The Bible Christians commenced preaching in some part of Arreton very soon after they came to the island, in the open air to begin with. It was with great difficulty that even a cottage could be got in which to preach. The labourers feared to open their houses for their neighbours to come in for worship lest under the influence of the parson and the squire they should lose their work and be turned out of their cottages. Dr. James Woolcock (author of “Bible Christians in the Isle of Wight” 1897) tells us of a person who did open his cottage at Horringford for a meeting house and in his own words this is the story – “on one occasion the parson sent his man to annoy the preacher and people. In the house that day was a large man by the name of Dennis who had accompanied the preacher from another part of the island. When he found that the parson’s man did not discontinue his disturbance, he took hold of him and carried him out and laid him on a newly-cut elder-bush hedge and left him to wriggle about until he could get off. The sharp points of the bush made an uncomfortable bed and he was glad to get off and away as soon as possible”. Services were also conducted in the village in an upper room which was small, low and in every way unsuitable. This was in a house called Hopkins (now demolished) I have been in that little room and it really was small. Another meeting room was in the house known today as Laburnum cottage, then called Salt Box. This is the house in which my father was born as it belonged to his grandparents. Because my great grandfather Moore was a member of the Bible Christian Society he was not given work on any of the farms in the village but had to walk to Chale, a matter of 7 miles each way, every day for his employment. The first chapel in Arreton was built in 1866. In 1865 Rev Samuel Ley Thorne, Superintendent Minister at Newport, together with Mr Robert Bullen, Circuit Treasurer and an appointed body of trustees, negotiated with the Wykeham-Martin estate and obtained the freehold of the land and in the following year the chapel was opened on 19th November. But by 1879 it proved to be too small and plans were made to build another chapel by the side and use the older building as a schoolroom. The freehold of the adjoining land was obtained from the Wykeham-Martin estate with one condition – that the building to be erected on the site be of worthy architectural design. This was ensured by the architect Thomas Dashwood of Ryde and after submitting the plans to the Wykeham-Martin estate, the conveyance of the land was completed.
At that time the squire and the parson were at daggers drawn and when the squire heard that the parson did not want the Bible Christians in his parish, he did his best to spite the parson by seeing that they obtained the land they required to build their church and to add insult to injury, allowed his wagons to be used to bring bricks etc for the building, letting it be widely known that he was doing this for free!
As a point of family interest the builders of the chapel in 1879 were Blake and Mackett. James Blake, the local builder was my paternal great-grandfather and Charles Mackett, the village carpenter, was my maternal great-great grandfather. Both Macketts and Blakes were members of the Bible Christian Church. Grandfather Blake, my father told me, was in his youth a fiery little man who after an evening at the Hare and Hounds Public House, waited for the men from Newchurch to come by on their way home from Newport and then enjoyed picking a fight with them. He and his wife Sarah were at that time members of the parish church, but in 1874 they came under the influence of a Bible Christian preacher and life changed for ever for James and Sarah. He no longer drank intoxicating liquor and became a pillar of the Bible Christian congregation and superintendent of the Sunday School for 40 years.
As my family history is bound up in Arreton, I have done greater research here than for other chapels, not only having documents but also stories of the past from my father and mother both of whom knew this church as home from childhood.
The stone-laying ceremony for the new chapel took place on Monday 30th June 1879; one of the stones being laid by Rosa Blake aged 8, the younger daughter of the builder. The building grew throughout the summer assisted by men and women who without any thought of payment gave their spare time to the carrying of bricks and mortar after a hard day’s work in the fields or the home. My mother told me that James Blake the builder built the front façade of the chapel with his own hands, often to the irritation of his men who wanted to progress faster!
In November 1879 when the chapel was opened it was a dull day and the Arreton National School Log Book records children absent from school for the opening of the new chapel in the village and goes on to record the next day a great fall of snow, which apparently lasted for some time.
The cost of the chapel was almost £1000 and by the end of the evening of the opening the debt that remained was £400. The average wage of the agricultural community in those days was about 15/- a week and this was an agricultural community. But it was paid off within a few years. At that time the membership of the church was 85 adults, with a Sunday School of 80+ children.
Arreton had a branch of the Women’s Missionary League and the two China Missionaries, Sam Pollard and Frank Dymond, were well known to my grandparents. My great grandmother Sarah Blake (nee Groundsell) was the first president of the League on the Isle of Wight. When I was a girl I met Mrs Pollard, widow of Sam, and became acquainted with her sons Walter and Ernest and their families. They often visited cousins of my father who lived on the Island.
Arreton, now the Methodist church, is still open for worship and still has a Sunday School,
I have a record of the trustees of the chapel at its opening in 1866. This did not include any Moores or Blakes but at the enlargement of the chapel in 1879 these names were recorded:
Robert Bullen, Alfred Hardy, Charles Newnham, Edmund Smith, Frank Ash, Edwin Morgan (all of Newport)
William Ballard, William Orchard, Henry U Barton, Charles Orchard, William Pitt, Charles Orchard the younger, Isaac Orchard, Joseph Hatcher, Henry Galpin, Henry Draper, Jacob Goff, William Edmunds, William Barton, James Blake, William Draper, Frank Moore (all of Arreton).
The Minister at that time was Rev Thomas Wooldridge.
James Blake was my great grandfather, Frank Moore (son in law of James Blake) was my paternal grandfather, William Barton was brother in law to Frank Moore.
William Orchard was my maternal great grandfather. Charles Orchard (the elder) was uncle to William. William Pitt was brother in law to William Orchard.
Continuing the family history, my Grandfather Frank Moore was a steward for more than 60 years, his wife Mary (née Blake) was secretary to the Women’s Missionary Work, my father Martin Moore was organist and choirmaster from 1918-1985, my mother Hilda (née Orchard) was also secretary for Women’s Work. I am church treasurer, my daughter Kathryn Toney (née Phillips) is leader of the Sunday school.