High Street 1840 - 2002
It is recorded that John Wesley visited the Island on several occasions, twice arriving at Wootton Bridge by wherry boat from Portsmouth.
Sometime about the year 1790 a few persons in Wootton became impressed with religious truth and were formed into a class. These earnest Christians, the pioneers to whom we owe so much were in the habit of meeting at the end of the village and walking in company to morning preaching at Newport.
In 1794 a weather-boarded chapel was built in Wootton High Street on the opposite side of the road to the present Chapel. This was the third Methodist chapel on the Island, Newport being the first and Rookley the second. When service was introduced, several respectable families began to attend and united with the society. In 1805 there were two classes of ten members each, with John Macket and William Alford as leaders.
In 1815 the number in the society amounted to 31. At this time Mr. Jonathan Joliffe was appointed to take charge of a class. He was the maternal grandfather of Mrs Charles Dore of Newport. He braved the scorn of the world, by opinion his house for worship and taking charge of the class. This filled the minds of some of his family with dismay, as they laboured under he impression that now the Methodists had got hold of their father, nothing but ruin stared them in the face.
Until 1811 the ministers resided at Portsmouth and visited the island one fortnight a month, preaching at Wootton one Wednesday a month. After the 1811 conference the island was once more enrolled on the list of Circuits and thrown on its own resources. and had thence forward to maintain an independent position. At this time Wootton had 20 members and an income of £1 9s per annum.
In the year 1840 Mr. Dawson of Barnbow near Leeds, opened a very fine chapel at Wootton Bridge, with seats for 300. This is the present church. A very serious debt, however, amounting to £1050 was left upon it and greatly impeded the cause of God in this village for some years afterwards until a revival brought greater prosperity. In the same year Mr. William Cox of Wootton presented a beautiful Communion set, the chalice of which is still used occasionally. Mr. White, the eminent ship builder of Cowes, presented the pulpit, as was his practice whenever a Wesleyan Chapel was presented on the island. The pulpit was formally square in shape and was altered to its present style in 1920.
Instrumentalists in the minstrel gallery at one time led singing over the front porch. A pipe organ was purchased at Steephill Castle, Ventnor [see notes from jottings below] and installed across the North Eastern corner of the Chapel about the turn of the century. It was rebuilt in the recess at the North end of the church at the same time the pulpit was altered. It had extensive repairs from time to time with celebrations each time its life was extended. By the early 1970s it was replaced with a modern digital computer organ.
Rumour has it that the roof of the chapel was at one time used by a band of smugglers to hide kegs of brandy landed at King's Quay, a small secluded inlet lying to the north west of the village.
Heating of the chapel was originally from a boiler below the building, but, after an accident when somebody fell down the steps of the entrance, this was replaced by a slow combustion stove situated half way along the west side of the chapel. This gave a mixed blessing of heat and fumes to one half of the building leaving the remainder rather cold. Various types of gas heating including wall heaters and individual radiators were tried until the present gas fired central heating was installed.
The Sunday School room was built in 1888 and later a Miss Hemans had the outside vestry built at her own expenses for the use of her Bible Class. There was formerly a Copper House where gallons of water were boiled to make tea for the chapel anniversary on Good Friday and many other occasions. Now there is a modern kitchen where the work can be done more efficiently.
The Communion Table and the brass flower vases were given in memory of those who worshiped here in former years. In later years the portable lectern and the table in the vestibule were given in a similar manner. Local craftsmen made these later items. The tiling of the ceiling, carpeting of the aisles and modern decor, has further enhanced the interior of the Chapel.
A sound reproduction system and audio loop for the hard of hearing has been installed. The halogen lighting was installed at the request of the relatives of former worshippers, in their memory.
The exterior stonework is deteriorating: some stonework was replaced in the early 1970s but more replacement is now necessary.
Many names are unrecorded to whom thanks must be given in maintaining a fellowship within the village.
Jottings from trustee's journal 1860-1921
February 1880 New schoolroom to be built at the rear, size 40ft by 20ft and the cost not to exceed £300
Three quotes were obtained: -
- Edwin James, Binstead £285
- Mr Brading, East Cowes £285
- William Please, Wootton £267 10s
The contract was awarded to Edwin James of Binstead
Foundation stone laid 5th July 1880
March 1887 the trustee's took a decision to renovate the church, which was reopened in April 1888. Decision taken to bring forward pulpit in line with the walls of the recess, three quotes obtained: -
- Cooper, Wootton Bridge, £97
- Please, Wootton Bridge, £87 5s.
- James, Binstead, £87
Contract awarded to W. B. Please of Wootton Bridge.
1891. Two Sunday school classrooms built.
1895. Pathway to the High Street constructed. New system of heating for the church being investigated [believed to be a new boiler]. Church licensed for marriages.
Duties of the chapel keeper
- 1. To keep all the lamps trimmed, cleaned and filled and ready for use.
- 2. To light the lamps on all occasions they are required for public service or otherwise in the chapel, Sunday school and classrooms.
- 3. To lay and light fires in both the chapel and Sunday school clean when required.
- 4. To keep the church and schoolroom in good order, clean, dust and sweep. Scrub each place twice during the summer.
- 5. To open the chapel when required.
- 6. To keep the grass trimmed, weed the paths and keep the external building in good order.
- 7. Prepare tables and heat hot water for tea making, tea will be provided.
- 8. Wind up the wall clocks weekly.
- 9. Give notice to the steward of any requirement.
- 10. To keep the stove grates clean and take away all ashes and refuse from the premises.
- 11. Scrub out the lobby once a month.
- 12. Keep all windows and chapel furniture clean.
- 13. Attend to the letting out of the crockery and render a receipt for any breakages to the steward.
- 14. To advise the steward if fuel is required.
- 15. To keep the premises in good order and unlock/ lock the doors and gates.
Special services were held at the Wesleyan Church, High Street, Wootton, in connection with the first performance of a new organ. Which was bought at auction from "St Rhagagund", St. Lawrence for a sum of 58 guineas. Cost to remove, repaint and refit in the chapel £27 7s.10d. Mr. Elderfield of Newport, with Mr Jackman of Cowes playing the organ, conducted the services. In continuation of this special occasion an organ recital was given the following Thursday at which the full potential of the organ was demonstrated. The organ, which is enclosed in a handsome polished mahogany case with decorated front pipes, was erected by Messrs. Sims and Co. of Southampton.
Isle of Wight County Press
Isle of Wight County Records Office
Wootton High Street Methodist Church, 1840-1990