Non-conformism in Nunney

Wesleyan Chapel, Nunney
Interior of the Wesleyan Chapel in Castle Street, Nunney

Non-conformism had considerable influence in Nunney in the 18th and 19th century.

Primitive Methodist chapel, Nunney
A rare photo of the Primitive Methodist chapel (top) behind Horn Street in Nunney, before its demolition in the 1960s.
Non-conformism was almost invisible for a long time in Nunney.

Those who were persecuted for their breaking away from the Established Church met first in the woods, then in private houses, such as Robert and William Smith’s from 1702 to 1712, and they had a minister called Richard Jones.

Eventually they also had a chapel in Trudoxhill, bought by Mr. Jones, licensed for worship in 1717.

Clothworkers in this part of the world (Frome was of course a great cloth town and a centre of non-conformism, visited by John Wesley some 19 times) supported the chapels, which were consequently sometimes found to be built behind their houses. Out of sight, out of mind.

Castle Hill Nunney
Castle Hill with the Primitive Methodist Chapel (right)
One of these was in Horn Street, a Primitive Methodist Chapel that was in use until the 1960s. It was described in the Censuses as ‘under the arch’.

The Primitive Methodist Chapel in Horn Street had 140 free places and 60 ‘other’. The congregation in the morning consisted of 43 children only, in the afternoon the congregation was 201 and in the evening 185.

The Primitive Methodist Chapel regularly had guest speakers. On Friday 3 September 1869 a lecture was delivered by James Eddy, agent of the West of England and South Wales Temperance League. His subject was ‘An evening with water drinkers’ and, according to a report in the Western Temperance Herald, this was treated ‘in a forcible and interesting manner’.

Described as ‘most thrilling’ in the Herald was a lecture by Samuel Capper of Manchester, also of the Temperance League, on Friday 8 ‘January 1869. His subject was ‘Something lost and stolen’. According to the Herald, “There was a large company, who will not soon forget the able manner in which Mr Capper addressed them.”

The Wesleyan Chapel

Wesleyan Chapel, Nunney
Interior of the Wesleyan Chapel in Castle Street, Nunney
The Wesleyan Chapel, built in Castle Street in 1807, had in 1851 as many as 80 free places, 150 ‘other’ and 11 standing, with a congregation of 67 in the morning, 28 in the afternoon and 120 in the evening.

In addition, there was a Wesleyan Free Church which met in a ‘Preaching Room’ in a private house with an average attendance of 44. The preacher was Robert Singer from Keyford.

There is a deed dated 1812 which shows that the Wesleyan Chapel had no endowments. It was sold and turned into a private house in 1996. Part of the former chapel is now a walled garden.