A History of the County of Shropshire: Volume 11, Telford. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1985.
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William Charlton of Wombridge (d. 1567) was reputed a papist or sympathizer with papists. (fn. 1)
Samuel Campion, the minister ejected from Hodnet in 1660, held Sunday conventicles at Wombridge in 1669. (fn. 2) In 1691 the Presbyterians or Congregationalists considered holding meetings at Wombridge as the established church was so ineffectual at ministering to the expanding population. (fn. 3)
C. R. Cameron, perpetual curate of Wombridge 1808-56, resisted the nonconformists (fn. 4) and, save for the Wesleyan chapel at Ketley Bank, no nonconformist meeting house was ever established in his parish during his time. In the 1840s and 1850s, however, Primitive Methodist, Congregational, and New Connexion Methodist chapels opened on the southern (or Shifnal parish) side of Oakengates town, and the Primitives opened one in Ketley Bank. There were no chapels on the north side of Oakengates town until 1868 when the Methodist New Connexion moved to Slaney Street and the Baptists opened in Stafford Road. The Salvation Army began work in the town in 1882 and other sects arrived in the 20th century. A United Church was formed in 1981 by the Methodists and United Reformed Church.
About 1764 a Wesleyan society was established at Ketley Bank by J. W. Fletcher, vicar of Madeley. (fn. 5) A Wesleyan chapel built there in 1823 served a wide area including Lawley Bank. In 1878 the society bought Bethesda chapel in Station Road, Oakengates, from the Methodist New Connexion. Bethesda closed in 1908 and Ketley Bank chapel became once more the centre of local Wesleyan activity. In 1983 the chapel had a congregation of 30. (fn. 6)
A Wesleyan society met at Hollinswood in the 1840s and 1850s and there was reputedly a Wesleyan chapel there in 1897. (fn. 7)
Primitive Methodism was introduced to the Oakengates area, and to Shropshire, in 1821 when W. Saunders preached at Ketley Bank and Wrockwardine Wood. In 1822 James Bonser preached at Oakengates to almost 2,000 people, and Hugh Bourne also preached near the town that year. Oakengates bull ring was regularly used for open-air preaching until Wrockwardine Wood chapel opened in 1823, the incumbent of Wombridge, C. R. Cameron, apparently resisting the chapel's siting in his parish. (fn. 8)
A chapel for the Primitives was built on the south side of Market Street in 1845, only to be demolished in advance of the Wellington-Wolverhampton railway c. 1846. It was replaced by a chapel opened in 1847 in Station Hill. Measuring 39 × 36 ft., it had a west gallery and seated 500; there was an adjacent burial ground. In 1867 mining subsidence closed the chapel and a new one was built farther east in Station Hill in 1868. Originally three bays square, and of brown brick with blue brick dressings, the chapel was extended in 1905. In 1940 it seated 520 and had a schoolroom and three other rooms. In 1981, on the eve of the chapel's closure and the congregation's move to the United Reformed church, the Oakengates Methodist chapel had 41 members; an average of 20 attended the morning service and 30 that in the evening. (fn. 9)
There was regular Primitive Methodist preaching at Ketley Bank from 1830. (fn. 10) Before 1841, when it used Pocock's school, Ketley Bank, (fn. 11) the society met in East Road. (fn. 12) It was thus evidently not the dissenting body that met at the Lord Hill c. 1857. (fn. 13)
The New Connexion Methodists (or Reformers) opened Bethesda chapel in Station Road, Oakengates, in 1856. In 1878 they sold it to the Wesleyans. (fn. 14) In the mean time Zion chapel, Slaney Street, had opened: the New Connexion used that between 1868 and 1892. (fn. 15)
In 1843 the Wellington Congregationalists instituted services in Oakengates, the first being held in a room in the Charlton Arms, Market Street. A Sunday school began at the same time. Oakengates's first minister was appointed in 1846; a schoolroom in Lion Street opened in 1847, and the chapel that surmounted it in 1848. Of brown brick and slate, the chapel has a three-bayed front with brick pilasters, rendered entablature and pediment, and carved consoles to the windows. It was originally four bays deep, and a two-storeyed fifth bay was later added. In 1848 the congregation of 21 gained independence from Wellington. The congregation grew during the later 19th century and between 1855 and 1868 side galleries and classrooms were built. In 1937 there were sittings for 500. The Congregationalists (United Reformed Church) began to share a building with the Methodists when Oakengates United church opened in 1981. (fn. 16)
Oakengates United church was designed in brick by R. Bellamy. Owned by the United Reformed Church, it was also used by the Methodists. It had 72 members in 1983. (fn. 17)
A Baptist chapel with 200 sittings was built in Stafford Road in 1868. It was apparently disused by 1948. (fn. 18)
The Salvation Army began to hold Sunday services in Oakengates town hall in 1882, with week-night meetings in a mission in Quob Lane (later Station Road) and open-air gatherings on the Green. The Army met in the town hall until the Bridge Street barracks opened in 1896. The barracks were used until 1967 when the Salvation Army Centre in Hartshill Road opened. (fn. 19)
The Christian or Plymouth Brethren met in the Gospel Room, New Street, in 1900 and later in the Foresters' Hall, West Street. By 1923 they had moved to premises in West Street, Wrockwardine Wood. (fn. 20) They may be identifiable with the Brotherhood that met in Slaney Street or Stafford Road. (fn. 21)
Jehovah's Witnesses had a Kingdom Hall in New Street between 1958 and 1967. (fn. 22)
There was a cottage meeting at Priorslee in 1813 under the care of the Shifnal Wesleyan society. The meeting became independent in 1824 and in 1840 had connexions with the Snedshill society. The Snedshill Wesleyans' numbers declined markedly in the 1840s. Nevertheless in 1850 they opened a new chapel and schoolroom in Priorslee Road. On Census Sunday 1851 morning service was attended by 143 worshippers, afternoon service by 256. Already in 1850 there were strained relations with the circuit, and in 1852 the congregation broke away as a Wesleyan Reform church. It produced its own plan, the only such instance in the west Midlands. The chapel, later a United Methodist Free church, was rebuilt c. 1920, and its congregation joined the Oakengates United church in 1981. (fn. 23)
Trinity chapel in Chapel Street was built by the Wesleyans in 1863 to replace the Nabb chapel, Wrockwardine Wood. In 1940 it seated 220 in pews and had a school hall and one other room attached to it. It was de-registered in 1964. (fn. 24)
The Primitives had a chapel in Canongate, which was replaced c. 1900 by one in Priorslee Road. It closed in 1918 and was demolished in 1922. (fn. 25)
The New Connexion had a small chapel at Hollinswood built in 1832. In 1851 morning service was attended by 41 adults and 60 children and afternoon service by 89 and 71 respectively; 74 also attended evening service. A new chapel of 1854 was later known as Zoar. A schoolroom was added in 1866. Zoar had 8 members in 1900 and closed in 1901. (fn. 26)
In 1967 a new St. George's Methodist church opened in Church Street, replacing the Jubilee chapel. Designed by A.S.S.Q. Associates, of Birmingham, it was built by Patrick Smith. (fn. 27)