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Yeovil

Methodism was first introduced to Yeovil about 1818 by two local preachers from Sherborne, although it did not appear on the Sherborne Circuit plan until 1822. The first place of worship was a thatched cottage in Middle Street. The appointment of a second minister to the circuit 1823 led to the expansion of the work in and around Yeovil and the building of a chapel in Middle Street in 1824, described in the local press as ‘commodious and elegant’. This was the first chapel to be built in the Sherborne Circuit and the society was already the largest in the circuit. But growth in membership was slow, until the appointment in the 1850s of a lay agent John Frampton, to the Sherborne Circuit. He was a former ship’s carpenter who, after his conversion, proved to be a powerful and eloquent preacher. During his four years in the circuit the number of members doubled to 806 and a separate Yeovil Circuit was formed in 1862 with 217 of them. In 1863 galleries were added to the Middle Street chapel, only six years before Sir Francis Lycett laid the foundation stone of Vicarage Street chapel in 1869 (opened in March 1870). The architect of this and of the Sunday School building in 1883 was Alexander Lauder of Barnstaple.

Notable among those who served the church and circuit with dedicated enthusiasm during those years was Mr. W.W. Sawtell, who held various offices for half a century.

In the next century, there were setbacks. In 1934 fire destroyed the organ and seriously damaged the roof at Vicarage Street and in 1940 the church was hit by a bomb. It was repaired and reopened in 1948, but the rebuilt Sunday School did not reopen until 1955.

A probationer or a paid local preacher was employed until the appointment to the circuit of a second minister, located at Yetminster, in 1881. The eariest services at Pen Mill were held in a small cottage in a poor area known as Goar Knap. Following vigorous evangelistic work, a small chapel was opened, soon replaced by a chapel seating 250, opened in 1887 (closed 1981). A mission chapel was opened in London Road in 1889.

The Sherborne Branch of the Motcombe Primitive Methodist Circuit, established in the 1840s, included a Yeovil Mission, with a chapel in South Street. This closed in October 1932 with the society becoming part of a united society at Vicarage Street following Methodist Union. Newtown Primitive Methodist Chapel on Eastland Road opened c1870 and closed in 1963 when Milford Road Church (now St Mark’s) opened.

In October 1938 a new chapel was opened in Preston Road.

In February 1964 Milford Road Church (now St Mark’s) opened on the Milford estate. The closure of Newtown and Pen Mill chapels left three Methodist churches in Yeovil by 2012 – Preston Road, Vicarage Street and St Mark’s.

Yeovil and Sherborne Circuits were reunited as a single circuit in 1992.

Sources

  • Methodist Recorder, 12 March 1908

Category: Place

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