Protestant Nonconformity in Ibstock

Ibstock is a village in north-west Leicestershire, on the south-east edge of the coal-field area.

Former nonconformist chapel at Ibstock

Former nonconformist chapel in central Ibstock (denomination currently unknown)

As workers moved to the coalfields following the sinking of mines in the 19th century, it was usual in north-west Leicestershire and elsewhere for them to join together to provide nonconformist places of worship. Ibstock is no exception, and nonconformity across the parish was strong, following the opening of the first mine in 1825.

Research continues into nonconformity in this parish, where we still have a number of mysteries to resolve.



Early nonconformity, 1662-1721

More unusually, Ibstock has a far earlier history of nonconformity. Both Ibstock itself and Hugglescote cum Donington le Heath (then within the ancient parish of Ibstock) attracted nonconformist ‘teachers’ in the late 17th century. In 1669 it was reported that in Ibstock alone ‘There have been many Conventicles [illegal religious meetings] of presbiterians [sic] and all sorts within this parish, about 10 [people] in number at the houses of Joseph Taylor, wheelwright, Elias Goadby, mercer, John Husband and John Erpe’. Those  attending these religious services were described as ‘a mixt multitude of all sorts’. Their leaders included three former Anglican clergy, who had been ejected from their livings in 1662, for refusing to conform to the religious settlement which followed the Restoration of the monarchy: William Smith ejected from Packington, Matthew Clarke formerly at Narborough and Mr Shuttlewood from ‘Raunston [Ravenstone?], together with a Mr Drayton. The same people also met in Hugglescote, Normanton le Heath and at Wellesborough Lodge (a substantial house in Sibson parish, with 11 hearths, owned by Mr Palmer and later known as ‘Temple Hall). The ten ‘most substantial’ Ibstock residents among their congregation were named as yeomen Thomas Copshon and Thomas Padgett, husbandmen John Belcher, John Paybodie and James Swinfield, mercer [shopkeeper] Elias Goadby, wheelwright Joseph Taylor, John and Thomas Erpe, respectively a smith and a tailor, and Samuel Barnes, whose occupation was not recorded. Some of these were wealthy men, Thomas Pagett, for example, lived in a house with five hearths and Thomas Copshon’s house had four hearths.[1]

Five houses in Ibstock, including those of Goadby, Husband and Pagett, were briefly licensed for religious meetings in 1672,[2]  and although such meetings were illegal again by 1676, in that year 13 residents, 5 of whom were women, were said to be ‘wilful abstainers from the Lord’s table’, although they still attended church.[3] Congregations continued to flourish after the 1689 Act of Toleration, with the rector reporting in 1709 that his parishioners within Ibstock village included about 20 Presbyterians ‘of all kinds’.[4] Only three families of dissenters were noted in 1721.[5]

General Baptists

Ibstock Baptist Church

Ibstock Baptist Church

A Baptist chapel was erected in 1814.[6] The return of religious meeting houses in 1829 counted 150 Baptists in the village.[7] They are noted on the 1851 Religious Census as being Baptists of the New Connexion. The chapel contained room for 284 sittings, all except 20 of which were free, and the congregation was enumerated on 30 March 1851 at 70 and 171 for services held in the afternoon and evening respectively. Attendance at Sunday School was recorded at 80, exclusively in the afternoon.[8]

A new chapel was built in 1856,[9] costing c.£500, with the old chapel retained and used for the Sunday school.[10] An extension built in 1878 provided 600 sittings.[11] Membership rose rapidly, from 68 in 1881 to 150 in 1898, outstripping the rise in population, and then remained at that level until at least 1911.[12] Ibstock Baptist Church continued to meet in the same building in 2017.

Wesleyan Methodists

The Wesleyan Methodists erected a purpose-built chapel in 1823.[13] The site is described as being on the Hinckley Turnpike road, and it is probably the same site occupied by Ibstock Methodist Church today. It is likely that the 100 Methodists recorded as meeting in the village in 1829 were Wesleyans,[14] worshipping in this chapel. The 1851 Religious Census recorded a congregation of 90 and 120 at afternoon and evening services respectively, in a chapel containing 145 sittings, all except 30 of which were free. The corresponding figures for Sunday School attendance are 50 and 20.[15]

Primitive Methodists

Ibstock Primitive Methodist Chapel

Ibstock Primitive Methodist Chapel

It was recorded in 1841 that the ‘Ranters’, the name that was often then given to Primitive Methodists, first met in Ibstock ‘about 20 years ago’. They were ‘grossly insulted’ by some residents, leading to a legal action, which resulted in heavy expenses. They appear not to have met again for some time, but held a camp meeting in Ibstock in 1841, which was said to have been well attended [15A]

The 1851 religious census includes returns from two congregations of Wesleyan Methodists (more of which below) but none from Primitive Methodists, while a directory of 1846 records a Primitive Methodist chapel ‘enlarged about five years ago’, but no Wesleyan chapel.[16] The 1846 entry appears to be incorrect. No Primitive Methodist chapel was noted in 1863,[17] and the Leicester Mail recorded that the foundation stone for a Primitive Methodist chapel was laid in 1867, ending a 40-year inconvenience of not having a chapel of their own. It was intended to seat nearly 250 people [17A].

Three Methodist chapels, for Primitive Methodists, Wesleyan Methodists and Wesleyan Reformed Methodists, were noted in 1876.[18] By 1888, the Primitive Methodists were occupying a chapel in Curzon Street.[19] The Wesleyan and Primitive Methodists merged in 1932. The former Primitive Methodist chapel, an attractive building, still stood in 2017, when it was occupied by a commercial business.

Wesleyan Reform Methodists

Ibstock Wesleyan Reform Chapel

Ibstock Wesleyan Reform Chapel

The Wesleyan Reform movement, which believed that all Wesleyan chapels should be independent of one another, was formed in 1859, but the split with the Wesleyan Methodists came a little earlier in north-west Leicestershire. The secession in Ibstock can be precisely dated to January 1851, when a ‘Branch Wesleyan Methodist’ congregation began meeting. The religious census taken in March that year records that 75 sq. yds of space had been made available to them for public worship within a building. They had no service on census Sunday, but a congregation of 25-40 people attended their usual afternoon services.[20] They built their own chapel in 1855, at a cost of £120.[21] Maps show a former nonconformist chapel in the centre of the village, and the building still stood there in 2014, but it is not known which denomination built it or met there. The lane past the chapel is known as reform Road (although it was called Narrow Lane on the 1883 Ordnance Survey map). Could this be the first Wesleyan Reform chapel? The congregation grew substantially in the later 19th and early 20th centuries, from 68 members in 1881 to 119 members in 1911,[22] when they built a new chapel on Melbourne Road.[23]  The Wesleyan Reform Church did not join the union of Methodist churches in 1932. They had a full-time minister in 1971, with the strength of this denomination in north-west Leicestershire demonstrated by A.E. Hodkinson of Ibstock being one of only 22 ordained ministers across the whole Connexion.  The Ibstock congregation continued to meet in the Melbourne Road chapel in 2009.[24]

The Methodist Church

Ibstock Methodist Church

Ibstock Methodist Church

Following the merger of the Wesleyan and Primitive Methodist congregations, Ibstock Methodist church met in a 20th-century chapel on Melbourne Road, where services continue to be held in 2017.

Return to Protestant Nonconformity in Leicestershire A-Z


[1] R.H. Evans, ‘Nonconformity in Leicestershire in 1669′, Trans LAHS (1949) pp. 126-7.

[2] Cal. SP Dom, vol. XIII, May-Sept. 1672, pp. 237, 463, 677. Pagett is recorded as Bagett.

[3] A. Whiteman, The Compton Census of 1676: A Critical Edition (1986), 332n.

[4] J. Broad (ed.), Bishop Wake’s Summary of Visitation Returns from the Diocese of Lincoln 1705-15 (Oxford, 2012), 879.

[5] Lincs. Archives, Gibson 12, p. 758.

[6] 1851 Religious Census, entry for Ibstock, Baptists, HO 129/413/51.

[7] 1829 Return of Religious Meeting Houses, entry for Ibstock, QS 95/2/1/166.

[8] 1851 Religious Census, entry for Ibstock, Baptists, HO 129/413/51.

[9] Date tablet on building.

[10] W. White, Hist. Gaz. & Dir. of Leics. (Sheffield, 1863) p. 677.

[11] Kelly’s Dir. of Leics. (1936) p. 113.

[12] G.T. Rimmington, ‘Baptist membership in rural Leicestershire, 1881-1914’, Baptist Quarterly, 37 (1998), 393.

[13] 1851 Religious Census, entry for Ibstock, Wesleyan Methodists, HO 129/413/52.

[14] 1829 Return of Religious Meeting Houses, entry for Ibstock, QS 95/2/1/166.

[15] 1851 Religious Census, entry for Ibstock, Wesleyan Methodists, HO 129/413/52.

[15A] Leic. Chron., 28 Aug. 1841.

[16] W. White, Hist. Gaz. & Dir. of Leics. (Sheffield, 1846) p. 564.

[17] W. White, Hist. Gaz. & Dir. of Leics. (Sheffield, 1863) p. 677.

[17A] Leic. Mail, 19 Oct. 1867.

[18] Post Office Dir. of Leics. (1876), p. 372.

[19] OS 6” map, Leics. XXIII SE (1885).

[20] 1851 Religious Census, entry for Ibstock, ‘Branch Wesleyan Methodists’, HO 129/413/53.

[21] White, Hist. Gaz. & Dir. Leics. (Sheffield, 1863) p. 677.

[22] G.T. Rimmington, ‘The Wesleyan Reform Union in Leicestershire during the twentieth century’, Leicestershire Historian (2012), 28.

[23] Date on building.

[24] Rimmington, ‘Wesleyan Reform Union’, pp. 29—30.