History of Leavening Methodist Church
Leavening village is unusual in that, until comparatively recently, it lacked an Anglican church. This was because it was in the same parish as the neighbouring village of (East) Acklam, and so residents of Leavening would have had to walk the mile or so to the Church in Acklam. The old Church in Acklam was demolished 1972, with worship transferring to the old school, but the churchyard still remains.
The only other place of worship in the village, prior to the arrival of the Methodists, was a quaker meeting house, but few details are known of this.
This page describes the history of the Methodist Church in Leavening and the four buildings that have been used for Methodist Worship.
The Primitive Methodist Chapel
Methodism was a movement founded by John Wesley, initially as an organisation within the Church of England. After Wesley's death in 1791, the Methodist Church separated from the Church of England establishing chapels throughout Britain. There were however divisions within the Methodists, leading to the formation of various separate organisations. The largest of the splinter groups were the Primitive Methodists which were founded in 1810, after its leaders had been expelled from the main Wesleyan Methodist Church.
The Primitive Methodists were the first to open a chapel in Leavening, with the opening ceremony being on Sunday 8th October 1820. An account of the opening ceremony was written in the Primitive Methodist magazine and we are trying to obtain a copy of this.
This chapel remained in use for over a hundred years. However, in 1932 the three main Methodist Churches in Britain merged and so the Primitive Methodist Chapel closed, with worship transfering to the Wesleyan Methodist building. By the 1950s the building was used as a joiner's workshop, and it was later demolished. The railings and wall shown in the photograph still remain and can be seen on the north side of Main Street.
The Wesleyan Methodist Chapel
The Wesleyans opened their chapel in Leavening in 1824, a few yards down Main Street from the Primitive chapel, on the other side of the road. It can be seen on the right in the photo above. It continued in use for over one hundred and fifty years.
By the turn of the 21st century the membership of the chapel had declined to very low levels but, unlike many other village chapels, it did not close. However, the costs of maintaining both the chapel and schoolroom were too much for the small congregation and it was decided to discuss sharing a building with the Anglican Church. The Wesleyan chapel was eventually sold for conversion to a private house in 2007, with worship initially transferring to the Methodist Schoolroom.
The Methodist Schoolroom
Methodists were keen to educate their children, both in terms of general education but particularly about their faith. Many Methodist chapels therefore opened schoolrooms where a Sunday school could take place. Often these were attached to the chapel but presumably this was not possible in Leavening and so the building is on a separate site further up Main Street from the Wesleyan Chapel.
The building was opened in 1912 and on its end wall are stone bricks displaying the initials of those who contributed to its construction. More recently the Leavening Embroidery Group have produced an embroidery echoing the design of the original bricks.
The schoolroom is no longer used as a Sunday School, but continues in use for a variety of village activities. It was sometimes used for Sunday worship, particularly in the interval between the closure of the Wesleyan chapel and the re-opening of Leavening Church as a joint place of worship.
The present church in Leavening dates from 1850 when it was built as the village school. By the early 20th Century there were far too many children and so a new school, which is still in use today, was built on Back Lane, opening in 1907. The old building became a village institute and also continued to be used as an overflow classroom - one of our congregation can remember going there to listen to a programme on the radio.
Then in 1965 the building was rededicated as the Church of the Venerable Bede, so that Leavening at last had an Anglican church. The church was arranged in a conventional manner with the altar at the north-east end (towards the right in the photo), with a rose window above it. There were wooden chairs in rows for the congregation. The church remained part of the same parish as Acklam, until it was amalgamated into the new West Buckrose parish.
The Church continued as an Anglican place of worship, but extensive repairs were necessary and so it was decided to redevelop the building as a joint building for the Anglican and Methodist congregations, using money from selling the old Wesleyan Methodist building to help finance the alterations. The orientation was changed so that the altar is now generally on the south-east wall (facing the pub), although all the furniture is moveable. The building was extended at the north-east end to provide an entrance hall and toilet, with the old sanctuary area becoming the vestry and kitchen. The refurbished building was completed in late 2008, and has been used for regular worship by both congregations since then.