Woolaston: Nonconformity

A History of the County of Gloucester: Volume 10, Westbury and Whitstone Hundreds. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1972.

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'Woolaston: Nonconformity', in A History of the County of Gloucester: Volume 10, Westbury and Whitstone Hundreds, (London, 1972) pp. 117-118. British History Online https://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/glos/vol10/pp117-118 [accessed 20 April 2024]


There were no recusants in Woolaston in 1603 (fn. 1) but six papists were recorded in 1676. (fn. 2) They included Charles Gwillim (d. 1724), variously described between 1664 and 1714 as a labourer, gentleman, and esquire, who had an estate worth £180 in 1714. (fn. 3) Although in 1682 the names of 68 persons who did not attend church were given, only the Gwillim family can be identified as Roman Catholics with certainty, and the number is exceptional; in 1683 and 1684 only ten and two persons respectively were named, some of whom were Quakers. (fn. 4) Nevertheless the Roman Catholic community showed a marked increase by the period 1714-24 when 32 names were given, including several members of the Harris and Thomas families. (fn. 5) The Harris family lived at Brockweir (fn. 6) and having property in Hewelsfield were buried in that parish. (fn. 7) In 1735 there were 30 papists served by a visiting priest once a month, (fn. 8) but in 1743 and 1750 only eight were recorded. (fn. 9)

In 1676 there were six Protestant nonconformists, (fn. 10) most of whom were probably Quakers, as the names of four Quakers were given between 1676 and 1681. (fn. 11) No dissenters were reported in 1750. (fn. 12) In 1809 a house at Woolaston Common was licensed for worship, and another in the parish by the Methodists in 1818. (fn. 13) In 1825 the parish was visited occasionally by a dissenting teacher, (fn. 14) and there was an increase in nonconformity from that date. Between 1824 and 1844 eight other buildings were licensed, including houses at Netherend in 1825 and at Cone Mill in 1833, and an Independents' meeting in 1830. The first Bible Christian chapel in west Gloucestershire was built at Woolaston Woodside in 1836; (fn. 15) the building later contained a gallery removed in 1859 from the parish church. (fn. 16) In 1851 a morning Sunday school and afternoon and evening services were held, with congregations of 43, 165, and 100 respectively. (fn. 17) The chapel, after union with the Methodists in 1932, remained well attended until c. 1939, but apart from a fortnightly Sunday school still held in 1969, there had then been no regular services since c. 1959. (fn. 18) Primitive Methodists met in a private house on the ring road at Woolaston Common (fn. 19) before building a chapel at Netherend in 1867. The chapel was enlarged in 1893 and a Sunday schoolroom added in 1967. (fn. 20)

At Park Hill a chapel was built by the Particular Baptists in 1835, and in 1851 two Sunday services taken by a resident minister were attended by congregations of up to a hundred. (fn. 21) The chapel was still well attended until the 1920s, but the last burial there took place in 1906, and the building was closed c. 1955. (fn. 22) It is stone built and the front has round-headed openings and a shaped parapet. At Brockweir a Moravian church was built in 1833-3 with a residence, after the Revd. C. F. Ramftler of Bristol had been invited by local inhabitants to hold services in 1832. The first minister was Lewis West (1832-70) who drew congregations of up to 200 people. After the Moravian synod had decided to close the church, the Monmouth Group of Baptist Churches concluded an agreement for union between the Moravians and Baptists in 1963. There was a resident Baptist minister in 1969, who held services in accordance with the Moravian liturgy, and c. 17 Moravians still lived in the village. The church is of stone, cement-rendered, with a small bellcot. (fn. 23) The minister's residence is attached. There is a burial ground, and near-by a public hall was built by the Moravians in the late 19th century.


  • 1. B.M. Harl. MS. 594, f. 254.
  • 2. Compton Census.
  • 3. Glos. R.O., Q/SIb 1, f. 51v.; Q/SO 4; Bigland, Glos. iii, no. 310.
  • 4. G.D.R. vols. 244, 247, 251.
  • 5. Glos. R.O., Q/SO 4.
  • 6. Ibid. Q/RNc 1.
  • 7. Bigland, Glos. iii, no. 310.
  • 8. G.D.R. vol. 285B(1), f. 7.
  • 9. G.D.R. vols. 397; 38 1A, f. 9.
  • 10. Compton Census.
  • 11. G.D.R. vols. 227, 233, 241.
  • 12. Ibid. vol. 381A, f. 9.
  • 13. Hockaday Abs. ccccxvi; T. Bright, Rise of Nonconf. in Forest of Dean, 36.
  • 14. G.D.R. vol. 383, no. cxxxvii.
  • 15. Hockaday Abs. ccccxvi; Bright, Nonconf. in Dean, 20.
  • 16. Local information.
  • 17. H.O. 129/576/3/1/2.
  • 18. Local information.
  • 19. Ex inf. Mrs. E. M. Saturley, chapel secretary.
  • 20. Ex inf. Mrs. G. A. Higgs, chapel treasurer.
  • 21. H.O. 129/576/3/1/3. The date on bldg. is 1836.
  • 22. Ex inf. Mr. G. Murphy, the surviving trustee.
  • 23. Ex inf. the Revd. J. D. Monger, the minister; see plate facing p. 113.