Fordham
Nonconformity

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Victoria County History

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A F Wareham, A P M Wright

Year published

2002

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Pages

417-418

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'Fordham: Nonconformity', A History of the County of Cambridge and the Isle of Ely: Volume 10: Cheveley, Flendish, Staine and Staploe Hundreds (north-eastern Cambridgeshire) (2002), pp. 417-418. URL: http://www.british-history.ac.uk/report.aspx?compid=18924&strquery=fordham Date accessed: 25 July 2014.


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NONCONFORMITY.

By the 1690s Fordham had enough dissenters to raise £12 a year to obtain preaching on Sundays as well as weekdays. (fn. 77) Their families were probably among those which frequently in that decade, (fn. 78) and occasionally from the 1730s to the 1770s (fn. 79) provided members for the then Independent chapel nearby in Isleham. In Fordham itself houses were registered for worship in 1712 by a tailor from Bury St. Edmunds (Suff.), in 1731 by a local yeoman, also a barn on Carter Street in 1770. (fn. 80) The vicar reported in 1806 a few dissenters, then and in 1813 supposedly Baptists, but quiet and orderly, taught by Robert Fyson, a local farmer, who had registered a house for them in 1805, (fn. 81) and whose family was long prominent in Fordham dissent. (fn. 82) Another house on Carter Street was registered by a minister from Bury in 1815 and two different barns were registered in 1815-16. (fn. 83)

In 1818 a congregation, still small, by 1820 styled Independents, registered a meeting house, (fn. 84) presumably the Congregational chapel which still stands east of the north end of Mill Lane. Of grey brick, it has a plain three-bayed west front with round-headed windows above a gabled porch. Inside are original furnishings in pine with a gallery railed in cast iron. (fn. 85) Probably completed in 1820, it could seat c. 385 people, with standing room for over 80 more, in 1851. A smaller building at the rear then accommodated a vestry and school. The minister, who held three Sunday services, claimed in 1851 an average attendance rising in the afternoon and evening to 170-200, besides up to 120 Sundayschool children, (fn. 86) from a Sunday school started in 1844 by Philip Smith, promoter of Fordham British school. (fn. 87) From the 1880s the chapel supported local Temperance societies. (fn. 88) After the 1820s (fn. 89) it had, probably for a century, a regular series of resident ministers, also dwelling by 1860 on Mill Lane, who occupied as a manse a house of 1848. The Congregationalists' full membership gradually declined from 70 in 1905 (fn. 90) to 40-45 in the mid 20th century, when for a time the chapel was served from Soham, and below 40 by the 1960s when it was served with Burwell. (fn. 91) Still maintaining its Sunday school, along with a youth club, in the 1970s, when it adhered to the United Reformed Church, (fn. 92) and still with a minister in the 1980s, (fn. 93) the chapel remained in use in the 1990s. (fn. 94)

Methodism also flourished in Fordham by the mid 19th century. In 1849, to replace an old meeting house that was proving too small, the Wesleyans built, off Sharmans lane at the west end of the village, a chapel in Early English style, seating 266, but with only 76 places free, and standing room for 140 more. Besides the 88 children from its Sunday school, it had in 1851 attendances averaging 170, that might rise in the evening to 300. It then provided three Sunday services, (fn. 95) like the Primitive Methodist chapel built in 1850 on New Path. That chapel, seating 200, only 30 places being free, was attended in 1851 by up to 100 people. It occasionally held 'camp meetings' in summer. (fn. 96) Both Methodist chapels remained open into the 1930s. (fn. 97) The Wesleyan chapel, a plain greybrick building with three bays to the front, four at the sides, was still open in the 1990s. (fn. 98) The smaller Primitive one with only two bays at the side, likewise of brick and minimally Gothic, had probably closed by 1960 (fn. 99) and was converted into a house in 1989. (fn. 1)

Footnotes

77 Freedom after Ejection, ed. A. Gordon, 13.
78 Isleham Church Bk. ed. K.A.C. Parsons (C.A.R.S. vi), 8, 150, 163, 166-71, 202, 204.
79 Ibid. 155, 187-8, 214-18.
80 P.R.O., REG 31/2, Sudbury archdeac. nos. 78, 141, 217.
81 Ibid. no. 347; Norf. R.O., VIS/42/4; VIS/47/10.
82 Camb. Ind. Press, 26 July 1862, p. 5.
83 P.R.O., REG 31/2, Sudbury archdeac. nos. 442, 446, 465.
84 Ibid. no. 519; Norf. R.O., VIS/54/4; cf. inscr. on chapel.
85 D.o.E. list, no. 12/109.
86 P.R.O., HO 129/189, f. 40; the lane then called Victoria St.; cf. Camb. Chron. 11 July 1857, p. 8.
87 Camb. Ind. Press, 19, 26 July 1862, p. 8; cf. Town Crier, 3 Dec. 1994.
88 Camb. Ind. Press, 11 June 1881, p. 5; 12 Nov. 1881, p. 8; 31 Dec. 1881, p. 8; 8 Feb. 1901, p. 5.
89 Camb. Chron. 25 Oct. 1825, p. 3; 21 Aug. 1858, p. 4.
90 Date on ho. adj. chapel; P.R.O., RG 9/1035, f. 36; RG 11/1680, f. 32v.; Kelly's Dir. Cambs. (1864-1912); Congregational Year Bk. (1875), 144; (1895), 252; (1905), 206; (1915), 196.
91 Cong. Year Bk. (1945), 73; (1955), 117; (1964-5), 125.
92 Newmarket Jnl. 22 June 1971; 22 May 1975; 5 May 1978.
93 Ely Standard, 25 Sept. 1986; Newmarket Weekly News, 26 May 1988.
94 Newmarket Jnl. 15 July 1991; 17 Mar. 1994.
95 P.R.O., HO 129/189, f. 41; Gardner's Dir. Cambs. (1851); datestone on chapel; cf. P.R.O., RG 9/1035, f. 30.
96 P.R.O., HO 129/189, f. 39; Camb. Chron. 21 July 1860, p. 5; cf. P.R.O., RG 9/1035, f. 31v.
97 e.g. C.U.L., E.D.R., C 3/24; C 3/39; Kelly's Dir. Cambs. (1864-1937).
98 Cf. Camb. Ind. Press, 26 Feb. 1976; 17 Mar. 1977; Ely Standard, 12 Mar. 1988; Fordham Dir. (1995).
99 Not mentioned, Camb. Ind. Press, 22 Sept. 1961; cf. Methodist Ch. Bldgs. Return (1940), 14.
1 Ely Standard, 30 Mar. 1989.


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