Woodborough’s Heritage

Woodborough, a Sherwood Forest Village, recorded in Domesday

The newly built Wesleyan Chapel in 1887 - it is positioned at the corner of Main Street and Roe Lane

Up to the present time, the work has proceeded satisfactorily, but on account of the very little increase in the number of residents there — the population, it may be observed here, has been comparatively at a standstill for many years, neither increasing nor decreasing — the returns of membership have exhibited but little fluctuation. Indeed, at the present there are only 27 persons enrolled as members, and the scholars number between 50 and 60. The chapel in Row Lane seats 150 persons, but in connection with it there is no schoolroom, and had the body contemplated further construction, they would not easily have carried out their scheme in consequence of adjacent dwellings-house property. Added to these facts, the congregation many times addressed themselves as to the general inconvenience of the place, and when it eventually got out of repair they considered the question of erecting new premises. This subject was first mooted some five years ago, and at once the whole congregation set to work heartily for the attainment of their object. By bazaars, lectures and in other miscellaneous ways, they raised £119 6s 5d. gathered £52 19s 8d., in subscriptions and up to yesterday the amount promised towards the proposal was £101 11s 4d. When the funds began to look somewhat favourably, they entered into negotiations for a site, and were advantageously met by Mr W. Lee of Birmingham, a former resident of the village. We are told that Mr Lee, having heard of the intention of the Wesleyans of Woodborough to erect a new chapel, made a special visit to the place, and purchased a plot of land, which he afterwards sold to them for the small sum of £20, a considerable reduction on what he gave for it. The new site is nearly opposite the pretty stone church of St Swithin (Swithun’s), and in all respects is a very suitable site. Mr Lee, who is an architect, afterwards prepared plans for a chapel, simple in form and most appropriate for the congregation in question, and these having been approved, the object of five years toil at once took a tangible form. Building operations were commenced a fortnight ago, and yesterday was set apart for the laying of two memorial stones. The day was exceedingly fine, and the ceremony passed off in a pleasant manner. The two stones were laid by Miss Lee and Mr G. Gregg, the former an old Woodborough Wesleyan, and the latter of Lowdham. The ceremony only lasted a few moments, the speaking at the conclusion being unusually short. Miss Lee, who is a member of the congregation, and has been actively connected with the Sunday School for a considerable period, laid one stone on behalf of the scholars, and when her part of the function was over she placed upon the stone a purse containing £5, which they had subscribed, also £5 as her own contribution, amid the applause of the 200 villagers who had turned out in unusually gay attire to witness the stone laying. Mr Gregg also subscribed £5, and a good amount was realised by a collection taken during the proceedings. Mr William Lee was chairman of the meeting, and amongst the other persons were:- Messrs George Gregg, S. Smith, Carnill, J. Stratham, G. Hardstaff, Rev’d John Cropper, and the Rev’d W T Gill (the superintendent minister of the Southwell Circuit). A tea was afterwards provided in a barn (now known to be The Homestead) a little way off, kindly lent by Mr Footitt, and a capital meeting followed in the evening.

The new chapel is expected to cost about £600, and the trustees are over an engagement with the authorities of the connexion to find £450 of that amount within one year after its erection. The style of the building is semi-Gothic. It will be built of brick, with stone dressings, and here and there will be a little ornamentation in Staffordshire blue bricks. The principal front will be the main street, or facing the church, and a porch with double doors, will afford access to the chapel. The entrance to the school, which will be divided from the chapel by a partition, will be by a side door. The chapel will measure 28ft long by 26ft wide, and the school 18ft by 26ft. The chapel will be open to the roof, the well lit by several single light windows, which will be filled in with cathedral tinted glass. The ventilation will be from the windows, and in winter time warmth will be provide by means of a hot-air apparatus. The chapel will be formed into two aisles, with centre and side-pews, and the furniture will chiefly be in deal, only the ends of the pews being in pitch pine. In consequence of there being no gas in the village, the premises will have to be illuminated with paraffin. The walls will be plain distemper, and the floors are to be boarded, but the aisles in the chapel will be tiled. Sitting accommodation will be provided for 175 people in the chapel, and the school will seat 100 scholars. The exterior of the chapel will be, as we have already stated, simple in form, yet attractive. The porch at the front will considerably enhance the general appearance. On the remaining three sides will be pilasters in brick, and what is very unusual in this part of the country, the roof will be covered in with lockjaw tiles. Messrs Hallam and Carnill of Lowdham are the builders, and the structure is expected to be completed by October next. It is intended to dispose of the old chapel either by tender or auction.

Above left: The Wesleyan Chapel and Davenport House. Above right: The Chapel interior in 1887

Wesleyan Methodism at Woodborough & Laying Memorial Stones: The quiet village of Woodborough, though beautifully situated, labours under the almost insuperable disadvantage of being practically inaccessible by ordinary modern modes of locomotion. A visit means either a walk of 7 or 8 miles or a special hire, and in these days of cheap fares and quick travelling a place so handicapped naturally goes to the wall. Woodborough is not an increasing or flourishing place, but neither on the other hand does it decay or decrease to any appreciable extent. It has probably changed little since about 300 years ago, in the reign of Queen Elizabeth; a native invented the stocking frame to meet the exigencies of courtship in these days, when young ladies seem to have been more persistently industrious than now. Although the neighbouring village of Calverton claims the honour of the invention, from the fact that the young lady lived there, and it was her assiduous knitting that stimulated the genius of the inventor there is presumptive evidence that he was not only a resident of Woodborough but that his descendants have held the Lee homestead ever since. The home of the Lees, the inventor of the stocking frame, and indirectly the originator of the more complex lace machine, is still pointed out and is still in possession and occupation of his descendants. The story is old, but it ranks high amongst the narratives of industry and invention and has more of the air of romance about it than that of James Watt and the teakettle. Woodborough should, therefore, be a place of peculiar interest to the people of Nottingham, and other lace and hosiery centres, and may doubtless, in time, become a more popular resort than at present.

The church bears traces of the Norman style. It was in or about the year 1826 that the movement originated by Wesley commenced in Woodborough a “cause” was established, and from meeting in workshops, barns and other out of the way places, thanks to the efforts of Nottingham preachers, in 1827 a chapel was built in a by-road known as Row Lane (Roe Lane). Here, as in most rural districts, a struggling cause was maintained with fluctuating prospects and results, Woodborough forming part, first of Mansfield, and next of Southwell circuit. The chapel, out of the way, small, inconvenient, and ill-suited to meet modern requirements, had latterly 37 members, and connected with it was a Sunday School with between 50 and 60 children in average attendance. As the chapel was also a schoolroom, and was about equally ill adapted for preaching and teaching purposes, there was no spare land for extension, and it was felt that an effort should be made to obtain a new place of worship and schoolroom. Such an undertaking in a place like Woodborough, where there were already difficulties in the way, even of struggling on as they were, seemed little short of hopeless. But with the hour came the man. Mr Lee, a descendent of the inventor, now a builder of Birmingham, hearing of the needs of his native village, paid it a visit, bought a site in the main street, nearly opposite the Parish Church, and the movement was fairly set on foot. Mr Lee also undertook to give his services as architect, prepared plans, &c., and the work was commenced a fortnight ago, and it is expected the edifice will be completed and opened sometime in October. The chapel will be red brick, with stone dressings, 28 ft. by 26 ft. with a schoolroom at the rear, separated by folding doors 18 ft. by 26 ft. The height will be good. The chief feature of the building will be its simplicity; for whereas Wesleyan Methodist chapels, it is computed, usually cost from £5 to £8 per sitting, this will only cost about £4. The chapel is estimated to seat 175 worshippers, and the schools 100 scholars. The floor will be of boards except the aisles or passages, which will be tiled. The sittings will have pitch-pine ends, the seats of deal. The lighting will be by means of paraffin lamps, the heating by hot air from underneath, and the ventilation will chiefly be by the windows. The cost is estimated at about £600, and, under arrangement, £450 of that amount must be found within 1 year of the opening. Towards that sum £119 6s 5d has been obtained by means of bazaars, lectures, &c., the subscriptions paid amount to £52 19s 8d, and those promised to a further sum of £101 11s 4d. That represents a total of £273 17s 5d. Beyond that it was expected that a considerable sum would be collected at the formal laying of memorial stones yesterday, and a moiety by the disposal of the old chapel, which is now on sale. The architect of the new place is Mr Lee, of Birmingham, and the contractors Messrs Haslam and Carnill of Lowdham. The memorial stones were laid yesterday, the weather being beautifully fine, but unfortunately there was not so large an attendance of visitors from Nottingham, Mansfield, Southwell, and other places as was hoped for.

The Rev’d R W Gill, superintendent minister of the circuit, presided, and amongst those present were — Rev’d. John Cropper, Mr F. Adamson (of Epperstone), Mr G A Gregg (Lowdham), Mr S Smith, Mr Carnill, Mr James Statham and Mr George Hardstaff. After praise, prayer and the reading of scripture, Miss Lee treasurer of the school, gracefully laid one memorial stone on behalf of the children, who had contributed £5, and Mr Gregg laid the other. Thereafter an enjoyable tea meeting was held in a barn adjoining the Lee homestead (153 Main Street, The Homestead), which was in turn followed by a public meeting. The proceedings passed off without a hitch, and the event will be long remembered in the village.

The following minutes of three meetings represent important stages in the change from the “Old Wesleyan Chapel” (now known as The Institute):

Firstly: Deciding in 1883 to proceed with building the new chapel, Wesleyan Chapel

Village of Woodborough, Notts

Proposed new Wesleyan Chapel

Introduction – April 30th 1883

The old Wesleyan chapel at Woodborough situate in one of the side streets, known as Row Lane, having become too small for the requirements of the Congregation and Village, the population of which was at the Census of 1881 — 889 souls. The inside dimensions of the Chapel being only 31’-2” x 19’-7”, and needing many repairs, ventilation to and there not being any ground adjoining, which could be made available, so that the Chapel could be enlarged and Mr William Lee, of Birmingham, a native of Woodborough, having offered a Site for a new Chapel and Sunday School, in a much more convenient and attractive position, situate at the bottom of Row Lane, where it intercedes the Main Street of the Village, the Trustees of the old chapel were called together on April 30th 1883, at Woodborough, by the Reverend William Hill, the Superintendent Minister, to consider the whole question, both as regards the old chapel, and also as to the proposed new chapel, when the following Trustees were present viz.

Mr William Cook, butcher, Farnsfield, Notts.

Mr William Lee, builder, 51 Aston Road, Birmingham.

The only surviving absent Trustees being:

Mr Thomas Wright, shoemaker, Carrington, Nottingham.

Mr Sam Lee, 9 St Ann Street, Liverpool.

Mr Sam Slaney, farmer, Annesley, Nottingham.

Mr Thomas Morley, Lincoln.

Messrs. T W Anderson, Baggaley, Hay, Machin and Sam Smith being present, at the meeting, at the invitation of the Reverend William Hill, to confer with the Trustees on the whole question.

Resolved (by the Trustees). The Reverend William Hill in the Chair.

1st that Mr William Lee, having offered a Site of about 400 square yards in the Main Street of Woodborough, at the price of £20, on which to erect a new chapel and Sunday School, that a new Trust be formed for the purpose of purchasing such site.

2nd that the old chapel be sold, when a new chapel and Sunday School are erected to take its place, or at such time, as the Chapel Committee in Manchester may think desirable, and the proceeds of the Sale thereof be handed to the Trustees of the proposed new chapel and Sunday School, to assist in the erection of same.


Secondly: In 1891 to rent out the Old Wesleyan Chapel (now known as The Institute).

Minutes of Meeting of the Trustees of the old Wesleyan Chapel,

at Woodborough held on August 31.1891


Messrs W. Smith, Gammon, Adamson, Statham and Footitt —

in the absence of the Sup. [Superintendent]: Minister, the Rev’d J C Dugdale, who had been summoned to the Meeting, but was away from the Circuit, M Adamson was elected Chairman of the Meeting —

A proposal was submitted in writing from Mr George Gregg, a Trustee and Treasurer of the Trust which was fully explained by Mr Carnill, who attended for that purpose, as to letting the old Chapel to the Rev’d Buckland, Vicar of Woodborough on terms embodied in a draft agreement drawn by Mr Gregg —

Resolved unanimously that the Building be let to Mr Buckland on the terms embodied in the draft agreement now submitted —

That Mr Gregg be authorised to carry this agreement into effect and to sign the same on behalf of the Trustees —

Signed: R Nicholson


Thirdly: In 1895 to receive and accept an offer to purchase that building.

Old Chapel

Minutes of Meeting of the Trustees of the Old Wesleyan Chapel, held at the new Wesleyan Chapel at Woodborough specially called to consider an offer for the Purchase of the Old Wesleyan Chapel and transact any business in connection therewith —

April 23rd 1895


Messrs. Gregg (Treasurer), Adamson (Secretary), William Smith, Foottit and Gammon, W. Statham being absent through illness.

The Rev’d R Nicholson, not being able to be present, W Gregg was unanimously elected to take the chair.

The Minutes of the last Meeting were read and confirmed.

1. Mr Adamson, the Secretary, reported that he had been negotiating the Sale of the Old Chapel to Messrs Joseph Clayton, William Southern and Elijah Wright and that subject to the sanction of this meeting, the price agreed upon was £75.

2. Proposed by W Gammon and Seconded by W Foottit that the offer of £75 be accepted; carried unanimously.


Woodborough’s new Wesleyan Chapel — after the stone laying of this new chapel as reported yesterday, the company adjourned to a barn kindly lent by Mr Footitt, where a public tea was provided. At 6.30 p.m. a public meeting was held in the same place when Mr W Lee of Birmingham, presided, and Mr Adamson, Secretary, gave a history of the scheme — Mr Gregg presented the Treasurer's account which was very encouraging. — The Rev’d W T Gill urged the members to pray that the very beginning of the history of the new chapel it might be the birthplace of souls. — The Rev’d J Cropper, of London, gave a very earnest speech. — Mr J W Lewis of Nottingham, congratulated the friends on the success of the effort, and rejoiced at the accommodation they were making for the young. He recalled with pleasure early religious impressions, and bade them to labour on, for, said he, more and more it spreads and grows. Methodism is the largest Protestant church in the world. The proceeds of the day were over £40.



Methodist Church - The new Wesleyan Chapel

From the Nottingham Journal, Tuesday July 26th, 1887

New Wesleyan Chapel for Woodborough: The Wesleyan body of the straggling village of Woodborough, an ancient though not very prosperous body thereabouts, yesterday launched a project which in days to come is likely to do them credit. Since the year 1827 they have worshipped at a chapel erected by them in the beginning of that year in what was then the leading thoroughfare — Row Lane (Roe Lane). Methodism was first introduced to the parish in the previous year, and several of the present residents of the neighbourhood are able to recall the earnest services then held in the shop of a framework knitter in the centre of the village. And when the chapel was completed the services were conducted there with much spirit, so characteristic of those earlier days of Methodism.

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