THE CHAPEL AT SOUTH CREAKE

 

A Brief Account by Howard Fears, M.Phil., M.A.

 

The story of the chapel at South Creake begins in 1779, when sisters Ann and Martha Glover decided that the community was a very destitute place spiritually and they had compassion upon the people as being without a shepherd.

 

The Glovers were wealthy merchants and farmers; in the 1770s Philip Glover was tenant at Lord Townsend’s Manor Farm at South Creake.

The sisters purchased the site for £80 and at their own expense arranged for the construction of the chapel. When it was completed in 1783 it had space for a congregation of 250.

 

Ann and Martha conducted some of the services themselves, with one of them addressing the congregation, the other responsible for announcing the hymns. They may have taken it in turn to undertake their respective chosen duties. A number of other people helped head the worship, including a dissenting minister who came to the chapel as often as he was able, probably once a week or fortnight: there is no record of service other than on Sundays. The visiting minister did not, however live in the village.

 

After the sisters’ death, the chapel was used by a variety of dissenting congregations. In 1819 John Temple Goggs, a 23 year old young man, obtained permission to preach in the chapel. He soon collected a large congregation. 1822 witnessed the formation of its use as a Baptist chapel, with Goggs as pastor, but in April 1824, still only 28, he died.

 

By 1833 congregational dissenters were taking an interest in South Creak, obtaining possession of the chapel in 1835, at which time it became the Congregational House Missionary Society centre for both South Creake and Little Walsingham, with the appointment of an agent. As early as 1833 the Society had planned to open a place of worship in Walsingham, where premises were hired. Preaching in both places was maintained by Home Missionary Society agents.

 

During its first five years of missionary endeavour a quick succession of ministers were appointed, responsible for both communities. The first appointed agent was Revd. H. Kidgell, followed by Revd. W. Easterbrook, succeeded in his turn by a Revd. Bray. Of these, Revd. Henry Kidgell was recorded as living in Walsingham in 1836.

With the history of the South Creake and Little Walsingham congregations continuing in parallel, the significant appointment, following the nomination of Revd. John Summers as agent led, inter alia, to the eventual erection of a separate chapel at Walsingham.

 

When he took up his ministry in 1840 it was recorded that his congregation in Walsingham totalled nine (although this may have been the total of adult males only; known supporters included a grocer, a draper, a brazier and a miller). Having used hired premises for seven years it was intimated that the Place in which divine service was conducted being considered ill-adapted to promote the cause…(an effort was needed to erect a chapel in Walsingham).

 

Progress at Walsingham was rapid on 19th May 1840 a site which had once been part of the Exchequer Inn, off Bridewell Street, was sold for £40 to the Society of Protestant Dissenters of the Denomination called Independents (otherwise Congregationalists), being Predo Baptists at Little Walsingham.

This chapel was erected at a cost of £400, for which a loan of £160 was necessary, and despite some confusion the probable date of its opening was 9th December 1841. Prominent in their Walsingham congregation was a miller from the village Thomas Dewing, and on 16th September 1844, he invited Revd. John Summers to assume the pastorate of the united churches of Little Walsingham and South Creake. This was followed by Summers’ ordination on the next day, 17th September, making it nearly five years since he had come as agent of the Home Missionary Society.

 

In 1844 both he and his wife Hannah were aged 32. The Enumerators’ Schedule (census) for 1841 referred to their living at that time in Little Walsingham, with two young children, employing a 15 year old female living-in servant.

 

Summers was an energetic pastor and in the 1851 national Religious census attendance of the Walsingham chapel was recorded a 40 in the afternoon meeting and 60 in the evening congregation, with Sunday School members totalling 40, for when a £6 library was provided. Combining South Creake and Little Walsingham in his efforts to promote monthly tract circulation this reached the astonishing total of about 2,000. A contemporary quotation describes a congregation member inviting Summers to take “oversight of us in the Lord”.

 

But having given his best and most fruitful years in the service of his two congregations, in July 1853, with wife and family he ceased his local pastorate and emigrated to Australia, where he was still living in 1877. His departure may have arisen from a sense of personal disappointment that his local support had not expanded further, but he had had to contend with the vigorous Primitive Methodists (Rauters) whose range of activities and outgoing enthusiasm not only attracted many supporters but may also have won-over some of his own flock.

 

Responsibility for South Creake and Little Walsingham’s Independent congregations passed in 1853 to Revd. Robert Loxton. There is, however, an ominous overtone in the near-contemporary account of his ministry, that he Laboured very successfully, although with many discouragements.

 

In August 1857 he died suddenly, having held the appointment for four years. His successor, Revd. J. Devine, followed quickly, assuming responsibility from 22nd August 1857, remembered as establishing winter bible classes. He left in November 1860, succeeded in January 1861 by Revd. Charles Hargreaves, who was at first asked to come as preacher, after four weeks invited to become minister, formally becoming minister on 15th February, 1861. He remained for four years.

 

1865 was significant for South Creake. Although Revd. Eli Partridge had followed as minister of both congregations, in the same year, South Creake and Little Walsingham separated, leaving Partridge as responsible only for the latter chapel.

 

As this account has been based on investigations relating to the Walsingham congregation, details of the progress of South Creake after 1865 are very sketchy although it is known that a schoolroom was added in 1894, suggesting an expansion of support in Creake, although without any knowledge of the ministering pastors. By the 1960s however, support for the chapel in South Creake was in significant decline, leading to its closure in the early 1970s.

 

 

 

Note: If required, source details for the above account can be supplied on demand.