North Weald Bassett: Nonconformity

Pages 292-293

A History of the County of Essex: Volume 4, Ongar Hundred. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1956.

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In 1672 the house of a Mr. Bennett in North Weald was licensed for worship by Presbyterians. (fn. 1) A conventicle in the parish was licensed in 1704. (fn. 2)

No nonconformist place of worship was mentioned in the returns of 1829 as then existing in North Weald, (fn. 3) but a Congregational chapel was opened soon after. This was probably the chapel shown on the parish map of 1838, near the south end of Weald Bridge. (fn. 4) In 1841 Richard Cecil, minister of the Congregational church at Chipping Ongar (q.v.), reported that students under his care had resumed preaching at North Weald 'amidst encouraging circumstances'. (fn. 5) Before 1847 a resident evangelist, Mr. Vale, had come to North Weald and was receiving financial assistance from the Essex Congregational Union. (fn. 6) About 1850 he began preaching at Moreton (q.v.), (fn. 7) where he was living by 1857. (fn. 8) By 1859 he was preaching there more often than at North Weald. Thenceforth the congregation at North Weald seems to have declined, (fn. 9) and services probably ceased altogether about 1874. (fn. 10) The former chapel has apparently been demolished, although the house beside it remains.

From about 1867 to 1875 services were held in the parish at Tylers Green, in connexion with the Congregational church at Abridge in Lambourne (q.v.). (fn. 11)

In 1883 a Wesleyan Methodist chapel at Thorn- wood Common was placed on the plan of the Wanstead and Woodford circuit. (fn. 12) In 1892 the chapel was in debt, but a mission was established to help it and by the next year the debt had been reduced to £7. (fn. 13)

In 1898 a sub-committee was formed to inquire into the affairs of the chapel, which, it was feared, were not conducted in accordance with Methodist regulations. (fn. 14) In 1899 Mr. Childs was appointed lay agent at a salary of £25 a year and in June of that year he reported a steady growth and a renewed observance of Methodist principles. (fn. 15)

The society at Thornwood was never large, although at one time it had the largest Sunday school in the circuit. (fn. 16) In 1935 the need for extensive repairs to the chapel became evident. (fn. 17) In the following year land was given for a new building by a Mr. Slack, (fn. 18) but it was not used and in 1939 the chapel was finally closed because there was not sufficient support to justify either the erection of a new building or repairs to the old. The chapel was demolished and the site sold. (fn. 19) It stood on the west side of the main road nearly opposite Weald Hall Lane.

In December 1888 a committee was formed by the Wanstead and Woodford circuit to consider building a Wesleyan chapel at North Weald, where military barracks had recently been erected. (fn. 20) In the following year it was decided to erect a rustic wooden chapel at a cost of £150. (fn. 21) A plot of land was leased from Mr. W. J. Smith at a rent of 10s. a year. (fn. 22) The new chapel was opened in 1890, the cost of building having been raised by public subscription. (fn. 23)

The new society was not very successful and in 1905 it was decided to continue it only on the recommendation of the Local Preachers' Meeting. (fn. 24) In 1907 an adjacent plot of land was purchased for £120. In 1910 the original lease was renewed and a new trust formed. (fn. 25)

In 1925 it was decided to build a new chapel at North Weald. (fn. 26) On the recommendation of the circuit development committee the chapel was built in 1929 at a cost of £1,074. (fn. 27) In 1930 it was reported that young men from Woodford were doing valuable work at North Weald, but in 1934 a committee was set up to consider the work there. (fn. 28) In 1950 the problem of the lease, which had been four times renewed since 1910, was solved by Mr. T. J. E. Bird, who bought the freehold for £12 and gave it to the trustees. The church has been under the supervision of the Epping minister, who is at present the Revd. E. B. Roebuck. The society has a membership of 19. (fn. 29) The chapel is a small brick building, cement rendered.


  • 1. G. L. Turner, Orig. Recs. of Early Nonconformity, ii, 929.
  • 2. E.R.O., Q/SBb 40.
  • 3. E.R.O., Q/CR 3/2.
  • 4. E.R.O., D/CT 387.
  • 5. Essex Congr. Union Reps. 1841.
  • 6. Ibid. 1847.
  • 7. Ibid. 1850 f.
  • 8. Ibid. 1857.
  • 9. Ibid. 1859 f.
  • 10. Ibid. 1874-5; Congr. Year Bk. 1874, 1875.
  • 11. E.C.U. Reps. 1867-75.
  • 12. Address by Mr. A. W. Leach, Wanstead, 19 Dec. 1919. (Reported in Mins. of Local Preachers' Mtgs. Wanstead and Woodford Circuit, 1879-1930.)
  • 13. Mins. of Circuit Quarterly Mtgs. 1887-99.
  • 14. Ibid.
  • 15. Ibid.
  • 16. Address by Mr. Leach.
  • 17. Mins. of Circuit Quart. Mtg. 1931- 41.
  • 18. Ibid.
  • 19. Papers re sale.
  • 20. Mins. of Circuit Quart. Mtgs. 1887- 99.
  • 21. Ibid.
  • 22. Trust Deeds in Circuit safe. Except where otherwise stated the account is based on these deeds.
  • 23. Mins. of Quart. Mtgs. 1887-99.
  • 24. Ibid. 1899-1909.
  • 25. Ibid. 1909-16.
  • 26. Ibid. 1925-30.
  • 27. Ibid.
  • 28. Ibid. 1931-41.
  • 29. Circuit Plan Jan.-Apr. 1953.