In 1818 Mr John Summer moved into Bladon with his pony and cart and set up as an egg merchant. He attended the markets in Oxford and Witney and became very well known in the area. The nearest Methodist Chapel was at Freeland and every Sunday morning at 6am, John Sumner and his wife used to walk there for a class meeting, John carrying the baby and his wife carrying a lantern. Soon after moving in to the village, John Summer started opening his own small cottage on Sunday evenings for anyone who wanted to join him and his family to read from the bible and to sing a few hymns.
By the late 1830s, John Sumner and his friends felt that the class meetings and evening services at the cottage were becoming somewhat crowded and they began to talk about building a chapel. Despite the harsh economic climate at the time, they worked hard and collected money, the Duchess of Marlborough assisting them with a generous donation of £2 2s.
When the chapel was built, the Bladon Methodist Church had about 69 members. On census Sunday in 1851 the attendance at the morning service was recorded at 42 adults and 56 children while in the evening 94 adults and 30 children were present. In the late 1850s numbers fell, probably because of competition from Primitive Methodists who started holding meetings of their own from 1857 onwards.
In the 1860s attendance figures increased sharply and in 1866 a gallery was errected by Mr Bayliss, the village carpenter at a cost of £54 11s 7d. However, even with the gallery, the congregations became so crowded that in order to secure a seat at the evening service it was necessary to arrive a quarter of an hour beforehand.
The lack of space became so acute that a meeting was called to consider the possibility of building an extention to the chapel. After much discussion, Mr Joseph Adams, who was chairing the meeting, suggested that a new chapel should be built and he offered to donate a site next to the existing chapel and also give £25 to the building fund.
The new building was designed by Mr Ranger, a London architect and Mr Bartlett, a builder from Bloxham was contracted to do the construction work. On 17th July 1877 the foundation stones were laid and within three months the new building had been completed. It had cost just over £500.
In 1904 a vestry and a kitchen were added at a cost of £220. The next major work on the building did not take place for another 70 years when, in 1977, the church was totally refurbished. This involved replacing the fixed wooden pews with comfortable movable seating and the entrance was given a new look by replacing the solid partitioning with glass. The building was also carpeted.
In 1986 it was necessary to re-floor the building. The opportunity was also taken to renovate the organ. The organ was originally a gift from the Grimmett family. Mr Grimmett was an early Bladon Methodist who emigrated to Canada. In 1912, many years later, his three sons returned to Bladon and were most disappointed with the condition of the organ. Together they donated £200 for a new one.
For a history of the Sunday School please see our Junior Church site
My first day at Bladon in 1889, by Reverand John Rotson
Past ministers of Bladon Methodist Church
Further reading:
Some early pictures of class meetings
Oxford Times article from 3rd October 1877
top of page
Mr John Summer, founder of Bladon Methodism
In 1843 a chapel (which is now known as the 'schoolroom') was built, at the cost of £144 3s 8d. It had an earthen floor, the seating consisted of long benches with a single back rail and candles and rushlights were the only form of artificial light. During the services the words of the hymns would be read out two lines at a time for the benefit of those who couldn't read or who couldn't afford a hymn book. The singing at all the services was lead by the Sunday School Superintendant and class leader, Mr Davison Harris, because there was no organ or musical instruments in the chapel.
Mr Davison Harris
Mr John Fryer and his wife - he was a local preacher for over 50 years.
The opening service took place on Thursday 30th October 1877 to a full congregation. This was followed by tea in the old chapel to which 200 people attended. Then at 6 o'clock, The Reverend Alexander McAulay, ex-president of the Wesleyan conference led the evening service where, despite the bad weather that day, there were such large numbers of people that many couldn't fit in. An article from The Oxford Times described the new church as 'the best village place of worship in the Oxford circuit'. It added that the modern lean back seats were 'extremely comfortable' and the building was 'lofty and well ventilated'.
Mr George Adams and his wife Mary - son of Joseph Adams who gave land for the church
The meeting unanimously accepted his proposak and another £68 had been promised before the meeting broke up. Most of the subscribers were agricultural labourers who earned only ten to eleven shillings per week and their donations represented several weeks wages, a very great sacrifice on their part.
Mr and Mrs John Tolley - class leaders at the turn of the centuary
Mr H Robinson - Sunday School Superintendant for 38 years.
Undated picture of the Sunday School