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former Methodist Chapel, Stokesby
Methodist Chapel, Stokesby
Methodism was the great enthusiasm of the late 18th and early 19th Centuries, and was always strong in rural, awkward, non-conformist east Norfolk. But the labyrinthine world of the various Methodist denominations before unification in 1932 can be a confusing one. Unification itself, although no doubt a noble thing spiritually and theologically, led to a great cull of chapels which fell out of use as congregations combined, and even in remote, rural areas the buildings often fell prey to redevelopment. Stokesby Methodist Church was built in 1907 by the Stokesby Primitve Methodist Society with the help of funds granted by the larger Acle Primitive Methodist Society up the road. Ben Milner, in his excellent History of Methodism in East Norfolk, notes that it replaced an earlier building, but that in fact there was already a thriving Wesleyan Methodist Society in Stokesby, with its own chapel elsewhere in the village. In retrospect, the construction of this fine little structure must have seemed like empire-building, because already the Primitive Methodist Society here was in decline, and by 1922 membership had fallen to just seven people, and so this chapel closed. However, seizing their chance, the busy Stokesby Wesleyan Methodist Society bought the building for £250 and reopened it for their own worship.
The chapel is a smaller, simpler version of the typical design of Primitive Methodist churches in the first decade of the 20th Century, with a large west window above the entrance portico and flanking lancets. The corners of the brickwork are neatly picked out with dressed stone. The stained glass windows are a modern addition, of course, for today this building is a private house.
Simon Knott, June 2011
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