Ashton Chapel history
In the late 19th Century Christian people from Ashton under Hill and the surrounding villages, who were not part of the established Church of England, met in houses. There was a group of Methodists, and we also know that a group of Baptists met at the Manor House.
The present Chapel building was built in 1923 and replaced the original building which had been erected in 1881. In the large Church Bible there is a brief outline of how the original Chapel was founded. In the early 1900s this first building was deteriorating rapidly and it became
evident that a new building was needed. At that time the Church was associated with Evesham Baptist Church and run by a local Committee. The Committee approached the Baptist Church in Evesham to ask for help towards the rebuilding plan. Although no help could be offered the Baptist Church agreed to transfer the land to the local members at the time. Trustees of the land were appointed and the Committee began planning the new building. The name “Free Church” was adopted because the chapel was free from the control of any particular denomination. However over the years the members of the church have come from many different denominational backgrounds with the common intent of worshipping God together.
If you look at the stones on the front and side of the building you will see the evidence of the Stone Laying Ceremony which names some of the people who helped towards the building, and some of the members at that time. There are a few memorial plaques within the building that give the names of some of the people who were involved in the work in the past. Inside the vestry is one of the original wooden benches that were replaced by the current seating.
Many of the materials saved from the original building were recycled, especially bricks and tiles.
During the building of the chapel metal tie-rods were added across the large wooden roof span to counter the problem of the walls bowing outwards. The original chapel door remains on the south side of the vestry and was left as a feature when the new hall was added in 1985, and was brought back into use in 2020.
The unusual stained glass windows were installed for the then significant sum of £60. These windows commemorate those sons of the village who had recently lost their lives in the 1914-18 war, many of whom had attended Sunday School at the chapel. The windows depict our Lord Jesus Christ who gave His life for the freedom of all. He who said “Herein is love that a man may lay down his life for his friends.” The thoughts here are of those young men who laid down their lives for others.
The chapel hall was rebuilt in 1985, replacing a wooden hall acquired after the 1939-45 war which had been previously used as an army hut. Funds for the new hall came from the Church members at that time with no public appeal for outside financial assistance. The hall is used for a wide variety of purposes throughout the week including meetings for Prayer, Coffee Mornings, ‘Bright Hour’, Friends & Neighbours and ‘Busy Fingers’ for pre school children.
A baptismal tank is installed just behind the pulpit to enable full immersion baptisms to take place. Prior to its installation, members needed to go to other churches, such as Chipping Campden Baptist Church, to be baptised.
In the last few years the Church has been able to complete a full refurbishment of the entrance,
access and car park which has incorporated a sloping access for wheelchairs and pushchairs. During the construction work the original footings of the very first building were re-discovered. Most recently, the entrance to the hall has been updated to provide a more spacious and welcoming access, whilst also replacing windows and the 35 year-old flat roof. A more user-friendly wash-room area has been incorporated in these changes.
The Church still has trustees of the physical land and buildings, some of whom are the descendants of the original members. The Church no longer has a Committee but is run by a small group of leaders. The administration and finances are the responsibility of Ashton under Hill Free Church Trust, which is a registered charity.
The Church does not have a pastor but week by week Christian lay preachers visit the Church to lead the times of Worship and bring a message to the congregation. Most weeks the members share Communion together and always welcome other believers to join them in this simple celebration.
If you are ever free on a Sunday at 10.45am we would be delighted to see you, and also at the other regular meetings and events which are held in the chapel hall throughout each week.