Warehorne, Kent and the Parsons Family

former Warehorne Bible Christian chapel
Roger Parsons

My paternal forebears, the Parsons family, lived in the village of Warehorne, just above the Romney Marsh, near Ham Street, south of Ashford in Kent, for as far back as we have been able to trace (late 18th century). My grandfather, Fred Parsons, was the last of the line to have lived in Warehorne, before he left the village as a young man, some time in the 1890s I think – though there were other members of the family by marriage (notably the Barling family) still in Warehorne till about 30 -40 years ago. Numerous members of the Parsons and Barling families are buried in the Warehorne churchyard. My family were Bible Christians, going back, we think, to when the Bible Christians first came to Warehorne.

The mission to Kent began in 1820 when James Thorne and William Lyle went to Chatham, soon to be supported by two women preachers – Ann Cory and Catherine Reed. By the following year, there were chapels in Faversham, Sheerness, Brompton, Chatham, Canterbury and Hartlip. Other early preachers sent to Kent were Henry Freeman, Harry Major and James Damrel. Just after Christmas 1841 there was a revival at Woodchurch – a few miles away from Warehorne, on the Tenterden road – when a young man from Warehorne was converted and brought several more to the meetings. It looks as though the Bible Christians didn’t build a chapel in Warehorne for another 25 years – December 1866. That chapel was still in use when I was a boy. I remember being taken to services there, during family visits to the village. Its date bears out what I was always told, that my great-grandfather, Charles Parsons, made the pews for the chapel. He’s listed on several family history documents as a carpenter. But one document that I have (his son – my grandfather – Fred’s marriage certificate) lists Charles as a ‘builder’. Was he, I wonder, involved in the building of the Bible Christian chapel, as well as making the pews? Another document that I have says that he was also Sunday School Superintendent. I know that at least some of the Parsons family were active Bible Christians in Warehorne, at least until the latter years of the 19th century, and probably to the 1907 Methodist union and beyond. I have a diary that my grandfather Fred (born 1872) kept for a few years when he was still a young man, and it shows that he was quite pious and a regular chapel-goer, at least till he left Warehorne and moved to work for his uncle in St. Leonard’s.

The Methodist Circuit closed the chapel some decades ago but the building is still there as a private house.

 

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  • The first chapel in Warehorne was actually opened in 1842, when about thirty were meeting. The building and plot were recorded in the Tithe schedule in 1843. On March 30th 1851 an afternoon congregation of 100, and an evening congregation of 65 were recorded.
    The first chapel was described in 1867 as having been “so badly ventilated, and of late in a dilapitated condition”, so “the friends resolved to build a new chapel”.

    The foundation services of the 1866 chapel, named Providence like its predecessor, were held on Sunday and Monday, 26th and 27th August 1866. The account in the Bible Christian Magazine states “The dimensions of the chapel are 30ft by 17.5 ft within, height from the floor to the wall-plate 13.5 ft. Concrete foundations; then solid wall of blue stone, rising 5ft. above the floor. The crevices cemented. Outside of wall, on the stone work, a curve or plinth of bath stone. Inside a six-inch ledge; the wall from the floor to the ledge is skirted. the other part of the wall is brickwork, cemented outside and ornamented. the inside plastered with a mixture of strong lime and sand, insquares corresponding with the outside. The roof of slated stone, There are eight gothic windows, three on each side, and in the front end two.”

    “The substantial and neat chapel” was opened on Sunday and Monday 11th and 12th November, 1866. “Crowded congregations listened to the word with marked attention. A blessed influence was realized, and we trust lasting good will will be manifested.” If this was so, the public tea for 250 persons on the Monday afternoon no doubt helped, although heavy rain “caused some to retire who had some distance to get to their homes.” the public meeting, after tea, was chaired by Mr. James Barling, Sen. of Warehorne.

    We are not told the capacity of the new chapel, but it was calculated to be 120 in 1940, and 90 in 1970.

    Sources:
    The twenty-first annual report of the Missionary Society under the direction of the Bible Christian Conference, for the year ending July 1842

    The Warehorne Tithe Schedule, 1843

    TNA HO 129/63/3

    The Bible Christian Magazine 1867, p46

    The Methodist Church, Department of Chapel Affairs. Statistical returns 1940

    The Methodist Church, Department of Chapel Affairs. Statistical returns part 1, 1972

    By Philip Thornborow (07/12/2021)

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