As you probably know, the Society for One-Place Studies’ annual shared endeavour this year has been about Faith in our Communities. Running along side this is the Family and Community Historical Research Society’s (FACHRS) ‘Communities of Dissent’ two year project and some of our members are participating in both. Earlier this month, FACHRS project participants were required to send in the results of their research that formed Phase 1 of this project. Compiling this report complemented the work that I had done on our own shared endeavour. Concentrating as it does on non-conformity between 1850 and 1939, the FACHRS project is less wide ranging than our shared endeavour. This does mean that there is an opportunity to look in depth at this aspect of faith in our communities and some of us will be developing a study of a particular issue for Phase 2.
So what did Phase 1 involve? After providing background information about our communities, we looked in detail at the 1851 ecclesiastical census. This was a fascinating exercise in itself and we were asked to produce pie charts to show the proportion of attendances that each denomination attracted.
The next exercise was to look for evidence of churches and chapels in directories. I was surprised to discover that some of the chapels in my place were not listed, even though I know that they were open and functioning at the time. For example, in 1870, the Wesleyan Methodist and Baptist chapels got a mention but not the three Bible Christian chapels. After that, we compiled a list of the places of worship, the date they were built and any renovations that took place in the period under review. These chapels were then depicted on a map – plenty of opportunity here to use Maps4OPS.
We then listed the sources and resources available to us and finally presented our findings so far. This was also an opportunity to decide where we would like to take this project during Phase 2. I am still keen to study at the links between non-conformity and emigration; something I have been studying for over a decade. I am also intrigued by the role of the landowners. There are several incidences in nearby parishes, of hostility from local landowners towards non-conformists. In Buckland Brewer however, a number of landowners were sympathetic to the non-conformist cause. I would like to look further into the lives of those who donated land for the building of chapels or who were supportive in other ways.