This is the first in a series of three posts concerning the Shut End Primitive Methodist Chapel in Pensnett, and in particular the period from 1845 to 1887. In this first post I will consider the physical nature of the Chapel itself and the activities that went on there. In the second and third posts I will discuss the very informative Baptismal Register for that period. It will be seen that this gives a wealth of information on the members of the chapel, their families and occupations. Nearly all of them were at the bottom of the social scale as labourers and miners, and the register allows their lives a little more visibility than would normally be the case.
The Shut End Primitive Methodist Chapel is described in Kingswinford Manor and Parish (KMAP) as follows.
The other (Primitive Methodist) was the Shut End Methodist chapel, the history of which begins in 1832. The Chapel was situated on Tansey Green Road, and consisted of a Chapel Building and a Schoolroom. Directly behind it was the Shut End Pit, and there were later to be subsidence problems due to this. The first services were held in December 1832, and by 1836 meetings of some sort were also being held in Commonside and at Shropshire Row in The Oak……..The 1851 Religious Census records morning / afternoon and evening congregations of 110, 134 and 120 respectively, with 120 sittings provided, and in 1887 there were over 250 children in the Sunday School and 20 teachers. The Church also operated its own Friendly Society – the Shut End Primitive Methodist Economic (Sunday School rooms) with 54 members in 1878, and assets of £200. …….In 1861, the minutes of the Trustees of the Primitive Methodist Church on Tansey Green reveal an offer for the purchase of the building from the proponents of the Dudley and Bridgnorth Railway, part of the Welsh and Midland Counties Junction Railway – a line that was never given parliamentary approval and about which little detail is available……Over the years the building continued to deteriorate and there were repeated moves to persuade the local Primitive Methodist circuit to purchase land for a new chapel. Matters came to a head in the early 1890s when the congregation purchased land for a new chapel on Commonside themselves and were expelled from the circuit. It seems that payment of the quarterly circuit fees were also an issue at the time (Wesley History Society, 1961). In 1893 the original building, which by that time was badly in need of repair, was finally sold and the new Independent Methodist chapel built (on Commonside). The baptismal registers are available for this chapel, unlike the other non-conformist chapels in the area (Dodd, 1983).
The Chapel Building
The Shut End Primitive Methodist Chapel and its associated Schoolroom was situated in the triangle of Tansey Green Road, Dreadnaught Road and Pensnett High Street as shown on the Google Earth view of figure 1. Basically the site was a long rectangle at the rear of the back gardens of the current numbers 25 to 29 Tansey Green Road, with the western side of the rectangle being the boundary between these houses and numbers 17 to 19 Tarry Hollow Road. The latter name is presumably the name that was given to the open cast workings of Shut End mine, although it is not one with which I am familiar. The northernmost part of the site is beneath the property at 6a Renown Close. The whole triangle of land between the roads was indicated as owned by Ben Gibbons on the 1822 Fowler Map of Kingswinford, and consisted of crofts and houses. By the time of the 1840 Fowler map, the Chapel building itself existed, to the north end of the plot. The land in the triangle was then owned by the Trustees of the Earl of Dudley, and was described as old colliery lands or crofts. The Chapel itself is described as being owned by the “Trustees of William Porter and others”, whilst the southern half of the plot was owned by Joseph Downing, but occupied by Ephraim Guest, William Greenway and William Morris. These surnames occur frequently in the Baptismal Register.
The 1859 redrawing of the Pensnett portion of the 1840 map shows no change to the chapel but there were by then mines to the north of the plot and open cast workings to the west. By the 1883 OS map (figure 2) the Schoolroom was present, and the open cast mine to the west was very clear. Both the Chapel and the Schoolroom were rectangular in form, roughly 14m by 8m in plan. After the congregation moved to the new building on Commonside (the Independent Methodist Chapel, it would seem that the buildings were in use as a sewing factory. The 1910 map indicates that they had become a “Picture House” and the Chapel and Schoolroom had been joined together into one long structure.
No details of the interior of the building survive, but these can perhaps be conjectured by what was built to replace them on Commonside. This had a balcony at the front of the chapel for the choir and organ, with the raised preaching desk and the table for the Lord’s Supper placed centrally at the front of the Chapel beneath the balcony. Pews occupied the rest of the chapel building. Although the original chapel was unlikely to have had a balcony, it would almost certainly have had a preaching desk / pulpit of some sort of simple communion table at the north end (probably beneath where 6a Renown Close now is.
As noted in the Introduction above in the 1850s there were three services on a Sunday – morning, afternoon and evening. In the latter years of its life various directories in the 1880s indicate that there were only two services on a Sunday – at 10.45am and 6.00pm, but there was also a mid week service on Wednesday at 7.30pm, which probably existed throughout the life of the chapel. Similar midweek services were common practice for all the churches in the area at that time. The dates in the baptism register indicate that baptisms could occur on Sundays and also on other days.
In the second post of this series, I will begin my consideration of the Baptismal Register from 1845 to 1887, and in particular look to see what this document says about the overall nature of the congregation – where thy lived, the jobs they did, and the names they chose for themselves.