The Methodist Chapels

John Wesley (1703-1791) began preaching to crowds of working-class men and women in the outdoors in 1739. Thousands came to hear Wesley preach up and down the country. He formed local societies of those converted and encouraged them to meet in smaller groups on a weekly basis.

Wesley visited Chesterfield on two occasions. In August 1776 he preached near the market place and in June 1777 he again preached, this time in the market place. Local legend has it that he once stayed at Duke’s cottage, a gamekeeper’s cottage on Hall Lane, but this has not been verified.

In Barrow Hill, two branches of the Methodist movement, the Primitive Methodists and the United Methodist Free Church, were already active in the village whilst the first phase of the village was being built.


Chapel PM door

Early meetings had been held in the open air and, from 1859, in a large, empty house belonging to the Staveley Coal and Iron Company which was used as a preaching room, for social and public meetings and for fundraising efforts for a new chapel. [1] Thomas De Vine was the Church of England lay preacher appointed by Richard Barrow to teach the Sunday Schools. Prior to his leaving to take Holy Orders in 1865, the appointment of his successor was discussed and De Vine agreed that most of the workpeople were dissenters and that the company should appoint a man from the Town Missionaries. Managers James Campbell and William Knighton were both Wesleyan sympathisers and pressed for the building of a Primitive Methodist Chapel. The Methodist minister said that he had about 60 members among the colliers at Barrow Hill at that time and that about 200 attended his outdoor meetings.

The need for a proper building, for worship and a Sunday school, had become apparent as the village developed and numbers increased. The Staveley Coal and Iron Company gave a donation of £400 towards the estimated £500 costs of the land purchase and the erection of the chapel [2] at the south end of the village. (Campbell Drive)

The chapel was designed to hold 400 people and work began in August 1869. The foundation stone was laid by Thomas Vickers Esq., on behalf of the Staveley Company, on 25th May 1870. After singing and prayers, a bottle was placed in a cavity which contained the names of the Circuit Ministers, Directors and other friends.

Chapel PM cutting1

On the first anniversary, on Sunday 4th August, 1870, special sermons were preached by Mr E. Bannister and a collection raised £7.10s. [3] Early in 1874, funds were being raised for a proposed new schoolroom [4]

The chapel closed for redecoration in 1884 and re-opened on 27th July, when Rev. W Alton (Circuit Minister) preached two sermons. [5] The chapel was usually well attended and local newspapers report an “excellent congregation” and “the chapel again being crowded” for the anniversary service in 1889. [6]

Annual trips were arranged and, in 1898, 830 Band of Hope members and officers of Barrow Hill and other local Chapels travelled on the Great Central Railway to Grimsby and Cleethorpes [7]. A member of the P.M. Chapel wrote that: “Many were the activities at the chapel in those days. The highlights being the Sunday School Sermons with a full platform of scholars and choir, and a full house on the first two Sundays in May each year, the annual Sunday School trip to Cleethorpes on Staveley Feast Sunday, the hospital Sunday when members of all the churches, together with the Barrow Hill Band and other institutions paraded in the village and then assembled in Smales field at the end of Devonshire Cottages.” [8]

The author recalled that his mother’s brother, 13 year old William Darkin, died from food poisoning after a chapel outing to Cleethorpes in 1891.

Chapel PM cutting2

The debt on the building of the chapel, and subsequent alterations and additions, still totalled £140 in 1906. [9] Bazaars, teas and concerts by the Christian Endeavour Society and the Chapel Choir were organised to raise funds.

Chapel PM cutting3

Harold Miller attended the Primitive Methodist Chapel between 1914 and 1921 and recalled that “The Primitive Methodist Chapel at Barrow Hill was a good walk away from home (Co-op House), but we walked to Sunday School twice each Sunday and went to the Band of Hope meetings as was proper for our household. It must have been there that I ‘signed the pledge’ to ‘forswear strong drink.’ [10]

Most of the different Methodist denominations united together in 1907, forming the United Methodist Church. It joined with the Primitive Methodists and Wesleyan Methodists in 1932 to form the present Methodist Church in Britain. The Zion Primitive Methodist Chapel was closed in 1966 and the congregation joined with the former United Free Methodist Church. [11] The Chapel was demolished some years later.

Chapel PM derelict


As early as December 1857, it was remarked upon that “the Free Methodists of the Chesterfield Circuit have erected all their new chapels in the neighbourhood of collieries, that at Barrow Hill, Staveley, being in the immediate vicinity of the dwellings of the sufferers by the late colliery accident.” [12]  The accident referred to had taken place in the previous month and caused the deaths of 12 men at Hollingwood pit. [13] Although the site of this “new chapel” is not known, it is believed to have been close to Devonshire Terrace where several of the victims had lived. [14]

Sermons were preached in the original building and Sunday school anniversaries were held with “pieces recited by the children, and hymns and anthems sung by the choir. The congregations were very large. On Monday a tea meeting was held in the schoolroom; after which, a choice selection of books was presented by the teachers through the chairman, Mr Knowles, to about 30 children for early attendance during the past year.” [15]

Chapel PM cutting4

An annual tea was held in the Church School, at the top of the hill, in early 1869, when “upwards of 200 sat down to an excellent tea provided by the ladies of the congregation. This was followed by a meeting at which it was reported that “the Barrow Hill friends are making rapid strides, and are on the eve of erecting a new place of worship, the present one being too small by half.” [16] A series of fundraising teas were held and, in August 1872, one such meal was provided by “Matthew Abbott in their present building at Barrow Hill, Staveley, to which about 90 persons sat down.” [17]

Chapel PM cutting5

Shortly afterwards, it was reported that the chapel “has long been felt to afford insufficient accommodation for the congregation. His Grace the Duke of Devonshire, on proper representation, has kindly granted a site in the immediate neighbourhood for a new chapel, excavations for the foundation of which commenced on Wednesday [4th September 1872]. It is understood that His Grace will purchase the old building, which will be converted into cottages for labourers in his employ. The necessary fund for the new one is being rapidly subscribed for. The Staveley Coal and Iron Company, having through the kindness of Chas. Markham, Esq., liberally subscribed £100 towards that object.” [18]

The foundation stone of the new building was laid on Tuesday 1st October 1872 [19] by James Campbell, the Collieries manager, after whom Campbell Colliery, Brickworks and Drive are also named.

Chapel FM Campbell

The original builder was Matthew Marriott of Staveley, who had built the model village for Richard Barrow, but after his death in 1873, the work was completed by his son, George Marriott. [20]

Chapel FM Marriott plaque

Funds for the building were raised by a series of teas and musical events.

Chapel FM cutting1

The new chapel was officially opened on Sunday 11th May 1873. The morning service was conducted by John Unwin Esq., of Sheffield, and the afternoon service by Rev. T. Bradbury of Barrow Hill Church. The collections amounted to £23.2s.4 ½d.

Chapel FM cutting2

Chapel FM

In October 1873, a new harmonium costing £26 was installed and a special service was held to celebrate this addition. [21] Fund raising events, to reduce the chapel debt, continued for a number of years.

Chapel FM cutting3

Nearly twenty years later, funds were being raised to enlarge the vestries and to further reduce the building debt. A sale of work and fancy bazaar in December 1872 [22] was opened by Mr T.D. Bolton M.P. and was organised to raise funds towards the £200 then needed.

In 1909, the London Gazette reported the licensing of the chapel for marriages:

A Separate Building, duly certified for religious worship, named EBENEZER CHAPEL, situated at Barrow Hill, in the civil parish of Staveley, in the county of Derby, in Chesterfield registration district, was, on the 9th March, 1909, registered for solemnizing marriages therein, pursuant to 6th and 7th Wm. IV, c.85. [23]

Chapel FM Font

Many improvements and additions have been made to the chapel. A two-manual pipe organ was installed in 1922, at a cost of £750, and officially opened by Dr F. Staton of Chesterfield, organist at the Crooked Spire. Electric lighting replaced the gas lights in 1925 and an electric blower for the organ was installed in 1938, together with the side entrance to the church. The entrance gates and a beautifully carved font by Ernest Hill in memory of his mother and father were also added. [24]

The Barrow Hill Methodist Church, as it is now known, is still active in the community and continues to serve the village in the 21st century.

©Ann Lucas

[1] Derbyshire Times and Chesterfield Herald: Saturday 2nd November 1867
[2] Derbyshire Times and Chesterfield Herald: Saturday 11th June 1870
[3] Derbyshire Times and Chesterfield Herald: Saturday 20th August 1870
[4] Derbyshire Times and Chesterfield Herald: Saturday 24th January 1874
[5] Derbyshire Times and Chesterfield Herald: Saturday 26th July 1884
[6] Derbyshire Times and Chesterfield Herald: Saturday 1st June 1889
[7] Derbyshire Times and Chesterfield Herald: Saturday 25th June 1898
[8] A Short Autobiography: Arthur Fox (1908 – 1993)
[9] Derbyshire Times and Chesterfield Herald: Saturday 21st April 1906
[10] Growing up with Primitive Methodism: Harold Miller
[11] Growing up with Primitive Methodism: Harold Miller
[12] Derbyshire Times and Chesterfield Herald: Saturday 5th December 1857
[13] Derbyshire Times and Chesterfield Herald: Saturday 21st November 1857
[14] 1851 England Census
[15] Derbyshire Times and Chesterfield Herald: Saturday 25th July 1868
[16] Derbyshire Times and Chesterfield Herald: Saturday 13th February 1869
[17] Derbyshire Times and Chesterfield Herald: Saturday 31st August 1872
[18] Derbyshire Times and Chesterfield Herald: Saturday 7th September 1872
[19] Derbyshire Times and Chesterfield Herald: Saturday 5th October 1872
[20] Derbyshire Times and Chesterfield Herald: Saturday 17th May 1873
[21] Derbyshire Times and Chesterfield Herald: Saturday 25th October 1873
[22] Derbyshire Times and Chesterfield Herald: Saturday 10th December 1892
[23] London Gazette: 12th March 1909 (p.1973)
[24] (no longer on-line)