten inches long and four and a half inches wide, and it included the old tunes Sovereignty, Diadem, Sagina, Madrid, Majesty, Sarah and Tranquillity, all of which were sung with zeal and harmony. In those times and up to early in this century, the choir would go after an evening service to sing hymns to anyone ill in bed, and at the funeral of members a hymn would be sung, generally `Thereis a land of pure delight’.
 More About the Early Methodist People, Leslie F. Church.
 Mr. James H. Reavill died in January, 1956
Preface and Introduction
Chapter 1 – Nottinghamshire in the Olden days
Chapter 2 – Oxton in Olden Days
Chapter 3 -Oxton in the Nineteenth Century
Chapter 4 – The Chapels at Oxton
Chapter 5 – The People of the Village
Chapter 6 – The Charities Parish Church Hall and Village of Oxton
Chapter 7 – The Towns and Villages Roundabout