stamford & Rutland Methodist Circuit

 

History of Ketton

 

 

The first we hear of Methodism in Ketton is in 1834 - just three years before Victoria became queen - when Joseph Cragg, a miller from Empingham, bought “a house and a spot of ground built on certain waste land in Ketton”. Located behind the bakehouse in Bull Lane, it was a two room cottage which he then converted, mostly at his own expense, into a Wesleyan Methodist chapel.

 

Although it seems likely that there were already Methodists in Ketton to form a nucleus of a new congregation, this was a real act of faith. There could be no certainty that the new church would flourish or even survive, nor that Joseph would ever be repaid the purchase price of 28, in those days a significant sum sufficiant to pay the wages of an agricultural worker for around eighteen months.

 

The new chapel opened for worship on 13 September 1834. In the event it did take root, and three years later was in a position to repay Joseph. The original list of trustees gives us the first Ketton Methodists whose names we know, all of them substantial members of the village community. It also includes two from Empingham, indicating continued support from a large and well established church. For this Ketton should always be grateful.

 

Sadly we know nothing more of those early days, the people who made up the congregation, it’s life and worship. But we do know that the Church both flourished and outgrew it’s premises, since within a generation it was planning a new purpose-built chapel.

 

When on 16th July 1864 the Wesleyan General Chapel Committee gave permission for a new building it stipulated that the cost should not exceed 220, with any debt cleared within four years. Ketton does not seem to have felt too restricted by rules, since the contract price was 258!

 

The site chosen, at the bottom of Bull Lane and only a hundred metres or so from the old chapel, was not the easiest for building since it involved a high retaining wall on one side. It was however a peaceful spot, and central for the village as it was then. It is still a peaceful spot, with summer evening worship enhanced by the sounds of birdsong and the stream which along side.

 

The stone laying took place on 13 September 1864, the thirtieth anniversary of the opening of the original chapel, with the opening in the following January. Among the preachers at the opening celebrations were a former and a future president of Conference, while the stone laying was performed by a former vice-president. Ketton thought big in those days!

 

On completion, and with “extras”, including gas lighting (the latest thing in 1864) there was a debt of around 67, covered by an interest-free loan “until the chapel can repay.” The next we hear of this is thirteen years later when Charles Chapman reminded the trustees that this money was still owed to him. From then on he received a few pounds “surplus income” each year until the debt was finally cleared in 1886, twenty-one years after the opening.

 The connexional committee does not seem to have been too upset by Ketton’s overspend since it’s report for 1865 carried an illustration of the new building::-   

 

 

For the years that follow we have only tantalising glimpses of church life:  there were major celebrations of the centenaries of Methodism in the village and of the building;-the gas lighting,, so modern when installed, was replaced by oil lamps in 1916 when the village gasworks closed, never to reopen. These in turn were replaced by electricity;the Sunday School was re-opened in 1908, and there must have been many other changes in church life.

 

But for almost a century - through two world wars, the depression of the ‘30s, changing fashions, a never-ending succession of ministers, the worship and witness continued without a break.

Methodist union, new hymnbooks and successive generations - God's people continued faithful to their calling.

 

 The chapel was designed for preaching and worship, a simple rectangular space, and is excellent for its purpose, both for preacher and congregation. But having just the one room - no vestry, kitchen or toilet - could not always have been easy (Water for the essential Methodist tea came from the nearby stream!), In the 1950s the fellowship became increasingly conscious of the limitations this placed on its life and work, and so in 1955 the Sunday Schoolroom Building Fund was launched.

 

From then on the Fellowship worked to raise funds. There were socials, concerts, garden parties. People (not all of them members of the congregation) had collecting boxes, saved halfpennies, made weekly contributions, sold garden produce. They also gave their time and skills. Two members prepared the foundations and floor slab ready for the builders, whilst a team demolished the stables at the old Midland Hotel, reclaimed the stone and transported it to the site. The opening took place on 22 October 1960, and in addition to the Hall gave the Fellowship a vestry, kitchen and store plus a small toilet.

 

The Church and the Sunday School, the latter really flourishing in the ‘70s and ‘80s, were well served by the new building, but by 1990 there was a feeling that the facilities should be updated. The result was a major refurbishment scheme, completed in 1994 and including a new vestry and toilets, one with proper disabled facilities. Since then the Hall has continued to serve not only the Church but also the wider local community since the Fellowship has always seen it as part of its service to the village. The WI, which was the first external group to use the hall in 1960, still meets there, as does the mother and toddler club and a variety of other groups.

 

The interior of the chapel remained largely unaltered since it was built although, by the early years of the new millennium, there was a growing sense that perhaps the time had come to remodel it to better serve the present age. This became a pressing matter when, in 2011 during the installation of a new heating system, extensive dry rot and woodworm infestation were discovered under the floor. The decision has been made to renew the floor, which will necessitate removing the old pews and pulpit. The Fellowship is currently busily discussing what should replace them and how the refurbished building should look, and raising funds to finance the work.

 

Whilst we seek to ensure the buildings are fit for purpose we recognise that they are not an end in themselves; that the Church is the people. And the real history of Ketton Methodism is a story of vision, commitment and above all faithfulness, and of the many unknown people who have sought to serve the Lord in their generation. The congregation changes. Fifty years ago it was largely drawn from the farming community, today it is more diverse, whilst the Sunday School, so strong during the 1970s and ‘80s, no longer exists and most of the young people have moved away from Ketton. But new people have joined us, and the fellowship continues to be happy to welcome strangers. The Church is renewed, and after 175 years still continues its work and worship, seeking to serve its Lord and the local community.

 

 

The Church is the people, not the buildings”

Entertaining visitors from Harlesden Methodist Church.

 

 

AKM

30.09.2012

 

Website created by: Alison Ashby

Page Last Updated: 22 October 2014