The growth of non-conformist religion
According to an article on leicestershirehistory.co.uk, referring to Hathern
'Only four nonconformists had been recorded in 1676. Replying to his bishop in 1706, rector Andrew Glen advised that there were no dissenters in the parish ‘besides one Old Woman & her Son who are Anabaptists. There are 2 or 3 persons who go sometimes to the Presbyterian Meetings but come oftener to church’. There was no meeting house in the parish. Little had changed in 1709' .The nineteenth century saw a dramatic increase in non-conformism and Hathern was no exception with four different denominations, each with their own chapel as decribed below. On the OS map of 1901 you can see the 4 chapels. It was even proposed in 1903 that a Free Church council be formed and a united body of non-conformists should withdraw their children from the religious education of church schools. This was proposed by W.Ward (Wesleyan) and seconded by J.E. Tollington (Primitive Methodist). Another part of passive resistance proposed by the Rev. Payne (Baptist minister) was not to pay the education part of the rent.
Some other information collected by Alan Forsdick is included in this article. Of particular interest is the registration of a dissenting house in 1765 witnessed by seven residents. Further information is provided from this article obtained from leicestershirehistory.co.uk.
The following information is included in the Hathern in 1881 article :-
'Nor are Nonconformists inadequately provided for. Indeed, with the large industrial population in the village, the Dissenters probably represent the great majority of the population. Be that as it may, they possess no fewer than four chapels. Of the Nonconformist churches the Wesleyan seems to be the oldest. Their present chapel bears date 1864 ; but from the fact that Nichols refers to the existence of a " Methodist meeting-house," they may safely be said to date from at least the last quarter of the last century. At first they doubtless experienced all the usual discomforts of meeting in a private house ; but as time passed they were enabled to assemble in a rude and primitive hall which still exists, and which has since come into the possession of the local temperance society. Their present chapel is a commodious little structure, seated with neat open benches, and wearing a light and tasteful aspect. Only second in point of age rank the General Baptists. Their first service is believed to have been held in 1814, when the local members of the denomination were joined by a few old people from neighbouring churches. Three other places were subsequently fitted up for worship. In 1840 a church was formed, and in 1849 this was provided with a suitable home in a newly-built chapel. In May last the work of rebuilding was completed. With its arched doorway and pointed windows, the frontage has a pleasing effect ; beneath are the memorial stones respectively laid by Mr. T. Wilde, the senior deacon, Miss Coddington, Mr. B. Baldwin, and Mr. T. Fuller, school superintendent. The interior is fitted with open benches to accommodate about 300 ; has a handsome rostrum, and a choir gallery. Adjoining is the Sunday School, with its class rooms above and below, the upper one being provided with a moveable partition by which it can be opened into the chapel. The school itself was established in 1835, and has now about 130 upon its books. The Wesleyan Reform Chapel abuts upon the principal thoroughfare, opposite the parish church, bears date 1863, and was erected at a cost of £160. The " cause," however, had actually been founded some — if not many — years before. The only other Nonconformist Church is the Primitive Methodist. Their first chapel was formed of two cottages; thence they betook themselves to a school which had been utilised by the General Baptists. Here they worshipped for a few years until they gathered sufficient strength to build their present chapel. This was opened in 1852, and will accommodate about 150. The church forms part of and is supplied by the Loughborough circuit'.
1 THE PRIMITIVE METHODISTS (TANNERS LANE)
The Primitive Methodist chapel was on the right-hand side as you go up Tanner's Lane. It is no longer standing having been replaced by residential housing. Only a garden wall now remains as evidence. The Primitive Methodists were otherwise called "The Ranters". On Alamy website you can see more details of the Primitive Methodists albeit somewhat scrambled. This includes mention of John Woolley born in Hathern who in 1818 was resident in Syston and soon to become a local preacher (in our BMD records his christening is recorded on Aug 5th 1798).
Picture right is the only complete picture of the Hathern chapel. According to an article in the Christian Messenger of 1911 by the Rev. R.W. Keightley, the Loughborough Circuit, of which Hathern was a part, was one of the oldest in the country. having been formed in 1817. The article described the Hathern branch as follows :- .
'A Primitive Methodist society was meeting in the village as early as 1822, when weekly services appear on the Loughborough Circuit plan. The previous chapel had been erected in 1826, and had 95 free and 17 other sittings, according to the 1851 religious census. In 1829 it had a congregation of 13 people, according to the returns of dissenters.
On the 31st March 1851 the afternoon attendance was given as 45, with 95 attending in the evening. No Sunday Scholars were counted. Edward Lowe, the Steward, mentioned that the congregation had recently purchased some land ‘to Erect a more Commodious Chapel to seat about a 100 and 80 to 200’
The new chapel, on the site shown, was opened in 1852, and cost £200. No account of the opening of either chapel has been found in the PM Magazine.
Following Union, the newer Wesleyan chapel in the village became the village hall, and Tanners Lane became Hathern Methodist. The membership during the 1950s and 1960s fell slightly from 24 to 19, but when announcing the closure in October 1971 the Superintendent referred to three active members'.
One of the stalwarts in the early days was John Tollington, whose obituary appeared in the Primitive Methodist magazine in 1901."JOHN TOLLINGTON, of Hathern, in Loughborough Circuit, obeyed the voice, “Come up Hither," on the 17th May, 1899, leaving a record worthy of emulation. He was for fifty years a member, and during forty-two years the class-leader and superintendent of the Sabbath School, and as such exemplified many laudable qualities, some of which stood out with well-defined distinctness.
His religion was steadfast. His faith rested on Christ; it was like the lighthouse built on and in the rock, from which he could not be seduced by the music of the syren, nor washed by the waves of persecution.
His religion was unobtrusive. Though never forcing himself or his religion on the attention of others, when occasion required he was unflinching in his avowal of Christian discipleship, and shrunk not from the profession of his union with Primitive Methodism.
His religion was self-sacrificing. Though not literally endorsing, he had the true spirit of the words, “Take my silver and my gold, not a mite would I withhold.” Few men had a more self-sacrificing spirit, yet without ostentation. For several years, when the chapel was in adversity, its stove was supplied from his “oil tin,” and many who ministered will have pleasant recollections of their warm welcome at his table. He showed practical faith in the words, “What I gave I had.” He banked with heaven. His sacrifices may not look much apart, like stars sprinkled over the sky; but collected form a brilliant constellation, which the Master recognises and commends by saying, “You did it unto Me.”
His affliction was prolonged. It was paralysis; for several years partial, for several months entire. His affliction was mitigated. In helplessness the loving attention of a devoted wife and other relatives (who are comforted by the hope of a re-union), did much to relieve his sufferings, but there were assuagements transcending the earthly. Celestial dew-drops fell about his bed. Odours from the field of paradise were wafted into his room. He had believed in angelic ministration, now it was realised.
“They came with voices of sweetness,
With faces divinely fair;
To smooth the bed of suffering,
To mellow the breath of prayer.
They softened the dying pillow,
And laid his head to rest,
In gentleness and tenderness,
Upon the Saviour’s breast.”
His affliction was premonitory. It was the reefing of the sail before entering the port. His words were expressive of victory. On May 20th, the Rev. J. Stephenson committed “his dust lightly to sleep in dust,” and subsequently Mr. G. Tucker preached the funeral sermon amid much feeling to a numerous audience; but before that memorial service was held, or before the wreaths of fading flowers were placed by loving hands on the coffin, his spirit, accompanied by a celestial convoy, —
“Had swept by the mansions and temples of light —
And knelt at the foot of the Throne; ~
And He, the Supreme of Immortals,
From the seat of His splendour bent down;
And placed on his temples, late throbbing with pain,
A more than imperial crown;
And said to him, Rest,
In the land of the blest.”
John was born abt 1825 at Hathern, Leicestershire. He worked as a frame-work knitter and his house was in Tanner’s Lane. .
John married Ann Bowley, framework knitter (1826-1852) on 5 December 1844 at Hathern, Leicestershire. Census returns identify three children.
- John E.(1846-1927) - a frame-work knitter living in Victoria terrace on Narrow Lane. This is the bearded man shown on the photo - he was the first secretary of the newly-formed Hathern Liberal Club and he and his wife were also active members of the church.
- Henry (1848-1881) – a frame-work knitter
- William (1850-1924) – a frame-work knitter
John married Sarah Exon (abt1832-1913) in the summer of 1856 in the Loughborough Registration District, Leicestershire. Census returns identify two children.
- Joseph Exon (1857-1922) - a frame-work knitter (1911).
- Mary Jane (1864-1886) – dressmaker.
Primitive Methodist Magazine 1901/549
Census Returns and Births, Marriages & Deaths Registers
Newspaper reports on the Primitive Methodists :-.
The first ref. to Primitive Methodists in Hathern seems to be Aug 25th 1860 in the Leicester Guardian when it was reported that there was a tea meeting after which the Rev. Boden delivered a lecture on "The bible".
One of the most unusual ceremonies held in the church was the wedding of eighty year old Richard Cheatle to Ann Ratcliffe thirty-five years his junior, an event of immense interest to the village. Following is the report in the Leicester Journal of June 2nd 1863. "The quiet village of Hathern, was all in commotion on Tuesday, on the occasion of two of its notabilities, Richard Cheatle and Ann Ratcliffe, being united in the bonds of Hymen. The bridegroom, who has withstood the piercing effects of more than 80 winters, appeared as gay as a " four year old," wearing a rosette of coloured worsted large as an ordinary cauliflower. The bride elect of 45 summers, having cast away her widow's weeds, was suitably attired, topped with a white lace fall and holding a bouquet of green box, stuck through a piece of old manuscript which had lost its whiteness to the ravages of time. The neighbours determined to celebrate the nuptials of a pair so admirably suited for each other, except as for age, and a subscription was set on foot, with a committee of management to carry out the arrangements. A conveyance was procured, which with the horse, was profusely decorated with evergreens, carrying a blue flag, and the bridal party took their seats about nine o'clock, proceeding to the Primitive Methodist Chapel, where they were made one. Many of the villagers followed, and on their return they were met at Dishley Mill by the Hathern band, and a host of their neighbours, where a procession was formed. About forty young men and old, a kind of advance guard, bore boughs of oak over their shoulders, headed by a man in military costume, with a painted face, and playing upon a penny trumpet, the band playing very appropriate airs on the way, and a number of boys beating time with their cymbals. When they reached the village they were joined by an immense number, and paraded the town, stopping at the various public houses to celebrate the event in ideep potations, till they became " more merry than wise." It was estimated that the number assembled on this extraordinary occasion could not be less than 1000 persons (it was pity that they had nothing better to do), and the event will be long remembered those who witnessed the proceedings".
A more typical event was reported on August 26th 1887 in the Leicester Journal- a public tea in the schoolroom followed by a sale of clothing for the chapel trust fund and later a sermon entitled "Ray of Light ; or, obscure Bible Words". There was a fair attendance and the chair was taken by Mr. Henry Harriman. You can see many other such events and other reports in our newspaper archive.
Below you can see the Loughborough Circuit schedule for the first quarter of 1918. The preacher from each chapel would tour the chapels. The preacher from Hathern is named as W. Warren (Number 18) and you can see that he only preached in Hathern for one of the thirteen weeks. The steward of Hathern is the J. E. Tollington described above.
The chapel continued in use up to its demolition in the 1960s. The picture below (which is also on our events gallery), is of a May Day parade in the 1950s.
You can see the chapel at the bottom of the aerial photo below. The caretaker then was Esther Brown.
2 THE WESLEYAN METHODISTS (DOVECOTE STREET)
The chapel in Dovecote Street is now used as the Village Hall. The following information is obtained from mywesleymethodists.org.uk. This includes pictures of the village hall and the foundation stone laid by Mr. C Mitchell in 1864.
'A society at Hathern appears in the June 1780 accounts of the Leicester and Nottingham Circuit, according to Richardson, and Myles (1812) gives the date of the first chapel as 1791.In 1810 there was a membership of 77, and the 1829 Return of Dissenters records 60 Wesleyan Methodists meeting for worship in Hathern. The return for the 1851 Religious Census records 98 free and 76 other sittings. There were 44 worshippers at the afternoon service on 30 March 1851, and 32 attended in the evening. There was also a Sunday school which met in the afternoon, and 44 Sunday scholars attended that day. The return was signed by Job Smith, the Steward, who was a Framework knitter (cotton) of Church Street and aged 42.The chapel was built in 1864, at a cost of £424. All accounts agree that it could seat 200. It was sold in the 1940s, but is now the village hall'.
In page 844 of Nicholls History of Leicestershire reference is made to a Methodist meeting house in 1793.
3 THE UNITED METHODIST FREE CHURCH (GREEN HILL)
The chapel in green Hill is now a private house, previously a Roman Catholic church since 1908. The following information is obtained from myunitedmethodists.org.uk.
'This chapel appears to have been built in 1846 as a Wesleyan Reform chapel. Although it was a UMFC chapel, appearing on the 1878 Circuit plan and in the Free Methodist Manual of 1898, for some reason the compilers of trade directories listed it as a Methodist New Connexion cause. Methodism can be very confusing to the non-Methodist. The chapel stood on Green Hill, grid reference SK502224. Unusually for a Free Methodist chapel it was sold to the Catholics in 1908'.
4 GENERAL BAPTIST
The above picture is taken from Hathern History Society publication 'A Walk round Hathern' building 28. The associated text describes the earliy influence of Baptist preachers from Sawley who made fortnightly visits at the end of the eighteenth century. At that time the mother church was in Sutton Bonnington used by Hathern Baptists for funerals and weddings. Hathern's own chapel was built in 1840 and then rebuilt in 1880 as shown above.In 2004 it was accorded local listing and described as being of 'austere utilitarian style'.i
Further information about the Baptists in Hathern can be found in the following articles on this website.