by Dennis Claydon
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*Letters reproduced by courtesy of Centre for Buckinghamshlre Studies, Reference Number Q/JQc/2
In July 1985, Lacey Green held its first ever 'Village Day' celebrations, in which every organisation within the village participated. The Methodist Recorder' reported, that the local Methodist Church, as its contribution, '... took the opportunity of telling the story of Methodism in Lacey Green through an exhibition'. The exhibition was also featured on B.B.C. Radio Oxford.
By coincidence, 1985 also marked the 130th anniversary of the opening of the Church building in Main Road. A suggestion was made therefore, that the research involved in staging the historical exhibition should be compiled as a record of the 150 years of Methodist witness in Lacey Green. These pages are the result of that suggestion.
John Wesley, Methodism's founder, following ordination, reputedly preached his first sermon ever in Buckinghamshire. Wesley had been ordained into the Church of England and he considered Methodism to be a movement within that Church, not in opposition to it. Opposition, however, forced John Wesley to begin his itinerant ministry, yet he continued as an Anglican priest. During his lifetime, Wesley is renowned for his journeys on horseback across the length and breadth of Britain to preach in towns and cities. Wesley maintained a Journal and various entries refer to him preaching in High Wycombe. Periodically he would pass through the town en route to preaching appointments in different parts of Oxfordshire and further afield. In one entry of 1766, (returning from Oxfordshire to London), he records that he '... rode with some difficulty, the wind being exceeding high, over the mountain to Wycombe'. At every opportunity on these journeys, he would stop in High Wycombe and preach to the townsfolk.
An early meeting room, established in Easton Street, was subject to attempted disruption of services, due to a neighbour beating a drum during worship time. However, by 1777 Wesley's followers in the town felt the need for a new 'preaching house' in a fresh location. Wesley himself suggested measurements and supplied plans for the building. One of Wesley's most ardent supporters, Hannah Ball, credited with opening the first Sunday School in the land in High Wycombe in 1769, was instrumental in achieving the results. Situated in St. Mary's Street, John Wesley opened the new building, on 11th November 1779.
In 1795, only four years after Wesley's death, 'Wesleyans' or 'Methodists' across Britain severed their links with the Church of England and set up the Wesleyan Methodist Church. As the years passed, the building of a small number of Wesleyan Chapels, in the villages surrounding High Wycombe began. In 1815, the formation of the High Wycombe Wesleyan Circuit, created from the Oxford Circuit, took place, making the building in St. Mary's Street the Circuit Church. In other villages, where there was no set meeting place, groups of villagers would meet for worship in cottages or barns.
Gradually the influence of the Wesleyan Methodists spread from the town to the isolated and outlying villages of Lacey Green and Loosley Row. Around 1815 the Tomkins family, William and Jane, with their then six children, moved from Winslow to Loosley Row. William, who was born in Westbury, north Buckinghamshire, set up a Wheelwright's business in the village of Loosley Row. The couple went on to have another five children. Members of this family were to have a great influence regarding Methodism in Lacey Green and Loosley Row, which extended for well over a century. It is interesting to note that Jane died in 1827 and her burial took place at St. John's Parish Church, Lacey Green. The burial, recorded in the Parish Registers of Lacey Green and Princes Risborough, the Princes Risborough Register stating that she was 'wife of Chapel Clerk of Loosley Row'. The couple's eldest son, also named William, married Anne Claydon of Longwick in 1829 and took up residence in Downley. They had four children, Jane, the eldest, was baptised at St Mary's Street Wesleyan Methodist Church, High Wycombe. The remainder, all of whom died in infancy, were baptised at the Wesleyan Methodist Church in Downley. Like his Father, William Junior plied the craft of a Wheelwright, but was deeply interested in the Methodist cause.
William Junior, records that he and his Father begged a piece of land and some money and built a small Chapel in Lacey Green around 1830. This was presumably a 'meeting house' for the Wesleyans of the two villages. A good congregation attended, with a Sunday School of seventy children. Evidence reveals 'a small Chapel lately erected' being registered for worship by William Tomkins in 1832. The building quickly became far too small for the needs of the congregation. William Senior, set about building a Schoolroom at the end of the Chapel to overcome the problem.
There is evidence of services taking place on a regular basis during 1837/1839. In 1837, Lacey Green had a membership of eighteen, served by two Circuit Ministers and approximately twenty-nine local preachers, six of whom were 'on trial'. One, Robert Harman, is recorded as the 'class' leader. It is thought Harman may have resided in Bradenham, as he was also 'class' leader in that village, with a membership of twenty seven. (A Robert Harman, recorded as a Farmer in the Bradenham Parish Registers, may possibly be the same person, but he appears to have moved to Great Marlow sometime after this date.)
The preaching Plan of 1839 indicates three services on a Sunday, morning and afternoon conducted by local preachers, with an evening prayer meeting.
Further evidence suggests the Wesleyan association with these two villages may have extended over a far greater period. Between the years 1833 and 1842, some twenty couples from Lacey Green and Loosley Row presented their offspring for baptism.
Their names, recorded in the St. Mary's Street Baptismal Register, represent a good cross section of village family names, including Chilton, Floyd, Ginger, Gomme, Hawes, Hickman, Janes, Lacey and Stone. It is not clear, however, if the ceremonies were performed in High Wycombe or Lacey Green. By 1840, the membership of the Society had fallen to five and by 1844 Lacey Green no longer appeared on the Wesleyan Circuit Plan. There is a suggestion that owing to a disagreement, the Superintendent of the Circuit forced the Society to close.
For fifty years following the death of John Wesley, the Methodist movement was characterised by a series of divisions, normally on matters of Church government. Primitive Methodism was a major movement in English Methodism from around 1810, until Methodist Union in 1932. The Primitive Methodists concentrated their mission on the rural poor and were most likely to be small farmers, servants, mill workers, colliers, agriculture labourers or weavers. The Wesleyans tended towards respectability and concentrated on the more affluent and influential middle class urban population, although not all Wesleyans were wealthy.
Due to the above mentioned disagreement, it would appear William Tomkins Junior might have changed his allegiance from Wesleyan to Primitive Methodism. In the spring of 1835, Lacey Green received an introduction to Primitive Methodism by the visit of a Primitive Methodist Minister, Revd. James Pole of the Hounslow Circuit. William Junior claims to have requested Revd. Pole to open a mission in this area.
Created from the London Circuit in 1832, Hounslow Circuit came under the care of the Norwich District. Primitive Methodism was at this time strongest in the Potteries, the ports and in the rural areas of East Anglia, Berkshire and Buckinghamshire. It only made its presence felt in London rather later. This would probably account for the reason why this part of Buckinghamshire belonged to the Norwich District.
With only seventy members, Hounslow Circuit struggled hard for existence for a few years. The Revd. James Pole joined the Circuit as Superintendent in 1834, he and a single preacher having both to depend upon fewer than eighty members for support. It was not possible to raise their limited salaries and they had to endure many hardships and privations. They, however, persevered in their work and met with a measure of success. By the spring of 1835, membership had risen to one hundred. This prompted a decision to commence missionary operations in the County of Buckinghamshire.
By the beginning of the nineteenth century, the Wesleyan Connexion had forbidden both 'field preaching' and preaching by women. Rural open- air 'Camp Meetings (Open-air evangelistic meetings) were unacceptable to the Wesleyans, which may account for the fact the Primitive Methodists felt so impelled to move into the Buckinghamshire countryside. The Wesleyans were somewhat handicapped unless they actually had premises.
Like John Wesley before him, James Pole kept a Journal, in which he recorded the day to day events of the Mission. The Journal relates:
Wednesday 8th April 1835. I commenced my missionary labours at High Wycombe. This day I walked twenty miles and on my arrival at High Wycombe, I fixed my standard about the middle of the town, in a spacious place, called Queens Square. Hundreds gathered round me and good attention was paid. After service I was kindly received by several, though an entire stranger.
Two days after arriving in High Wycombe, Revd, Pole visited Downley:
Friday 10th April 1835. I preached at Downley, a new place. A friend, who had heard of my coming, had prepared a Wheelwright's shop and it was crowded with people of all classes. Here seems a good opening.
There is a good reason to believe the "friend" referred to, must almost certainly have been William Tomkins, Junior, whose Wheelwrights shop stood in Chapel Street, Downley, the building surviving right up until the 1930's. The Tomkins family were staunch supporters of Methodism and three of William's younger brothers were amongst the first Trustees of the Primitive Methodist Society at Lacey Green in 1855.
On the fifth day of the Mission Revd. Pole records his first visit to Lacey Green thus:
Sunday 12th April 1835. Preached three times at Lacey Green. Three or four professed to find liberty and on Monday several cried for mercy and found liberty.
The following Sunday was Easter Day. The Easter weekend proved to be both a busy and fruitful period within the area for the Mission. The entries record:
Sunday 19th April 1835 Easter Day. Prayer meeting at Downley and then class, the first ever held by Primitive Methodists in this County. Eight joined and this may be said to be a foundation stone of Primitive Methodism in this vicinity. I pray God it may rise to glorious structure. Went to Lacey Green and preached to a large congregation. In the afternoon at Napple Common (sic). Hundreds came to hear and a mighty unction attended the word. At night at High Wycombe, to a large concourse of people in the open air.
Monday 20th April 1835. It being Easter Monday, we held a meeting on Downley Common. Several lately converted engaged in prayer, this made a move and stimulated others to prayer. The scene was both delightful and affecting; some praising God for deliverance and praying Him to keep them in future - others crying for mercy. At night preached at Lacey Green. At the prayer meeting after, several wept on account of sin; one found the Lord.
Obviously, the Mission was making an impact within the local community, for on the following day Revd. Pole dined with the Constable of Downley. The Constable reported that he "had not before witnessed such an Easter, for every Easter since he had been Constable, he had been called out to keep the peace, but this time there was no need of it, for most of the people were praying and at worship on the Common."
John Wesley, on a number of occasions during his own work, mentions how the constables and justices noticed behaviour being more peaceable and a vast change in sobriety because of Methodism.
Fourteen days after first preaching in High Wycombe, Revd. Pole once again conducted an open-air service in the town. Following a prayer meeting afterwards, a Primitive Methodist Society, formed of six members, was established. At the end of April, Revd. Pole records another visit to Lacey Green:
Monday 27th April 1835. At Lacey Green. More than two hundred. It being cold, a person gave us liberty to go into a cart house. Tears flowed on every hand. Oh! What a spirit of hearing! The fields are already white unto harvest. Oh! that our Circuit were stronger, enough to send another labourer forth.
Throughout the summer and autumn of 1835 the Mission continued, with Revd. Pole preaching in towns and villages in the locality, High Wycombe, Downley, Marlow, Wooburn, Penn Street, Bledlow, Longwick and Princes Risborough, with varying degrees of success and otherwise. An interesting account appears regarding Speen, a neighbouring village to Lacey Green.
Monday 8th August 1835. Preached at Spean, (sic) a new place. The cause of my preaching here was this: two men were fighting, and one killed the other; and some thought that to visit it at such a time would do good. It is only a small village, but people flocked from different places, until it was thought there were more than four hundred present. I spoke from Romans S v. 21, "That as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Christ Jesus our Lord." The scene was different from what appeared a few days ago. Now many, I think scores, were weeping under the word. And since that time, we have had a house opened, and a Society formed. It is shocking to say, that within the last six months, no less than three wretched beings have been hurried into eternity within five miles of this place, by this wretched fighting. And the brother of the one killed at Spean (sic), killed one of the others and is now in prison. Oh! what a blot upon human nature!
In conjunction with the Mission, arrangements for a series of Camp Meetings throughout the area followed, one of these taking place at Lacey Green in the early autumn:
Sunday 6th September 1835. A Camp Meeting at Lacey Green. Here we had the happiness to hear many, who a short time ago were strangers to religion, now lifting up their hearts in prayer and praise to God, and speaking of His wondrous grace to their fellow creatures. It was a time which will be remembered in eternity with joy by many.
Monday 7th September 1835. The cause appeared to be rising in a general way, and the local brethren are much encouraged to go forth afresh in the good work. At the close we held a watch-night; some cried for mercy; others were made happy in God.
In November 1835, a William Ginger registered a Dissenting Place of Worship at Lacey Green. Sadly, the registration does not record which denomination used the building. The registration was for the use of William Ginger's house, there is no mention of a Chapel. Maybe this registration was the result of Rev. Pole's visit? Earlier, in 1834, the baptismal register of St. Mary's Street Wesleyan Church in High Wycombe records the baptism of the daughter of a William Ginger and his wife, Elizabeth, of Lacey Green. It is not known if this is the same family. Could William Ginger also have changed his allegiance to Primitive Methodism? Alternatively, was his 'Dissenting Place of Worship' of a totally different persuasion e.g. Baptist?
The Mission generally was successful and by March 1836, the number of members within the Hounslow Circuit had risen to one hundred and sixty. By June 1836, further progress continued and High Wycombe became recognized as the Circuit town.
Despite the above quoted experience of the Constable of Downley, evidence suggests Camp Meetings were not always as peaceful as they might have been and were subject to opposition and hostility. In the early afternoon of Sunday 1st July 1838, a Camp Meeting took place in Kiln Lane, Lacey Green. Witnesses reported preachers in a wagon and '...Mr. Tomkins, the Wheelwright, was there, he preached, prayed and sang'. A large crowd assembled, some disputes took place and fighting broke out, due to the great number of half drunken customers from nearby Ginger's beer shop. Following the Camp Meeting, which lasted about two hours, many of the 'congregation' retired to Ginger's beer shop, but the preachers did not do so. Fighting continued until late afternoon, the beer shop was full; there was a great deal of noise, much swearing and insults made to passersby. Such was the disturbance, the Parish Constable, Solomon Claydon, had to attend to restore order and keep the peace. Returning home about six o'clock, the Constable was immediately summoned back to the same location, because men were fighting in a nearby field. This episode led to the arrest of five individuals, charged with having been concerned in a riot at Lacey Green. All concerned later received discharge, except an additional individual charged with being drunk.
The following correspondence between Lord Camngton and Acton Tindal Esq., Clerk of the Peace for Buckinghamshire clearly illustrates the disturbance at Lacey Green on 1st July 1838 received attention from the highest of officialdom. Lord Carrington was probably correct in assuming the incident 'to be much exaggerated'. It seems unlikely that the 'orators' would have refreshed themselves at a nearby 'Beer Shop', since Primitive Methodists were strongly opposed to alcoholic beverages. It appears more likely, as Acton Tindal suggests, certain persons attended especially with the view of disturbing the Meeting and causing a 'riot'.
(i)Letter dated 14th May 1839 from Lord Carrington, Whitehall to Acton Tindal. Esq. Marked Private. *
(iii) Letter dated 23rd May 1839 from Lord Carrington, Whitehall to Acton Tindal, Esq. *
(ii) Letter dated 17th May 1839 from Acton Tindal to Lord Carrington. *
The founding of a Primitive Methodist Society at Lacey Green, it would appear, came about as a direct result of Revd. Pole's Mission. Little is known of the progress of the Society during its early years, for twenty years elapsed between Revd. Pole's visitations and the erection of a building in Main Road in 1855. However, one or two interesting accounts have survived.
Whilst the Mission meetings held in Lacey Green had been in the open air or farm buildings, evidence suggests, with the formation of a Society, there was an earlier building where congregations met.
People still living in the village have heard their parents and grandparents speak of an earlier church or meeting house situated in an area north-west of the 'Black Horse' public house. The site was adjacent to the Farm, which had been home to the Floyd family, now two properties known as 'Floyds Farm Cottage' and 'Floyds Barn'. In January 1837, John Carter Dell registered a building for public worship. The registration records 'I have erected a Chapel or buildings on my premises'. John Carter Dell, as one of the more prosperous villagers, erected this building, entirely at his own expense, solely for the use of the Primitive Methodists. Variously described as a Farmer and Shopkeeper, to undertake such expenditure, the events of the Mission must have greatly influenced him. However, it probably was John Carter Dell's Chapel that William Tomkins described as 'a poor thatched Chapel'. It is a great pity the locations of William Tomkins' Chapel and William Ginger's house are impossible to identify positively.
Unfortunately, John Carter Dell died at an early age in 1840. In his Will, he made provision to leave the meeting house to his wife, Elizabeth, (Betsy). An extract from his Will reads: "....Also that Freehold Meeting House erected by me for a place of Divine Worship of the Primitive Methodists at Lacey Green with nine feet of Freehold land adjoining each side of the said Meeting House to sell or let or keep in her own possession...." One of the Witnesses to the Will was George Grigg, a Primitive Methodist Preacher, of High Wycombe.
How long the building remained in use following the death of John Carter Dell is unknown, nor the actions of his wife regarding the building's future. It is likely the demolition of the building eventually took place, since no trace of it remains today. However, the stair banister of a nearby cottage is reputedly made from the woodwork of this former building, whilst the cottage itself is said to have had "every inch of its floor prayed upon". Likewise, two other cottages in the village, erected around 1855, in the traditional brick and flint style of the Chilterns, at a cost of £60.00 each, are reputedly partly constructed from the stones of the "Old Chapel". These latter two cottages were possibly built by the Tomkins family and were certainly in the ownership of that family for many, many years. The foregoing would suggest the materials from the former Meeting House were probably recycled and reused.
High Wycombe Primitive Methodist Circuit and thus Lacey Green continued in the Norwich District until 1840. In that year, the Circuit was transferred to become a branch of the Reading Circuit, until 1848, when High Wycombe once again resumed its status as Circuit town.
An account, written by John Guy and signed by John Ride, President, and George Ayngell, Secretary, at the Reading Circuit Quarterly Meeting, tells of the "Work of God in the High Wycombe Branch". The account refers to Wooburn, Littleworth (north of Burnham), Lacey Green, The Lee, Seer Green, Naphill and Downley. Both John Guy and John Ride were pioneer travelling preachers. Lacey Green is described thus:-
"The work here was low; but in the Spring of the year 1841, the Lord caused there to be a blessed quickening. A pro tracted Meeting was held in April for eight days; several were converted, a number joined the Society and some of the Sunday scholars were powerfully wrought o 'er; and the number of scholars is increased. To God be all the glory now and evermore. Amen."
This brief account suggests a Society had been in existence for a number of years, confirming the earlier assumption that one was probably formed in 1835/36. It would also appear a building was in regular use for worship and Sunday School. The above mentioned account states there were churches at Wooburn, Littleworth and The Lee.
The period just after 1830 was a very hard one generally in England, but particularly for agriculture. In the countryside there were a series of poor harvests, this together with the Corn Laws kept the price of bread very high. It might well be, had it not been for John Carter Dell, the village Methodists of Lacey Green would have been far too poor to build anything like a commodious Church.
Throughout England on 30th March 1851, an ecclesiastical census took place to record attendance at all places of worship. The returns for the Primitive Methodist Church in Lacey Green read as follows:
100 - Morning General Congregation
240 - Afternoon General Congregation
240 - Evening General Congregation
The census quotes 1842 as a possible date for the building's erection, Possibly this was John Carter Dell's Chapel still in use, but an error made in the supposed erection date. Albeit the figures show a good attendance, they were probably 'estimated'.
From the time of the above account by John Guy any record of the "Work of God", or the progress of the Society at Lacey Green is lost until the year 1854, when a unique event is recorded by the Minister, the Revd. James Mules, then stationed at High Wycombe.
"At Lacey Green the Sabbath School sermons were preached by the Revd. James Mules in the Baptist Chapel, kindly lent for the occasion and scores were unable to get within the doors. The children did remarkably well, and the collections exceeded those of the previous year. Next day a large tea meeting was held, and we were favoured with very energizing and opposite addresses from the Revd. Blackmore, Baptist and several of his lay brethren. It is pleasing to see the ministers and members of the various churches uniting for educational and Christian purposes. This is one of the good signs of the times."
The above report raises many interesting questions. What was the reason for the use of the Baptist Church for the Sunday School Anniversary services? Possibly it was simply the Methodist meeting place was too small to accommodate the expected crowd. Alternatively, the former meeting place may have fallen into disuse for one reason or another pending the opening of a new building in 1855. Where was the Baptist Church, mentioned in the report, situated? No known records appear to exist of such a building in the village. A suggestion is the Church referred to was in the neighbouring village of Loosley Row. This is a likely explanation, considering Baptists have worshipped in Loosley Row since the 17th century. Revd. James Blackmore was the Minister of Princes Risborough Baptist Church from 1852 until 1861. He would also have had under his pastoral care, the many smaller village Baptist Churches surrounding the town, including Loosley Row, hence his presence at the tea meeting. On most Sundays he would minister to the needs of the congregation in Princes Risborough, whilst the pulpits of the village churches would be occupied by the "lay brethren".
Over the years, a long tradition grew up in the two villages, whereby the congregations of the Methodist and Baptist Churches exchanged with one another for their respective Sunday School Anniversary and Harvest Thanksgiving services. Could this tradition have grown from a unique event of 1854?.
In the mid to late 19th century Lacey Green and Loosley Row consisted of approximately one hundred and thirty four houses, with a total population of six hundred and twenty inhabitants. Most of the male members of the Church at this time were engaged either in agriculture or in the making of furniture. Some were highly skilled chairbodgers, toiling in cottage workshops or the surrounding woodland glades on the primitive pole lathe, turning chair legs and stretchers for the famous 'Windsor' chair. Others found employment in the furniture factories of High Wycombe.
The above occupations were very poorly paid. With large families to provide for, the wives supported their menfolk with the meagre income they could make producing Buckinghamshire pillow lace. Indeed, lace has been used as currency in these villages. With very little, if any, spare cash, it was these devoted villagers from this small community who 'nobly persevered', probably with great sacrifices, to raise funds for the erection and maintenance of a new Church building.
Some entries in the Account Book reflect typical rates of pay for this period:
1856 - Paid Labourer two days work 4/Od. (2Op)
1868 - Paid D. Hadaway one day's work 2/4d. (l1p)
It is unknown when, why or by whom the decision to erect a new building came into being. However, on 25th May 1855 Mr. John Janes of Loosley Row conveyed two pieces of land in Main Road, Lacey Green to the following Trustees:
Of the original thirteen Trustees, seven came from Loosley Row, two from Lacey Green and the remainder from Darvill's Hill, Bledlow Ridge, Downley and High Wycombe. Lacey Green was perhaps fortunate in that there were a handful of businessmen who became Trustees. Joseph Hunt was a business man from High Wycombe, well known in helping to establish Primitive Methodist Churches in the villages surrounding the town. For twenty-five years, he served as a Councillor for the Borough of High Wycombe, before being appointed Alderman. He was four times Mayor. Frogmore Gardens Primitive Methodist Church in High Wycombe was his home Church.
The Tomkins brothers, James, Thomas and Moses, were younger brothers of the Revd. William Tomkins, engaged in the family business as Wheelwrights. John Gomme founded Gommes Forge, a company still in business today. Thomas Randall was a fellow Blacksmith in Loosley Row. Alfred Ward was a Carpenter, but also ran a grocery store and Post Office. Abel Dell came from a long line of Farmers; he was a nephew of John Carter Dell.
There were presumably good reasons why the former building could not be enlarged or the site re-used. The Accounts for 1855 indicate with the purchase of the land, for the sum of five pounds, construction work began almost immediately and the building completed by September of that year.
Audited by the Quarterly Meeting held December 10th 1855
W. H. Janes, President, Dennis Kendall, Secretary
'For many years our people at Lacey Green have been much inconvenienced and their progress retarded, for the want of a larger Sanctuary. They, therefore, thought a new Chapel a desideratum, and began to subscribe towards it, when my predecessor, Mr. Jackson, travelled in this Circuit; and although many of then are poor, they nobly persevered until ?40 were raised. Then we sought a spot of land, and after experiencing some repulses and other annoyances, we succeeded in obtaining a suitable piece offreehold, and have erected thereon a neat, commodious, substantial brick Chapel. It is well ventilated; has four sash windows; is 33 feet by 23 feet inside, and 18 feet to the ceiling. It has a good deal floor, and a neat stone over the doorway, on which is inscribed 'Primitive Methodist Chapel, 1855'. The land, building, deed, enrolment, etc., will cost ?175 and we have already obtained upwards of ?70 towards it.
It was opened for Divine worship on Lord's Day, September 23'" 1855, by Mr. E Bishop, of the London First Circuit, and the writer. The day was very beautful; the Chapel was densely crowded, and scores could not gain admittance. Mr. Bishop original, powerful, and earnest discourses were calculated to do much good. On Monday, the 24th, we held a public tea meeting. Near 300 persons were present, and enjoyed themselves exceedingly. After the tables were removed, I Hunt Esq., was voted to the chair; and appropriate addresses were afterwards delivered by Messrs Lacey, Bishop, Blackmore, Adcock and Mules. On Sunday and Monday, we collected upwards of ?20. We desire to express our warmest thanks to the gentlemen and farmers who have lent their horses or teams to draw all the materials gratuitously; and to subscribers, far and near, who have given their donations, labour, etc., and we earnestly pray that the 'glory of the latter house may be much greater than that of the former'.
'Here may truth fresh triumphs win;
Eternal Spirit, here,
In many a heart now dead in sin,
A living temple rear.
Two of the names quoted above are Primitive Methodist Ministers, Revd. Edward Bishop of London First Circuit and Revd. James Mules, of the High Wycombe Circuit, Minister at Lacey Green. Revd. James Blackmore was the Minister of Princes Risborough Baptist Church. Messrs. Lacey and Adcock may have been local preachers.
The above report states that many of the congregation were poor; the problems came to a head at a Trustees Meeting held 7th November 1855. At this meeting Alfred Ward, accepted the appointment of Treasurer, with John Gomme and Thomas Tomkins, as Chapel Stewards. A resolution was passed '....that as we owe Alred Ward eight pounds as part of his Bill, he be requested to take it by installments as fast as it comes in'.
A friend of the Church recalls attending a fund raising event some eighty years after the opening of the Church. At the conclusion of the evening's programme, Mr. F. Rixon, thanked those attending for their support and remarked that '... our Grandmothers and Grandfathers worked at their lace pillows and turning lathes to earn a little extra to build this place of worship and this evening proceeds will help to keep it in good repair'..
The Minister, Revd. Robert W. Monkman, who had moved from the Maidenhead Circuit to the High Wycombe Circuit, records an account of the first anniversary celebrations in 1856.
'First Anniversary was held September 21st and 22nd 1856, when three sermons were preached by Revd. John Fuller of the Maidenhead Circuit, and a tea and Public Meeting on the 22nd. The collections were good, and the Master of Assemblies was present to bless'.
Moses Tomkins, one of the Trustees, records the events of the second anniversary in 1857.
'We celebrated our Chapel Anniversary on the Lord's Day, September 27th 185 7: and on the following day. Our old friend, Revd. James Mules from Luton Circuit, preached morning and evening and Mr. W Baker from High Wycombe in the afternoon. The Chapel was packed with persons, some of whom had come from most parts of the Circuit.
On Monday, about three hundred and thirty persons sat down to tea and in the evening, a Public Meeting was held. The collections and profits of the tea meeting amounted to more than ten pounds. The Trustees will reduce the debt twenty pounds this year.'
The Trustees had obviously purchased some crockery and cutlery to accommodate Church teas, the crockery smartly emblazoned with the logo 'LGPMC' (Lacey Green Primitive Methodist Church). The supply of water for teas came from the roof of the Church, which ran into an underground storage tank in the yard. With no pump available, this had to be drawn up by hand in bucketfuls. Presumably, the water was boiled on the 'Tortoise' stove in the Church building, as there was no other source of heat available, the entire exercise of tea making taking place inside a building measuring thirty- three feet by twenty-three feet. Imagine, therefore, catering a tea for 'about three hundred and thirty persons', without the aid of mains water, electricity, bottled milk, teabags or sliced bread!.
According to the records, tea meetings must have become a regular feature of Church life. At a Trustees Meeting on 18th May 1870 it was proposed '... that steps be taken for the purchase of a small piece of land adjoining the Chapel, with the intention of building a house with a Copper in it for convenience at tea meetings and for Store Room for property belonging to the chapel That Moses Tomkins wait on Mrs. Elizabeth Janes, the owner of the ground.'
On 13th July 1870 Mr. Tomkins reported '... . that Mrs. Elizabeth Janes is willing to sell the small piece of ground adjoining the Chapel viz six fret wide and sixty fret long....' The Trustees made a decision to purchase this land for an agreed sum of two pounds. At a Trustees Meeting on 8th September 1870 agreement was reached '... .that Alfred Ward's tender of twenty one pounds for the erection of a new Copper House and Closet etc., according to plan be accepted.'
Land adjacent to the site of the Church, divided into plots or strips, was in the ownership of several different persons. Eventually, however, over a period of time, the Church purchased this land. On 19th November 1880, a Conveyance passed from Miss Caroline Janes to Moses Tomkins. On this land in 1886, an addition to the building was made of a Schoolroom. Another Conveyance dated 7th August 1889, passed from a member of the Tomkins family, William Mawby Tomkins of Ashland, Wisconsin, in the United States of America, to Alfred Ward and others. William Mawby Tomkins was the son of Revd. William Tomkins by his second marriage. Born in Loosley Row in 1845, the lad emigrated, with his Father and Mother, to Wisconsin in 1850. It would seem reasonable to assume William Mawby probably inherited this land from his Father, Revd. William Tomkins, who died in 1870. William Mawby Tomkins became a well respected citizen of Ashland, appointed Town Clerk in 1873, later elected Justice of the Peace and becoming District Attorney.
The Accounts reveal, from time to time, this land to be a source of income - '1872 Rent of ground 6d. '(3p) and in 1894, '....that the Trustees let to Mrs. A. Ward the piece of land... .for 23/- per year (?1.15) and all rates and taxes be paid by her'.
While part of this land was under the tenancy of Mr. Edwin Rixon, for 15/- (75p) per year, in the 1920's, it was the scene of a strange occurrence. Edwin and Sons, local chairbodgers, had erected a workshop on the site. On arrival at work one morning, they found a subsidence had occurred during the night and their chopping block had disappeared into a shaft, some eight to ten feet in diameter and several feet deep. Upon inspection at the bottom of the shaft, a tunnel extended in a westerly direction for a considerable distance. At some time in the past, chalk had been 'mined' for agricultural purposes, as was the custom, and then the shaft refilled. To give some indication of the size involved, a disused rotten trap, belonging to the local newsagent, helped in filling the subsidence, together with loads of earth. An echo of this event returned in the dry summer of 1976, when there was again a subsidence, in the same place, to a depth of twelve inches.
A proposal to erect a porch at the entrance to the Church appears to have been problematic, although the Minutes provide only a minimal record. A Trustees Meeting in January 1903, appointed a Committee to consider the suggestion made by Mr. George Hickman. At a further Trustees Meeting in February of that year, the Minister, Revd. James Naisbit, requested the Superintendent Minister, Revd. Thomas Peatfield to obtain permission, should this be necessary. At a Trustees Meeting held 24th December 1903, the Revd. Thomas Peatfield was authorised to procure a plan of the suggested porch. At the same meeting, Mr. George Hickman tendered his resignation as Chapel Steward. (The person appointed to look after the fabric of the building.) However, he assented at the request of the meeting to remain in office. It is not clear if these two events were connected.The records then fall strangely silent regarding the porch, until June 1909, when a request was made to a local builder, Sidney Hickman, to provide plans and specifications. In August 1909, the question of building a porch was '... .deferred until Spring'. In March 1910, plans were submitted to the District Building Committee. By September, tenders were invited from local builders, W. Saunders, Lacey Green, E & G Ward, Speen and G. Shaw, Naphill. Two meetings held on the 19th and 20th October 1910 suggest some difficulty. These meetings were to consider what steps to take to correct plans of the new porch. Agreement was reached that the width be extended by twenty-seven inches and a swing window placed in the gable end. It was further resolved, to correct the mistake in building the porch, that the portion already built be pulled down and widened by twenty-seven inches. Despite this set back, the project was successfully completed and 'opened' on New Year's Day 1911, as reported in the local press:
'Considerable renovations, with an entire new porch, have recently been carried out at the Methodist Chapel, involving an outlay of ?25. The friends are delighted with the improvements, and are anxious to clear off the liabilities.A further report in early May 1911 describes a fund raising event for the porch:
With this in view, special services were held on Sunday last, when Mr. I N Harris, of West Wycombe, was invited to take the services. The friends assembled in large numbers, and responded liberally to the appeals made on behalf of the renovation scheme. Mr. George Hickman has carefully prepared a selection of music, including an anthem suitable to the occasion, 'God so loved'. Miss Constance Hawes presided at the harmonium and was greatly assisted by Mr. A. Rixon and Master F. Adams (violins), and Mr. G. Hawes (euphonium), with the Misses Minnie Brown and Mabel Hawes as soloists. Mr. Harris addresses were listened to with profound attention. The singing throughout was of the finest order, and was delightful in the extreme'.
'On Easter Sunday, special services were conducted by Mr. Pring, of Whitstable. On Easter Monday, a sale of work was opened at 2 o 'clock, Revd. D. Dunn presiding, and Mrs. G. B. Lacey, after a speech full of tender reminiscences, declaring the sale open. The proceeds of the effort were towards clearing off the remaining debt on the new porch, erected at the beginning of the winter, which was ?17.3s. At about 8 o'clock p.m. the takings were counted and it was found that ?16 had been raised. A friend came forward and gave another sovereign and a collection was taken, realising 4s. 8d. thus raising the whole of the money needed. It is only twelve months since the scheme was started and the ?29 needed for the project has been raised. The Chapel property is now estimated at about ?400 value, and is entirely free from debt. The members have worked hard, sewing, giving and collecting, and have reaped a rich reward. The Trustees take this opportunity of thanking all the friends who have come forward to help En this effort.'
However, the saga of the porch was to continue. At a Trustees Meeting held in January 1913, item 13 records, 'Moved that Notice be written for the misconduct of the Porch', whatever that might mean!
Before the advent of mains water to the village in the 1930's, villagers relied on rainfall caught from the rooftops and stored for household use in underground tanks. In dry seasons, lack of water could become a serious problem in Lacey Green, situated as it is, high on the Chiltern Hills. During such periods, roadside ponds also came into use for household and agricultural use. The Church tank was also utilized, '... donations from those who have had water from the tank' amounted to 6/l1d (35p) in 1892. The Minutes of January 1909 record, 'That a lock be put on the Chapel gate and that a notice be put in the pulpit that any of the neighbours wanting water from our tank are welcome to it, but they must purchase a key from the Chapel Treasurer, Mr. Tomkins'. Installation of mains water to the Church took place in 1955.
From 1855 until 1869, the lighting in the Church was by candlelight. The bill for candles, (met by a special collection) varied between 9/- (45p) and ?1.4.Od (?1.20) each year. Oil lamps replaced candles in 1869. At a Parish Council Meeting held in the Church in 1894, a collection taken for the use of oil amounted to 2/4?d (12p). In 1930, the building received electric light and power.
Heating was originally by means of a 'Tortoise' stove in the Church and an open fire in the Schoolroom. For many years, the Minutes record the 'Chapelkeeper' being provided with '... help for the fires.' The fires needed to be lit early on Sunday morning in order to heat the building sufficiently for morning worship and Sunday School. Attention to the fires was required throughout the day, until after the evening service. According to the prevailing wind and weather conditions, sometimes the 'Tortoise' stove would smoke inside the building. Opening the windows to clear the building of smoke meant a considerable loss of heat!
An extension of the Schoolroom took place in 1955, as part of the Centenary celebrations.
To find a Methodist Church with its own Cemetery attached is unusual in the South of England. As early as 1920, with the amount of land available to the Church, there was a suggestion made that a portion be set aside for use as a Cemetery and a fund opened for this purpose. However, it was 1934 before permission was granted, with the first interment taking place in 1937. Since that day, over one hundred burials and interment of ashes have taken place. The Church became licensed for Cemetery behind Church marriages in 1920..
The 1914/18 War took its toll, as it did throughout the land, on the young men of the village. Thirty-two men from Lacey Green, Loosley Row and Speen lost their lives. In 1919, the members and friends of the Methodist Church decided to erect a new entrance to their place of worship. This would serve as a War Memorial to the eleven '....former scholars of this Sunday School who gave their lives for humanity in the Great War'. As a means to raise the necessary funds for this object, a series of successful events took place throughout the year. These included teas, usually contributed by three or four individuals, followed by an entertainment event.
The first tea took place on March 4th given by Miss. Tomkins, Miss. Brown and Miss. Constance Hawes. Four young men very willingly promised a tea for March 19th A sale of parcels followed this tea, which proved to be very amusing and a huge success. Four other young men promised a tea on April 2nd. After this tea there was a cake competition, (the ladies kindly giving the cakes) which proved quite as interesting as the parcels and a very pleasing sum of money was raised.
On Easter Monday, a public tea and entertainment were given in aid of the proposed War Memorial. The tea was provided by lady members of the Church and was largely attended. The Primitive Methodist Choir, from Naphill, under their conductor Mr. G Hunt, provided the entertainment. Their musical and other items were much enjoyed. The Revd. J. Neighbour, Baptist Minister from Princes Risborough, presided. The proceeds for the day amounted to over ?9.
On Saturday, June 21st, an excellent tea was given by the generosity of the Sunday School. The result was a most successful effort. Before tea, there was a very amusing cricket match between the ladies and gentleman, the latter playing left handed, the result being a great victory for the ladies After tea, friends from Bryants Bottom gave a most enjoyable entertainment. The singing was excellent and the recitations most interesting.
The July event, a cricket match between the ladies, (married v single), had to be postponed until some future date, owing to the rain Nevertheless, at 430p.m. a goodly number sat down to tea. Despite the weather, a very acceptable sum was realised.
In the same month, the War Memorial Committee agreed the form of the Memorial. 'It was moved and carried that we raise iron gate and fence and that they be placed on concrete and also that there be two stones of white with the names raised in bronze.' Instructions were given to the Secretary to invite tenders for the building of the brick piers from Mr. John Saunders and Mr. Bert Ward. An estimate from E. Han is of Stone and Monumental Works, High Wycombe, in September 1919, for the supply of four Portland Stone Pier Caps, to sketch chosen, also two Portland Stone panels with names inscribed thereon, for the sum of ?65, was accepted.
On New Year's Day 1920, another successful tea, took place. After tea, Mrs. 0. Eggleton of Wardrobes Farm, made some impressive remarks concerning the men who had made the supreme sacrifice. Later in the evening, there was special singing, rendered by Mr. and Mrs. Church and daughter of North Dean. A Christmas tree greatly added to the pleasure of the evening as various friends had adorned the tree with envelopes containing gifts of silver and mottoes for the New Year.
The Memorial was opened on Wednesday 10th March 1920. The proceeds at the opening amounted to about ?20 (including a donation of ?3 from Mr. John Gomme and ?1 1s (1 .O5p) from Alderman Williams.
The names of the fallen, members of village families, some of whom are still current, were inscribed thereon:
When the Methodist Church closed in 2001, the Cemetery was also in danger of closure. The Methodist Authorities from High Wycombe, in selling off the site, split the ownership of the Memorial Gates, thus necessitating their removal, to allow access to the Cemetery. Following protracted negotiations, Lacey Green Parish Council acquired the Cemetery in 2006 and renamed it the Garden of Rest. It will now remain open for the use of parishioners. In place of the original gates, a new Memorial now stands in the Garden of Rest. The four brick piers of the original Memorial have been replicated and the Portland Stone Pier Caps reused. Since the Memorial no longer serves as a gateway, incorporated into the design, is a donated seat. New plaques record the names of the fallen.
The new Memorial was dedicated on Sunday 8 June 2014. The day was fine, warm and sunny. The Chairman of Lacey Green Parish Council, Councillor Mrs. Cathryn Davies, welcomed the assembled crowd of around eighty persons, many of whom were relatives of the fallen. Some had travelled from as far afield as Gloucestershire and North Wales to be present. Revd. Gregory Hargrove conducted a short dedication service, in which members of the Parish Council took part. Two minutes silence was observed, marked by the sounding of the Last Post and Reveille. Wreaths were laid on behalf of Lacey Green Parish Council, Buckinghamshire County Council, The Royal British Legion, Princes Risborough and District and RAFA, High Wycombe. There was an opportunity for family and friends to place a small wooden cross in memory of loved ones.
Afterwards, about sixty people were entertained to tea in the Village Hall. A book, detailing the young men commemorated on the Memorial, was on display and attracted much interest. These young men, who left their native village to defend their country and never returned, cannot have imagined, over a century later, their names would still be honoured..
In November 1954, the 'Methodist Recorder' reported:
'Lacey Green Methodist Church, in the High Wycombe Circuit, is a very live village society in the heart of the Chiltern Hills. On Sunday November 7th the Minister, the Revd. Kenneth W Curtis, received seven new members and the number of communicants was much larger than usual. This Church, which celebrates its Centenary next year, plans to enlarge its Schoolroom and big improvements to the kitchen are to be a memorial gift.'
As the above report suggests, to celebrate the Centenary in 1955, plans were in hand to enlarge the Schoolroom and incorporate other improvements, including the reconstruction and refurnishing of the kitchen.
The Centenary celebrations Souvenir Programme states:
'?.The Church today is vigorous. There are thirty-seven members, a good Sunday School and Women 's Meeting It is a tribute to Lacey Green people that they celebrate the Centenary by enlarging the premises. The cost will exceed ?800 of which about ?200 has been raised by the Lacey Green people....'
Work commenced on the extension in 1955 and a brick laying ceremony took place in the early summer, when nearly one hundred people attended. Revd. P. H. Foster, supported by the Revd. 0. M. Collins, made the opening dedication. During the ceremony that followed, conducted by the Minister, Revd. K. W. Curtis, more than sixty people laid bricks on the outer wall of the new Schoolroom.
The bricklayers included Church members, friends and Sunday School children. Tea was served and in the evening, a concert was given by the Victoria Street Methodist Church Choir from High Wycombe.
Work progressed and the extension completed in time for the Centenary celebrations in September. The celebrations took place over three weekends September 10th to 25th 1955, with services and rallies conducted by former Ministers and local preachers. Greetings were received from members of the Circuit, over tea, at the Saturday rallies.
At the first meeting, the Minister, Revd. Kenneth W. Curtis, led the service and the preacher was Revd. William Gowland of Luton. Ladies of the Church served tea. Mr. John Hall M.P. sent a greetings telegram. The former Superintendent Minister, Revd. Francis B. Hudson, who had recently moved to Dunstable, sent greetings.
'My dear Friends, As you embark upon your celebrations I send you congratulations, not only upon the splendid series of meetings which have been arranged, but also upon your achievements during the past century. In that lovely village at the edge of the Chilterns, you have borne a courageous and noteworthy witness .... which has radiated far and wide. Now in your enlarged premises you have an opportunity to serve the next century in a more efficient way. Whatever lies in the past remember that our calling is to 'serve the present age'. May your Centenary celebrations usher in your greatest days. With every good wish, Yours heartily, Francis B. Hudson.
Revd. G. B. Middleton, a former Minister and the Vicar of Lacey Green, Revd. J. Eric Steward, also sent messages of greetings.
The Chairman for the evening rally was Mr. A. Clark I.P. The Circuit Choir, conducted by Mr. H. Ford, with Mrs. K. Peatey as Organist, sang an anthem. The newly appointed Superintendent Minister, Revd. 0. Eric Firth, gave greetings.
Mr. A. S. Clark J.P. conducted the Sunday services.
At the second meeting, the preacher was Revd. W. C. H. Fell, a former Minister. Following tea, Mr. S. Goodearl and Mr. C. 0. Craft, Local Preachers, gave greetings. Mr. H. Wingrove was Chairman at the evening rally. Revd. W. C. H. Fell conducted the Sunday services.
The Centenary celebrations concluded on the third weekend, when Revd. W. S. Hinchliffe, a former Minister, preached on Saturday afternoon. After the service, the Mayor of High Wycombe, Councillor B. H. Picton, declared open the new Schoolroom. In his remarks, he said he was proud to be the first Mayor of High Wycombe to visit Lacey Green Methodist Church. Mr. C. Pearman then declared open a newly furnished kitchen, the gift of the Pearman family, in memory of the long association with the Church of the Tomkins family. A plaque over the kitchen doorway records:
'This kitchen was reconstructed in 1955 by Mr. C. G. and Mrs. Pearman (nee Tomkins) in memory of the long family association with this Church.'
At the tea, which followed, a Centenary cake was cut and those present were able to purchase portions. Revd. Anthony B. Wells, Mr. H. Jarrett, Miss. Darville, Mr. G. Thome, Mr. 0. Smith and Mrs. K. Church gave greetings at the tea table.
Mr. W. 0. Haines presided at the evening rally, at which Revd. W. S. Hinchliffe and Mr. A. E. Stevens spoke. Naphill Methodist Choir sang and Miss. J. Tapping rendered a solo accompanied by Mr. H. Meade. Mr. F. Rixon announced that at the celebrations over ?200 had been raised towards the cost of the Schoolroom, bringing the total to date to about ?360. The celebrations concluded with Revd. W. S. Hinchliffe conducting the Sunday services.
Amongst the Church Officers at this time, it is interesting to note Miss Annie Tomkins, as Trust Treasurer. Her Father, William, was a direct descendant of James, Thomas and Moses Tomkins, younger brothers of Revd. William Tomkins and original Trustees of the Church in 1855. Thus, the services of members of one family serving the Church can be traced back for well over a century.
To help defray some of the cost of the enlargement of the Schoolroom, one hundred and ninety seven members and friends of the Church subscribed to have their signatures embroidered on a Centenary cloth Mrs. R. Lewis carried out the embroidery work. Mrs. F. Redrup made the Buckinghamshire lace with which the cloth was edged..
In 1932, various branches of Methodism joined to form the Methodist Church of Great Britain. The preface to the new hymnbook, produced in 1933 to serve this united Church, states that, 'Methodism was born in song'.
The congregations of Lacey Green have long been renowned for their hearty singing and making 'a joyful noise', a fact commented upon by visiting preachers on more than one occasion. The Minutes suggest there was once a Choir. Press reports of 1889 record selections from Fawcett's Oratorio 'Paradise', by a Choir of fifty voices, accompanied by an efficient string band, were satisfactorily rendered. In 1900, it was 'resolved that Brother Witney be asked to be leader of the Choir'. Reputedly, the Choir, under the baton of Mr. Albert Witney, achieved a sufficiently high standard to undertake a performance of Handel's 'Messiah'. For many years, the Annual Trustees Meeting appointed 'Choir Leaders' or 'Leaders of the singing'. In 1930, the responsibility of leading the singing was left 'to our young people'.
At special events or aimiversaries, in more recent times, a local choir would be invited to give a concert. These included the Wycombe Orpheus Male Voice Choir, the Chiltem Ladies Choir (now defunct), both of High Wycombe and the Lacey Green Singers.
Through the years a variety of instruments have been used to accompany the singing, Cello, Violin, Comet, Double Bass, Euphonium and more recently, Xylophone, Drums, Piano, Piano Accordion, Recorder and Guitar, all in addition of course, to the Organ.
A Harmonium was in use in 1872 when the Minutes first record the appointment of an Organist. It is uncertain when this instrument was first purchased and prior to this date the singing may have been led by orchestral accompaniment only. One early Minute records the resolution, '....that the violins be asked to play properly'! A new harmonium, purchased in 1895, replaced the earlier instrument.
A second hand American Organ replaced the harmonium in the 1920's, purchased from Mr. Owen Hickman, Borough Organist of High Wycombe. This instrument, pumped by hand, faithfully sewed the Church for forty years. By 1963, however, as it was showing signs of wear and unreliability, the Trustees agreed to consider purchasing a new instrument to lead the singing.
Following visits to Methodist churches in Dagnall and Stoke Hammond to view pipe organs, an order was place with Mr. R. Crabbe, F.I.S.O.B. of Leighton Organs, Wing, for a new two manual pipe organ. The available space was very limited and the new Organ had to be specially constructed to fit. The Organ had fifteen stops, two manuals and a full pedal board. The action was all electric, working on eighteen volts. The number of speaking pipes was one hundred and ninety six, ranging from nine feet to a quarter of an inch in length. There was an attractive polished oak case with displayed pipes. This instrument provided an ample variety of tones, from the softer Gedackt Flutes to the powerful Diapason Chorus, needed to lead the hearty singing.
By early 1964, the work was completed and the official opening took place on 18th April 1964. Mr. K. T. Fox, A.R.C.O., of High Wycombe, gave the opening recital and arranged a programme of song, given by the Circuit Choir.
The Church was most grateful for the legacies of the late Mr. H. J. Vicary of Kensington and Mrs. M. Allen of Loosley Row, together with the generous support of members and friends, which made this purchase possible.
The Minutes record the various persons appointed Organists. Amongst these was Miss Constance Hawes, who also played the Cello. Miss. Hawes, daughter of George Hawes, was a very valued Church worker, particularly so in the musical side of worship. The Methodist Church was sorry to lose her when she left Lacey Green in 1920, following her marriage to the Revd. John Neighbour; the well respected Minister of Princes Risborough Baptist Church. In later years, as Mrs. Neighbour, she returned to play her Cello at Sunday School Anniversaries in Lacey Green.
Miss Mary Ward, the daughter of Alfred Ward, was reputedly 'a refined and accomplished young women'. In addition to the Organ, Mary was an accomplished Harpist. Around 1904, the Ward family entertained a young Evangelist, Henry Allen, who was visiting the district. Eventually Mary and Henry married at St. John's Parish Church on 30th July 1913. The couple ran the village Post Office in Loosley Row. Mrs. M. Allen generously left the Church a legacy, which contributed towards the cost of the new Organ.
Miss Lydia Jane Tomkins was the daughter of William Tomkins, a farmer of Loosley Row. This young lady was another link to the long line of the Tomkins family who have sewed the Church for well over a century. Her Grandfather, James Tomkins, one of the original Trustees, was brother to the Revd. William Tomkins. Known as Lily, she worked as a Supplementary Teacher at Loosley Row School. On 3rd June 1911, she married Charles George Pearman, a farmer, at St. John's Parish Church. The couple made their home in Hertfordshire. It was Mr. and Mrs. Pearman who generously bore the cost of refurbishing the kitchen at the time of the Centenary. Annie Tomkins was Lily's older sister. (See The Centenary.)
Miss Kathleen Church nee Brown, daughter of Mrs. E. Brown, of 'The Crown', Lacey Green, was appointed Organist at the tender age of eleven in 1919, a position she was to hold for a remarkable eighty-two years. A teacher at Downley School, she married Harry Church in 1937, at the Methodist Church, Lacey Green. Kathleen 'retired' as Organist following the closure of the Church, due to major reorganisation of the High Wycombe Circuit. At the time of closure, in 2001, she had completed eighty-two years of faithful service at the Organ. This period represents well over half of the Church's one hundred and forty six year history.The 'Methodist Recorder' reported:
Mrs Church had played three Organs during her term of office. The original harmonium was replaced by a second hand reed Organ, which was pumped by hand, and, after forty years was itself replaced in 1964 by a new pipe Organ especially constructed for the Church. In earlier days, Mrs. Church played for the morning Sunday Schoo4 followed by afternoon and evening worship. She said that her playing was a task that had given her much pleasure..
For over one hundred and thirty years, worshippers had been greeted by words from the one hundredth Psalm, painted above the Pulpit, 'Serve the Lord with gladness'. This, the early founders certainly did, as indeed, have those who have continued the work over the years. By whom the text was selected is unknown, but it has left an impression on the minds of many. One ex Sunday School member emigrated to Canada. Returning to England for a holiday in the mid 1950's, the words of this text flashed through his mind as his aircraft crossed the Atlantic Ocean. He pondered if they would still be displayed at Lacey Green, as in his youth. To his great delight, he found they were.
However, this feature was not to survive. A photograph from the nineteen thirties shows half the text above the pulpit, with the reed Organ below the Pulpit, all engulfed in flowers and foliage at Harvest Thanksgiving. The text and Pulpit had probably remained the same since the opening of the Church.
With the introduction of the new pipe Organ in 1964, the interior of the building was slightly changed, but the text above the Pulpit remained. The pipe Organ now situated to the right of the building, whilst a Communion Table, kneeler, offertory plate and bags, in memory of the Pearman family, occupied the vacant space left by the removal of the old reed Organ.
Despite the building remaining in reasonable repair throughout the years, in 1987, a large hole appeared in one corner of the floor and urgent repairs became necessary. Further investigation, revealed the floor and joists were rotten and suffering from the effects of age. The removal of the Organ revealed further devastation in the far corners of the building and the rest of the flooring required removal, all the rotting joists and boards replaced with concrete. It was decided, whilst the builders were on site, to have the walls and ceiling redecorated, to avoid further chaos later. With the removal of the wall panels and rotting plaster scraped from the walls to reveal the local hand made bricks, the ultimate happen, down came the ceiling in an avalanche of laths and plaster.
Even the Pulpit, from which the Word of God had been proclaimed for one hundred and thirty two years, perished in the fires of rotten timbers. The builders said it was a wonder that Pulpit and Preacher, Organ and Organist had not descended into the nether regions in a cloud of dust and debris.
Restoration work continued for several months. The interior alterations included a suspended ceiling, modern lighting, new plastered walls and light oak panelling. The colour scheme was of soft blue, 'sandstone' and white. A new pulpit, constructed in light oak, was purpose built. Comfortable chairs replaced the old wooden pews.
Rededication of the refurbished Church took place at a special service, conducted by the Minister, Revd. Roy Jackson, on May 1st 1988. Friends from other parts of the Circuit came to swell the congregation. Sunday School Anniversary services were held on the following Sunday, when children and teachers from Loosley Row Baptist Church were welcomed to the service.
Parish Songs of Praise was held on Sunday 19th June 1988, when friends from St. John's Parish Church, Loosley Row Baptist Church and Speen Baptist Church attended, making a congregation of one hundred and eight people.
The records reveal the remarkable fact that several Church Officers have served, sometimes in more than one capacity, for an exceptional number of years. When Alfred Ward died in 1906, he had held the position of Secretary and Treasurer for approximately fifty-one years. This seems to have established a pattern for long service. There appears to have been only three or possibly four Secretaries since 1855. Other Officers and Trustees of the Church, as with the trend in the Sunday School during this period, have held their positions for well in excess of thirty years. The continued witness of this Church, for so many years, within the village community is due, in large measure, to the commitment, faithfulness and oflen self-sacrifice of its Officers, who have sewed the Lord with gladness.
In 2001, the High Wycombe Methodist Circuit, to which Lacey Green belonged, announced a major re-organisation involving the reduction of Churches in the Circuit from eighteen to twelve. The reason for this was claimed to be a future reduction of Ministers; also a shortage of local preachers. A reduction in the number of Churches would be necessary in order to maintain a constant Pulpit supply. Lacey Green was amongst the six Churches selected for closure. Similarly affected by the reorganisation were five other Churches in the Circuit, namely, Bledlow Ridge, Bryants Bottom, Lane End, Radnage and Wooburn Green.
On Sunday 19th August 2001, Revd. Nicholas Young, Minister at Lacey Green, presented a Bible to Mr. Gordon May and presentations of flowers to Mrs. Kathleen Church and Miss. Dorothy Parslow. These presentations were in appreciation of their respective contributions to the work of the Sunday School over many years. On Sunday 23" September 2001, just one hundred and forty six years to the day of the opening of the Church, Revd. Peter Barnett made presentations to Mrs. Winifred Carter (Steward and Church Secretary) and Mrs. Vera May, (Treasurer), respectively, in appreciation of their work for the Church.
The final service, held on Sunday 30th September 2001, took the form of Harvest Thanksgiving. The Superintendent of the High Wycombe Circuit, Revct Michael Hughes and the Minister of Lacey Green, Revd. Nicholas Young conducted the service. The congregation numbered one hundred and ten. The closing hymn was:
Now thank we all our God,
With hearts, and hands, and voices;
Who wondrous things hath done,
In whom His world rejoices;
Who, from our mothers' arms,
Hath blessed us on our way
With countless gifts of love,
And still is ours to-day.
Thus, was brought to a close one hundred and seventy one years of Methodist witness in the village.
In July 1985, Lacey Green held its first ever 'Village Day' celebrations, in which every organisation within the village participated. The Methodist Recorder' reported, that the local Methodist Church, as its contribution, '... took the opportunity of telling the story of Methodism in Lacey Green through an exhibition'. The exhibition was also featured on B.B.C. Radio Oxford.
By coincidence, 1985 also marked the 130th anniversary of the opening of the Church building in Main Road. A suggestion was made therefore, that the research involved in staging the historical exhibition should be compiled as a record of the 150 years of Methodist witness in Lacey Green. These pages are the result of that suggestion.
For help with the research thanks are due to:Rev. Geoffrey Jones, B.A., B.D., Superintendent Minister of the High Wycombe Circuit;
Staff of the Buckinghamshire Record Office, Aylesbury;
Also to the members and friends of the Church for their assistance and co-operation.
Much information has been gleaned over a number of years from many who once worshipped here, but now no longer share life's journey with us.
Thanks must also be expressed to Mr. Frank Collier, M.A., and Mrs. Fay Spittles respectively for kindly editing and typing the manuscript.
Dennis Claydon December 1986
Thirty years have elapsed since the first edition of 'The Story of Methodism in Lacey Green'. During this period, there have been many changes and interesting new information has become known.
Lacey Green Methodist Church has suffered closure, but Lacey Green Parish Council has taken over the former Methodist Cemetery, which remains open.
The Village History Group, founded in 2008, discussed the matter and decided it was well worth updating the record. The updated pages are now included.
Thanks are due, for valuable help and information, to:
Roger Bettridge, County Archivist, for arranging use of letters between Lord Carrington and Acton Tindal.
The staff of Local Studies and Buckinghamshire Record Office for producing requested documents.
Elaina Rose for extracts from the Journal of Rev. William Tomkins.
Rita Probert for liaison with Local Studies and Buckinghamshire Record Office, press reports and proof reading.
Paul Evans for press reports.
Dennis Claydon May 2015.
There is a suggestion William Tomkins Junior joined the Primitive Methodist Ministry in 1837 and may possibly have served in the High Wycombe Primitive Methodist Circuit, but this is uncertain. However, there is firm evidence he was an acting Primitive Methodist Minister in the Winster Circuit in the Derbyshire Peak District in 1838.
In the spring of 1839, William left Winster to pay a short visit to Loosley Row to see his brother Henry, who was unwell. The visit coincided with the Easter weekend, which gave him an advantage to preach twice on Good Friday and twice on Easter Sunday at Lacey Green. It is not clear if this was in the Wesleyan Chapel or the Primitive Methodist Chapel, but presumably the former. William discovered, since his last visit to the village, that many of the former congregation had '... gone out of time to Eternity'. He found preaching on Easter Sunday '... very heavy work, the people were so dull and lfeless'. He queries how this should be, since three years earlier '... this was the most lively place in the Circuit'. On the l2thApnl 1839, he bade farewell to his brother Henry and returned to Derbyshire, his daughter Jane and brother James accompanying him to Tring Station. Sadly, Henry died on the 18th June 1839, aged 20 years, interment taking place in St John's Churchyard, Lacey Green.
In 1841, William was 'stationed' in Leicester. He may also have completed a tour of duty as a travelling evangelist around the Fens and East Anglia. About 1843, for an unknown reason, he appears to have resigned from the Ministry and returned home to live in Lacey Green. He secured employment in his old trade with a Wheelwright in Eaton Bray, Bedfordshire, his Father, William, Senior, and a Mr. Bridgewater of Downley, these employments covering about two and a half years.
On his return to Buckinghamshire, the Wesleyans had just relinquished their Chapel at Lacey Green, of which he and his Father were still Trustees. The offer of the building to the Primitive Methodists for ?50, received rejection, their choice was to give ?4 per annum rent for a poor thatched Chapel, rather than buy the Wesleyan building. The few remaining people who had attended the Wesleyan cause requested William to continue the preaching. This he agreed to do, with occasional assistance from a Wesleyan Local Preacher or a Baptist Local Preacher, the arrangement continuing for about two years.
The acquaintance with the Baptists led William to become baptised by immersion and join the Baptist Church in the neighbouring village of Speen, Buckinghamshire in 1845. The Pastor, Ernest Bedding, used all his influence to fmd William a situation as Home Missionary, or to take charge of a small Church, but these attempts failed. William offered his services to the Baptist Missionary Committee to work abroad. The possibility of candidates having to go to the United States of America did not arise, (a long held ambition of William's) so his age and family were an objection. In January 1846, William accidentally stumbled upon a 'wanted' advertisement for eight Missionaries to work in the London City Mission. Following a successful application William received acceptance.
Eventually the opportunity arose which William had long been waiting for. In 1850, William, with third wife Elizabeth, their son Charles, plus two sons from a second marriage, William Mawby and Moses John, emigrated to the United States of America and settled in Shullsburg, Wisconsin. Here, William set about his duties as a Primitive Methodist Minister, another story which is worthy of record in its own right..
The Church has always enjoyed the services of a Minister or Deaconess; nevertheless, it has been greatly indebted to the many local preachers, who have given generously of their time and talent, Sunday by Sunday, over the years, supplementing the services of the Minister.
Once, preaching in rural areas, such as this, meant leaving home very early on Sunday morning and travelling on foot, horseback, pony and trap or cycle, returning home late at night. Long before the days of the motor car or buses not only was it the preacher who needed hospitality on Sundays, but also the preachers' horse! There was once a stable in the Church grounds especially for this purpose. In 1893, the Accounts record the Church paying 2/Od (l0p) for horse hire for the Minister, Revd. Millichamp. Later, in the early years of the 20th century, some preachers used the Circuit horse and trap. This had the advantage of dropping off several preachers in a cluster of villages in the Circuit. In 1908 the Trustees accepted '... . the kind offer of Mr. Tomkins to let the preachers horse and trap be put in at the stable at his cottage at the hill top'.
A typical Sunday timetable of over a century ago (c. 1915) was as follows:
9.30. a.m.- 10.30. a.m. Morning Sunday School.
10.30. a.m.- 11.30. a.m. Morning Service-cum-Prayer Meeting.
This morning service was attended mainly by the male members of the Church, who, themselves, conducted worship as they felt led - a mixture of hymns, prayers, Bible readings and 'mini' sermons. These services could, and often did, continue until noon!
1.30. p.m.-2.30. p.m. Afternoon Sunday School
2.30. p.m.-3.30. p.m. Afternoon Service
6.00. p.m.-7.OO. p.m. Evening Service
Afternoon and evening services were conducted by the Minister or, more often, by a visiting local preacher from High Wycombe, Amersham, Chesham or surrounding villages. As in the morning, the allotted hour could well be exceeded by half an hour or more!
In these early times, in agreement with the comments of the preacher, a member of the congregation might shout out a resounding 'Amen' or 'Praise the Lord'. Likewise, an enthusiastically sung hymn would have the chorus or last verse repeated.
Here recorded are some memories of past local preachers:
William Line preached here on many occasions during the latter years of the 19th century and the early years of the 20th century. It was quite usual for him to walk to his preaching appointments. Residing in High Wycombe, he would proceed to Downley or Naphill to conduct morning service. After a packed lunch, consumed on Downley or Naphill Common, he would continue to Lacey Green to conduct afternoon and evening services, before walking back to High Wycombe in the evening, an overall journey of some twenty miles.
Edward 'Teddy' Gray, likewise, in the early years of the 20th century, would travel on foot to his preaching appointments in all weathers, sometimes being literally soaked to the skin on arrival, but refusing a change of raiment. Even after a journey of seven or eight miles from his home to Lacey Green, in the dampness of a November Sunday, or in the bitter frost and snow of winter, with the return journey yet to be accomplished, he would invariably include in the service the hymn by Isaac Watts:-
I'll praise my Maker while I've breath:
And when my voice is lost in death,
Praise shall employ my nobler powers,
My days of praise shall ne' er be past,
While life, and thought, and being last,
Or immortality endures.
Frederick Rixon was born in Lacey Green in 1880. For many years, his trade was that of a chair bodger. He exercised his skill on a primitive pole lathe in the Hampden woods, producing legs and stretchers for the famous 'Windsor' chair. He became a member, Trustee and official of this Church. For forty years, he faithfully served the High Wycombe Circuit as a local preacher. The Circuit then was a large one, comprising High Wycombe, Amersham and Chesham, with the surrounding villages. Without the aid of local public transport or a motor car, a pedal cycle was the only means of transportation available to cover this large rural area. For instance, a journey from Lacey Green to Lee Common involved a distance of approximately twelve miles each way. The ride to Lee Common, undertaken in all weathers, often took place to conduct services there. Once, to honour an appointment at Radnage, when a very heavy snowfall made the roads impassable, he made his way on foot across the fields. Radnage is about five miles from Lacey Green as the crow flies. The walk would involve having to cross the Saunderton gap, climb to Bledlow Ridge, crossing the next valley, before making the final accent to Radnage. The distance would have been considerably in excess of five miles, taking into account the return journey. The journey would have been particularly hard, bearing in mind the heavy walking conditions in deep snow and drifts. A local preacher not only had to be dedicated and fully committed, but also fit and healthy!
Arnold Clark, a London businessman, came to live locally with his family, in 1939. Over a period of almost forty years, he regularly conducted services, preaching approximately 1200 sermons, probably the greatest numbers of sermons ever delivered by one man in this Church. The President of the Baptist Union in 1952, he also acted in the capacity of President or Chairman to the following organisations, National Council of Christian Education, Spurgeons Homes, John Grooms Association of the Disabled and the British and Foreign Bible Society. Serving as a Justice of the Peace and a Parish Councillor for a number of years, he was the author of three books, which he dedicated to the congregations of this Church and Loosley Row Baptist Church. For more than a quarter of a century, he conducted a combined Christmas Day service between Lacey Green Methodists and Loosley Row Baptists, held in alternate years in each Church. In 1964 to mark the twenty-fifth consecutive service, the local press reported:
The members of Lacey Green Methodist Church, combined with members of Loosley Row Baptist Church, to hold their annual Christmas morning service, conducted by Mr. Arnold Clark J.P. from Great Missenden. These combined services, which are held in alternate years at each Church, were suggested by Mr. Clark when he first came to live En Lacey Green during the evacuation of London in 1939, and this year was the 25th that he has conducted without a break. To commemorate this long association with both Churches, not only in taking the annual Christmas service, but also as a tribute to Mr. Ck interest and help in conducting an enormous number of Sunday services, a presentation of a pair of silver candelabra was made to him during the service on Christmas Day. Before a large congregation in the Methodist Church at Lacey Green, Mr. I aaydon representing Lacey Green Methodist Church, and Mr. F. Baker, Loosley Row Baptist Church, in presenting the gift, paid tribute to the long and devoted service given to both Churches by Mr. Clark. Mr. Baker said that he was sure that the annual combined Christmas service had contributed in no small measure to the very happy and close fellowship that existed between the two denominations..
Although no records survive, evidence suggests the establishment of a Methodist Sunday School in Lacey Green probably as early as 1830. As noted earlier, William Tomkins, Junior, records in his Journal that he and his Father built a small Chapel in the village around 1830. There was a good congregation and a Sunday School of seventy children. Confirming this evidence, in 1882, during an entertainment given by the Sunday School, to a crowded audience, the Chairman, Mr. Jordan, gave an outline of the early history of the Church and Sunday School. 'Many years ago, Mr. Tomkins, whose sons were now in the Chapel and both well advanced in years, was the Parish Clerk at Lacey Green. Single handed he opened a Sunday School at Lacey Green for one part of the day and another at the Baptist Chapel, Loosley Row. The work has progressed until now there were two thriving Sunday Schools with a large staff of teachers. One of Mr. Tomkins first scholars, Mr. Janes, was on the platform that evening, assisting in the singing.... ' Certainly, from the earlier quoted accounts of John Guy (1841) and Revd. James Mules (1854) there was an active Sunday School. Thus, it would be reasonable to assume one has existed from these early times onwards.
From the time of the opening of the new building in 1855 until 1942, the Sunday School paid a yearly rent to the Trustees for the use of the premises.
At a Teachers Meeting of 1894, a Clothing Club and a Sick Club were formed, to be administered by a Committee of elected Teachers. The Clothing Club provided a cash payment yearly to members. Only Scholars and Teachers were to have any addition made to the amount subscribed at the end of the year. The sum of twenty-one shillings (?l.05) was voted out of Sunday School Funds to launch the Sick Fund.
This period of the late 19th century and the early years of the 20th century were a time of both industrial and agricultural depression. Health Insurance, Unemployment Benefit and Old Age Pensions were still in the future. Hence, the great need for help in crises. This, of course, fits into the pattern of what the Church has always tried to do, to help the poor in need.
Teachers Meetings sometimes took the form of tea meetings, with as many as twenty Teachers attending. Extracts from the Minutes give a glimpse of Sunday School life around the turn of the 20th century:
1897 '...that Andrew Briscoe be accepted as a Scholar.'
1898 '... that Florence Lacey be enrolled as a Scholar'
'...that Scholars no longer be seated in the Schoolroom, but brought into the ChapeL' Brothers John Claydon, Thomas Redrup and William Tomkins, Miss Lily Tomkins and Miss Annie Hawes be enrolled as Teachers.
That Mr. Redrup waits upon Miss. Williams as to her attendance at her class at School.'
1901 '...we prepare for going to Whiteleaf Cross for the tea.'
1902 '... the teachers are to sit with classes.'
1908 '... Constance Hawes, Constance Page, Horace Rixon and Alfred Rixon be appointed as Teachers on trial...'
1909 '... Teachers appointed to enquire into absent Scholars -
Mr. G. Hickman - Elsie Rogers, Beatrice Rogers.
Mr. G. Stevens - Albert Smith, Harold Weller'.
From 1909 to 1931, detailed yearly reports were submitted to the Sunday School Union. During this period the number of children attending Sunday School, whose ages ranged from under seven to fifteen plus, varied from seventy-four to twenty-six and the number of teachers from twenty-five to eleven. On average, the number of male Scholars was greater than female. Morning and afternoon Sunday School was held, the average attendance being higher in the afternoon. It would be interesting to know why the boys outnumbered the girls at Sunday School. This would be very unusual because mostly there was a heavy preponderance of women in the population. Did the girls stay at home to help their mothers?
The Superintendents, for many years, had at their disposal a small hand bell, which was used to call for 'order' at the commencement of Sunday School. Woe betide anyone who disobeyed!
Established in 1911 a Band of Hope was formed for young people, under the Superintendency of Mr. James Lacey. Occasionally the members, who were trained by the Misses Minnie Brown and Connie Hawes, gave concerts.
Members of the Sunday School, together with their teachers and friends, greatly enjoyed attending a major Sunday School Rally in June 1914, held at Aston Rowant, Oxfordshire. The event was organised by the Chinnor Methodist Circuit. Sir William and Lady Plowman kindly lent the Park and grounds for the demonstration. The journey was made by horse and waggon, though the kindness of the following gentlemen loaning their vehicles, Mr. W. Saunders, (Lacey Green), Mr. G. Hawes, Mr. H. Hickman, Mr. J. Saunders, Mr. E. Rixon, Mr. N. Saunders, (Bradenham), Mr. T. Morris, (Saunderton), Mr. A. Tilbury, and Mr. J. Rixon. Loosley Row Baptist Sunday School also attended.
Sunday School Anniversary was always a busy and exciting time, but perhaps not always enjoyed to the hill by those who had to give recitations! Always held in the Spring, it became a tradition for the children to have new clothes and shoes, especially for the occasion. A Teachers' Meeting each year would discuss the Anniversary services, choose the special music, select teachers to teach the scholars recitations and appoint a 'Leader of the singing'. All of these arrangements involved weeks of practise and preparations. When the day arrived, there were three services, all of which included recitations and special music. Resident and visiting musicians, playing violins, cellos, clarinet, flute, euphonium and cornet, gave musical assistance, in addition to the Organ. The adults became as much involved as the children. Despite these well made plans, sometimes difficulties arose. An entry from the 1910 Minutes records 'A resolution was passed that the music for the Anniversary be more simple than it was last year?.!
In earlier times, there are numerous accounts of crowded congregations on this special day. On such occasions, it was quite normal for many to be unable to gain admittance to the Church. At times, this caused frustrations. In May 1857, the local press reported: 'On Sunday last the (Sunday School) Anniversary services connected with the Primitive Methodist Chapel were held. The Revd. J. Symmonds, of Wycombe, preached from the Parable of the Prodigal Son, and the children recited several interesting pieces. The crowd assembled was so great that many could not go into the Chapel and we regret to say that some who were unable to get in conducted themselves in a most unbecoming manner as to prevent the quiet conduct of the service. On Monday, about 160 sat down to tea, which was well managed. An excellent address was made by Mr. Symmonds and several pieces recited by the children. ?3 was collected'.
In the early years of the twentieth century, a frequent visitor, benefactor and preacher at the Sunday School Anniversary was Alderman Jabez Williams, J. P. Mayor of Lambeth. One might question the relationship between Lambeth and Lacey Green, but in fact, Alderman Williams was born in Speen. His wife, Mary Ann, nee Dell, was also born in Speen. Mary's Grandfather and Great Grandfather owned Speen Farm. The couple married at Lacey Green Parish Church in 1868.
It became the custom for the children to have tea and cake, as a treat, on the day following the Anniversary. A public tea followed for the adults. Games would be organised for the children, held in a nearby meadow, kindly loaned by Mr. H. Janes or Mr. W. Saunders. On one occasion, Lacey Green Cricket Club members kindly loaned their field and facilities for the enjoyment and recreation of the young people. The day would conclude with a service, where the children would, once again, sing and recite.
As the years passed, the 'treat' progressed to a trip to one of two local beauty spots, Whiteleaf Cross or West Wycombe Hill. Amidst great excitement, the journey would be made by horse and waggon, with food and lemonade carried in large baskets. The children would also partake in a variety of games. One ex Scholar, as a small girl, could vividly recall a trip to Whiteleaf Cross in the early years of the 20th centuly On the way through the Hampden Woods, near Green Hailey, the waggons came to a halt to speak to a very old lady named Betsy Kitson, a recluse, who lived alone in a wooden shack or hut in the woods. Betsy, thought to be the widow of a chair bodger, would walk into Princes Risborough once a week, to obtain her shopping. If requested, Betsy would sing and perform a little dance for the children; the song was called 'Over the Garden Wall'.
'Over the garden wall I let my baby sister fall,
Mother came out and gave me a clout,
I asked her what all the fuss was about,
And she gave me another to match the other, Over the garden wall'.
Betsy's reward for her entertainment would be six (old) pence.
With the decline in horsepower and the advent of the motor engine, even greater opportunities were afforded the Sunday School. During the 1930's several trips to the Zoo are recorded. For some thirty years after the war, a seaside outing became an annual event. This day trip by coach was an occasion which not only the children looked forward to, but also their parents and friends from the village. Destinations included Bognor, Southend, Brighton, Clacton, Folkestone, Littlehampton, Worthing, Hayling Island and Eastbourne.
In the Spring of 1967, Mr. Arnold Clark J.P. conducted a special service, when the children of the Sunday School presented his son, Mr. Andrew Clark, the proceeds of a sale they had organised during the Easter holidays. Their aim was to raise enough money to buy a goat for a South Indian family. So great was their enthusiasm and so generous a response of the parents and friends to the appeal for funds, that two Saanen goats were purchased as earning 'members' for two destitute families.
The children were particularly interested in the fact that any money raised by the sale of surplus goat's milk, is used to pay for the primary education of an Indian child, who would otherwise remain illiterate.
Mr. Andrew Clark told the children about his work with Y.M.C.A. in India and showed them a spinning wheel and other interesting souvenirs of his visit. The boys and girls learned of Indian customs and enjoyed wearing the Indian dhotis and saris, which Mr. Andrew Clark brought to illustrate his talk.
During the second half of the twentieth century, no less than five Sunday School Teachers achieved outstanding years of service. In May 1957, at the Sunday School Anniversary, Revd. A. B. Wells made a presentation of a family Bible and Methodist Hymn book to Mr. Owen Smith, who had completed fifty years as Superintendent of the Sunday School. Making the presentation in front of a packed Church, Revd. Wells thanked Mr. Smith for his long service. In his reply, Mr. Smith said he did not regret one moment of the fifty years and if he had his time over again he would still serve the Sunday School the best way he could. Mr. Smith continued in his role as Superintendant until his death in 1968, making a grand total of sixty-one years as Superintendant.
In 1972, Mr. Joseph Claydon completed fifty years as a Sunday School Teacher. He was presented with a copy of the New English Bible.
Sunday March 14th 1976 marked another special occasion, Mrs. Kathleen Church and Mr. Frank Claydon both having completed fifty years service in the Sunday School. In front of a large congregation, consisting of pupils both past and present, Revd. Eric Firth paid tribute to their work. He then presented them both with silver plated rose bowls each containing twelve red carnations as a gift from the Sunday School. In their replies, Mrs. Church and Mr Claydon expressed their thanks to many people over the years that had made it possible. Mrs. Church expressed special thanks to her husband, Harry, who had had many a makeshift Sunday dinner in his time!
At the end of the century, Mr. Gordon May completed fifty years as a Sunday School Teacher, thirty of those years as Superintendant. He received a Bible in recognition of his services.
It is interesting to note that the above also held Offices within the Church, in addition to their Sunday School work. Mr. J. Claydon was Society Steward for over sixty years, joined in later years by Mr. F. Claydon and Mr. Gordon May, whilst Mrs. Church was the Organist..
In November 1932, the lady members of the Church formed a Women's Meeting or Women's Own, sometimes referred to as the Women's Fellowship. Under the presidency of Mrs. Clara Rixon, this took the form of fortnightly meetings, conducted either by the Minister or by an invited guest speaker. These meetings were open to both Church members and friends from the village.
Such meetings were an accepted type of worship in many nonconformist Churches and some Meetings would hold an annual rally, to which all members from other Meetings in the Circuit or district would receive an invitation. In September 1934, the Loosley Row Baptist Women's Meeting entertained their Lacey Green counterparts to tea. Mrs. Godden, the President, welcomed about fifty ladies who were present. Mr. Godden, of High Wycombe, gave an address. This is yet another example of the close fellowship that existed between the two denominations.
The Women's Meeting supported the Church in many ways, sales of work, bazaars, providing teas at special events, making curtains for the Church, even donating some of their funds to the Church for maintenance purposes.
At one stage, bazaars were an annual event, providing a good source of income. However, they involved a lot of work preparing for the event.
From time to time, arrangements provided for a day outing, to which members and friends from the village received an invitation. Destinations included Bedford, Cheltenham, Gloucester, the Cotswolds, and a boat trip on the Thames. Some members took advantage of the opportunity to shop in the larger towns, whilst others enjoyed the delights of the countryside or the river in Bedford and along the Thames.
Every year saw the celebration of Women's Own Sunday, when specially invited preachers would conduct the services. Sometimes the ladies would give readings or render an item in song. A special event marked the twenty-fifth anniversary of the founding of the Women's Own The local press reported, Members of Lacey Green Methodist Church Women 's Fellowship celebrated the ir 2S anniversary on Saturday, with a tea and social evening. Secretary, Mrs. F. Claydon, presented a pot plant and decorative bowl on behalf of the members to Mrs. Clara Rixon, who has been president of the Women 's Meeting since its inception. Friends from other Churches entertained during the evening and speakers paid tribute to the 25 years of devoted service which Mrs. Rixon has given to the Women 's Own.The Women's Meeting remained operational until the closure of the Church in 2001. .
The Church is indebted for the following:
Large Wooden Table In Schoolroom
It is not clear if this was a gift or made to order. When removed from the building in 2001 it had the following written underneath 'Alfred Ward, Loosley Row, August 28th 1886.'
Presented by Mrs. L. J. Pearman (nee Tomkins) Easter 1934.
'New English' Bible
Dedicated to the memory of Miss. E. Anderson, for many years a faithful worker and devoted member. September 1965.
Communion Table, Kneeler, Offertory Plate And Bags
In memory of the Pearman family (nee Tomkins).
In memory of Mr. Owen Smith, Sunday School Superintendent for sixty-one years, 1907-1968.
Flower Stands And Vases
In memory of Mr. F. Rixon, Tmstee, Church and Sunday School official, Local Preacher, and his wife, Mrs. C. Rixon, member and Women's Meeting President for many years.
Formerly used at Redland End Chapel, a Baptist cause connected with Speen Baptist Church, but now closed.
Donated by a local farmer's wife, who had difficulty understanding the soffly spoken preacher announcing the hymn numbers!
'Hymns And Psalms' The Methodist And Ecumenical Hymnbook
In Memory of Mr. Harold Williams, for many years Organist of St. John's Parish Church, Lacey Green and a friend of the Methodist Church.