A History of the County of Gloucester: Volume 11, Bisley and Longtree Hundreds. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1976.
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Bisley parish had a Presbyterian meeting in the late 17th century and Baptists and Quakers were also established by the early 18th century. During the later 18th and earlier 19th centuries numerous other meeting-houses and chapels, many of them Wesleyan or Primitive Methodist, were opened to serve the growing villages of the south of the parish. A total of 31 meeting-places were registered between 1742 and 1844. (fn. 1) George Whitefield preached at Chalford in 1739 and 1742. (fn. 2)
The oldest nonconformist meeting was that called France Meeting, which claimed to have been founded in 1662. (fn. 3) The newly erected Presbyterian meeting-house at Chalford licensed in 1696 was evidently for the group (fn. 4) and there were 70 Presbyterians in the meeting in 1735. (fn. 5) By the 1770s it had adopted the designation of Independent. (fn. 6) In 1819 the chapel, which was known as the Old Vestry, was partly demolished and a substantial chapel built on a new site at Chalford Hill. (fn. 7) In the same year Thomas Jones (d. 1820) retired after 38 years as minister. (fn. 8) France Meeting had congregations of up to 350 in 1851. (fn. 9) By 1972 the congrega tion had declined to c. 6 people and there was no longer a resident minister. (fn. 10) The remaining part of the Old Vestry, which was used as a school after 1819, was demolished in 1879; (fn. 11) its burial ground, south of France Lynch church, survived in 1972.
Richard Champion's house was licensed for worship by Quakers in 1739, (fn. 12) but only one Quaker family was recorded in 1750, (fn. 13) and the divisional Quaker meeting rejected a proposal in 1753 that a meeting should be re-established at Bisley. (fn. 14)
William Verinder's house was licensed for worship by Baptists in 1724. (fn. 15) They registered a house at Avenis Green in 1744, and in 1747 registered a house they had bought at a place called Coppice Gate, probably at the site of the Copse chapel, (fn. 16) later called Chalford Tabernacle, on the road leading up from Valley Corner to France Lynch. There was a resident Baptist minister by 1753. (fn. 17) The congregation at the Copse, which was served by James Deane for 50 years until his death in 1847, (fn. 18) numbered over 200 in 1851, (fn. 19) and in 1874 a large new chapel was built, largely by the efforts of a prominent member, William Dangerfield, who also provided a new manse. (fn. 20) In 1882 the chapel was designated Particular Baptist. (fn. 21) By 1972 the membership of the chapel had fallen to 50 but it still had a resident full-time minister. (fn. 22) The original building survived in 1972 south of the new one; it formerly comprised a small chapel on the south and a manse adjoining it on the north but later the chapel was converted to a coach-house and the manse was rebuilt as a Sunday schoolroom. (fn. 23)
At Eastcombe, where nonconformist meetings were being held by 1742, (fn. 24) Particular Baptists under Thomas Williams (d. 1806) (fn. 25) built a chapel in 1801. (fn. 26) The chapel was later served by Henry Hawkins; he registered a building at Tunley in 1817 (fn. 27) and also registered meeting-places in several neighbouring parishes at the same period. (fn. 28) In 1851 the chapel at Eastcombe claimed congregations of over 400 (fn. 29) and a large new chapel was built in 1876. (fn. 30) By 1972 the congregation had dwindled to c. 12 and the minister serving it followed another profession on weekdays. (fn. 31) Particular Baptists were also meeting at Bussage in 1811 (fn. 32) and a meeting-house under the Eastcombe minister, opened there in 1849, had congregations of c. 290 in 1851 when a new chapel was being built. (fn. 33)
The Wesleyan Methodists built a chapel in Bisley village in 1796 and it had a congregation of c. 50 in 1851. (fn. 34) A new chapel on a different site, on the west side of High Street, was built in 1863. (fn. 35) It had a congregation of c. 9 in 1972. (fn. 36) Oakridge Wesleyan Methodist church at Oakridge Lynch, where nonconformist meetings had begun by 1742, was built in 1797 (fn. 37) and enlarged in 1836; (fn. 38) it had a congregation of c. 130 in 1851. (fn. 39) It was rebuilt in 1874. (fn. 40) In 1972 the congregation, which had increased in recent years, comprised 20 adults with a Sunday school of 22. (fn. 41) A small Wesleyan chapel was built at Tunley by Henry William Hancox of Tunley Farm in 1848; (fn. 42) it claimed congregations of up to 65 in 1851 (fn. 43) but had gone out of use by 1972. At Chalford the Ebenezer Wesleyan chapel was built in 1814 and had congregations of 100-150 in 1851. (fn. 44) In 1859 a new chapel, incorporating a schoolroom on the ground floor, was built on the steep hillside at Marle Hill in Chalford. (fn. 45) It went out of use in 1963. (fn. 46)
The Primitive Methodist chapel at Chalford Hill was built in 1823 (fn. 47) and had a congregation of c. 65 in 1851. (fn. 48) In 1972 as the Methodist church for the Chalford district it had an adult congregation of c. 45, and there were over 100 children in its youth organizations; a considerable increase in membership had occurred in the previous few years, mainly due to the influx of new families into the area. (fn. 49) Another Primitive Methodist chapel was built in 1840 at Custom Scrubs, where a house had been registered in 1828; it claimed a congregation of c. 40 in 1851 (fn. 50) and is said to have been used until 1912. (fn. 51)
Christian Brethren had a meeting-room in the main street of Chalford by 1882, and by 1901 there was another at Brown's Hill. (fn. 52) Samuel Hook built a chapel of the Swedenborgian New Jerusalem Church adjoining his house Millswood in Chalford in 1845; it had a congregation of c. 35 in 1851, but apparently went out of use a few years later. (fn. 53) Seventh Day Adventists built a meeting-room in the main street of Chalford in 1952. (fn. 54)