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name, his cause, celebrity, and oratorical powers quickly caused
to assemble. He accepted an invitation offered him by Mr.
Richard West, who built Zoar Chapel, great grandfather to
Messrs. West Brothers and dined with that gentleman and his
family at the " Friary," now the residence of Dr. A. T. V. Pack-
man, senr. That Wesley thus visited Strood is a circumstance
well worthy of record.


Standing a little way back from the high road, and near to
St. Mary's Vicarage, is the plain, unpretentious, but withal
substantially-built erection, generally known as the " Frindsbuiy
Road chapel." Though, to the writer, the spot possesses but few
incitements as a desirable place for sepulture, yet its associations
(which have wide influence), have brought about thirty persons


to take their final rest beneath the narrow belt of land that fronts
and surrounds it. Various tablets mark their resting place,
those to the memories of the families of Nash, L,illey, and
L,angford being chiefly noticeable. The history of the Chapel is
contemporaneous with our parish Church, and is peculiar in its
illustrations of destiny, and the Capulet and Montague pro-
clivities of two families.

In the year 1811 Mr. I^illey, grandfather of Mr. J. S. Lilley,
of North Street, opened his house, situated at Bill Street, " as a
preaching place for the Wesleyan Methodists." This really was
the stepping stone of that sect's introduction to Strood. It grew
and gathered power. Mr. J. Lilley was manager to Mr. Joseph
Brindley;* the latter gentleman being a shipbuilder of Strood in
a large way of business. It was Brindley who built the some-
what gloomy-looking mansion adjacent, now in the occupation
of Miss Formby.

Mr. Brindley, who we may suppose favoured the same teach-
ing, gave the ground for the erection of the Chapel, which in the
year 1813 was built and opened at a cost of ^1,400. The debt
remained for some time over ^1,000 ; it is now reduced to a
mortgage of ^300.

The family proclivities previously alluded to consist in the
fact that Mr. L,illey was largely instrumental in the inception and
building of this Chapel, whilst Mr. John Reader was with equal
ardour as an original trustee working for the rebuilding of the
parish Church, each regarding the other's work with some
antipathy. About fifteen years afterwards Mr. lyilley's son
married a daughter of Mr. Reader, and in still later years (Mr.
Reader becoming blind and infirm) he passed his closing days
with his daughter and her husband and died in their home.

In 1849 differences arose in the Wesleyan body concerning
church government. The Wesleyan Conference, which was the
national governing body, was possessed of wide and autocratic
powers, which they used with no gentle hand the country through.
In due time its drastic edicts fell upon the members of this com-
munity in Strood, with the result that an important body of
dissentients left, and hired a large room formerly existent at the
back of Messrs. Biggs' (old) brewery. Here for a considerable

* See " Our Industries."



time were their services held. The Conference tried all they
could to establish a new trust for the Chapel, but failed. Find-
ing themselves unsuccessful they then resigned all claim, and
gave the new trustees power to sell the building.*

This event brought the dissenting body back again to their
old home and work, which they carry on to this day. Those who


followed the fortunes of the Conference, built (under the auspices
of the central body) the Chapel at the junction of North Street
and Prentice Street, now owned and used by the Salvation Army.
Finding it, as time went on, to be too small for their growing
numbers they finally removed to the handsome and commodious
pile erected but a few years since at the corner of Stonehorse
Lane, now re-christened " Cliffe Road."

* Since the above remarks were written, this building has been offered
for sale but failed to find a purchaser.


It should be mentioned that the " governmental polity " of
the Wesleyan Conference has been considerably modified in the
severity of its lines from what it was in former years.



Methodism, as an organised Society, appears to have been
introduced into Friiidsbury about the year 1800, although long
before that there was a flourishing cause in Rochester and
Chatham on the other side of the Medway.

As to who had the honour of originating the work is a
matter still in dispute. One line of tradition refers it to John
Wesley himself, and another branch refers it to the grandfather
of the present Mr. J. S. L,illey, of Strood, who came into the
district at the beginning of the century, and almost immediately
opened his cottage for preaching.

At any rate, within a few years Methodism became a great
force and power in the neighbourhood, which resulted in the
erection of the Old Chapel in Friiidsbury road, in the year 1813.

For more than thirty years this was the centre of a great
religious movement that made its influence felt in every village
and hamlet of the surrounding district. The Chapel had a
crowded school and congregation, many coming great distances
to attend the various meetings and services. The class
meetings, which have been described as "the back-bone of
Methodism," were largely attended, and preachers of the first
rank in the Connexion frequently ministered to the people.

Then came the unfortunate movement of 1849, when the
Church was convulsed by the great Reform movement, and here,
as in many other places, terrible havoc was wrought. Nearly
the whole of the members and congregation took the side of the
Reformers, and the Chapel itself passed into their hands.

From that time the work at the old centre fluctuated very
considerably until the e.id of the year 1897, when the Trustees,
owing to the decay of the work, found it necessary to sell the
Chapel, and now the old sanctuary is closed, being no longer
Methodist property.

For several years after 1849 no Wesleyan services were held


in Frindsbury or Strood. The old members, very few in num-
ber, who adhered to the parent Body, worshipped and continued
their membership at Bethel Wesleyan Chapel, Rochester. It
was not until the year 1853 that steps were taken to provide a
chapel at Strood, although it had been in the hearts and minds
of many before that time. But the first real step was taken by
the late Mr. W. Kimmins and Mr. C. Cornell on Sunday evening,
January 3Oth, 1853. They were walking together from Strood to
the service at Bethel, when they expressed a hope that ere long a
chapel would be erected at Strood, Mr. Cornell stating that
ground could be had. He further said that he would give 10 if
something was done, and Mr. Kimmins said he would do the
same. The next day, January 3ist, Mr. Cornell wrote to Mr.
Kimmins on the matter, and on the Tuesday they arranged to
meet the next day, Wednesday, February 2nd, to see if they
could secure a suitable site. They agreed upon a plot in North
Street, zyft. by 8oft.. and paid down a deposit of i. The same
evening the matter was mentioned to the Rev. Philip Hardcastle,
Superintendent Minister of the Rochester Circuit, who said the
plot was too small. So that on the Thursday the adjoining
plot was secured, and on February i4th Mr. Kimmins and Mr.
Cornell paid down ^97 between them for the site, the amount,
less their own contributions, being afterwards refunded them.

On February i8th, 1853, a meeting was held at the house of
Mr. Cornell to form a Trust, the following being present :
Messrs. Hardcastle, Church, Burton, Reader, Kimmins, Osborn,
C. Cornell, and T. Cornell. The following persons were
nominated to act with them as Trustees : Messrs. George
Williamson and L,einile, of Rochester ; Chubb, of London ;
Hasel, of Maidstone ; Wood, of Aylesford ; Emery, of Graves-
end; Clark, of Shorne; Snoad, of Cobham; Chesterton, of Cliffe ;
Bishop, Thompson, Dunn, Beeman, and Masham, of Brompton ;
and Mr. Turfe, of Hoo. The meeting passed the following
resolution : " That it is desirable to have a chapel in Strood,
and in the spot selected." Arrangements were also made for
collecting the money for the ground, but nothing further was
done until March 24th, 1854, when it was decided as follows :
" That this meeting, having reviewed the whole matter, deems it
expedient to defer all proceedings with respect to the new
Wesleyan Chapel at Strood until after Ihe Conference of 1854."


,The whole matter, however, was left in abeyance until May 3rd,
1858, when a Trustees' meeting was held, with the Rev. N. Rouse
in the chair. At this meeting it was decided to have a public
tea and meeting to launch the scheme.

This took place on May i3th, and ^44 I5S. od. were promised
towards the building fund. On the 2ist the Trustees met again,
and the plans of Mr. Keeling, architect, of London, were
examined. The following decisions were arrived at : (i) The
Chapel must seat 170 persons ; (2) Cost not to exceed ^250; (3)
The style to be neat ; (4) Seats not to be fitted with doors ; (5)
The terms of the architect to' be ascertained, and he be informed
that stone can be easily obtained.

The next meeting was held on January yth, 1859. In the
meantime, negociations had been going on with the Trustees of
the Frindsbury Chapel, but on March gth these were broken off,
and it was decided to ask the Wesleyan Chapel Committee to
sanction the plans as drawn by Mr. Keeling. This was done,
and the chapel in North Street, seating nearly 300 persons, and
now occupied by the Salvation Army, was erected. Prior to this,
however, class meetings and preaching services were held, for
some three or four years, in the house of Mr. and Mrs. W.
Tansley, at Frindsbury Mill. These honoured people removed
from Lincolnshire, and, on finding no Wesleyan services in the
town, at once opened the doors of their house, and the place was
crowded, week by week, by anxious and eager people. The
success of the work here made it imperative that something
should be done, and it was with, feelings of the deepest thankful-
ness and praise that the new Chapel was opened in 1859. From
the first the results more than justified the faith and hope of the
pioneers. The Chapel was soon filled, and in less than two years
it was found necessary to build a schoolroom. Fortunately, land
was secured adjoining the Chapel, and during 1861 the School
was erected at a total cost of nearly ^240. These premises did
splendid service for more than twenty years, but, as time went
on, the constantly increasing number of worshippers made a
larger and more commodious building absolutely necessary.
Twelve or fifteen years ago the need was acutely felt, and during
the term of the Rev. George Penman it was decided to make
another advance and this time it was to be of a still more


aggressive and daring character. A capital site was secured in
Frindsbury Road, at the corner of the Stonehorse Lane, and the
Trustees decided upon the erection of the commodious and
beautiful Church that now adorns that commanding position.
The Church is known as the Wesleyan Methodist Jubilee
Church, and was opened on Wednesday, November 2nd, 1887,
by the Rev. John Walton, M.A., President of the Wesleyan
Conference. The total cost exceeded ^5,700, and the Church
has seating capacity for more than 700 persons. It has a lofty
nave, and two aisles, with galleries round three sides ; it pos-
sesses both tower and spire, rising to the height of 108 feet from
the ground ; the style is an adaptation of the early English.
The Church is built of red brick, with Bath stone dressings ;
the seats are of pitch pine, varnished ; and the roofs, internally,
of open timber work.

As in the case of its predecessor, the erection of this large
and handsome Church has been more than justified by its
increasing congregation and membership. And to-day these are
of the most encouraging character. The enrolled Church
membership is nearly 300, the Sunday School numbers more
than 600 scholars, the Band of Hope exceeds 250 members,
whilst the Adult Bible Class on Sunday afternoons has nearly
200 members. Altogether the Church is in a most prosperous
condition, and has just recently (1899) taken another .step in
advance. A large and beautiful hall ("Wesley Hall") has been
erected, during the ministry of the Rev. Vallance C. Cook, at the
rear of the Church, at a cost of ^1,650. This is also built of
brick, with Bath stone dressings, and will comfortably seat 450
adult persons. Through the generosity of the members, and a
host of sympathising friends, the whole of the amount has been
raised, and the new building opened amid great rejoicings. The
hall has been built by Mr. H. J. Wyles from the plans of Messrs.
J. W. Nash and Son, of Rochester, who were also the architects
for the Church.

" Methodism is nothing if it is not aggressive," says one of
our leaders, and the Methodists of Strood are determined to show
that they possess the daring and genius of their fathers. But
whilst aggressive it is not a proselytizing Church. Its policy and
boast are to be " the friends of all and the enemies of none."


There are also two other buildings of recent erection in
Strood, devoted to religious purposes, viz. :

The Congregational Church, St. Mary's Road, built of wood
and iron ; Pastor, Rev. W. Harrison Towle ; and

The Strood Gospel Mission Church, situate in Brompton
Lane ; the latter being built of brick.



" Now over the gate was written." Bunyan.

THE Rev. Caleb Parfect (see pp. 111-2 " Vicars of Strood") left his
mark upon the history of our Parish. He became Vicar in 1719.

Phnto hi/ A. G. .Blrrcfcwmji.] [Drawn by F. A. Sfeieart.

In 1720, he made certain proposals to the inhabitants concerning
the better regulation and governance of the poor of Strood. In
1725, after his ideas had found practical expression, he published
a pamphlet of 24 pp., from which the following particulars are
taken.* Its full title is appended.

* For perusal and use of- this scarce work, the author is indebted to
the late Mr. Rei Fry.


" Proposals made in the year 1720, to the Parishioners of
Strood, near Rochester in Kent, for building a Workhouse there.
With an account of the good success thereof; And likewise of
several Workhouses in Essex, etc. Published to encourage all
large and populous Parishes to pursue the same Design ; it being
very advantageous to the Rich, as well as the Poor. By the
Minister of Stroud.

"Ivondon : Printed and sold by F. Downing, in Bartholomew
Close, near West Smithfield, 1725."

A special vestry meeting, it appears, was called to consider
the proposals, which our author declares were occasioned by
"the necessities, misery, and distress of some families, the
idleness and wickedness of others, and the heavy charge that lies
upon this parish in supporting both sorts ; " and then says he,
" As we find that necessitous persons increase, and will daily do
so, unless some more effectual care be taken for a more regular
Provision for them, than by the ordinary practice is, or can be
done ; it is therefore hoped, that the following proposals for
erecting an House of Charity and Industry will be very accept-
able to all good and publick-spirited Persons."

To those who intended to offer opposition to the scheme,
whether from selfish, or cantankerous motives ; whether from
blind prejudice, or direct ignorance; the rev. gentleman humbly
appealed for a fair hearing, and hoped that objectors who disliked
the design would offer their " reasons soberly and calmly against
it, having no regard to any other ends, but such as 'tis intended
to serve, viz. : The Glory of God, the establishing a more regular
and comfortable subsistence for the poor, the promoting of
industry and piety, and the common good of this large, necessitous,
and disorderly parish."

But now to the " proposals" submitted to the vestry. There
were six of them :

" First, That a large convenient House be built, wherein all
Parish Orphans may be kept under a Master and Mistress ; and
lodg'd, fed, and wholly maintained in the said House. That
these children be instructed in reading, &c., two hours every-
day; and afterwards be set to work, and bred up in habits of
industry and diligence; which now, through the carelessness,
perverseness, or foolish indulgence of their nurses (we find by
experience) cannot possibly be done. Children of seven or
eight years old, may earn two pence per day, others three pence ;
which, in this publick way of living, will go very far towards
their maintenance. And this method will make us as happy in
their services, as we have been unhappy through their parents or


nurses' vices. Besides, such as have been educated after this
manner, and inur'd to labour and industry, will be more easily
put out without any money, than other idle, unciviliz'd, wicked
children, with a considerable sum. I think there can be no room
for objections here ; especially if it be considered how many of
these poor creatures, for want of being brought up this way, come
to be desperately miserable ; beggars and vagabonds perhaps ;
and so continue all their lives. They die without instruction, and
in the greatness of their folly they go astray.

" Secondly, that the aged, sick, and impotent poor be also
provided for in this House. Here will be all necessary provisions
and convenient and separate lodgings for them. They will assist,
and be in some measure helpful to one another. And by living
thus together, they will be much better subsisted, to their own
comfort, and the Parish's ease and comfort, than they are at
present. For 'tis well known that such poor often undergo
extream hardships in time of sickness ; they want nurses and
other necessaries, suitable to their condition, and suffer very
much, to the scandal of religion, and the great discredit of the

"Thirdly, that all elderly women, who may be only charge-
able to the Parish for their house rent, should have convenient
appartments here ; but maintain themselves as before, by going
out to work, to sell fish, &c., unless any of them may be willing
to be wholly subsisted in the house, to help wash, brew, make
beds, look after the children, and do such other offices as they
may be wanted for.

" Fourthly, that widows and their children be likewise
received into the House. There is now no better pretence for
a large pension than a woman's having a pretty many children.
Whereas several of them, with good care and management, might
almost maintain themselves. The mother, if she can get more
abroad, may only be lodg'd in the House, and buy her own cloaths
and diet ; but be obliged to contribute something to the mainte-
nance of her children, unless she rather chuses to take their
earnings and to provide for them herself.

" Fifthly, as this Parish is at a great expense every year,
by carrying such travelling people, as fall sick in the place, to
publick houses ; it is propos'd, that such persons (during their
illness) be accommodated in this House, where there will be
always several women to look after them, and a proper room bed,
&c., provided for such accidents. And the expense will be
insignificant considering there must be a daily provision made
for the House.

"Lastly, that the Charity School be annexed to the Work
House, and the children be set to work part of their time. By
which means the charge of having separate Houses, and two
masters and mistresses, will be sav'd : and a common objection
against the Charity Schools effectually remov'd, viz., that the
children, by being kept to school several years without work, are
not afterwards easily reconciled to it ; tho' they have nothing else
to live by but their labour,


" The advantages of this design will be very considerable to
the Parish. The annual assessments for the poor, and our gift*
of 60 per annum from the City of Rochester, amount now to
about 290 and 'tis not likely that the yearly charge of this
House will exceed 10 per month, so it appears by several
Houses in Essex, &c,, in which there are as many poor, or rather
more (I think) than we may expect to have in ours.

" We purpose to build the House with the 60 payable
yearly from Rochester, it being (in the opinion of a very eminent
lawyer) agreeable to the will of the donor of that Charity, as
the inhabitants are no way capable of doing it themselves. And
this will occasion the withdrawing of that gift for five or six
years, to pay for the building. But notwithstanding this, the
Parish will in all likelihood presently become great gainers by
this undertaking ; but they will be more so, when the debt is
paid ; and this 60 per annum come to be more properly and
usefully apply'd, than it has formerly been. That Charity
(I trust) will then save many a poor family even from coming to
the Parish, as it will enable us to help them very considerably
with respect to their children, more than we can now do by our
subscriptions to the Charity School. For, if we neither feed nor
lodge such children, yet we may instruct, cloath, employ, and
place out all that need our assistance. And this method (as I
said before) will preserve many a family from falling to poverty,
and consequently be of great advantage to you. And this may
also be allow'd to be an honourable way (I wish no worse was
in fashion) for the rich to partake of charities given to the
poor. In short, the great service of that ancient bequest will
then begin to be very sensibly felt by everybody ; whereas (I am
sorry to say) the good effects of it hitherto have not been so
generally perceiv'd."

The Rev. Caleb Parfect was most sanguine as to the ultimate
good results to be obtained from such a system. He Kays :
" This Workhouse will prove an happy expedient to bring all
idle people to such an habit of industry, that there will not be a
beggar bred in the Parish ; nor can there be a miserable person
in the nation, if the same course be taken throughout it." Then
Mr. Parfect winds up the chapter with the following: "The
regular life in this House, with an easie, moderate, and honest
labour, and religious instructions, will even make it a nursery
and school of industry- and virtue, bring great honour to the
Parish, and much comfort to every good man that shall sincerely
engage in it."

We shall see how far these sanguine expectations were
fulfilled. There is also much matter in this old pamphlet

* This was, no doubt, the share which Strood then took of the surplus
revenues of " Watts' Charity."


touching these olden experiences of Strood that calls for
consideration and reflection.

Soon after these proposals were made, the Vestry determined
to build without more ado, and appointed seven Trustees to
carry out the proposals. These worthies secured the services of
a builder who agreed to build a brick edifice, of convenient size,
for the sum of ^360, and who consented to receive payment by
six yearly instalments of 60, that being the amount the Strood
people annually received from the Rochester Charity before
mentioned. The Workhouse was begun in the year 1721, and
opened in the following summer, and in the year 1723 we find the
sanguine Mr. Parfect writing to the Secretary of the Society for
Promoting Christian Knowledge, giving him a most particular
and glowing account of the success of the proposals submitted to
the Vestry at the outset. These he deals with seriatim. The
rev. gentleman says : " The first article relates to Parish Orphans :
And they are happily provided for in these Houses. We have
now 14 or 15 in ours ; who are employ'd in spinning jersey by a
person of the Parish, who twists it and dies it, and then sells it
for stockings ; and some can earn 2d. per day in winter, and 3d.
in summer. The officers receive their money, and provide every-
thing they want. These children us'd to be kept in poor families
at 2S. per week, and bred up in the grossest idleness and vice !
But now they are inur'd to labour, and help maintain themselves,
earning at least their diet. And by this method a great deal is
sav'd to the Parish, and the children themselves virtuously and

Online LibraryHenry SmethamHistory of Strood → online text (page 21 of 37)