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History of Souldern Chapel


A brief history of the Chapel from 1869 to 2009

Prepared for the 140th Anniversary

A History of Souldern Chapel

From 1869 to 2009

The Chapel

Prepared by:―

Mrs. Margaret Goulder Th.B & Rev. John W. Goulder Th.M.

12th May 2009


In 1850 a group of non-conformists met in a small house in Chapel Row, Souldern, Oxfordshire.

In 1869 a group of Wesleyan Reformers were given land in Back Lane by Mr. James Cox who owned The Laurels (now Spring House). The original Trust Deed stated that the Chapel should also be used as a Sabbath School for teaching children. The Trustees were: James Fox, William Phillips, William Hickman, John Heath, Thomas Hitchman, and Henry Hitchman. The foundation laying was held on 6th July 1869. The Minutes of a meeting at Mr. Cox’s house on 23rd July said, “Resolved that Mr. Cox have the specification of the building of the new Chapel and proceed to the work immediately.” The Chapel was built by local volunteers. Funds were small but loans were obtained from Mrs. Butters of Banbury and from the Wesleyan Reform Union, along with the sacrificial giving of the members.


A Chapel Meeting on 7th March decided: “The Chapel Anniversary should be held in the month of July.”


On the 23rd June it was decided to begin work on a new Schoolroom. The estimate should not exceed £60.

The Schoolroom was opened in 1895 having cost £64. In 1897 a meeting was held to decide how to pay back the debt on the building project. It was decided to hold a Sale of Work the first week in August. That same year a new dais was built in the Chapel and a Service of Song was held to raise money for the work.


On the 2nd June the Chapel became registered for conducting marriages.

April 27th 1929 Mrs. N. Westbury was married to Mr. W.H. Wade.

June 1st 1929 Mrs. D. Hitchman was married to Mr. R. Hitchman.

Sept. 28th 1929 Miss D. A. Atkins was married to Mr. A. J. Reeve.

Sept. 1930 Miss F. Reeve was married to Mr. S. Jacob.

Aug. 3rd 1931 Miss W. Rouse was married to Mr. O. Westbury.


The Diamond Jubilee. It was celebrated on the 9th & 10th June with a visit from the General Secretary of the Wesleyan Reform Union of Churches, The Rev. Dr. G. A. Metcalfe D. D. and the national President Mr. G. Clamp. At 3.00p.m. On the Monday the preacher was Dr. Metcalfe. This was followed by tea.

In the evening there was a public meeting when both visitors preached to a large gathering.

Sister Gertrude, a Missioner from the Union also worked in the village.


Membership Roll.

H. Bates. E. Bates.E. Reeve.H. Reeve.
W. Reeve. A. Reeve. W. Rouse. E. Rouse.
A. Westbury. F. Westbury. G. Westbury. J. French. H. Westbury. E. Robbins. M. Ilatt. J. Fox.
J. H. Fox.J. Lake. N. Wade. B. Fox.
T. Jarvis. C. Reeve. Betty Fox. W. Robbins
R. Hitchman. D. Hitchman. Ethel Reeve. I. Brown.
L. Buckingham. Mrs. Buckingham. L. Buckingham
Mrs. J. French. E. Reeve.


A Pipe organ was presented and dedicated in memory of James Fox who had for many years been organist, Chapel steward and Sunday school superintendent. The service of dedication was held June 16th

The organ was transported by cart from Bodicott to Souldern.


In June a new heating stove was fitted at a cost of £45. In March of 1937 electricity was installed. Rev. Dr. G. Metcalfe switched the lights on for the first time.

In November it was decided to hold a weekly meeting for children


Miss A. Hitchman requested to become a Church member.


Nat. Westbury, Ruby Reeve, Edie Reeve and Jean Reeve became Church Members.

Miss A. Hitchman was appointed as a Sunday school teacher.


A legacy of £160.17. 2. to the Chapel and the same amount to the Sunday school was left by a former scholar Mr. Harries, Woburn Green, High Wycombe.


Mr. J. M. Fox left a legacy of £300 to the Chapel. The members decided to share their gift with Fritwell, Deddington and Syresham Chapels toward their restoration funds.


Centenary Services July 26th and 27th.

Saturday at 6.30 p.m. Public Meeting. Chairman: Rev. S. Wymark, Circuit Minister.

Speakers: Rev. D. A. Morris, President of W.R.U. and Dr. Philip A. J. Pettit.

Sunday at 2.30 & 6.00 p.m. Preacher: Dr. Pettit.


A new boundary wall was built to replace the fallen one.


Harvest Suppers began and are now an annual event.

The red brick box giving began in aid of Home Missions.


Sunday school windows were replaced.


The first ever lady trustees were appointed –

Mrs. A. Westbury, Mrs. J. Reeve and Mrs. Josie Reeve.


The 125th Anniversary Celebrations 8th & 9th July.

Saturday tea from 4.00p.m. Mr. Stephen English, Mr. Albert Edmunds along with other of our local preachers were asked to give a word of encouragement based on God’s Word.

A plaque was placed in the pulpit and dedicated to the memory of Mr. Robert Hitchmana life-time member of the Chapel and a local preacher.


Over the past ten years we have had to give attention to the maintenance of the fabric of the building.

In February 2000 a new slate roof was put on the Chapel. Donations from the village and past Sunday school children toward the cost was organised by Major Gray together with additional grants totalling £5,063. Total cost being £6157.

In May the Chapel was re-wired, costing £1,900, and in August the Schoolroom was re-slated costing £2,500.

In October 2005 the Chapel windows were renewed costing £4,406 with the help of a generous grant from the Oxford Historic Churches Trust.

In 2006 the Schoolroom was decorated and re-furbished. New heating was installed both in the Chapel and Schoolroom costing £3,174. This was possible with the help of small grants and gifts.

In 2007 the toilet block was re-furbished at a cost of £1,413. along with the re-painting of the outside of the Chapel.

We appreciate the concern and help that we received from all sources.

Mission and Ministry

The Spiritual mission of the Chapel has always had pre-eminence. Preachers like J. Whetton, Arthur Friday, R. Lake, and Robert Hitchman may have seemed “unlearned and ignorant men” but they were always ready to minister with an infectious dedication, enthusiasm and conviction – even when a ten mile walk or bicycle ride was required to fulfill and appointment.

A weekly Class meeting helped the members to grow in their faith, a Christian Endeavour met weekly; and a Band of Hope thrived inspired by Miss Hill an Anglican. They felt compelled to proclaim the good news of Christ to everyone in Souldern, so a Mission was held bi-annually. Missioners from the Evangelisation Society held tent missions and Wesleyan Reform Evangelists– James Marsden, James Morris, Sister Gertrude, Sister Gladys Cotterill all held meetings in the village.

In 1944 we had a visit from Mr. Stephen English and Mr. Niven of the Caravan Mission to Village Children which became the Scripture Union. This began a life-time association with Stephen who served the Chapel from time to time until his death.

Hosanna Children’s Home.

In recent years we were introduced to Pastor Immanuel the Director of the orphanage. He visited us several times and this encouraged us to support the work in Tamil Nadu, South India. After visiting the Sunday school children and their parents we began to support his work by donating offerings and in 2007 the parents of our children organised a Christmas sale, raising £1400 towards repairing the roof of the main dormitory.

Sadly, Pastor Immanuel died this past year but the work is being continued by his brother Lemuel.

Circuit Ministers

1927–1936. Rev. T. Buckingham

1936–1937. Rev. C. A. Price

1938–1943. Rev. D. E. Edwards

1943–1949. Rev. C. Finnemore

1949–1953. Rev. C. Mackinder

1958–1963. Rev. R. Graves

1963–1970. Rev. S. Wymark

1970–1974. Rev. I. A. Terry

1977–1981. Rev. M. Nicholls

1986–1990. Rev. J. W. Goulder

The Sunday School


Sunday school was held in a small room built on the side of the Chapel. We have no information of these early days.


A new schoolroom was built on the side of the Chapel. The minutes suggested that no more than £60 be spent. It actually cost £64. Money was raised by the Chapel members. The children sat on benches without back rests. The Sunday school has been led by at least four Superintendants including:— Mr. J. Fox. Sen., Mr. N. Jarvis, Mr. J. Fox and Mrs. A. Westbury. Audrey Westbury has worked in Sunday school since 1942.

In 1905 there were 13 girls and 31 boys attending along with six teachers.

In 1942 there were 8 girls and 8 boys.

In 1970 there were 16 girls and 12 boys.

In 1990 there were 9 girls and 10 boys.

In 2009 there are 4 girls and 6 boys.

Audrey is still the Sunday school leader assisted by the Mothers of the present children.

The Sunday school hold four special events in the course of a year: Mothers’ Day, Sunday School Anniversary, Harvest Festival and Christmas Carol Service.

Fellowship and Outings

In the early days the Chapel became the centre of the members’ social, as well as spiritual, lives. Sacred concerts, later supplemented by Souldern Brass Band, led by Mr. H. Bates, and Services of Song were a means of entertainment and raising money for the funds. These events were often performed by visiting choirs from other Chapels as well as the local members. Their hearty singing was said to draw the crowds. As well as the two Sunday services the members joined together in the week for a Prayer meeting, a Class meeting, a Christian Endeavour and a thriving Band of Hope, inspired by Miss Hill, an Anglican and staunch Temperance supporter.

The highlights of the Chapel’s year are the times when we have a visit from the Denomination’s President and General Secretary, or guest preachers especially at Harvest time. A recent feature has been the Easter meal and Harvest Supper.


Some of the members can remember going on organised outings when they were children. On one occasion a special train had been chartered for the Sunday schools of the area to begin at Banbury calling at the local stations. Souldern people had to walk across the fields to Aynho station to be picked up. Their final destination was Barry Island in Wales where they spent a happy day.

There were also trips arranged to Chessington Zoo, Regent’s Park and Billing Aquadrome.

In 1952 it was decided to make Wicksteed Park, in Kettering, the venue for the Sunday school outing. It was so popular that Wicksteed has became the venue for all future outings.

“We’ll praise Him for all that is past and trust Him for all that’s to come.”