Protestant Nonconformity in Ibstock

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

Former nonconformist chapel at Ibstock

Former Wesleyan Reform chapel in Ibstock

Ibstock was a centre of early nonconformity, with many religious meetings held in the 1660s, and supported by people of middling wealth. Like many other villages in Leicestershire, that early nonconformity faded away. A resurgence was seen from the late 18th century, with the main denominations in the early 19th century being Baptists and Wesleyan Methodists. As workers moved to the coalfields following the sinking of mines, nonconformity grew, and there remain four places of worship in Ibstock in 2017 (Including the parish church).

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

Early nonconformity, 1662-1721

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]  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’ (they refused to take Holy Communion), although they still attended the parish 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] However, only three families of dissenters were noted in 1721.[5]

General Baptists

Ibstock Baptist Church

Ibstock Baptist Church

The New Connexion of General Baptists, which grew from a congregation at Barton on the Beans, built a chapel at Hugglescote, which was attended by people from several villages, including Ibstock.  In 1798, Samuel Pickering’s house in Ibstock was licensed for religious worship. People with many different religious views may have been welcome to attend worship there, although Samuel Pickerng himself was a member of Hugglescote Baptist chapel. In 1812, Hugglescote chapel considered building a Baptist chapel in Ibstock. This was built by 1814, and conveyed to trustees, one of whom was Samuel Pickering.[6]

The return of religious meeting houses in 1829 counted 150 Baptists in the village.[7] The 1851 Religious Census noted that the Baptist chapel contained room for 284 sittings, all except 20 of which were free. On 30 March 1851, 70 and 171 people attended its services held in the afternoon and evening respectively. Attendance at Sunday School was recorded at 80, exclusively in the afternoon.[8]

A new Baptist chapel was built in 1856,[9] costing c.£500, with the adjacent old chapel retained and used for the Sunday school.[10] In 1877, the Ibstock Baptist congregation formally split from the Hugglescote chapel, and agreed to fund its own minister. The chapel was thriving, and 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 continues to meet in the same building in 2017.

Wesleyan Methodists

The Methodist congregations in Ibstock appear to have begun to meet in a house owned and occupied by Richard Chandler, which was registered for worship in 1819. Richard Chandler became one of the trustees when a Wesleyan Methodist chapel was built on the Hinckley Road in 1823, on the site currently occupied by Ibstock Methodist Church (see below).[13] By 1829, it had a congregation of 100.[14] The 1851 Religious Census recorded a congregation of 90 and 120 at afternoon and evening services respectively, with the chapel containing 145 sittings, all except 30 of which were free. The corresponding figures for Sunday School attendance are 50 and 20.[15] The building history of the chapel appears complex, and is currently being investigated.

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, and perhaps the enlargement was to the Wesleyan chapel. 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]. This was presumably the chapel in Curzon Street, which still stands in 2017, occupied by a commercial business.

Three Methodist chapels, for Primitive Methodists, Wesleyan Methodists and Wesleyan Reformed Methodists, were noted in 1876.[18] By 1888, the Primitive Methodists were definitely occupying the chapel in Curzon Street.[19]

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 1849. 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 preacher on census Sunday, but they had 14 members and a congregation of 25-40 people attended their usual afternoon services.[20] They built their own chapel in 1855, at a cost of £120, on Narrow Lane, in the centre of the village, which was renamed Reform Road.[21] The congregation grew substantially in the later 19th and early 20th centuries, from 68 members in 1881 to 119 members in 1911.[22] That year, 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]

It’s curious just how far apart the three Methodist chapels are on the ground, and they demonstrate just how large the village was in the 19th century. Although the congregations had separate identities in their early days, talking to residents in 2017 it appears that (in recent memory at least), people in Ibstock were either ‘church’ or ‘chapel’, and if ‘chapel’ they went to the nearest one. Services continued in the Primitive Methodist chapel after the national union in 1932, perhaps at least in part because it served a distinct community and was a long walk to the Wesleyan building. Although the Baptists may have held different religious views, for example on the baptism of believers (adults), the different chapels co-operated, with members of the Primitive Methodist congregation, for example, marrying in the Baptist chapel in the mid-20th century, which had a licence to conduct weddings. Current research is looking into how long such arrangements ran.

The Methodist Church

Ibstock Methodist Church

Ibstock Methodist Church

The Wesleyan and Primitive Methodist churches merged in 1932 to form the Methodist Church, although local arrangements were more complex than this, and services continued to be held until at least the 1970s in the Primitive Methodist Chapel on Curzon Street.

Ibstock Methodist church continues to meet in 2017 in premises on the site of the 1823 Wesleyan chapel.


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] ROLLR, licence (1D 41/44/91 and 1D 44/41/276); Hugglescote Baptist church, minutes (N/B/150/2).

[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] ROLLR, 1D/41/44/403; N/M/73/44; 1D/41/44/512; 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.