Congregational Chapel (URC)

A congregation was first formed in 1810.


This photo (left) was taken in 1970. Ena Carter had written on the back (in soft pencil),  ‘House in Alley (al. Chapel Lane) in use as a CHAPEL in 1839/40.’ She indicated  its location on this sketch (right) of a map  taken from the deeds of Crown farm.

hand written document

Origins of the URC present Chapel

Stowupland United Reform Chapel was built in 1850 although there had been an active non-conformist congregation in the parish for many years probably worshipping in Stowmarket Chapel. Indeed, an Independent Sunday school had been in existence probably from at least 1810 thought to have been held at Pendle Cottage.

The origins of the present building go back to a building in 1831 on a slightly different site and a man named William Harbour.

William Harbour was born in Wortham in 1796. By 1841 he was living in Heywood Diss with his wife Martha who died in 1845 and in 1849 he re-married to a Rhoda Booty. In 1851 they were still in Diss, and he is described as a grocer who had also been involved in farming, but he was in financial difficulties. In 1850 he put up a portion of his effects for auction and was said to have left his farm. In 1853 he was declared a bankrupt and spent some time in Norwich gaol. His property in Diss his property being put up for auction. At a debtors court in 1854 he is described as late of Diss grocer, draper & general shopkeeper, farmer. His fortune must have improved as in 1861 he was in Winfarthing Norfolk still a grocer. He also seems to have been active in the Methodist cause in this area as In 1839 “Revd William Harbour from Mendlesham bought a parcel of land at the side of the land that was to become Chapel Road in Old Newton and built a chapel with clay lump. In the tithe apportionment of he is listed as the occupier of the chapel with cottages at Mendlesham.

He had earlier founded a chapel here in Stowupland. This Chapel was fairly short lived however, it first appears in 1831 when William Harbour took possession of a property called Scoltons described as “All those two messuages (now wasted) …. with 1 rood of copyhold land ….. and also, that meeting house or dissenting chapel lately erected and built by the said William Harbour of Diss dissenting minister upon aforesaid hereditaments. In 1846 Harbour mortgaged the property for £100 to Thomas Prentice. Prentice was a member of the Stowmarket family prominent in various businesses in the town and active supporters of the Independent chapel there (later Congregationalist). It is possible that Methodist worship had ceased at this time and Prentice now used the chapel for the Independent congregation.

As we saw Harbour had money problems by the early 1850s and when he finally surrendered Scoltons in 1853 he was said to be “now a prisoner in gaol for debt”.
This chapel was probably very small and Thomas Prentice being able to fund a larger building built a chapel on the present site which was opened on 27th September 1850. This was not on the site of the old Methodist chapel which was in Chapel Lane but on the present site which had belonged to a John Dent and was exchanged with him for Scoltons.

This brief history is based on documents held at Suffolk Archives being notes by Thomas Carter and a summary of deeds and put together by  Neil Langridge (2023).

hand written history
Hand written notes on the history of the chapel to 1866
1850 prayer pamphlet
A prayer used at the opening service of Stowupland Chapel on September 27th, 1850 (provided by NL).
hand written notes
A further history of the chapel by George Carter

In the 1850’s Thos Prentice was a minister at the Stowupland Chapel. According to the  Eccles. Census of 1851  – an Independent Chapel was erected with 170 free sittings there was an average of 135.

Obituary from  Bury and Norwich Post – Wednesday 21 July 1852

The death of Mr. Thomas Prentice, announced in our obituary, is an event that demands more than ordinary notice. As an old inhabitant of the town, a member of a highly-respected family, and the head of an important commercial establishment, it is not remarkable that the announcement of his death should be heard with deep concern. He was attacked with paralysis last Sunday week, and has, since that time, lingered in a state of almost entire unconsciousness till he expired on Monday morning. Since his attack, a deep gloom has prevailed throughout our town, in consequence of the high estimation in which Mr. Prentice was held by all classes, on account of his sincere piety, his energetic labours for the temporal and spiritual good of his fellowman, his kindness to the poor, and constant readiness to promote in every way the welfare and improvement of the town. Perhaps it may be said with truth, that our town has never before sustained so severe loss.

Mr T. Prentice was reported to have collapsed at his chapel in Earl Stonham, a meeting house for the Plymouth Brethren, its location is unknown at the present time.

A report in The Illustrated London News, 24th July 1852.

“A couple of Sundays ago, as Mr Thos Prentice was preaching in his own chapel at Stonham, nr Stowmarket, immediately after he had delivered the passage of scripture from which he intended to address his audience, he fell down speechless, & has ever since remained in an unconscious state

Ena Carter added her own note N.B. plaque in Earl Stonham Plymouth Brethern Chapel.

1900 poster
1910 poster advertising the Chapel's Jubilee Celebration

Our  Congregational Chapel as it appeared in 1930 and below in 1970. It was originally built in the early 19th century so one of the earliest buildings for public meetings in Stowupland.

press cutting from 1936
1936 Press report on the 123rd anniversary of Stowupland Congregational Chapel
Congregational Church
1926 photo of a charabanc outing
1926 Women's Fellowship outing by charabanc

We are grateful to local resident, Joyce Garrod, for sharing this photo of her mother’s outing to Tuddenham Hall in the mid 1930’s. Why they are going we don’t know but they are carrying a large Union Jack and Tuddenham Hall was the residence of Mr Henry Fairfax Harwood who owned the Stowupland Hall Estate.

In his memoirs  ‘As I Remember It’ Leslie Brame recalled the Mother’s Meetings that in his mother would take him to at the Congregational church. He had been born on a very stormy night in October 1914 and as he remembers his mother taking him to the meetings in a pushchair this may have been towards the end of WW1. He recalls the meetings as being very informal, a group of young mothers with their babies gathering together for a chat and singing, such as:

  • Let the blessed sunshine in!
  • Let the blessed sunshine in!
  • Clear the darkened windows, open wide the door!
  • let the Sunshine in !

As he grew older he became acquainted with the King James Version of the Bible and he wrote ‘ it was in the language of the people and in my early years I have often heard in the conversation of farmhands and country folk remnants of sixteenth century language. The grammatical usage of thee and thou, wast and wert, ye and thine caused me no difficulty at all’.

Chapel teas were a very social affair with all the chapel ladies pitching in to provide refreshments for up to 150 men, women and children.Jugs of milk and fresh farm butter was provided by Mrs George Carter, ‘churned by herself…other women brought fresh white bread, sandwich fillings such as ham and tongue, cheese, chutney and jam… some women brought baked items like sausage rolls and jam tarts.’ Leslie remembered being responsible for butting the cut rounds of bread, with a whispered instruction from his mother to ‘remember to muck your headlands first’.

The URC Chapel as seen from the A1120 today.  Holy Trinity Church stands just a few hundred yards  away along the main Road.. They are separated today by houses, The Crown Inn, Stowupland High School and the Village Hall.  When they were both first built there were far fewer houses, it was mainly Crown Farm, Crown Inn   and a ‘smithy between them.

The front extension was added in the 1970’s at a cost of £5,000. It created a large meeting room, an entrance lobby and a cloakroom. The m.inister was rev Edmund Banyard

At the same time they were raising £250 towards the cost of a new piano.

People associated with the Congregational Chapel

In the 1850’s Thos Prentice was a minister at the Stowupland Chapel

Leslie Alfred Brame, son Mr & Mrs Brame of Church Walk, Stowuplamd . The son of a carpenter Leslie became a missionary traveling to the Far East in the first half of the 20th century.

Rev Miss Phyllis Tee. mid 20th century minister at Stowupland URC. She was born in Canada but came to England when she was one year old.

Miss Ruth Scarfe was organist for 40 years. She died at the age of 69 in 1961.

The Rev Edmund Banyard was the minister in the 1970’s when the front extension was built.