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Bible Christian Churches

The Founding Fathers

The Bible Christians were founded in 1815 out of a desire for more freedom. The name comes from their belief that all problems should be resolved but recourse to the Bible. The founder was William O'Bryan from Cornwall, who worked with Samuel Thorne at Shebbear, Devon. They admitted women as lay preachers in 1819 for the first time in Methodism and took a leading role in the rise of the Temperance Movement.


The Bible Christian movement on the Isle of Wight began in 1823 with the visit of Mary Toms from Tintagel, Cornwall. In early records there is no records of preaching in Littletown. This is accounted for by the fact that in those days the preaching was at Wootton Bridge, and was held for the most part in a barn. Among those having willing hearts to listen was Mr. George Moody, effectually known as "Father Moody". There are more reasons than one why the Bible Christians should have a place of worship at Littletown rather than at Wootton Bridge (about one and half miles distant). One good reason is that there were two Methodist chapels at the latter, and therefore a Bible Christian chapel was not required.

The Littletown Society 1846 - 1897

The records of the society at Littletown helps to understand, in some respect, what Christian life in the early/mid 19th century was like. The Ebenezer Chapel was built adjacent to Chapel Cottage (demolished and rebuilt as Woodford Cottage); on the lane running down to the railway; and on the corner of Balambs Farm land. The land was donated to the society by Mr James List Alford, the farmer who was a staunch member of the society and trustee of Arreton Chapel. The chapel was built of brick in 1846, with a tiled roof and was some 52ft long, 25ft wide [dimensions taken from conveyance] and 15ft high, with a Sunday school on the eastern side (towards Havenstreet). Chapel anniversaries were celebrated on Palm Sunday, Good Friday and the Sunday school's in June. The Revs. C. W. Vernon, W. M. Bailey, D. Calloway, F. Martin, and R. Vaughan took part in the opening services. The Revs. W. M. Bailey and F. Martin conducted the first anniversary services.

Quarterly meetings were held for the Island circuit with each Chapel taking turns to host. Changes from the previous quarter were noted and recorded under headings such as:
New members, Removals, Deaths, Emigration, Backsliders, Backsliders through drink.

Until 1845, there was a single circuit on the Island, but interest in Methodism was high and the circuit was split into two groups, Shanklin and Newport/Ryde, in 1870 a third circuit was formed in Yarmouth. The Littletown society numbers stayed in the region of 25 to 30 members.

Conveyance for the land signed on behalf for the chapel by:

*All of Arreton Parish
*Charles Glasspell Yeoman
*Jacob Hayles Yeoman
*George Booker Yeoman
*William Hall Labourer
*Philip Wall Labourer
*George Moody Labourer
Harry Love Newport

The Great Storm 1897

The gale, which set in on Tuesday 2nd March, continued throughout the night and into Wednesday morning. It was accompanied by heavy rain with lightening and the wind blew with terrific force, its destructive effects being everywhere in evidence when daylight dawned on Wednesday. It is many years since the Island was visited by so fierce a storm. Trees, especially elms, suffered to an extraordinary extent and the appearance of many of them shows how tremendous was the grip which embraced and uprooted them and fearful was the force with which they were hurled down to the ground, huge limbs being completely pulverised.

The Bible Christian Chapel at Littletown fared badly. The gable end, nearest to the entrance to the building, appears to have been carried away first, thus making an opening in the face of the storm. A portion of the roof was lifted into the air, where it divided, one half falling in the field below and the other on the upper side. Eventually, the gable at the other end was blown out, the debris falling on and smashing the roof of the Sunday school.

Picture of Storm damage at rear of the Chapel, the Sunday School room
Storm damage at rear of the Chapel, the Sunday School room

There was much debate as to whether to repair the chapel, or re-allocate to a different site on the main road, the later was chosen. Other chapels in the Methodist circuit promised help by donating their collections from time to time.

Note: - When the chapel was open there was a thatched house known as Chapel Cottage adjacent (see picture above). In the early 1930's it was occupied by a Mr. and Mrs. Richardson. It is reported that butcher's would come out from Newport and shoot the rooks in the nearby trees for selling in their shops, the first 6 would be given to the owner of the cottage.

On Thursday 21 October 1897 marked a red letter day in the annuals of the movement with the laying of the foundation stone for a new chapel in Station Road, opposite the Isle of Wight Central Railway gates.

There is far earlier information on the Bible Christian movement on Isle of Wight in the following articles History of the Bible Christians in Isle of Wight (second addition) by Rev. J. Woolcock D.D., 1897.

Links: External link image External link image

This page was last edited on: 4th March, 2015 06:16:08

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