THE HISTORY OF THE STAMFORD AND RUTLAND CIRCUIT
The Stamford and Rutland Circuit
was formed in September 1997, bringing together the whole of Rutland, and most
of the former Stamford Circuit. Also included were the villages of Knossington
and Somerby in Leicestershire and Barnack in Cambridgeshire.
Most of the eastern part of
Rutland (with part of Leicestershire) was in the Oakham Circuit from 1825-1907,
then in the Melton Mowbray Circuit until 1997. The Stamford Circuit included at
various times, parts of Huntingdonshire, the Soke of Peterborough, and
Northamptonshire as well as Lincolnshire.
Prior to 1932 Methodism had split
into many branches, the largest of these being Primitive Methodist, and
Wesleyan Methodist. In 1932 all branches amalgamated to form the Methodist
Church of Great Britain.
John Wesley, the founder of
Methodism was born in Epworth, Lincolnshire in 1703. He and his brother Charles
were ordained Ministers of the Church of England. Following a deep spiritual
experience in 1738 John took to an itinerant ministry when his preaching was
deemed too radical for most parishes. He preached wherever a group of people
could be gathered together – in cottages, barns, or the open air. During his
lifetime he travelled thousands of miles throughout most of Great Britain and
Ireland. More on the life and works of John Wesley and the history of Methodism
can be found at
Following Wesley’s preaching, and
later that of his band of preachers, ‘societies’ were formed in villages and
towns and then chapels were built.
We know that John Wesley preached
in Leicester and Northampton and travelled regularly through Linclonshire to
his birthplace in Epworth. He is said to have been stuck in a snowstorm at
Casterton in 1760 and been forced to spend the night in a small inn with a
creaking sign which disturbed his sleep! Although there is no evidence that
Wesley preached in our circuit, many early societies were formed, some probably
dating back to the time when Wesley’s preaching was still in living memory.
After Wesley’s death in 1791, the
Methodists formally separated from the Church of England and ordained its own
ministers. Ministers were then, as now ‘stationed’ in a circuit, keeping up the
travelling tradition begun by their founder.
In our area, Rutland was
originally part of the Leicester ‘round’ which was then divided into circuits.
For most of the nineteenth there were two or three Ministers who travelled vast
distances in the country areas, staying away from home for at least a week at a
time and often taking several services a day in different villages. Members
provided hospitality for their minister.
There are said to have been
Methodists in Somerby from the 18th century, making it the oldest
surviving place of worship in the Rutland/Leicestershire part of the circuit.
In 1797 when a chapel was built at Melton Mowbray, William Newton and George
Roberts of Somerby were Trustees. George Roberts’ farmhouse is noted as being the
authorised place of worship. Somerby appears on a circuit plan of the Leicester
circuit in 1816 when a service was held fortnightly at 2 pm. By 1822 it had
become part of the Melton Mowbray circuit.
In the old Stamford circuit the
first Barn Hill church was built in 1803 and some of the many village churches
may have been earlier.
With the changes in society and
modern transport there are now just eight churches in the circuit, but in times
past there were Methodist places of worship in numerous villages. In the Oakham
Circuit in 1850 for example there were chapels or societies in Whissendine,
Wymondham, Halstead/Tilton, Owston,
Knossington, Wing, Manton, Langham, Braunston, Tugby, Norton, Cottesmore,
Hambleton, Preston, as well as Oakham, Uppingham and Somerby.
In the Stamford Circuit there
were places of worship in Wansford, Wittering, North Luffenham, Castle Bytham,
Little Bytham, Pickworth, Casterton, Wansford,
Collyweston, Duddington, and Wittering as well
as Barn Hill (Stamford), Empingham, Ketton, Barnack and Ryhall.
Some of these chapels were short lived, but many remained
into living memory. There is a rich heritage of Methodist witness in our
circuit and more detail of the history of open churches can be found by
clicking onto each church from the Home Page.
Further information on both open
and closed churches, and the history of the circuit can be found at the Record
Office for Leicestershire, Leicester and Rutland
www.leics.gov.uk and Lincoln Archives