Deopham  Green  Chapel             

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The following is an extract from a booklet produced to commemorate the 150th Anniversary of the Deopham Green Chapel  (1837 - 1987) :-

 

THE CHAPEL

 

In White's Directory of 1845 it is recorded that there were 2 small chapels in Deopham. One was at Deopham Common and the other at the Green. The land for the latter was purchased in 1836, this suggests a well-established cause and through the nineteenth century Deopham was linked with Rocklands where a traveling preacher (or minister) was based and which was the head of the circuit.

 

The land for the present Chapel was purchased from a Mr. John Curson by a group of 8 men who formed the original Trust. Two of them were unable to write their names and their crosses are witnessed on the Conveyance which states that "the sum of £2.10s. be paid in British money". The piece of land was very small and measured 40 feet by 30 feet and it was to be used for a chapel and school (this would be a Sunday school), and dated April 20th 1836. By 1837 a very simple building had been erected using clay lump which was the common material of the surrounding houses.

 

Little is known of the early building. A very old account book shows that in 1882 a Mr. Clements was paid £40 and the following year received £15. This was a great deal of money in those days (a farm worker earned about 12 shillings a week) and it can be assumed that it was the cost of some form of building or renovation. The form of lighting was oil lamps. It is probable that the chapel was never heated because there were no bills for coal or coke until 1885 when Mr. Lord provided and fixed a stove for the sum of £2.16s. There is a space today in the centre of the pews where there is evidence of one pew having been taken out to make room for the stove. (Mr. Lord was the great grandfather of our present Steward, his son changed his name to Lloyd.) In 1897 the Chapel was closed while further work was done, Mr. Lord's bill was £34.10s.  Mr. T. Clarke lent the money and it was several years before it could be repaid. His father, Mr. Henry Clarke, was one of the signatories on the Conveyance of 1836 and at the side of the Chapel there is a gravestone which records his death in 1856 together with his wife who died in 1903.

 

In 1924 a piece of land surrounding the chapel, measuring 80 feet square, was purchased from a Mr. Thomas Ringer for the sum of £5, the legal fees and conveyance cost  £5.16s.2d. while the fencing required around the land cost  £7.1s.6 1/2d!  During the next three years an extension was added to the south end of the chapel and consisted of a scullery, a coal house, an earth closet, a fire-place and chimney, a copper and a sink with drainage and the work was carried out by Mr. J. Lloyd, who was the father of a recent steward, Mrs. N. Long. To meet the cost of £50 the Connexional Chapel Aid Association made a loan. A raised platform was built around the pulpit and a doorway was made to lead into this extension. The means of heating was changed in 1967 when an oil stove was installed and was used until 1981 when calor gas took its place. Five years later electric overhead heaters were put in and found to be most effective. No other major structural alterations have taken place. 

 

 

THE LIFE OF THE CHAPEL

 

In those early days people did not travel far from their homes. Transport was either by horse or, for most people, on foot. Bicycles were not generally used until well into the present century. Churches and chapels had large congregations and Deopham Green was no exception. There were two services on a Sunday, afternoon and evening, and a week-night service on a Wednesday. Services were conducted mostly by Local Preachers from surrounding villages, traveling on foot, by horse and later on bikes and now they come many miles by car. Much is owed to this faithful band of loyal, devoted Christians who have kept the worship alive at Deopham during the last 150 years.

 

One of the high-lights of the Christian year is Easter and many older members can remember the Service of Song, which took place on Good Friday. There was a choir and special four part songs were sung and punctuated a story with a religious theme. As choir numbers dwindled Deopham joined forces with Rocklands and the service was held instead on Easter Monday until the late 1950's when it was disbanded through lack of support. Special evangelistic services, known as camp meetings, were held on farmland nearby and were conducted from a wagon; later tents were erected. 

 

The Chapel Anniversary was held in October and gradually took on the form of a harvest festival service with a sale of produce being auctioned at the mid-week service. During the First World War the Chapel Anniversary and the Harvest Festival became two separate festivals. The Centenary celebrations in 1937 were held in May and since then, that month has been observed as the Chapel Anniversary. It was the collections from these services, which were the main source of income for the Trust Fund, which was used for the upkeep and general running costs of the building. A typical example of such income can be seen in the 1886 accounts when the collections for that Sunday were £2. 15s. 8d. Other income was from "Seat Money", this was a kind of rent paid for a particular seat which was jealously kept for the member. Seat rents gradually disappeared but as late as 1943 someone paid      1s. 4d. for one seat for a year!

 

As the pattern of village life has changed over the years, so has the life at the chapel and today there is only one service on a Sunday at 11 a.m. As the older members have died or moved away, the membership now stands at 6, although this number is boosted for  “special" services.

 

 

THE SUNDAY SCHOOL

 

It would seem that there was a Sunday School held on a Sunday morning in the chapel as soon as it was built. Available account books go back to 1868. The high­light of the year was the Anniversary, which took place in June or July. On that day there were three services. In the morning a sermon was preached and in the after­noon and evening the children, helped by a four-part chair, would sing special hymns, which they had practiced for months beforehand. These were inter­spersed with recitations; looking at the length of these ‘pieces' now one wonders however the children managed to learn them! It was a great social occasion and a tea was provided at the chapel between the services. The children looked to have some new clothes for this day. The collections provided the main source of income for the school. On the following Wednesday there was a service of special hymns and recitations, followed by what was called "going round". A wagon was provided by a local farmer, on which was put a harmonium and the children and as it was driven round the village the children sang their songs, taking a collection as they went. In 1869 the following income was recorded:

 

Sunday services                     £1.  1s. 3d.

Wednesday service                     16s. 0d.

"Going round"                               16s. 1d.

Payment for the tea               £2. 19s.  8d.

 

The expenditure for the year was for books and provisions for the tea. 

 

This form of Anniversary continued unchanged until the "going round" was discontinued in 1912 and the tea after the First World War. The special hymns were not used after 1960, mainly due to the lack of adult helpers and hymns from the Sunday School hymn book were used instead. During the next 20 years the poems were much shortened and the children enjoyed performing little plays based on Bible stories.

 

There was usually a Christmas tea which was financed by a special effort. The first recorded outing to Yarmouth was in 1885 and the cost for the whole school was £2. 10s. 4d. It is thought that the children were taken by wagon to a rail­way station, probably Wymondham. This was not a regular treat until 1920 when it was recorded “went to Yarmouth by motor - £15. 7s”.  This was a tremendous amount of money in those days and it took many special efforts to pay for this venture. After the next year the outing to Yarmouth became a regular village treat and the cost came down dramatically, usually costing the Sunday School about £15. As it involved nearly all the village children and their parents, the council school was closed, as the day for the outing was always midweek. After 1950 it was changed to a Saturday. Going to Yarmouth was a red letter day for the children. The only exception to this yearly ritual was from 1940 - 44; directly after V.E. day, in 1945, an outing was arranged to Lowestoft  (this was the only place the coaches were allowed to go from this area) and it was a joy to see the younger children's faces as they looked at the sea for the first time.

 

The Sunday School was always well supported and the record year was 1959 when over 40 children were on the register. Mr. W. Barham was the superintendent then. Mr. J. Woodcock was the organist for many years and when he left the area in the late 1970's no replacement could be found. Other difficulties arose and it was with great sorrow that the Sunday School closed in 1981. 

 

 

CONCLUSION 

 

What of the future? The present small numbers and the fact that the building is now 150 years old, taken together, are both a problem and a challenge. We still have a strong concern for the life of the village and its people. The closure of the school some years ago, the withdrawal of public transport and the threat to other services, make the Church's ministry more, not less, vital. In 1987 we cannot but think ecumenically and pray for closer co­operation with the Parish Church. We regard it as providential that the two places of worship in the village are at either end, about a mile apart.

 

We value our links with the circuit and a general sympathy with our work on the part of a much larger number than those who regularly worship with us. We pray that God will show us the ways "To serve the present age, Our calling to fulfil" and that our thanksgiving for the last 150 years of Methodist witness in Deopham may be the occasion not only for thanksgiving for the past but a dedication to the future.