Peters Memorial Chapel – Tallarn Green Methodist Church.
The present building is the 3rd place of Methodist worship in the village of Tallarn Green.
The founders of the Primitive Methodist movement, Hugh Bourne and William Clowes, held a Camp Meeting at Mow Cop on 31 May 1807. Hugh Bourne was an enthusiastic organiser with a great prayer ministry; and William Clowes was a talented evangelist. They both believed that Methodism should get back to its roots with open air meetings in the style of John Wesley. Methodism had only been recently founded as a separate church, and in its desire to appear as a legitimate and respectable body it did not approve of: open air ‘ranter’ preachers, camp meetings, an interest in the gifts of the Holy Spirit, and a belief in magic as a force for evil. The country was in the grip of the Napoleonic war with a genuine fear that it could degenerate into the anarchy of the French revolution. Bourne and Clowes were perceived as non-respectable and chaotic influences, who were expelled from the Methodist church in 1808 and 1810 respectively. However, rather than stop, they continued their open-air preaching. The Primitive Methodist church is usually credited as beginning with its first published preaching plan in 1812. The Primitives grew rapidly in the Potteries, Cheshire and into North Wales. Churches were formed together into groups, called Circuits. Once a Circuit began to exceed about 1000 members, the growing surplus became a separate mission area, and eventually separated into a new Circuit. This was a great Charismatic revival movement amongst ordinary common folk. So, coming to church would not have been the quiet reserved picture we have in our mind of Victorian times. Loud shouts of ‘Alleluia’, ‘Amen’ and ‘Praise the Lord’ would have rung out during the service.
Oral tradition says that the first Primitive Methodists in Tallarn Green initially met together in each other’s houses in the 1820’s, then later in a barn. The earliest documentary evidence to date is the Journal of Philip Maddocks, who says that 3 local preachers from the Oswestry Circuit came to Sarn Bridge in 1831, and established a large class, which met in his father’s house. Then in 1833 they moved to a barn. One oral account claims this was Holly Bank Cottage at the Sarn; but another oral account says the barn was behind the present Sarn Glass – the latter being more likely. This origin agrees with the established pattern of Primitive Methodism work: Open air evangelism, followed by the formation of a class meeting at a home, followed by the formation of a worshipping congregation. Published obituaries show the same pattern in Bronington village some 10 years earlier, from the mission work of Prees Primitive Methodists.
The first Primitive Methodist Church in Tallarn Green was referred to as the ‘Chapel down the Lane’. The Trust Deed of 3rd June 1845 records 72 square yards of land. When opened, in 1846, at a cost of £102 9s. 6d. it is thought that the initial building may have just been the 2 bays either side of the entrance door in the photograph below. It had a young, timid, congregation, who were much strengthened by the arrival of John & Mary Peters from Buckley. Both were ardent local preachers, Mary being considered the better of the two. The congregation grew in confidence and later included 5 local preachers.
These were the ‘glory’ years of Primitive Methodism. From its foundation to around 1860 the Primitive Methodist church was focussed on evangelism, classes meeting in homes, and engaging with the community outside the church. The next 50 years was increasingly charcterised by getting into debt through Chapel building programs, the leaderships desire to become educated and more respectable, increasing central control, a shift of emphasis to caring for the family within the church rather than evangelism, and getting side tracked into secular social concerns – particularly the Temperance movement.
By 1889 only one of the original trustees at Tallarn Green remained alive, and new trustees were appointed to allow the sale of the building on 2nd September 1889. It was possibly extended with a third bay after it became the Temperance Hall in 1890. Oral tradition says that the engraved stone for the Temperance Hall was carved on the reverse side of the same stone engraved for the Methodist Chapel, and reinserted back into the wall. On 30th December 1927, the building was bought back, from a Mr Howard, by the Methodist Church and variously used as a school room and youth club until it became redundant in the 1980’s. After a period of decline it was sold for conversion in 2008. The alignment of this building is on the original main road through the village. The modern ‘New Road’ veres off at the War Memorial and takes a more southerly route to the Sarn.
The present 1887 building is the Peters Memorial Chapel, in memory of John & Mary Peters, local preachers who lived at The Old Post Office; although they both died before the chapel was finished. There is a memorial stone to them inside the chapel, which quotes from Zechariah 14v7. They are buried in an unmarked grave at St. Mary Magdalene. During their lifetime, they walked great distances to preach – many times to Llangollen and back. Local tradition ascribes the Hymn Through the love of God our Saviour to our Mary Peters – although the 1933 Methodist Hymn Book dedicates it to another lady of the same name.
The Peters Memorial Chapel has developed over time. When first registered as a place of worship on 10th September 1888 it just owned the land it stood on, purchased for £27. The Chapel had cost £500 to build. As initially built it had a small tower on the roof. The interior end wall had a semi-circular window (now bricked in – but the arch remains) and a second high pulpit to the right of the main pulpit for sermons. The original organ, located below the high pulpit, was from the 1845 church and was in very poor condition. It may have simply been a harmonium. The Chapel was registered for marriages on 5th March 1890. The land for the burial ground to the east and south of the Chapel was purchased from Thomas Leadsom in 1894 for the nominal sum of £10, and 12 burial plots reserved for his family use. In recognition of his generosity a foundation stone for the Chapel was engraved ‘This burial ground presented by T. Leadsom 1893’. He is also conspicuous by his large gravestone.
Five tenders were asked for building the school room, and the cheapest tender accepted. The school room was built in 1905 at a cost of £96 17s. 6d. by Mr George Edge of Whitchurch. A foundation stone for the School Room at the rear of the Chapel is dedicated to J. F. Shaw, Sarn, 1905. In 1911 the field at the side of the Chapel was purchased for £305 from Hanmer Church (formerly glebe land). A separate sum of £15 was also paid to the Church Wardens as part of the sale agreement. The field was then rented to W. Burrows for the fixed rent of £4 per annum. It was many years before this field became the graveyard extension, present carpark, and playing field.
In 1914 a committee was established to raise funds for the organ. A Grant Application to The Carnegie Trust reports 38 members and 80-100 Hearers. There is no record of whether a grant was awarded. In 1918 tenders were sought for the organ, but concern was expressed ‘In case the necessary material cannot be obtained through the war conditions’. A tender of £315 was accepted from Mr Laycock of Tunstall. The Trustee minute book states that ‘Mr J. Davies & Mr A. Hughes go around in a motor car to collect subscriptions for organ’. The new organ, with boy (or girl) powered blowers was officially opened on 30th April 1919. To make room for it, the high pulpit was removed and the organ stood in the body of the church at the side of the present pulpit.
On 2nd December 1923, there was a fire caused by the chain giving way on one of the lamps. The damage cost £32 16s., and was the subject of an insurance claim. Woodwork to the pulpit, communion and pews had to be repaired and varnished, the ceiling cleaned and painted, and a piece of carpet replaced. Two new 300 candle power lamps were purchased with holders, shades and chains, to light the Chapel.
In 1927, it was recorded that Harry Twiss the organ blower be paid 30s. per year. The organ was moved to its present location in 1938. At the same time the graveyard extension was consecrated, and a series of concerts held to celebrate the re-opening of the Chapel in April 1938.
The first woman noted as attending a Trustee meeting was Miss K. Broad in 1914. By 1919 six women are recorded: Miss K. Broad, Miss M. Pierpoint, Mrs G. Williams, Miss Jackson, Miss Huntbach and Mrs Davies. But it was 1952 before women’s names appear on the Trust Deed of the Chapel.
The Chapel was considerably refurbished with new Crush Hall, upstairs room, toilets, kitchen and heating system in 1987. The Crush Hall includes a stained-glass window rescued from the Congregational Chapel at Threapwood when it closed at that time.
By 1990 the burial ground had become quite overgrown. During the 1990’s trees were cut down, the ground was tidied and a policy of ‘headstone only’ introduced. The old wall in front of the church was dismantled and re-erected in front of the graveyard. A paving stone in front of the Crush Hall marks the location of the original entrance to the church. The car park was also resurfaced.
The interior of the Chapel was fitted with new carpets and redecorated for the Millennium in 2000. The pews were removed in 2008.
The roof of the Chapel is home to a colony of Pipistrelle Bats, who can be seen emerging at dusk on warm evenings.
Source: Wrexham History; Graham Lloyd; Peters Church, Tallarn Green (original website).