The South Street Chapel

Out with the old, in with the new ?

At the beginning of 1844 (and before the emergence of the ‘Fly Leaves’) there was some talk in Ilkeston of a new Wesleyan Methodist chapel. No-one doubted that the present one was large enough to house the congregation, but for some, its external appearance and situation were not inviting or respectable …. criticisms which could be applied to all the Dissenters’ chapels in Ilkeston !!  And of course there were some ‘traditional’ Wesleyans who were well satisfied with their commodious chapel — a new one was not needed. Furthermore the present one was so convenient for the congregation; it was near to the centre of population, close to the turnpike road which passed the town and to the footroad to the west (Town Street alias South Street). The chapel was surrounded by private property so there was no danger of “being annoyed or disturbed from the rabble without”. And a new chapel would leave a huge debt for the Wesleyan community and would be difficult to finance from subscriptions “in these times of poverty and destitution”.

These objections were not sufficient to deter ‘the town’s Wesleyan Community‘ however, and a new chapel was to be built. In her description Adeline Wells states, incorrectly that “one section of the Wesleyan Methodists built the South Street Chapel and removed to it; the other section remained at the Old Cricket Ground Chapel, under the name of the United Methodist Free Church”.
In the long run this is what happened though not quite in the order suggested by Adeline. The building of the Wesleyan South Street Chapel was commenced in 1845, before the publication of all the ‘Fly Leaves’ and before the split in the Wesleyan Church. So the new chapel South Street was initially used by a united congregation, before the acrimonious divisions occurred.

Bagshaw’s Directory of 1846 lists all Ilkeston’s churches and chapels of that time, one of which,it states, is occupied by the Wesleyan Methodists – referred to simply as ‘the Methodists’. This is the new chapel, erected in South Street in 1845.

40bbb Wesley Chapel 1845

 (courtesy of Ilkeston Reference Library)

The opening services for the new chapel took place on April 2nd, 5th, 9th and 14th, 1846. Bagshaw describes it as “a handsome brick chapel with stone dressings, costing £1200, to seat 600 persons. It is 48 feet by 39, with galleries on three sides, and an orchestra behind the pulpit”. The Directory makes no mention of a second group of Wesleyans and writes that the old (Cricket Ground) chapel will be usedas a day and Sunday school”By this time the move was necessary to house their rapidly expanding congregation.

A Post Office Directory of 1848 uses almost exactly the same description as Bagshaw, suggesting that in that year the Wesleyans were still united at South Street (although directories were known to copy from earlier editions).

A traditional story tells of the Wesleyans being so keen on their new church that women members helped carry the bricks to build it from Dale.


P.S. Today, this magnificent brick edifice, serving as a job centre, stands on the site of the 1845 Wesleyan Methodist Chapel.

from the personal collection of Jim Beardsley


and then came The Wesleyan split