Mayo’s Methodist Chapels

Methodist Church Sketch by Donna Allan
Cathair na Mart 1996 Historical Journal No. 16

History

Initially the Methodists Churches were founded by the Wesley brothers; John & Charles during the mid – 18th century.  Along with other students at Oxford University, they met daily to pray plus study the bible.  Nicknamed ‘The Holy Club’ as they were so methodical in lifestyle that became known as Methodists: the name eventually became a religion.  John visited Ireland for the first time in August 1947 followed by twenty – one more visit, he preached in thirty – one Irish counties.  The early meetings were held in Marlborough Street & Cork Street, Dublin.  The first Irish Methodist Building was a building at Whitefrier Street, Dublin established during 1752.  The site later was expanded to include a day school for boys, an orphanage for girls, a widows’ alms-house, a book room plus two houses for Ministers.  During 1845 the Congregation moved to St. Stephen’s Green.  The Methodist Church in Ireland is referred to as ‘The Connexion’.  They have Classes of which a group form a Society or Congregation administered by a Church Council.  A large Society group form a Circuit that is administered by Circuit Executive. Groups of Circuits forma District overseen by District Superintendent that is administered by a District Synod.  Currently there are eight Districts.  A Conference is the Superior Council of the Church body with final authority. [i]

Ethos

The Methodist Church seeks to be a Christian community which is open & welcoming to all.  At its heart is the conviction that everyone can know, then experience the love of God for herself or himself.  God’s love changes all to be more Christ like.  It is also to be shared with the whole community particularly with the most vulnerable.  Thus, city missions are an important part of Methodism.  Methodist stress that God’s love affects the whole person, body, mind as well as spirit.  [ii]

Mayo Chapels

There were approx. fifteen Chapels built within Mayo from 1760 through to the 1800’s in several districts.  The following Index List of Methodist Churches, Chapels plus Preaching Houses appears with information on the website below.  The Churches were established at the following areas: Aglish, in Castlebar The Mall, (1785), Westport 1 (South Mall 1791), Turlough, Castlebar 1797), Ballina (1807), Ballsakerry, Crossmolina (1809), Westport 2 (The Quay, (1820?), Cloonshinnage, (see Mullafarry) (1827),), Killala (1835), Ballinrobe (1836?), Newport (1839), Kilcommon Erris (1851 -1861), Belmullet (1852), Rossport, Ballina (1853), Westport 3 (1874). [iii]

Ballina

During 1839 the Wesleyan Centenary Chapel & Manse were established.  This was followed by a schoolhouse built in 1857.  The present Methodist Church has been created within the old schoolhouse.  The old communion rails plus two memorials from the old Wesleyan Chapel are incorporated in this church. [iv]

This site states that there were places of worship for Baptists and Wesleyan Methodists:

https://irelandxo.com/ireland-xo/history-and-genealogy/timeline/ballina-town-1830s

Castlebar

This fine Anglican church was built in 1739.  It was renovated during 1829 following storm damage. Inside the main gate lies the gravestone of The Frazier’s Fencibles, a Scottish regiment, who were killed in 1798.  There is also a monument to Major General George O Malley erected by his friends in 1845 in recognition for his bravery in the British Army.  Across from the Church of Ireland stands a memorial to the people who died fighting for freedom in the Rising of 1798.  Beside this is the grave of John Moore, First President of Connaught who died in Waterford during 1798.  His remains were re-interred on 13th August 1961 with all the honours of church and state.  This ceremony was attended by the then President of Ireland Eamonn de Valera. [v]

The building was in use previously as a Wesleyan Methodist chapel.  The foundation stone was dedicated by Wesley himself on the 21st May 1785.  It is thought to be the oldest building in Castlebar, plus the only building in Ireland to have a “hands on” connection with Wesley.  Today the building is used by the Castlebar Christian Fellowship, a Pentecostal congregation that is one of the Elim ministries within Ireland.  This site hosts a beautiful image of the chapel. [vi]

The Anglican Church was erected during 1739 later was renovated during 1825.  The adjoining Graveyard hosts the graves of Fraziers Fencibles a Scottish Regiment killed during The Races of Castlebar in 1798.  Christ Church Tower Clock was installed in 1905 by Keith Cannon Clockmaker of Smith of Derby.  Further damage was then repaired during 1996. (Tom Gillespie) [vii]

The original Methodist Church on Castlebar’s Mall was constructed when John Wesley laid the Foundation stone on 2nd May 1785.  There is a Plaque to him on the building.  This building now is a Pentecostal Centre. [viii]

Now the Christian Fellowship Centre, it is one of the oldest buildings in the town.  The foundation stone was blessed by the Founder member of the Methodist Church during 1785.  It is a pure Neo – Romanesque building with an excellent cut – limestone doorway. [ix]

Turlough

This church was built during 1820 on a site donated by Lieutenant – Colonel Thomas George Fitzgerald.  It is cruciform plan with a tower embellished by Irish battlements at the main entrance.  Pews are on either side of a carpeted aisle that leads to altar & pulpit.  There are tablets on the walls, memorials to the Fitzgerald family.  The Alex Chestnutt organ was restored during 2003.  This site has images of the church plus memorials:

https://www.tripadvisor.ie/Attraction_Review-g13307235-d17624344-Reviews-Turlough_Church_Of_Ireland-Turlough_County_Mayo_Western_Ireland.html

Westport

The old gray – stoned Methodist Church was located on the South Mall in Westport was an important edifice according to Donna Allan in her article (along with a sketch of building) in the Cathair na Mart 1996 Historical Journal No. 16 pages 62 – 65.  A formal Society of parishioners was formed during 1784 with services held in private houses.  One of the first members Mrs. Lawrence in fact spent the following fifty – one years with the Westport Methodists.  The Gothic – style one – story structure dated back to John Wesley’s visit to the town on 25th May 1762: on what was his ninth of twenty – first visits to Ireland.  He reported that ‘at 10 o clock I began reading prayers.  After the sermon I had a little conversation with Lord Westport – an extremely sensible man.’  According to the Marquess of Sligo, ‘Westport House and the Browns’ 1981, page 18 John Brown became Viscount Westport in 1770 then First Earl of Altamont in 1771.)  During 1804 permission was granted for the building of a Chapel, it was not erected possibly due to a lack of funds.  There were two visits of Evangelist Adam Averell, during 1812 Giden Ouseley had an unwelcome visit to the town.  The Methodist Charles H. Crookshank recorded that during 1886 – 88 ta schoolhouse was acquired & converted into a chapel in 1820.  By 1831 the membership numbered eighty – seven.  Two members James White & Samual Larmine visited patients in hospital or their homes the following year during the Cholera Epidemic.  By 1834 special services were held but with reduced numbers of fifty – three members.  At the height of the famine Ministers were involved in reliefA dedicated member of the congregation was William Clay of the Irish Constabulary from Ayle during the 1850’s.  Clay mentioned in his diary Rev. Mr. Eccles then Rev. Gibson Mc Millan who arrived in July 1852.  He married the Mc Millan family Governess Eliza Eglinton, they later emigrated to AustraliaDuring 1875 the Methodist Conference granted permission for a new chapel on the site of the old one.  Among the contributors was the Rev. William Arthur whose mother had acted as Postmistress in Newport – was said to have been ‘converted’ in the first church when John Holmes was The Preacher who was Superintendent of the Castlebar circuit.  William Brown Esq laid the first field stone on 16th January.  The building was completed on 28th July at a cost of £1,000 with two very well attended services.  Following WW2 Mr & Mrs Moore were among the last members of the church: following his demise she continued with his duties.  The Church folded following her demise.  The Church was sold to a builder during 1962; it was used for several years as a storage place. (Donna Allan)  [x]

Bibliography

[i] Methodist Church of Ireland (https://www.irishmethodist.org/) [assessed 30th January 2020]

[ii] Methodist Church of Ireland (https://www.irishchurches.org/) [assessed 2nd February 2020]

[iii] Methodist History (https://methodisthistoryireland.org/) [30th January 2020]

[iv] Ballina (http://northconnachtmethodist.org/index.php/ballina) [assessed 27th February 2020]

[v] Methodist Church of Ireland (https://www.irishmethodist.org/) [assessed 9th January 2020]

[vi] Methodist Church in Ireland (https://www.irishchurches.org/members/methodist-church-in-ireland ) [assessed 11th January 2020]

[vii] Connaught Telegraph 25th February 2020 [assessed 11th January 2020]

[viii] Historical Tour of Castlebar (https://www.mayo-ireland.ie/en/towns-villages/castlebar/history/historical-tour.html) [assessed 9th January 2020]

[ix] Rocksberry B & B (http://www.mayo-accommodation.com/history.html) [assessed 13th January 2020]

[x] Cathair na Mart 1996 Historical Journal No. 16 pages 62 – 65 [assessed 9th January 2020]

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