|Ben Cudmore's account of Methodism in Peldon, probably written in the early 1960s before Peldon's chapel closed in 1970.
The Cudmore family first appears in the censuses for Peldon in 1851 and Ben and his family lived in Honeysuckle Cottage (known then as 'Olde Home'), Lower Road, after his mother died in 1944.
METHODISM IN PELDON
I was glad when they said unto me 'Let us go into the house of the Lord'
Methodism has been proclaimed in this village for the best part of a century and is the only branch of non-conformity to have consistently borne its witness up to the present time. That which is related here is penned from memory, the writer having no access to documents or records save that which has been told him by those loved long since and lost awhile.
The gospel as published abroad by the sect of Wesleyan Methodists in the village was first brought
here by mission bands who came in from Colchester on foot singing hymns as they tramped along. The
party consisted of a senior leader often a local preacher of the sect accompanied by younger singers
joined by interested or curious villagers who assembled on the common not sore let or hindered by 'Blue Domers'* going to West Mersea as they would be today.
* This is a description of the coaches ferrying day trippers back to metropolitan Essex, blue domers referring to a person who does not go to church, preferring to worship outdoors beneath the 'blue dome' of heaven.
As time passed many meeting places were used in the form of barns and houses. A farmhouse known as Ransoms in the Wigborough Road was used for a considerable time. A barn at the top of Malting Hill was also used but over the years this has been destroyed by fire. Other small cottages at various times were used but, having become derelict, have been replaced by bungalows built on the old site. These places of meeting were well distributed throughout the village.
In such humble beginnings was fostered a society who began to express a desire to have a place of assembly of their own and towards the end of the 19th century such was erected. A penny a brick was opened and the gift of a penny was to be reckoned when the agricultural worker laboured from six o'clock in the morning until half past five in the evening for one shilling and ten pence a day. The fund grew under much self-denial and help came from West Mersea and Colchester. Finally a quarter of an acre was acquired from what is known as 'Common Field' and the present Bethel erected by the firm of O S Locke of Colchester in 1893. This was incorporated into the Colchester Culver St Wesleyan Methodist Circuit and became one of the chapels on the plan thus guaranteeing the oversight of a minister and regular supplies of local preachers for Sunday services, afternoon and evening. A morning meeting was held among themselves each reading The Bible and speaking as they were led.
From that time until about two years ago on each Sunday two services were held one in the afternoon and one in the evening. Because of the difficulty to get preachers and the smallness of the congregation, seldom a dozen in number, and often only half that number, very often only an afternoon service is held. In common with other places the attendance has fallen off owing to the decline of interest in organised religion and the death of old members without any new ones to succeed them.
When the chapel first opened, and for several years following, there was a congregation of from thirty five to forty and more at the Harvest Festival and anniversary services of the Sunday School. Almost a dozen people from Wigborough came to the evening service. In the evening service during the winter months the congregation consisted of many who were members of the Church of England for there was little or no argument or friction between the sects. During the 1914-18 War a joint open air series of services were held on Bunns Corner, larger than it is today, and the address was given by the rector the Rev E G Bowring. For a considerable time the chapel organists Mr Dansie and Mr Cudmore played alternately at the church and thus helped them along at a difficult time. The Rev Bowring once preached at the chapel.
In former years the chapel was well served during the week with various meetings. For young people besides the Sunday services there was the Wesley Guild with emphasis on music, literature and the social and devotional sides of the church.
Band of Hope meetings were also held. A weekly prayer meeting was held on Saturday mainly to ask God's blessing on the coming Sunday services. Once a year, a Sunday School Anniversary was held and well-attended, the financial result of which was spent in book prizes and a treat to the seaside. The certificates gained at the Connexional Scripture Examination were distributed.
For the adults there was the class meeting with a preaching meeting once a month when a minister from Colchester came out and took the service. Once a month a minister came out on a Sunday and administered the sacrament. In the days when almost every household was a gardener, the Harvest Festival was a prominent service of the year. Ministers generally conducted the services on that Sunday and on the Monday evening following after the service the produce was auctioneered by one from Colchester who was interested in the work and the proceeds of the sale went for lighting, heating and other expenses. Formerly, on Good Friday a tea was held after which the participants went across to Little Wigborough Grove and picked primroses. Friends used to come from Colchester, West Mersea and other chapels. In the evening a Service of Song was rendered or a sacred concert given.
It has been said that 'Methodism was born in song' and Peldon Methodism was no exception for its exponents could 'make a joyful noise unto God of their salvation'. Some of the old boys used to talk about raising the roof. At one time the choir consisted of a dozen instrumentalists and singers with quite a good American organ. Other instruments were violins, flutes, clarinets and brass including a cornet. The singing at the chapel was often commented on by the preachers who came, for the way the congregation put their heart and soul into song. They sang with the voice and the understanding also. One of the old boys used to say 'I feel like singing all the time. My sins are washed away' and he meant it. You could tell by his face the happiness that was his. Tunes that went with gusto were 'Lyngham', 'Diadem' 'Sagina' and 'Cranbrook' and any of the Sankey Collection.
At times when a jumble sale was held on The Plough meadow or when the chapel funds were low as they often were, the Wivenhoe Brass Band gave a rendering of classical and sacred music. In more recent years, the Boxted Band has rendered a similar service but today the villagers care for none of these things.
In conclusion, one ought to make mention of such stalwarts to the cause as Mrs Smith who sixty years ago lived at 'The Stores' and formerly the life and the soul of the work done in the little Bethel. Other outstanding names were Dansie, Talbot and Ponder. Prominent helpers from Colchester were Messrs Nightingale, Wilson and Payne and from West Mersea, Ben Pullen, Fred Mole and Brand.
These Temples of His Grace
How beautiful they stand
The honour of our native place
And bulwarks of our land
Benjamin Cudmore 1899 - 1968
Honeysuckle Cottage, Peldon