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Church or Chapel

by Ruth Gatenby

Joseph Jepson's letter

Joseph Jepson's letter

Former Free Methodist Chapel in Grimoldby

Former Free Methodist Chapel in Grimoldby

The village of Grimoldby used to have, in addition to St Edith’s Church, three Methodist Chapels: Wesleyan, Primitive, and Free Methodist.  The parish church was where most people were baptised, married and buried.  But the Marriage Act of 1836 allowed non-conformists to be married in their own places of worship.  There was some antagonism between the religious groups.

On 18 April 1866, Joseph Jepson of Grimoldby wrote a passionate letter, three pages long, in which he poured out his feelings against the established church.  Joseph was a lay preacher in the Grimoldby Free Methodist Chapel, which had opened in 1855.  He was writing to John Broadley, a carpenter, who was engaged to be married to farmer’s daughter, Frances Enderby.

Here are a few extracts:

“My Esteemed Friend and Neighbour,

“I felt so strongly upon hearing of you being cried in the steepled house [presumably banns of marriage read out in St Edith’s Church] that I could not let it pass without a remark.  I feel so deeply interested in the cause of Dissent that everything which is likely to weaken it and strengthen Churchism has a tendency to rouse my mind to action.

“The Clergy are everywhere and by every means teaching that marriage solemnized anywhere but in a Bellhouse and by anyone but one who is in the Apostolic Succession is null and void.”

Jepson went on to describe the established church with ‘their own bastard Popery with all its ritual mummery, and against the simple spiritual purity of Dissent…  I think it little less than sin to attend their Ministry believing that my attendance gives a countenance to their unscriptural and soul-damning proceedings.’

“Then again look at the influence it will have upon your children.  The Clergy will not fail to take hold if it, and as a matter of course your children (if God should permit you to have any) must be ‘regenerated’, ‘born again’, ‘made a child of God’ and ‘an inheritor of the Kingdom of heaven’.  Some kindly disposed friend or relative must take themselves to ‘promise and vow three things’, none of which they can or ever intend to do…  Humbug.”

John and Frances were married in St Edith’s Church on 26 April 1866.  Joseph Jepson died a couple of months later.