Personal memories of the Methodist Chapel
Updated: Feb 18, 2021
Our February post about the old Methodist Chapel in Cheapside Lane attracted a lot of attention. One reader, Christine Newell, has come up with a booklet that was published to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the Chapel. It tells more of John House and the small Methodist community founded in Denham in 1820. Christine also has a few recollections of her own and some remarkable photos.
Stanley J Withers, born in 1926, first served the Chapel in Denham in 1967. As the minister in charge of the Wesleyan Chapel on Cheapside Lane it would fall to Withers to celebrate the Chapel’s 150th anniversary in 1970. To aid the celebrations, he published a simply titled booklet “Denham Methodist Church 1820 -1970”.
Stanley Withers described how a cottage on Cheapside first became a “cottage chapel” at the time when “the authorities would not allow the Methodists to buy land and put up a preaching house…” It was during that time that several early Methodists purchased or rented cottages, intending to convert the buildings to spiritual use later.
Readers of our story on the Chapel earlier this month will recall John House and his family wheelwright business on the corner of Cheapside Lane and Ashmead Lane. The Reverend Withers told of how the House family were “responsible for the conversion of the cottage into a chapel”. Clearly he had access to the old legal documents relating to the property which included mention of the House family name. He records that until 1838 the property was held by the “Wesleyan Methodist Connexion”, the title by which the denomination was known until in 1891 it formally adopted the style of a “church”. The Connexion held a lease, “which lease had cost 5/- (5 shillings).”
After the death of John House in 1837, the Trustees of the Wesleyan Methodist Connexion acquired the freehold of the chapel building property for just £50. The ownership of the contiguous cottages and of the acre or thereabouts of land around the cottages remained privately owned. The cottages were not demolished until 1940.
The Reverend Withers wrote nostalgically: “It is doubtful if a Sunday has ever passed without a service being held, even if sometimes the congregation was reduced to an absolute minimum!” He tells how the Church had permanent seating for thirty worshippers, although it had been found possible to crowd in sixty on special occasions and he included the 150th Anniversary as such an occasion.
Minister Withers described how through the years, the property had been carefully cared for, including renovations in 1957, 1966 and 1967, with special appreciation being given to the Communion Tray and Font dedicated to the memory of a Mr. Ben Lacy who had died in 1949. “In 1905 it was Ben Lacy who started the first Sunday School in the Chapel, into which he managed to shepherd almost every child in the village”, wrote Withers.
In the final paragraph of his eight-page anniversary booklet, Stanley looked devoutly to the future: “This year  the Church at Denham looks back with thanksgiving over its long history, and its people can gratefully sing: ‘For all the saints, who from their labours rest, Thy name, O Jesus be forever blessed’. This they do, but they do it with a sense of responsibility, in which they look to the future, determined to equip themselves for service in their own age.”
Regretfully Stanley Withers' optimism was not rewarded. The last full year of services at the Church was 2008 and the building was closed in 2009. For a listed building with no possibility of additional land, it was not easy to find a buyer. It was sold in 2009 but it has remained unused since.
But Christine Newell still has fond memories of her associations with the Denham Methodist Church. Indeed she has photos as well the precious booklet describing the
history of the Church as it celebrated its 150th Anniversary in 1970.
Christine writes: “As far as I know S J Withers did prepare the booklet with the help of
members of the congregation and the Hillingdon circuit of which the Chapel
was part. I did know Reverend Withers and his wife; they were a very nice family.
I did not attend the 150th Anniversary service, as I had not met my husband Raymond then, but my future Mother-in-Law Gladys Newell played the Chapel organ, and participated in the anniversary celebration as well as the services.”
“I started attending the services at the end of 1972 beginning of 1973, when I was staying in Denham. There were normally 12+ in the congregation. The services were no different than being at a bigger Church, though they would have been a bit more personal, as you felt that the sermon was directed at you!”
Here then are some photos from Christine’s family album.
Gladys Newell, my Mother-in-Law who used to play the Chapel organ, (photo taken in1969). Gladys also made the kneelers for the altar in 1980.
Our three children Mark, Phillip and Karen, giving their gifts at the Harvest Festival to the Reverend Grice in 1982. By then, there were no longer Sunday school services for the children.
All our Harvest Festivals were about sharing fresh produce and flowers, which were then donated to the needy in Denham. (Photos from 1966 and 1986)
In 1986, as part of the Hillingdon Circuit of Churches, we held a Flower Festival, which was very well supported.
From about 1990 for the next six years, every Spring Bank Holiday Monday, when Village Fayre was on, we would open up the Chapel, to sell cakes, preserves, books, bric-a-brac and plants. I would make all the cakes and people would pop in to see inside, all were so amazed at how small the Chapel was. This would raise much needed money for the upkeep of the Chapel. However, as the older members passed away and very few people were attending, it wasn't viable to keep the Chapel open.
Denham Methodist Church 1820 -1970 - 150 year celebration by the Reverend Stanley J Withers
Photo of Cheapside Lane at the corner of Ashmead Lane from the photo collection of Neil Watson, author of “The Denham Massacre”