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Milldale Chapel Derbyshire

On a facebook page
'Pilgrims and Prophets Christian Heritage Tours' a post appeared claiming that the hamlet of Ompton in Nottinghamshire has the world's smallest Primitive Methodist chapel. The chapel was opened in 1860 and measures 21ft by 15ft, 315 square feet, and the measurements are supported by My Primitive Methodist Ancestors website. It continues to hold regular Methodist services. But is it in fact the smallest Primitive Methodist chapel?

               I take the challenge as a search for a former Primitive Methodist chapel that is still standing, and open for worship.

               I thought of the many tiny Methodist chapels I am aware of. Finding the measurement of many is difficult for in the chapel opening reports in the P.M Magazine, measurements were not always given. A general description of a building as well appointed and commodious often suffices.  The same is true of our own excellent My Primitive Methodist Ancestors website-measurements are not always there.

Some measurements given in the P.M. Magazine are precise, such as Low-Bradley in the Silsden circuit opened in 1835, reported as 33ft 3" by 34ft 4"- perhaps not all were as precise.  

               The  Methodist Church Property schedules do not give measurements, but do give seating capacity. This was clearly a subjective assessment, and is at best a guide. In 1960 very few chapels indicate a seating of less than 50. Beesby P.M. chapel north of Alford claimed to have seating for 36, whereas Ompton claimed 40, but the Beesby chapel (now closed) is slightly larger. Mercaston in the former Belper circuit also claimed seating for 40, but is now closed. It continues to stand in a Derbyshire farmyard.

               Haconby, north of Bourne in South Lincolnshire has a small chapel, but it is marginally larger than Ompton. Unusually it was built as a shared Baptist/Primitive Methodist chapel at 24ft by 13.5ft, equalling 324 square feet. It opened in 1867. The story of Haconby is that the builder mistakenly built the chapel 18 inches shorter than intended, and to compensate installed two galleries that face each other (so close that worshippers can shake hands with those in the other gallery). It claims to be the smallest galleried chapel in the United Kingdom -  that is of course unless you know otherwise.

               In 1960 Milldale chapel claimed to have seating for 25 only. Milldale is in the Ashbourne circuit, but geographically in Staffordshire. It was opened in 1836 (1), has never been extended, has no water or electricity, and is still open for worship on the Ashbourne plan. It is just less than 87% of the size of Ompton chapel, measuring in at 14.5ft x 18.8ft = just under 273 square foot. It is the only Methodist chapel to feature in 'Tiny Churches' by Dixie Wills (2). In that book it is described as easily 'mistaken for a small house' and having the 'feel of a living room.'

I believe this is the smallest Primitive Methodist chapel still in use - unless you know otherwise!         



1 Primitive Magazine, Bemersley, 836, page 318

2 Tiny Churches by Dixie Wills, AA publishing 2016, page 159.               


David Leese











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