The History of our Church

Chapter 3

The Manses

In  1861,  the Rev Wesley Hurst had been invited  into the circuit to serve at Boston and the surrounding villages. He was 21 years old at the time and lodged in  a cottage at the top of Holgate Lane, there being no manse as yet. In 1870, the Lady of the manor, Miss Hannah Gill offered the large House in Spa Lanefor £600, giving £100 herself towards the cost. The house was later divided into two dwellings - "The Manse" & "Rockholme" and "modern amenities" in the form of piped water, a WC and electricity were installed. By 1915 the minister had graduated from foot or horse drawn carriage to a machine powered by an internal combustion engine and the two earth closets which  had served the  manse for nigh on 50 years were converted into a motorcycle shed. However,  high maintenance and heating costs eventually led to the purchase of  'Riversmead'  and in 1954 the Rev’d Sidney Wellbourne, a keen gardener, took up residence in Lynton Avenue. ,

Into the 20th Century

The 20th century  witnessed  equally dramatic developments to both buildings and grounds.  In 1907 the trustees received  a letter stating that -

"the committee of the Newstead memorial hereby offer to erect..... a handsome memory of the two Miss Newsteads.  We propose that it be placed in the middle of the   grass plot immediately  in front  of the chapel"  - 

and  thereby was added a feature which has enhanced and dominated the exceedingly pleasant appearance of the chapel frontage to this day.

Equally warming, though in a rather different sense, was the replacement of the old boiler by a new and more powerful unit in 1908 and at least three replacements were to follow during the century.  The exterior of the chapel was normally painted every five years, long ladders being employed for the purpose.

From 1914 to 1918, with the men away at war and the women employed coping with large families, little change took place in so  far as the fabric  was concerned and upon the cessation of hostilities the first mention of  post war action was that the  stewards were asked "to pay for tacks to hold down a carpet on the occasion of the Guild Rally in 1918" !

The next significant event as regards the facilities, or so it would seem from the time spent discussing the matter, was the question of the use of the 'preachers toilet' by persons other than the intended. It was finally agreed that ladies should be allowed access to the hallowed chamber, but that men and boys should continue to use the outside closets. It was not until 1935, some 15 years later, that the outside conveniences were converted from earth closets to WCs at a cost of  £44-16-6.

The original plot of  land  had included the area now occupied by the GPO, Surgery and private house. Various land transactions took place between the wars and in 1945 the large area to the west of the graveyard was let  to Mr Schneider  for use as a  nursery.

1941 was marked by the removal of iron railings for the 'War Effort', by the letting of the paddock to the "West Riding CC" for an air raid shelter although a request to hold a wartime canteen, run by the County Council  was turned down. Lack of manpower to maintain trees and hedges led to the planting of the beech hedges and  once  more references to air raid insurance and blackouts appear in the minute books.

The last 50 years

The war years had taken their toll. Materials were in very short supply and only essential maintenance was possible. However, the trustees were not idle and plans were afoot to keep abreast of  the changes that population mobility and the upgrading of the Great North Road were to bring.

In 1963, land  was conveyed  to the GPO with the restriction that it was "not to be used for manufacture, distribution, or for the  sale of liquor, nor for a public dance hall or for betting  or gambling". The High St. paddock, which at  one time sported a wayside pulpit, had two fine horse-chestnut trees, one of which was blown down during a storm. A scheme to sell the land  to a property  developer and build a modern worship centre in the paddock failed, largely  due to the complexities involved in dealing with a Methodist  graveyard.  In the event, the sale of the paddock  for a surgery was completed in 1986.

In the 1960s the frosted windows were replaced by double glazed clear glass, fluorescent lighting quadrupled the luminescence and one pew was removed from the front as were the side pews. The replacement with carpet of the  coconut matting which lined the aisles, prompted one elderly member to comment, "if it was good  enough for my  father it's good enough for me" -  it was, after all, only thirty  years  old! At the same time, the remaining pews were chemically stripped and re-varnished with polyurethane. Shortly afterwards, the organ pipes were removed for a complete overhaul costing over £2000. 

The schoolroom was also to receive attention. On August 16th, 1969 the village was struck by a freak storm. Water from the High St. flooded down Spa Lane and entered the building through the side door and lay to a depth of about 3 inches. The kitchen, now known as  the Epworth room was severely damaged and all the lino had to be removed. Although the  water drained away fairly quickly it caused wet rot in the corner  of the Wesley  room and a concrete  section  had to be laid.  A little later, the two fireplaces which stood on either on either side of the arch  (as yet undiscovered) were removed and a stage built.

By the mid 1980's, the schoolroom was looking somewhat drab, the external toilets were rarely used and the vestry toilet was the sole internal facility. The kitchen was plumbed in lead  although the local firm of George Moore Ltd  had  kindly supplied new kitchen units  some 15 years earlier. The Wesley room had been panelled to a height of 3 feet in the 1860s as a means of hiding the damp and inflorescence on the  stonework and the plasterwork was in need of attention.  Removal of this  panelling and of the  stage revealed the stone arch which  features so prominently today. Conversion of the  Epworth room, the replacement of  one of the central supporting pillars by a steel joist  and the introduction of lightweight folding doors allowed for the main schoolroom to be extended or for a temporary stage to be erected.

 To the west of the chapel there stood unmarked graves for children and external toilets, converted to water closets at the turn of the century. Permission was granted for re-internment although most of the grave area remains around the single remaining yew tree and in 1986 the smart new entrance,  toilets and kitchen were built.

Heating and  lighting.

Both the  temperature on Sundays  and the lighting  gave rise to much comment almost from the first day up to the installation of new heating and new strip lighting in the 1970 -80 period. It is unclear  as to when the  heating was first installed. Coal was  readily available by virtue of the North Eastern Railway Co who had coal depots at  Newton Kyme and later at Thorp Arch.

 In the middle of the 19th century, a cartload of coal delivered by the N E Rly Co cost 8s-3 (41p) although wood was also used in considerable quantities.  When the Gas Works opened in 1867, the coal and wood was supplemented  by coke which  would have been used for the  boiler.

All classes and the Sabbath School were required to pay the trustees for the coal they used. The caretaker  needed to tend the boiler furnace and the 4 schoolroom fires at two hourly  intervals  throughout Saturday night if he was to be free of  grumbles on cold winter  Sunday mornings. This toil was recognised by the trustees who paid the chapel keeper an additional 2s-6 (12.5p) per week during the darkest months.  Despite all of the poor man's efforts, the  main source  of complaint continued to be that  "the chapel needs warming better" - and  that at a time  when they met for worship at least twice on the Sabbath and sermons were twice as long as they are today.

The first modifications were made to the heating system in 1859 and two years later the schoolrooms were "closed for repairs, water apparatus fixing, cleaning and repainting at a cost of £113-4-8. " This included  the sum of £5,  voted for hire of  " Gambles CourtHouse". In due course the boiler was fired by coke, in the late 1960s by oil and from 1986 by our present auto-timed, gas fired hot water system. 

In the early  days illumination was poor since the chapel was lit by oil lamps and rush lights. Paraffin at 5s-9  per gallon was prohibitively  expensive and it  is doubtful if the average collection would have bought  a canful.  However, these Victorians were not  to be defeated and in an effort  to keep up with their fellow Methodists in Leeds, they accepted an offer submitted by the British Portable  Gas Apparatus Company and set about manufacturing their own gas for lighting the chapel. However, it appears that they were ill advised and the plant failed to realise  its  expectations and they  were forced to wait until the Gas Works was built in Gas Works Lane.  Fortunately, they did not throw out the oil lamps and in due course the Chapel Steward was asked to "do his best in the matter of disposing of  the oil lamps".

In 1928, a power cable was laid down Spa lane at a cost of £18-16-1 and electric  lights  and an electric organ blower were installed by the Yorkshire Electricity Company for £67-8-0 The first  bill was £4 - 4 - 6 for lighting and  £4 -0-5 for the 3-phase blower.  By 1949  this  had  fallen  to £1 -3 -3.

Trustees and finance

Unlike today, where the trusteeship is held centrally by the Methodist Church and the Church  Council is the local managing body, the trustees of the chapel  were, as  individuals, responsible for the affairs of the Society. Perhaps it was this that  made them  appear rather severe, at  least to our eyes. The charge levied upon the Class Meetings and Sunday School for room rent  and  coals was necessary if  they were to make ends meet. These thrifty men of business even passed a resolution making the  caretaker responsible for all breakages of lamp glasses - no matter who caused the damage. This presumably had the desired effect for no further bills for such replacements were recorded until gas lighting was installed.  However, at least one member, a  certain Mrs Wright, managed to 'get even' with these august men; she succeeded in gaining compensation of £1 for damage done by a dripping oil lamp to her daughter's best Sunday cape.

The trustees kept detailed accounts which present a fascinating picture of life in the 1860s. The following are extracted from the trustees account book:-


Pew rents   £35 - 18-0 

Rent from Sunday School  £3-0-0

Rev J Bownas - "Chapel sermons"  £10-5-2

2 sermons by Rev Wm Hudson   £8-0-10

Chapel entrance box   4s-41/2 




Graves   £3-8-0

Charge to 6 society classes for coal   £2-2-6



Sale of old bottles  8s-0


Coals    £2-16-0,

Candles  15s-21/2d,  

Oil (refined rape)  £2-3-0,

Rushlights 61/2d,   Sweep 2s-0   Coke 9s-3,

Wicks 2s-0, Snuffers 1s-0,





Boston Spa Gas Works (first bill  Jan - March 1866 for lighting only)  £2-6-9 

Tadcaster  Gas Co for cinders  8s-3   Matches   11/2d

Turpentine  8d  Baskets & chips  3s-8

Recasing of Bible  4s-6  Repair of  hymnbooks 9p

Door mat  6s-0  Soap  1s-6

Clock cleaning   1s-6,   Clock string   6d

Kids and shavings  1s-0  Organ blowing    1s-3

To Henry Wincup for water & carriage 3s-0

Chapel keeping and glass cleaning (lamps)  £10

Brass candle stands  £2

Singers pew allowance   £2  The Misses Gills interest £6

Chapel license  2s-6  Fire Insurance  £1-2-6

Inspection of water apparatus  10s-0

For use of Gambles Court house for 13 weeks during alterations    £5-0-0 

Inevitably, the financial burden weighed heavily upon them and much time and effort was spent in balancing the books. This did not however, prevent them from realising their responsibilities to the circuit and the Wesleyan Connexion. In 1867 the annual accounts record:

  Quarterly payments (circuit assessment)  £12-0-0 per year

  General Chapel Fund  £1-1-0

  Day school subscription  £1-0-0

Clifford Methodist Day School (later called the training school) £4-0-0

Theological Institute  (Minister training?)  £1-1-0

Worn out ministers fund  £1-1-0

Theological Institute (Headingley?)  £1-1-0

General Chapel fund  £1-1-0


They never defaulted on these payments and in acknowledgment of a loan from The Wesleyan Chapel Committee in Acomb St , Manchester, they promised "to repay by instalments and not to borrow, nor to charge upon the trust estate". In fact, they met the debt by instituting a system of pew rents, (a method which was to produce considerable income until  1953) and furthermore they promised not to keep  any surplus  but to pay it to the circuit or to the connexion. Pew rents typically raised 50% of the annual trust income but with a large number of "free pews" they  relied heavily upon Sunday collections  and upon a somewhat unreliable, though lucrative, source of income, namely - 'ground lettings'. Notwithstanding the necessity to remain solvent, the trustees frequently demonstrated a generosity of spirit typical of which was a resolution in 1863 that "Rev Robert Newstead (supernumerary) and Mrs Dicken (widow) be allowed to occupy their pews free of charge"

'Ground lettings' permitted the erection of memorial stones in the graveyard and were the source of  much debate in trustees meetings. Graveyards are relatively rare in Methodism and are not subject to the same legal requirements as are the cemeteries of Anglican  Churches; in fact the law is rather unclear in this area, a fact which has caused much heart ache for trustees over the past 150 years. Nevertheless, the original purchase of a  plot,  much larger than the building required, did provide a valuable source of income as well as "frequent incursions of cattle due to the deplorable state of the fence".  The main burial area was within the parcel of land in front of the main chapel entrance, the portion between the chapel and Spa Lane being set aside for the poor and that on the western side (where the kitchen now stands) being designated for stillborn and infant interments.

Fees for  graves were as follows:-

  Grave digging - 5 ft deep  4s-0 10ft deep 14s-0

Burial charges - Stillbor  2s-6  Child  10s-6  Poor 15s-0

Internment in the main burial ground:

 Purchase of ground 7ft-6in by 3 ft wide £1-1-0

 Internment at 6 ft deep 10s-6 for each extra foot  2s-6

For permission to:  Brick  2s-6

  Erect a headstone  10s-6

  Place a flat stone  £1-1-0

  Erect a monument  £2-2-0

  Palisading    To be agreed

All inscriptions to be approved before lettering

Finance was by no means the only responsibility held by the trustees. They appointed the leaders, choirmaster, organist and caretakers, maintained the property, and made arrangements for all special services. They also expressed the thanks of the society to Ministers who were about to leave to take up further appointments. It is evident that upon at least one occasion, this expression of gratitude was not felt by the whole body of trustees and it would appear that certain dissenters boycotted part of one such meeting. The secretary to the Trust was left with the difficult task of recording the event in the minutes. He apparently decided that the best way was to appear somewhat confused. Accordingly he wrote:-

 "Conversation re Rev Richard Heap leaving the place - the valuable aid he has rendered the trust - the great loss the society will sustain by his removal and did not obtain that formal expression of acknowledgement that was desired, before another body of trustees entered the room to commence another trustees meeting. But considering the matter honestly as to the real intentions of the trustees performing their duty in this case, the steward thought it might convey the same by a letter to Mr Heap." 

One wonders as to the contents of that letter!




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