John Wesley, the Founder of Methodism was born in Epworth, a few miles to the west of Scunthorpe and the Wesleyan Methodist Society in Ashby was one of the first to be formed. At first members met in each others houses until a chapel was built in 1826. With the rapid population growth in the 1860s when the iron works opened in Scunthorpe, this chapel rapidly became too small for the congregation. A new chapel was built across the road with a Sunday School attached to it. By the end of the C19th, this again was too small and a splendid new chapel was built in 1907 on the other side of the Sunday School. With its impressive brick and stone facade it must have dominated the surrounding area.
The congregation was strictly segregated in early Methodist chapel with men and women entering by different doors and sitting on either side of the chapel. Although Asbhy was built with two door and divided central pews the congregation was never segregated.
A short flight of stone steps leads to the entrance lobby which displays the 1826 date stone from the original chapel. Stairs on either side lead up to the gallery.
It is a very attractive church with a large wooden gallery round three sides. It is dominated by the massive pulpit with the organ above. The small altar is quite insignificant.
Until 1942, families had to pay to rent a pew and the marks for the brass fittings holding the name of the family renting the pew can still be seen on the book ledge. There were a few free pews near the pulpit which faced sideways but these were removed in the Second World War.
The church was originally lit by gas chandeliers and the metal grilles designed to let out the fumes can still be seen in the ceiling.
The main reason to visit the church is for the stained glass windows. Many young men in the congregation volunteered for active service in the First World War and 27 of them were killed. Rather than remember them on a memorial plaque in the church, it was decided to commemorate them in a series of memorial windows. The whole church contributed and has become their memorial.
The central windows have a banner with the inscription “In loving memory of our fallen heros, and our deep gratitude to God for those spared to us”. Above are two crowns with the dates 1914 and 1918. At the top is a lily.
The rest of the windows are simpler with names written on a banner at the base and an art deco design above.
Next to each window is a small booklet with information about the person. These have all been collected into a larger book with details of all the men who died and are commemorated in the windows. Family and friends have contributed memories, pictures and documents. It is a wonderful social history portraying a time of rapid change. There are pictures of parents and family, and details of their occupation. There are photocopies of Attestation Papers and other military documents along with details of where they served. There are also photographs of their memorials in military cemeteries throughout Europe and many of their names are listed on the Menin Gate.
Reading this, is like reading a history of the First World War with names like Ypres, Gallipoli and Jutland. One man went down with Lord Kitchener when HMS Hampshire was sunk off Orkney in 1916.
We had a talk about the windows at the U3A History group earlier this year and Ashby Wesleyan Church has been on my todo list since then. It is not normally open apart from services or as part of the Heritage Open Days Programme. It was well worth visiting and a wonderful memorial to all those young men who died 100 years ago. They still live on here and their stories are very much part of the church.
Pictures of all the windows can be found “here.”:https://www.warmemorialsonline.org.uk/memorial/260169