Bugby Chapel

Prospect Place, Epsom,
also known as Little, Old Huntingtonian, East Street, and Salem Chapel
- eventually a Synagogue

Bugby Chapel
Bugby Chapel c.1993
Image courtesy of Bourne Hall Museum

Location

Bugby Chapel (Calvinistic) appears on the following extract from the 1868 OS map: a complex, extending to the north-east between what had been two selions in the common fields, which included in order, a house (highlighted in red), attached chapel (blue) and yard (green) - a burial place.

Composite extract from two 1866 OS Maps
Composite extract from two 1866 OS Maps

History

A history of Epsom United Reformed Church states that "In the latter half of the eighteenth Century, at a time of the great Evangelical Revival, the Epsom dissenting chapel, under alternating Presbyterian and Independent ministers, suffered a different experience, not uncommon to Surrey Churches. Calvinism became strong, while odd and strange sects, such as Antimonianism, entered and caused seceding especially to the Little or Bugby Chapel erected in 1780. The Church Street Chapel declined and closed about 1785. The building was sold and used as a barn."

There is evidence that William Bugby had obtained licences for meetings in houses, as places of worship for Independents, at Epsom during 1777 & 1778. In the following year, William Bugby (who is said to have been impressed by the early preaching of William Huntington) built a chapel and dwelling house (to become named 'Rose Cottage') for a son William Bugby, Minister of the Gospel, and the latter's wife, Dorcas. The structures were erected on a freehold half-acre called Harris Hearne Shot in Epsom's North Common Field with space for a graveyard.

Surviving registers for the "Little Chapel" show various ministers conducted baptisms there. Notably, in 1779, the name appears of the notorious William Huntington, S. S., who had arrived in West Ewell 1775 and begun his ministry on Ewell Marsh (where Ann Webb became his first convert). At a later date the Prospect Place building is found mentioned as the 'Old Huntingtonian Chapel'.

On 1 June 1781 John Townsend was ordained pastor of the Independent Chapel, Heathen (later re-named Eden) Street, Kingston. His congregation was also influenced by Huntington's teaching of the extreme Calvinist 'antinomian' doctrine that condoned lax morals1. Rev Townsend's name appears in Bugby Chapel records for 1781 to 1785 but he had resigned from Kingston during June 1784 to take a pastorate at Jamaica Row, Bermondsey. There he remained for 42 years engaged in good works including the foundation of the Royal School for Deaf Children and the Congregational School.

Meanwhile, Mr Bugsby (sic), 'a Minister of the Gospel at Epsom' had been invited to Brockham by a Mr Abel2, who resided at Horton, 'to preach the gospel to the people'. He preached there from 3 January 1783, sometimes in a barn and sometimes in the open air, 'and the gospel in its purity was a new thing brought to the ears of the inhabitants'. Later in 1783, when a chapel was built at the expense of Christopher Abel, yeoman and maltster (to be ordained himself in 1791), Rev. Bugby became pastor of a small congregation treated as a branch of the Epsom Church. Dissension arose; many 'false reports' were circulated with the 'intent to render both the gospel and God's messenger odious and contemptible in the sight of the people'. Abel was appointed pastor of the Independent chapel that has become Brockham Strict Baptist on 8 April 1794: it was also previously described as 'Huntingtonian'.

Other premises licensed in Bugby's name were at Betchworth (1782), Leigh and Hedley for 1785, Effingham (1786) & Betchworth (1788).

On 5 April 1788, Rev. Jonathan Boucher, vicar of Epsom, replied to a questionnaire issued by the Bishop of Winchester. On the subject of 'Dissenters' in particular, he wrote: -
"I do not know that there is a single Papist in my parish; I am sure there is not a professed one. There was formerly a congregation of Presbyterians here, and a meeting-house, but they are all gone or have conformed; and the meeting-house is shut up. A few years ago, a gardener of the place, by traversing, it is said, a great part of the kingdom, collected money enough to build a small [meeting-] house, where he now has a small and uncertain congregation of Methodists. He has a licence, as a protestant dissenter. Of the inhabitants of Epsom, I cannot learn that there are so many as 20 who are his stated and constant attendants, and they are chiefly people of the lowest class. Yet he sometimes has large congregations. This preacher's name is Bugby."

Professor W. R. Ward, editor of Parson and Parish in the Eighteenth Century, remarks in his Introduction to this book that the activities described sounded 'un-Wesleyan' as indeed they were because Rev. Boucher had been misinformed as to the nature of the sect - they were Calvinists opposed to Wesleyan Arminianism. The Vicar's reference to 'a gardener' might have related to the occupation of preacher William Huntington S. S. rather than of William Bugby. [The curate at Worplesden (which is known to have been on Huntington's regular circuit) also mentioned, in 1788, a room 'where about 11 years ago, many persons of these and the neighbouring parts were accustomed to seek the Lord, as they said, and were commonly preached to by a gardener from Kingston.']

Bugby last appears in the Prospect Place, Epsom, registers for 1792, followed by Rev. Richard Trott between 1796 and 1811. Mr Trott's house in Long Lane, Bermondsey, had been certified as a Dissenters Meeting House, licensed on 22 July 1786 under the Toleration Act of 1689, for use as an Independent meeting place. The various preachers seem, however, to have been peripatetic, moving about on circuit or "supply"

The congregation of Bugby's Chapel is reported to have been in decline by 1800 leading to closure of the chapel itself in 1825.When its old records were deposited, following the 1837 Commission on Church and Chapel Registers, the Rev. John Harris (minister of Church Street Chapel 1825-1838) described the Little Chapel's congregation as having been 'Ultra Calvinistic'. A trustee, Jasper Shallcross, held the meetinghouse during 1843 with Rose Cottage occupied by Mary Westfold and others. Nevertheless, Brayley's Topographical History of 1850 continued to mention 'a congregation professing pure Calvinistic doctrines': The Religious Census in 1851 listed an 'East Street Chapel' for Epsom with a total congregation of 245 with 30-40 attending services. The 1860 Handbook of Epsom mentions that "Rev. Mr Irons3 of London, used occasionally to preach here".

It has been suggested that a revival towards the middle of the nineteenth century resulted from a further breakaway. In 1846 the Independent Chapel (known as the Old Chapel) in Church Street had been extensively renovated, but a rift developed between "the rather eccentric Minister, the Rev. Thomas Lee" and elements in his congregation. During 1850 one group separated themselves and met, first at the Spread Eagle but later erecting the Parade Church ('Temporary Protestant Evangelical Chapel'). Surrey Congregational Union brought the membership of those two chapels together again at Church Street in 1878, and the group at East Street also could have been re-united about that time.

Salem Chapel

Ordnance Survey maps reveal that the meeting house in Prospect Place had become Unitarian by 1894. An appointment of new trustees, including Baptist ministers4, of Salem Chapel, with a 'statement or profession of belief of the of the protestant dissenters using the Chapel', dated 17 August 1899, is held by Surrey History Centre [Ref. 6621]. The premises are mapped as Baptist in 1911. Lord Rosebery had donated money for a new Baptist Church at Epsom in 1907 that was built in Church Road: eventually, the congregation of Salem Baptist Chapel migrated from Prospect Place to a newly erected place of worship on the Dorking Road (presently called Grace Baptist Church - 'a small, but warm and welcoming Reformed fellowship').

Synagogue

Consecration of the former chapel in Prospect Place as a Synagogue took place in 1954 and by 1960 there were 28 male seat-holders. Dr Hans (H. L.) Lehmann, a leading light, died aged 84 in 1992 after which membership dwindled to single figures and subsequently joined Sutton.

Epsom And District Synagogue
Epsom And District Synagogue
Photograph courtesy of Peter Lehmann

Description

A relatively recent description of the Chapel mentions its brick walls with later rendering enclosing a space of about 25 X 31 feet. In common with other buildings of the Georgian period, the roof was double pitched to spread the load of tiles but is now hipped around the four sides concealing a central valley. There are two round arched windows back and front.

Graveyard

The Graveyard - date not known
The Graveyard - date not known
Image courtesy of Bourne Hall Museum

A number of headstones remain ranged against the eastern wall of the chapel and low brick walls defining what has become a public open space. The inscription on a now indecipherable headstone was transcribed for The graveyards and church monuments of Epsom [Ewell Library 929.5] as "In Memory of MARY BUGBY wife of Wm. Bugby of this Parish who departed this life 20 June(?) 1787, in the 57th year of her age. Also in Memory of THE REV. BUGBY who departed this life 17(?)2 aged 45(?)".

Some of the headstones in 2010
Some of the headstones in 2010
Image courtesy of Brian Bouchard © 2010

The marriage of a William Bugby to Mary Oldfield, registered at Epsom in 1775, could have been a union between William, senior, and the younger William Bugby's step-mother. William Bugby, junior, married Dorcas Worley [christened 17 February 1760 at Walton on the Hill] on 1 May 1787 at St Mary Magdalen, Bermondsey, Southwark. They had a daughter, born 11 February 1788, baptised Dorcas at the Little Chapel, Epsom, on 30 March 1788. The birth of a son, William, followed in 1790. [This William, of the third generation, is to be found in the 1851 Census having himself fathered another William and Fitzherbert Bugby (1823-1887, a Baptist Minister who became prominent in Lancashire and is buried at Stretford.] A third child called John Bugby seems to have arrived in 1791.

Rev. William Bugby is known to have continued to be a Minister at the Epsom chapel only until 1792, which would appear to have been the year of his death. His widow and daughter, both named Dorcas, and the son, John, may be found in the 1841 Census at Salisbury Place, St Mary Newington. The demise of one Dorcas was registered at Newington 12/1843 and of the other in West London 3/1846.

Rose Cottage

As already indicated, 'Rose Cottage' appears to have been separated for use as a private dwelling house before 1843. Re-fronting of 'Rose Cottage' in brick has been dated 1873 and the premises are listed, as 18 Clayton Road, in the 1891 & 1901 Censuses occupied by the Mordan family. This residence was pulled down in 1978 and the only image of it of which the writer is aware may be found on page 26 of Epsom: Town, Downs and Common. Confusingly, the sketch shows the chapel and house viewed from the rear.

Current Use

Interior view 1 c.1993
Interior view 1 c.1993
Image courtesy of Bourne Hall Museum

Interior view 2 c.1994
Interior view 2 c.1994
Image courtesy of Bourne Hall Museum

The 'Rose Cottage' site has been incorporated into a sheltered housing development and former hall refurbished for office use and called The Meeting House.


Brian Bouchard © 2010
Member of Leatherhead and District Local History Society

1 Congregationalism in Surrey
"From the first Mr. Townsend was opposed by the notorious Antinomian leader, William Huntington and his followers. This man (who lived in Kingston, and preached weekly at Richmond and Thames Ditton) attended the ordination, and criticised every part of the service. Mr. Townsend writes: 'Every effort was made by the party that could be devised to inculcate the whole church and congregation with their unscriptural sentiments, and with their more mischievous temper. Every new book written by their oracle, Mr.H., was circulated with the utmost avidity, and the most uncandid and illiberal construction was put on every sermon I preached; and some even of the most eminent of my hearers, in seriousness of spirit, and holiness of life, were maligned as Arminians and enemies of the Gospel'. So violent was the hostility of the party that Mr. Townsend had to appeal to the magistrates for personal protection. The end of it was that he was driven from the town, and in 1784 accepted an invitation to Jamaica Row, Bermondsey. There, too, he was assailed by the Antinomians, but eventually succeeded in inducing them to withdraw from the church."

2 Baptismal records for The Little Chapel include children of Christopher and Sarah Abel (described as 'of this parish' in 1781 but 'of Betchworth' 1783): -
John b. 4 April C. 12 July 1781 & Ann b.27 December 1782 C. 11 December 1783
3 The Gospel Magazine, 1841
Rev. Joseph Irons, for 20 years at Grove Chapel, Camberwell, said to have done more than any man since William Huntington to warn England of the rapid increase in Popery. He died on 3 April 1852.
4 Amongst them Ebenezer Wilmshurst of 9 Tranquil Vale, Blackheath, Kent.

Ebenezer Wilmshurst was Pastor of Tamworth Road Strict Baptist Chapel, Croydon from 1892 until his death in 1906. Born in Cranbrook in 1849, and brought up in a godly home, he was apprenticed at the age of 13 to a bookseller and stationer in Blackheath. The death of a younger sister in 1864 awakened a concern about his own salvation, but it was not until 1874 that he was baptised and joined the church at Greenwich. He was Sunday School Superintendent at Greenwich from 1876 until he was called to Croydon in 1892. As well as pastoring the church, he continued in business until 1905.
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