The closing service at the Snape Methodist Church was held on Sunday, 1st June 2008.
It marked a sad end to a building which grew frequently and prospered for many years serving its village’s Methodist community for much of the last century and a half. There had been Wesleyan Methodists’ meetings in Snape as long ago as 1819, served by visiting ministers with services held in private houses. However when the Snape Chapel was finally built it was by the Primitive Methodists who from 1842 held services, either in Snape Street or at Snape Watering, every Sunday and at midweek with a fortnightly visit from a minister. A few years later the meeting venue moved to the Snape wheelwright’s paint shop.
By April 1862 the Methodist community decided to seek a permanent home and bought the piece of land adjoining Street Farm for £10. Abraham Abbott, who owned Street Farm then offered a further piece of land so that the planned building could stand back from the road. Five months later, according to a record written at the time of the chapel’s centenary, the first services were held in the building.
The first trustees included John Barnes, a boot and shoemaker, George Lambert and John Butejar, both maltsters, Arthur Page, Snape’s policeman, William Clouting a farm bailiff and local preacher and two labourers, George Howard and Robert Pallant. Then, only eight years later, it was decided to enlarge the chapel to nearly twice its size. Although building costs are not recorded the trustees had to borrow £199 for the original building programme and £120 for the extension. Despite financial help, notably from Newson Garrett at the Maltings, the loans were not fully repaid until 1909. At that that time further work was put in hand costing £125, £120 of it covered by yet another loan.
It was 1932 before, for the first time in its history, the chapel was out of debt although two years later electric light had to be installed. And so it has gone on with further work being required in 1950 and 1955 in what was often a brave struggle which has only now ceased. But if at times it was hard work it was also rewarding.
As the picture (below) from 1900 shows the church had a substantial following. The Sunday School in the first quarter of the 20th century included 79 scholars and 8 teachers although such numbers declined rapidly in the ‘thirties. In July 1962 the chapel celebrated its centenary. At the time the celebrants must have thought that they had overcome every obstacle placed in their way and the future must misleadingly have seemed bright, so bright in fact that in 1976 the schoolroom was added on land which had previously been the site of Chapel Cottage next door.
The last minister, Rev Mark Booth, said, “In more recent years, the congregation has grown older and fewer in number. Maintaining worship has been difficult and keeping the premises in good order has proved increasingly burdensome. After prayerful, painful and, we hope, realistic consideration of changes in church and community alike, we have decided to close the chapel. We now journey on to praise and serve God in other places, where we hope still to grow in faith, hope and love. We give thanks to the people of Snape for all they have given to us and shared with us over so many years. We assure you of our prayers and entrust you to the loving care of God.”