Stonehouse: Nonconformity

Pages 287-288

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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Only four nonconformists and a papist were enumerated at Stonehouse in 1676. (fn. 1) Levi Ball, lord of the manor from 1729 to c. 1740, (fn. 2) was said to be a Presbyterian in 1735, when two papists and an Anabaptist were also mentioned. (fn. 3)

In spite of the visits of George Whitefield to the parish, described above, Methodism made few converts in Stonehouse during the 18th century. (fn. 4) Wesleyan Methodists were meeting in a house in the parish c. 1825, (fn. 5) and in the late 19th century an iron Wesleyan chapel was built north of the main road near Ryeford. (fn. 6) A Wesleyan chapel was built in 1911 in the grounds of Wycliffe College; although built with money subscribed by those connected with the school and mainly used by the school, it was also the chapel of the local Methodist community. A tower and spire were added in 1921. (fn. 7) The chapel, which was gutted by fire in 1939, (fn. 8) was rebuilt in the late 1950s; much of the stone came from the church at Frocester. (fn. 9) In 1961 a new chapel for the local Methodist community was built on the Park estate. (fn. 10) A brick Primitive Methodist chapel was built at Cashe's Green in 1901. (fn. 11)

The Congregationalists were the most thriving dissenting group in the parish during the 19th century. In the late 18th century Congregationalists met in a barn at Ebley, and a chapel and minister's house were built on the site of the barn in 1798 and enlarged in 1801. (fn. 12) James Hogg, a local clothier, (fn. 13) contributed much to the cost. The chapel joined the Countess of Huntingdon's Connexion but remained affiliated to the Congregational Union. (fn. 14) The congregation was said to be small, the building in disrepair, and the community badly in debt in 1826 when Benjamin Parsons became minister. He remained at Ebley until his death in 1855 and during the time increased the congregation, repaired the chapel and restored its finances, founded a school, and promoted a variety of communal activities. (fn. 15) He achieved a more than local fame by his speeches and writings in support of working-class movements, and progressive causes, such as negro emancipation and corn-law abolition. (fn. 16) As a supporter of the voluntary principle in religion and education, he consistently refused to pay church rates. (fn. 17) Parsons claimed a morning congregation of 450 and an evening congregation of 520 in 1851; (fn. 18) in 1856 a partisan source claimed that Ebley chapel frequently held a congregation of 1,200 and that between 300 and 400 children attended its Sunday school. (fn. 19) The chapel was rebuilt in 1881, (fn. 20) and remained in use in 1967. It is a large stone building surmounted on three sides by pediments with balustrading and urns; the front has foliated capitals and tall round-headed windows with Gothic tracery. The heptagonal rear part of the chapel survives from the earlier building. (fn. 21) The yard adjoining was used for burials from 1812 or earlier. (fn. 22)

In 1826 a group of Congregationalists associated with Ebley chapel was meeting at a house in Cainscross. (fn. 23) Another group under the minister at Ebley, meeting from 1802 at a house at Haywardsend, and from 1809 in a malt-house at Stonehouse, (fn. 24) built a chapel at Stonehouse in 1811. It was replaced by another building on the west side of the High Street in 1823, (fn. 25) which was in turn replaced in 1827 (fn. 26) by a chapel on a near-by site, a stone building in classical style. The yard adjoining it was used for burials from 1833 or earlier. (fn. 27) In 1851 the chapel, described as Congregational or Independent, had congregations of up to 300. (fn. 28) About a quarter of its members at this time were workers in the cloth industry. (fn. 29) Services were discontinued in 1965 (fn. 30) and in 1967 the chapel was due for demolition. One of the earlier chapels, converted into cottages, survived until 1933. (fn. 31)

A dissenting group was meeting at Lower Mill in 1807, (fn. 32) another group registered houses at Stonehouse in 1808 and 1811, and another in 1817. A house at Ryeford was registered in 1824, (fn. 33) and one at Cainscross in 1843. (fn. 34) Groups of dissenters were meeting at Westrip in 1802 and 1825. (fn. 35) By 1882 the Plymouth Brethren had a meeting-room in Stonehouse High Street north of the Congregational chapel. (fn. 36) A Bethel chapel built of corrugated iron was established in Regent Street by 1895; (fn. 37) healing missions were held there in the early 1960s. (fn. 38) By 1895 there was also an undenominational Gospel mission hall in Woodcock Lane, (fn. 39) which was served by visiting lay preachers in the early 1960s; (fn. 40) in 1967 it was linked with the Baptist chapel at King's Stanley, and a site for a new Baptist chapel at Stonehouse had been acquired.

A Roman Catholic church was opened on the corner of the main street and Oldend Lane in 1967; (fn. 41) the Roman Catholic chapel at More Hall in the north-east of the ancient parish also had a local congregation. (fn. 42)


  • 1. Compton Census.
  • 2. See p. 274.
  • 3. G.D.R. vol. 285B (1), f. 19.
  • 4. Glos. Colln. R 289.2.
  • 5. G.D.R. vol. 383, no. ccxlii.
  • 6. Kelly's Dir. Glos. (1879), 748; O.S. Map 1/2,500, Glos. XLIX. 2 (1884 edn.).
  • 7. Reg. of Old Wycliffians, 1882-1937, 12.
  • 8. Stonehouse Guide (1946), 9.
  • 9. Ex inf. the Bursar, Wycliffe College.
  • 10. Ex inf. Mr. Anderson.
  • 11. Date on bldg.
  • 12. Ebley Congregational Chapel Year Bk. (1956-7): Glos. Colln. R 121.3; Hockaday Abs. cccxxi, 1798. The chapel was actually in Randwick parish: G.D.R. Stonehouse tithe award.
  • 13. Glos. R.O., P 263/MI 9; Bigland, Glos. iii, no. 258.
  • 14. Year Bk. (1956-7).
  • 15. E. P. Hood, The Earnest Minister (1856), 53-67, a life of Parsons.
  • 16. Ibid. 269-70; Cat. of Glos. Colln. pp. 1076-7 has a list of his writings.
  • 17. J. Stratford, Good and Great Men of Glos. (Cirencester, 1867), 308; Hood, Earnest Minister, 282, 339-40.
  • 18. H.O. 129/338/1/4/7.
  • 19. Hood, Earnest Minister, 52.
  • 20. Date on bldg.
  • 21. Hood, Earnest Minister, plate facing p. 72.
  • 22. Date on tombstone.
  • 23. Hockaday Abs. cxxxix.
  • 24. Hockaday Abs. ccclv, cf. Glos. Colln. R 121.3.
  • 25. Hockaday Abs. ccclv; Glos. R.O., D 2144/1; D 846/ III/20.
  • 26. Date on bldg.
  • 27. Date on tombstone.
  • 28. H.O. 129/338/1/2/5.
  • 29. Glos. R.O., D 2144/1.
  • 30. Ex inf. Mr. Anderson.
  • 31. Hawker, 'Stonehouse Church', 215a.
  • 32. Hockaday Abs. ccclv; cf. Glouc. jnl. 13 Jan. 1812.
  • 33. Hockaday Abs. ccclv.
  • 34. Ibid. cxxxix.
  • 35. Ibid. cccxxi; ccclv.
  • 36. O.S. Map 1/2,500, Glos. XLI. 13 (1884 edn.).
  • 37. Whitley's Almanack, 1895.
  • 38. Stonehouse Guide (4th edn.), 10.
  • 39. Whitley's Almanack, 1895.
  • 40. Stonehouse Guide (4th edn.), 10.
  • 41. Ex inf. Mr. Anderson.
  • 42. Randwick par. mags. 1967; see above, p. 276.