Every town has its notable quirks and features that it has accumulated over its lifetime; this week’s post highlights the striking Victorian church set back from Cheap Street that so many have passed, but not everyone knows the history of.
As Sherborne is currently in the midst of the superb Sherborne Abbey Festival, which it’s hosted for nearly 2 decades now, many of you will no doubt have attended concerts in Cheap Street Church, tucked away off our main high street here. So it seems appropriate to tell you a little about this lovely little building and how it came to be.
In 1821 Mr William Dingley arrived in Sherborne from Launceston Cornwall.
He began worshipping in the Congregational Church in Long Street, but finding it too full and difficult to obtain a seat he decided to erect his own Wesleyan Chapel.
So in 1824 he purchased land and a large outhouse in Cheap Street and converted it into a chapel which seated 200 people.
He laid the foundations of the present Methodist Church on the 23rd June 1841 and it opened in 1842 to a final cost of £3490.
The architecture is in the Gothic style, and remains much as originally built. Galleries were added inside in 1862 owing to an increase in congregation. At the West end a polygonal apse was added in 1884. Three shops on the Cheap Street frontage were demolished in 1851 and two new ones erected, leaving a pathway from the main street to the front entrance for the first time.
Near the entrance gates is a family-sized shoe scraper, complete with hand hold, now hidden by dense foliage, but if you peer behind the branches you can still find its twisted iron form as sturdy as ever.
The walls of the burial ground to the rear (Hospital Lane/Abbey Road access) have beautiful carved numbers to indicate grave spaces.
In 1986 the original Sunday School was sold to Sherborne School and is now known as the Powell Theatre. In an interesting theatrical link, the noted Victorian actor William Charles Macready and his family were among the congregation at the Methodist Church between 1850-1860, and he would no doubt approve of the theatrical endeavours of the Boys.
If you would like to visit the Church it is open to the public on Tuesdays, Thursdays, Fridays & Saturdays 10am-12noon, with a service on Sundays at 10:30am. (Correct at time of publishing Spring 2017). It also plays host to a Christmas Tree Festival at the beginning of December every year, which gives the public an opportunity not only to see the trees decorated by local organisations, but also to admire the interior in all its festive glory.