Fordham: Nonconformity

Pages 217-218

A History of the County of Essex: Volume 10, Lexden Hundred (Part) Including Dedham, Earls Colne and Wivenhoe. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 2001.

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One recusant was re- corded in 1640-1, and four Quakers in 1664. (fn. 1) In 1778 two Independents attended the meeting in Colchester, and in 1790 there was one 'Calvinist'. (fn. 2)

In 1789 Robert Spark registered his barn at Houds farm as a place of worship by Inde- pendents. In 1790 a chapel with seating for 300 was built opposite the rectory house on Spark's land, and was taken over by the Countess of Huntingdon's Connexion. (fn. 3) John Harris, minis- ter c. 1795-1845, was apparently sent by the countess of Huntingdon herself, because Ford- ham, neglected by its Anglican incumbent, was 'very dark and benighted' and 'the people pro- faned the sabbath on all sides'. He was intended as a peacemaker, there having been differences between the previous minister and the congre- gation. (fn. 4) William Ellis, Spark's brother-in-law, by will proved 1793, left £1,000. Spark, as trustee of the will, bought Houds farm and land nearby which, by his will proved in 1798, he devised to the minister and his assigns together with the income from £700 of his own estate. (fn. 5)

In 1810 a tenth of the Fordham population, with others from neighbouring parishes, were said to attend the chapel. (fn. 6) The chapel joined the Essex Congregational Union in 1819. (fn. 7) In 1829 the congregation varied from 200 to 300, and Harris also preached weekly in Wakes Colne and Wormingford. (fn. 8) On census Sunday 1851 attend- ances were recorded of 46 in the morning and 80 in the afternoon. (fn. 9) A succession of financial difficulties arose from poor administration of the bequests, and Houds farm was sold in 1931. From the 1930s local Scots farmers gave some financial support. (fn. 10) After the Second World War congregations dwindled and the chapel was dis- used from 1978, sold in 1983, and converted to a house. Some services were subsequently held at the parish church and village hall. (fn. 11)

The chapel was of three bays by five bays, weatherboarded, with a hipped roof, hood- moulded sash windows, and gabled porch; inside there was a coved west gallery built in 1858. (fn. 12) A schoolroom was built. (fn. 13) A burial ground was used from 1790 until 1990. A manse, built c. 1790, was demolished c. 1970. (fn. 14)

In 1825 John Biggs's house was registered as a place of worship. (fn. 15)

In 1850 Baptists were meeting in a cottage at Fordham Heath. A Baptist chapel at Ponders Road was mentioned in 1868. (fn. 16)

Primitive Methodists were meeting at Ford- ham Heath in 1852, and built a chapel there in 1866. (fn. 17) It was replaced in 1933 with a timber building at Halstead Road, Eight Ash Green, which was extended in 1975 and 1986. (fn. 18) There were 17 church members in 1954-5, and 24 in 1998. (fn. 19)


  • 1. E.R.O., Q/SBa 5/2/1; Guildhall MS. 9583/2.
  • 2. Lamb. Pal. Libr., Lowth Papers 5, Porteus Papers 26.
  • 3. E.R.O., Q/SBb 335/28, 339/39; Lewis, This Barren Land, 22, 51.
  • 4. E.R.O., T/R 228.
  • 5. Lewis, This Barren Land, 51; E.R.O., D/ABR 28, f. 357.
  • 6. Lamb. Pal. Libr., Randolph Papers 10; E.R.O., T/R 228.
  • 7. Rep. Essex Congregational Union, 1836: copy in E.C.L. Chelm.
  • 8. E.R.O., Q/CR 3/2/46.
  • 9. P.R.O., HO 129/8/205.
  • 10. Lewis, This Barren Land, 41, 51-2.
  • 11. Ibid. 29, 42, 55.
  • 12. Dept. of Env., Buildings List; Pevsner, Essex (2nd edn.), 184; Lewis, This Barren Land, 29; above, plate 16.
  • 13. Below, this par., Educ.
  • 14. Lewis, This Barren Land, 34, 36; E.R.O., T/Z 151/23 (monumental inscriptions).
  • 15. E.R.O., Q/SBb 480/20.
  • 16. Ibid. D/NB 4/6-7; P. Lewis, 'A Big Round Hand' (2nd edn. 1999), 21: copy in E.R.O.
  • 17. Lewis, 'A Big Round Hand' (2nd edn.), 12; O.N.S. (Birkdale), Worship Reg. no. 20110; E.R.O., D/NM 2/2/24; D/NM 2/5/23.
  • 18. E.R.O., D/NM 2/5/23; Eight Ash Green Hist. ed. J. Crawshaw et al., 4.
  • 19. Methodist Ch. Circuit Plan, 1954-5; inf. from Miss J. V. Dansie.