|Introductory Note: This document contains the text of a pamphlet about the Methodist Chapel in Layer de la Haye, which was demolished in 1970. The original pamphlet has been out of print for many years. As there is little or no prospect of it being re-printed it is being made available on the internet, free of charge, for the purposes of private study and research only.
[ bretonheath.me.uk June 2002 ]
Mrs H. J. Hayhoe
With Introduction by the
Rev. H. Jesse Lawrence
Published privately in 1952.
AMONG the glories of England, and the secrets of the character of English people, are the village Chapels. They are often very simple buildings, built by people who hadn't much money, but who sacrificed to provide a place wherein they might worship God according to their conscience. The Chapel which is the home of the Methodist Church in Layer-de-la-Haye is such a sanctuary. It consists of four walls, a roof and a tiny porch, and one side is literally on the edge of a quiet Essex lane. Round it is God's peaceful countryside, and within is the beauty of holiness created by the prayers of the long succession of worshippers. Pegs designed for hats of long ago are a visible reminder of the pioneers of the past, and the children who sit below them are the promise for future years.
These village communities are grouped in Circuits in the care of Circuit Ministers, whose work could not be properly done without the help of lay workers in each place. Mrs. Hayhoe, the writer of these reminiscences, with her husband, Mr. H. J. Hayhoe has given a lifetime of devoted service to the Society (as the local group of Methodist Members is called) at Layer-de-la-Haye, and both still take a full share with their fellow workers, to all of whom we owe so much, in the activities there. May they continue so to do for many a year to come, and may God abundantly bless the Society and all who are in fellowship with it, old and young alike.
H. JESSE LAWRENCE,
I have been asked to give the history or part of it. The Primitive Methodist Chapel was built in the year 1864, eight years before I was born. I have heard my dear mother talk about it when I was very young. I thank God for a good memory as I am now seventy-nine years of age.
Before the Chapel was built, a dear woman, Mrs. Willsmore, who lived on the opposite side just on the corner - it's been altered since - used to open her cottage every Sunday for worship and several used to gather there. Then it was spoken about having a Chapel but there was no capital so they borrowed the money and bought the ground and had the Chapel built.
Some of the friends were interested in laying a brick and putting a few coppers or a small piece of silver on it towards the funds, and so the work went on, and the Chapel was finished and numbers increased. A Sunday School was started, when a Mr. Edwards used to walk from Colchester every Sunday to superintend the school. My mother said how the children used to go along the road and meet him.
The first Superintendent I remember was Mr. Charles Pannel of the village, and one hymn he was very fond of and often had it sung, has always been stored in my memory.
This is the hymn :-
When the dewy light drives away the night
With the sun so bright and full
And it draws its line near the hour of nine
I'll away to the Sabbath School.
For 'tis there we all agree, all with happy hearts and free
And I love to early be, at the Sabbath School.
I'll away, I'll away, I'll away to the Sabbath School.
On the frosty dawn of a winter's morn
When the earth is wrapt in snow
Or the Summer breeze plays around the trees
To the Sabbath School I'll go.
When the holy day has come, and the Sabbath breakers roam
I delight to leave my home, for the Sabbath School.
In the class I meet with the friends I greet
At the time of morning prayer,
And our hearts we raise in a hymn of praise
For 'tis always pleasant there.
In the book of holy truth, full of council and reproof,
We behold the guide of youth, at the Sabbath School.
May the dews of grace fill the hallow'd place
And the sunshine never fail,
While each blooming rose which in mem'ry grows
Shall a sweet perfume exhale.
When we mingle here no more, but have met on Jordan's shore,
We will talk of moments o'er, at the Sabbath School.
Other superintendents were Mr. Arthur Clark, Mr. Arrell, Mr. Wm. Willsmore, Mr. Wm. Waller, and the present one, Mr. L. Curtis, and about twenty-six scholars. There used to be over forty when I was young.
The first minister I remember was the Rev. Francis C. France, then I expect plans were made.
There are spaces between which I cannot remember, but as time went on the debt on the Chapel was £220, and still a big interest being paid off each year which kept the funds low.
The Rev. Robert Holman, at that time (1904) spoke about the debt and said why not have a bazaar and get it down; he would get all the circuit, which was about twenty places, to help us. It was wonderful the parcels we received, so the result was that we raised about £80 and from that time we had sales of work, so in a few years the debt was entirely cleared off.
Sunday School Anniversary Services were held every year on Whit Sunday and Monday. Three services on Sunday, and how we all looked forward to the Monday, as for several years we had a hot dinner. Hot joint and vegetables - Yorkshire pudding - and plum pudding. The friends had been busy during the morning preparing the dinner.
After dinner our preacher, who came to conduct, gathered us all together and we marched round the village, having our stopping places and singing our anniversary hymns. At that time we had hymn sheets with six hymns printed especially for the occasion. A box was used as we went around, which helped a lot to our income and the Anniversary.
While a public tea was held in the Chapel we had games on the Malting Green near by. Scrambles for nuts and pennies and there were two or three stalls on the green with all kinds of sweets and ginger pop, etc., where we spent our pennies and had change back - perhaps we would have a farthing's worth at a time to make our money hold out.
Then our evening service for a short time, when the best items were picked out from the recitations and dialogues which we had had on Sunday and were recited and that finished our Anniversary, except that we went on the Green again and had games. The adults as well all join in the kiss-in-the-ring, etc., and how we enjoyed it, no thought whatever about going to the sea-side - that took place later on and is still carried out.
For those special occasions the Chapel was full of people even into the pulpit with the preacher and some standing at the open windows to hear the items and the singing.
The first conductor I remember was a Mr. Moss and then Messrs. Whybrow, Tucker, Beaumont, Potter and Chatteu, and afterwards others coming for each year.
I well remember during those years how there were revival meetings and the tears that were shed with the adults crying to the Lord to save their souls and one dear man came out and he said to his young sister:- "Come on, Nellie and help me sing, I'm on my way to glory where pleasures never die." It made us young ones feel we wanted Jesus, and I praise Him for the happy day when He washed my sins away.
Later, a Mr. and Mrs. Bartholomew moved here to Layer-de-la-Haye from Colne and joined with us and that friend said we must have a porch. He gave a donation towards it and the porch was made which improved the Chapel very much.
I well remember the many "camp" meetings held on the green. These were open-air meetings held generally and visited by many local preachers and often attended by chance passers-by as well as by the local people.
My first remembrance or music was two or three clarinets and flutes and a violin and one or two good singers in the singing pew.
After that we had a brass band for some time and good congregation, too. Then we had a small portable harmonium and one or two young friends played.
I myself had only nine months' lessons and when there seemed no one to play I remember the preacher gave out a hymn (C.M. tune was Even) I just felt I could manage that so I began, and from that time I have played off-and-on for over forty years - very quiet in music, but I love it. The Rev. J. A. Asquith Baker at that time said we ought to have an organ for the Chapel. He called a meeting at Culver Street Church about their organ in the school hall as it wasn't used. The teachers preferred a piano and we were very pleased to have the offer of it for a few pounds. It is a lovely organ.
We have enjoyed all our ministers in the past. The present ones are: The Rev. H. Jesse Lawrence, T.D., The Rev. Kenneth A. Bear, B.A., The Rev. Harry Sutton and our Minister: The Rev. Robert P. Lovegrove.
I have been in the Sunday School all my life, and feel as the hymn says :-
This, this is the God we adore,
Our faithful, unchangeable Friend;
Whose love is as great as His power,
And neither knows measure nor end.
'Tis Jesus, the first and the last,
Whose Spirit shall guide us safe home;
We'll praise Him for all that is past,
And trust Him for all that's to come.
Mention must be made of Mr. and Mrs. Martin, who were faithful caretakers over many years.
One death occurred in the Chapel when I was very young. Mr. Vinson fell and passed away as the last hymn was sung one Sunday morning.
The first music leaders were Messrs. Arthur Clark, Obadiah Bewers, John Curtis on the Clarionets. Mr. Agur Bewers, the Violin, and some young lads on the Flutes (and later Mr. H. Cansdale and Mr. Smith, Violins) and Mr. Fred Rogers, Vocalist. Most of the Bandsmen were local, who came later on: Mr. H. Pannell, Leader, Messrs. William Waller, John Waller, Arthur Sharpe and several young Willsmores on Euphoniums and Cornets.
Mr. William Willsmore and Mr. Robert Kettle were Society Stewards for many years. The present ones are Mr. H. J. Hayhoe and Mr. L. W. Curtis.
I ought to have mentioned that the Rev. J.A. Asquith Baker was the one who suggested having electric light in the Chapel and what an improvement it was after the old oil lamps all the years before.
I have remembered in the above the several names which have come to my mind. I have, no doubt, omitted others, and I ask to be forgiven for this.
We thank God for the very many faithful local preachers who have given their services for the Master each Sunday through all the past years.
Finally, I wish to express thanks to the printers for producing this pamphlet free of charge.
1. The pamphlet was printed by The Manor Press Ltd, Colchester, and was priced at One Shilling.
2. The Chapel was demolished in 1970.
This transcription was originally published on Geoffrey Russell Grant's www.bretonheath.me.uk June 2002.
In May 2022 it was moved to www.merseamuseum.org.uk.
The Story of Layer de la Haye by Mary Hopkirk M.A.
The Parish Church of St John the Baptist Layer de la Haye by Canon James Allen