garvestone interior

To ‘E’ or not to’E’, that is the question. If you approach our profile village from one direction the village announces itself as Garveston, whereas from the other end of the village it gains an E on the end, which is the modern spelling of the village name. Methodism came to the village in the form of the redoubtable Robert Key, who has been mentioned in previous profiles. He found the place ‘in the deepest darkest ignorance’ with ‘not one God-fearing man or woman in the place.’ However, under his ministrations Key’s first convert, Henry Fellowes, a farmworker, became the ‘Official Manager’ of Garvestone Methodists prior to the time of the 1851 Religious Census, at which time 2 services each Sunday both attracted congregations of around 30. At that time services were held in a barn, but in the early 1860s efforts were underway to build a chapel in the village, and a site was rented from a Mr. Allen of Norwich, with the building completed and opened in October 1864. According to the ‘Norfolk News’, ‘a large and respectable audience attended with 100 afterwards enjoying a public tea’. The collection raised £6! One of the major figures of Garvestone’s 19th century history was Francesca Mason, the French born wife of an English soldier she met shortly after the battle of Waterloo. They originally settled in Shipdham, from where she became a respected Local Preacher despite her broken English. Following her husband’s death, she lived in Garvestone with her daughter until her death at the age of 90 in 1885. In 1892 the chapel officially became Methodist property, being purchased from the executors of Mr. Allen for £60. It then had its length extended by about a third to form the building as it is today. Methodism in the 20th century would have many ups and downs. Early in the century, a particularly vigorous Rector set about enticing worshippers to the Parish church until only one family was left. His efforts only bore short reward as, apparently, most quickly returned. In June 1907 the Dereham Primitive Methodist Magazine reported that no less than 400 people attended the outdoor Sunday School evening service. Heady days indeed. 1928 saw the first wedding conducted in the church, and in the same year, ’58 Useful Recipes’ – a booklet to raise funds for the Sunday School – was published. Interestingly several of the recipes were for homemade wine! In 1980 the whole interior was renovated, with the floor renewed and the pews replaced with chairs. This was funded by the sale of land adjacent to the chapel for £700. Through all the ups and downs, the witness has remained strong and faithful. This is epitomised by a line of a song sung at the 1882 Sunday School Anniversary; ‘Press forward, look upwards, be strong in the Lord.’