Researched by David and Angela Putland

This page presents what we know of early Methodism in Effingham and the building of the Methodist Church in the centre of the village in the mid-19th century.

The Protestant Reformation

By his Act of Supremacy in 1534 King Henry VIII separated the English Church from Rome and established himself as the Supreme Head of a new Protestant Church of England. Two years after his death in 1547 his son Edward VI assented in 1549 to the first Act of Uniformity which required, among other things, adherence to the English Book of Common Prayer developed chiefly by Archbishop Thomas Cranmer. A revised and less ambiguous version was imposed in 1552.

Edward died in 1553 and was succeeded by Mary, Henry’s daughter by Catherine of Aragon. Mary repealed Edward’s Act and attempted forcibly to impose Catholicism across the land. Protestants were persecuted with a vengeance and many were executed for committing heresies against Catholicism. After Mary died in 1558 her half-sister Elizabeth became Queen and sought to reverse the situation, in a country still deeply divided between Protestantism and Catholicism. In Elizabeth’s first Parliament in January 1559 it was declared that henceforth debate on religious matters should not be intolerant or extremist. A few months later another Act of Supremacy was passed, establishing Elizabeth as Supreme Governor of the Church. A second Act of Uniformity passed in 1559 was a little less anti-papal than the earlier 1549 Act but maintained the requirement that all persons should attend their church for Sunday worship or be fined. It restored the use of the 1552 Book of Common Prayer which had been banned by Mary. These provisions in 1559 are referred to as the ‘Elizabeth Religious Settlement’ but ultimately did not achieve the intended settlement of the country’s religious divisions.

Also in 1559 the country’s dioceses were subjected to visitations for the purpose of enforcing Religious Injunctions designed to embed the details of the Settlement, ranging from the elimination of idolatry, roods and other artefacts to specifying of vestments, alterations to the practice of Communion and the re-positioning of altar tables, amid much else. Some of these injunctions were carried out too zealously in Elizabeth’s view and she occasionally intervened to moderate them somewhat. At parish level, where Catholicism remained widespread, the injunctions were usually slow to take effect or were undermined by covert opposition. They were rejected also by certain dissenting Protestants as well as by persons not conforming to either of the two main faiths. 

During the 1560s Catholics responded to the Settlement in various ways. Some, known as ‘recusants’, simply refused to attend Church of England worship, whilst others, known as ‘church papists’, went along with such attendance but maintained their own faith in secret. Others went abroad into exile. As the decade progressed, the incidence of recusancy increased. An unsuccessful rebellion in 1569, aimed at overthrowing the Protestant Church, led to Catholicism being treated almost as treason, this resulting a year later in Elizabeth being excommunicated by the Pope.

For some decades following Henry’s break from Rome, various ‘Articles of Religion’ were composed with the aim of setting out definitively the detailed doctrinal positions being adopted in Henry’s new ‘Anglican’ Church. Starting with ten articles in 1536, this project underwent interminable rounds of debate and revision through the succeeding reigns of Edward, Mary and Elizabeth, reaching a total of forty-two in 1553 before settling into a stable state in 1571 known as the Thirty-Nine Articles, these being incorporated into the Book of Common Prayer. The Articles sought to express a coherent doctrinal position regarding the very many controversies – such as those concerning the Eucharist – then prevailing within Anglicanism: they prescribed what one was required to believe and how one was required to worship. They can be viewed as an attempt to clarify how the beliefs and practices of the new Church stood in relation to those of both Catholicism and of new variants of Protestantism (such as Lutheranism) evolving in other countries.

Far from becoming more ‘settled’ as time passed, the situation became ever more fraught and embittered during the 1570s. Hard-line Catholics viewed Elizabeth’s excommunication as a signal that they owed no religious obedience to her. Recusants sought escape in clandestine worship, despite fines for recusancy becoming far more punitive, whilst the more pragmatic church papists increasingly acquiesced to Protestant dictat. The indigenous priesthood began to collapse. During the 1580s the persecution of Catholics intensified and saw the execution of many priests. Priests discovered entering from abroad were charged with treason. As the century drew to its end, Catholicism dwindled to the level of a minor sect. 


Elizabeth died in 1603. Her Settlement had not led to a Protestant religion stripped of all Catholic attributes. Both she and her father had been somewhat conservative in their making and consolidating of the Anglican Church. Elizabeth had for decades mostly resisted the attempts of would-be reformers to introduce more radical measures designed to strip out what remained of Catholic belief and practice.

Among those reformers were those who later came to be known as ‘Puritans’, although these did not form a single well-defined group. The general thrust of their practical desires was directed towards the elimination of all church rituals and practices not overtly supported by Scripture, the adoption of stricter enforcement of moral behaviour, the suppression of hedonistic pleasure, the abolition of the wearing by priests of vestments and, especially, the disempowerment of the bishops and archbishops in matters of church governance. Doctrinally, they held staunchly to the predestinational view that only a select few, unknowingly chosen by God, were eligible for salvation. They believed that everyone should have a solid knowledge of the Bible and should conduct their lives in strict accordance with it.
A large subset of the Puritans were committed to the complete replacement of the bishops by elders of the Church and these were known as ‘Presbyterians’.

There were many sectarian divisions within the Puritans during the period when they were a significant force for reform, from about the 1560s until the Restoration a century later. Some sought to reform the Anglican Church from within whilst others sought total separation from it. Their most visible impact was the bringing about of the Civil War and the overthrow – albeit only temporary – of the monarchy, yielding an interregnum when they were able to exercise power across the nation. However, during this short period religion continued in a state of flux. Oliver Cromwell’s Rump Parliament did away with Elizabeth’s Act of Uniformity and thereby liberated people from compulsory church attendance.

Following Cromwell’s death in 1658 the Puritans collapsed as a force capable of governing the state and the monarchy was restored. Soon after Charles II had taken up the throne another Act of Uniformity was passed, in 1662, which reinstituted the appointment of church ministers by the bishops. This was anathema to the Puritan clergy who now deserted the Anglican Church in an en masse demonstration of ‘Nonconformity’. Quakers, Baptists and Congregationalists soon joined the Presbyterians as instances – among many others – of ‘Nonconformists’. Those Nonconformists who had sought to reform or separate from the Anglican Church in the 17th century or previously were termed ‘Old Dissenters’. The 18th century would see the rise of another group of Nonconformists termed ‘New Dissenters’. Most of these were ‘Methodists’.

Origin of Methodism

Methodism evolved in the early 18th century as a distinct Protestant following founded upon the teachings of two Wesley brothers, John born in 1703 and Charles born in 1707. Both became ordained ministers of the Church of England and remained so all their lives.

The primary emphasis of their theologicial position was upon sanctification, the process by which an individual becomes – through faith, scriptural adherence and kindly and merciful works – progressively purified from sin in emulation of Christ. Methodists hold to the ‘Arminian’ view that salvation, made possible by sanctification, is possible for all persons, in contrast to the ‘Calvinistic’ view of the Puritans that salvation was pre-ordained for only a select and unchangeable few.

As young men John and Charles embarked, by invitation of its Governor, to the new American colony of Georgia, intending to serve as ministers taking their teachings to the Native Americans there. This project ended in failure and the brothers returned to London as sick men with their faith at a low ebb and on the verge of leaving the Church. However, soon afterwards each of them had a ‘conversion experience’ and began to preach that “everyone was worthy of heaven”. This was quite a revelation to many people, especially those who were excluded from parish churches as being too lowly. The Wesleys’ preaching was so enthusiastic that they were banned from many pulpits, so they decided to preach in the open air, and thousands came to listen.

During his ministry John rode over 250,000 miles, travelling all over the British Isles preaching, sometimes filling the voids left by Church of England ministers having to cover several parishes. Small meeting rooms or ‘Chapels’ for bible study were set up with trained lay preachers to look after the Methodist flock. Neither John or Charles wanted to form a separate denomination, wishing only to reform the Church of England from within, but after John’s death in 1791 a split became inevitable as many Chapels wanted their own preachers to be able to give them the bread and wine of Holy Communion. The Methodist Church was formed as a separate entity in about 1795.

John Wesley after George Romney.
Oil on canvas, based on a work of circa 1789.
NPG 2366      © National Portrait Gallery, London
Creative Commons Licence By-NC-ND-3.0

Early Local Nonconformism

An early example of a local person of an apparently dissenting persuasion was a Dorking shoemaker named William Mullins. He was one of the passengers on the Pilgrim ship Mayflower in 1620, sailing from Plymouth to New England. Some account of his life can be read here. It is possible that personal difficulties which he had encountered with the law over matters of religion motivated him to emigrate. His family structure has some uncertainties in it but it appears that he married twice and that on the voyage he was accompanied by his second wife Alice and two of their children, Priscilla and Joseph, together with a servant Robert Carter. Within months of their arrival all but Priscilla had died. The earliest known list of the passengers on board that Mayflower voyage was drawn up much later from memory in the writings of another passenger William Bradford who became the Governor of the New Plymouth Colony.

Bradford’s passenger list entry for the Mullins family, from the
State Library of Massachusetts (click to view the first page).

As noted earlier, the new Act of Uniformity passed in 1662 had resulted in the “Great Ejection” whereby about two thousand nonconformist ministers were compelled to leave the Church of England and even forbidden to come within five miles of their former parish. Locally, the ministers in Leatherhead and Effingham complied with the Act, but those in Ashtead, Fetcham, the Horsleys and Dorking did not and were accordingly ejected. The ejection prompted many to establish their own places of worship. In Dorking, for example, a Congregational Church was opened in 1662.

Monica O’Connor’s book The History of Effingham mentions Dissenters in Effingham as follows:

There is evidence that some inhabitants of Effingham in the 17th century were Dissenters in matters of religion. At the Surrey Quarter Sessions, 1st July 1661, it is recorded that Thomas Martyr, William Wilkinson (the “Parish Register” of Commonwealth days) and John Box, all shoemakers of Effingham “have not repaired to their parish church, remaining there in an orderly and sober manner during the time of common prayer for twenty Sundays immediately preceding the date of inquisition, abstaining without reasonable impediment, tho’ they were 16 years of age and more”. They were indicted again in 1662 “to answer touching certain trespasses contempts and misdemeanours.”

In 1664 Thomas Marter, Husbandman, William Wilkinson, Chandler, and Joan Lee, Widow, were indicted for not repairing to their parish church nor to any place of common worship.

On 14th May, 1665, William Wilkinson of Effingham, Labourer, “being of age of 16 years and more, assembled with other evildoers at the house of W. Hampshire of Albury, under colour of exercise of religion. Being convicted by notorious evidence of the fact before Arthur Onslow and Roger Duncomb Esq., J.Ps on the same day, they were committed to the common gaol of the county for six days unless they paid as fines 12d.”

In 1728* Mr. Godfrey, the Vicar, entered this note in his Parish Register: —“Thomas Martyr, Yeoman aged about 40 baptised. Mary, Sister of Thomas Martyr and Wife of Richard Cooke,aged about 39, baptised. They were born of Ana-Baptist parents. (Memo: Before I did or would baptise these two adult persons I applied to the Rt. Rev. Dr. Willis, our present Bishop, for leave, and had it granted)”.

No doubt these were the descendants of Thomas Martyr who appeared at the Quarter Sessions in 1664.

* This date “1728” should read 1730 – see the original register entry at right (click to enlarge). We have not yet checked O’Connor’s text against all the original sources.

In 1689, when the Calvinist King William III was occupying the throne, Parliament passed a Toleration Act giving Dissenters the right to establish places of worship if registered by the local Anglican Bishop. A Quaker meeting house was opened in Dorking in 1702, but no other churches, chapels or meeting rooms were opened locally for over 50 years, according to the Bishop of Winchester’s Non-Conformist Register held at the National Archives. In 1725 there were about three hundred Dissenters living in and around Dorking.

John Wesley opened a Chapel at Dorking in 1772 and occasionally met his London preachers in Cobham Landscape Garden (now Painshill) on his way from Portsmouth to his northern chapels. He is reported as having made more than twenty visits to Dorking between 1764 and (for the last time) 1789.

Methodism was not very popular in rural Surrey which was described by Wesley as a Methodist wilderness. Small congregations came and went, and even the Dorking Chapel had closed by the time Samuel Beves, a watchmaker from Brighton, arrived in 1833. He became a local preacher, and held Methodist meetings in the kitchen of his cottage at Heath Hill, Cotmandene, until a hired meeting room off the High Street was registered in 1842. Rev Samuel Beard, a Kent-born minister from the Guildford Methodist Circuit, became the first resident minister there. In 1844 Dorking became the head of a new Dorking & Horsham Circuit.

Methodism in Effingham

According to an early 20th-century source (detailed later) it was Rev. Samuel Beard who introduced Methodism to Effingham, giving services in the open air despite some local opposition.

Methodist meetings in Effingham in the early 1840s were evidently conducted on or near Crocknorth Farm, a property standing on the south-western boundary of the parish and named variously as Crocknorth, Cracknorth or Cracknut Farm or Lodge.

Crocknorth on the 1842 Tithe Map for Effingham.
Reproduced by permission of Surrey History Centre.

Crocknorth photographed in 1907.
From the Effie Jane Ross family album No. 1.

The primary evidence for this is an entry in a list of Nonconformist Places of Worship held by the Commissary Court of Surrey, Winchester Diocese [National Archives RG 31/5]. It records that Crocknorth Farm was registered as a meeting place by “J. Lamplough and another” on December 8th 1842:

Entry in the Register of Nonconformist Places of Worship,
RG 31/5 Winchester Diocese, Commissary Court of Surrey 1741-1852.
Courtesy of The National Archives by Open Government Licence.

Crocknorth is a rather isolated farm and it seems unlikely that this registration was intended for the religious benefit of anyone other than those who registered it. It is not yet known exactly who “J. Lamplough” was but it seems highly plausible that they belonged to a particular Lamplugh family whose origins and movements have been ascertained to some extent.

The Lamplugh Family

The 1841 Electoral Register shows the head of the family of interest, William Lamplugh, residing at Crocknorth:

This is corroborated by the family’s entry in the 1841 Census where William is described as a farmer aged 34 with a wife Ann, four children (George, Jemima, Eliza and Mary) and a male servant, none of them born in Surrey. The “J. Lamplough” mentioned earlier is suspected to have been one of William’s brothers.

The 1842 Electoral Register likewise shows William at Crocknorth.

The schedule of Tithe Apportionments records Ann – not William – as the occupier of Crocknorth (which was in the ownership of the Earl of Lovelace) but the date of this record cannot be known with precision. The apportionment for the tithe owners of Effingham was agreed on June 3rd 1839 and so the Lamplugh entry – as for all the contributing entries – must predate that.

Later Censuses and other records indicate that William was born in about 1806-07 in Langtoft, Yorkshire and married Ann (née) Wardell at nearby Kilham on April 17th 1831. Kilham had had a Methodist Chapel since 1815 but no link between the Lamplughs and Methodism in Kilham has yet been established. Nonetheless, it seems likely that such a link did exist and that it somehow played a motivating role in the family’s move to Effingham.

By 1851 the family had become somewhat dispersed. The Census shows that William was back in Yorkshire, employed as a foreman at Spring House Farm in Sherburn, whilst his son George aged 19 was apparently back in his birthplace Kilham and occupied as a farm labourer at Kilham Grange. Eliza seems to have been staying with a family in West Street, Dorking and occupied as a dress maker. Mary and her mother Ann were in service to a farmer Thomas Wells living at Phoenice Farm in Great Bookham. Jemima was in service at 61, West Street, Dorking to the family of a Wesleyan minister Rev John Owen and his wife Hannah Mary (née Blumer); at that time John was visiting a colleague in Horsham and so Hannah was entered as the head of household.


Rev John Owen and his wife Hannah Mary
(click either to enlarge).

Images by kind permission of
Margaret Owen Fishburne Goldston.


In 1855 John gave up his Methodist Ministry and went to live with his wife’s family at Rift House in Stanton, West Hartlepool. His father-in-law was head of shipbuilding firm Luke Blumer & Son. In 1853 Luke and John had bought a brig and named her Hannah Mary, after John’s wife. John had produced 16 children by Hannah by the time he died at Rift House in January 1882.

The 1861 Census finds William and Ann, with their most of their children, living together again in Yorkshire, at Great Driffield. William described himself at that time as retired despite being only in his mid-fifties. It seems that his Lamplugh family, during their time in Surrey, had been significant members of the local Methodists, not only because of Jemima having been a servant of Rev Owen but also because of Ann and Mary having been servants of Thomas Wells who would later play an important role in Effingham’s Chapel. However, the nature and purpose of their brief period in Surrey, far away from their roots in Yorkshire, is not yet understood.

Returning to the early 1840s, two other ministers named Aaron Langley and William Wilson began to play an important part in the activities of Methodists in Effingham. Both belonged to the Dorking & Horsham Circuit and appear at the top of the Circuit’s list of appointed preachers in the schedule planned for the Autumn of 1844. Also in that list was Samuel Beves, mentioned earlier.

The schedule, seen at right, displays the intended meetings for each of the appointed preachers. The last row shows which ones were to visit Effingham, and when. The dates shown are all on Sundays.

Reportedly, Wilson was known as “Captain Wilson” and preached regularly at Effingham during the summer of 1844 on “Effingham Common”. The latter location may well refer to the large tract of open land near the southern end of the parish, near to Crocknorth, known as Effingham Upper Common. However, it is also possible that these meetings were being held on the more familiar Common in the north of the parish. In either case, residents in the village itself would have faced a long walk to attend the meetings.

In October 1844 Effingham’s Methodists entered a new phase in their development: they were granted the use of part of a dwelling in the heart of the village for holding their meetings. This was in the very old hall-house standing on the site which had long been known as Ruffinshaw and was, at this time, in the ownership of Mrs Elizabeth (née Martin) Fish, widow of Robert Fish (senior). Robert had died earlier that year, in May, and in his Will had left all of his extensive estate to her. (Note: in The History of Effingham O’Connor mistakenly states that ‘Fish’ was Elizabeth’s maiden name.)

Firstly, however, Diocesan permission had to be granted for the use of this dwelling as a place of worship in which the Book of Common Prayer would not be used. It was Rev. Langley who applied for that permission.


Dorking & Horsham Circuit Appointments for Autumn 1844 (click to enlarge).
Awaiting higher-resolution authorised image from the John Rylands Library, University of Manchester.

Ruffinshaw on the 1842 Tithe Map for Effingham (click to enlarge).
Reproduced by permission of Surrey History Centre.

In 1842, when Mr Fish (senior) was still alive, plots 250–257 making up the Ruffinshaw site were all in his ownership, besides a few others elsewhere in the village.

The buildings highlighted here are today known as Church Cottages and consist of six separate dwellings, more than was the case in 1839 when the Tithe Schedule was drawn up. In that year, the dwelling associated with plot 255 was occupied by Allen Naldrett, that with plot 256 by John Whittington and that with plot 257 (spanning two slightly separated pieces of land) by Mrs Mary Cooke (bearing the blue marker in the inset). So all these persons were Mrs Fish’s tenants.

Naldrett and Mrs Cooke occupied two parts of the old hall-house and must each have had a good deal of internal space available to them. Naldrett had married in early 1841 to Mrs Cooke’s daughter Sarah (née Earl).

It was part of Mrs Cooke’s space for which Rev Langley applied, in October 1844, that it be permitted as a place of worship; and this of course would have required also the permission of Mrs Fish, although she may have actively and willingly brought about this state of affairs for reasons of her own.

Opposite can be seen a scan of the Registered Declaration submitted by Aaron Langley to the Registrar for the Bishop of WInchester, signed on October 7th. The lower part of the document bears written confirmation that the certificate was duly registered on October 24th. 

To the Right Reverend The Lord Bishop of Winchester and to his Registrar.

I Aaron Langley of Dorking in the County of Surry [sic] do hereby certify that the dwelling house of Mrs Mary Cook, situated in the Parish of Effingham, in the County of Surry [sic], is intended forthwith to be used as a place of Religious Worship by an Assembly, or Congregation, of Protestants, andI do hereby require you to register and record the same according to the provisions of an Act, passed in the 52nd year of His Majecty King George the Third, intitled “An Act to repeal certain Acts, and amend other Acts, relating to religious worship, and assemblies and persons teaching of preaching therein”, and I hereby request a certificate thereof. Witness my hand this seventh day of October, 1844.
                                                                   Aaron Langley

These are to certify to whom it may concern that the above written Certificate was brought into the Registry of the Commissary Court of the Lord Bishop of Winchester for the parts of Surrey and there registered Dated at Doctors Commons London this 22nd day of October 1844.

Entry in the Register of Places of Religious Worship (click to enlarge),
RG 31/5 Winchester Diocese, Commissary Court of Surrey 1741-1852.
Courtesy of The National Archives by Open Government Licence.

Aaron Langley’s Registered Declaration of October 1844 (click to enlarge).
Dorking & Horsham Circuit Archives.

The identity of Mrs Mary Cooke has not been firmly established. It is unfortunate that she died before the 1851 Census, depriving us of some key indicators. At the present time it seems that the best candidate for her is the person described below.

Mary Cooke

In 1814 a young unmarried woman residing in Slinfold, Sussex was found to be pregnant. Parish officers there ascertained that the father was a man named Henry Cooke of Effingham. What happened to Mary next is quite remarkable and is laid out in a report within the 2nd Annual Report of the Poor Law Commissioners [Appendix B, Report on Middlesex and Surrey by Charles Mott, Assistant Poor Law Commissioner]  published in 1836:

The summary of this article is that Mary, a Sussex girl, was made pregnant by a young Effingham man Henry Cook(e) who was induced by parish overseers to marry her. Soon afterwards she was ‘sold’ to a Dorking man John Earl and married him. Such ‘wife sales’ were not uncommon in this period and their legal status was a grey area. An extensive study of them forms part of E P Thompson’s major work
Customs in Common: Studies in Traditional Popular Culture [Merlin Press, London, 1991]. Thompson found records of 22 cases in Britain in the period 1810-19 but believed that far more had occurred. In his discussion of this instance in Effingham he wrote:

“One really can not make out anything of the inwardness of this affair. Was Cook falsely sworn as father of the first child? Was Earl Mrs Cook’s lover? All that is certain is that the marital history of the three was heavily influenced by economy-minded officials; and that, in 1814-15, the legitimacy of ritual wife sale went unquestioned in the parishes of Effingham and Dorking.”

The authors of the 1836 article presumably had access to relevant parish papers in order to supply the details, but we have not yet located such papers. A registered marriage of Mary to Henry has not yet been found, but her subsequent marriage on July 30th 1815 to John Earl is recorded in the register of St Martin’s, Dorking and names her as Mary Ann Geering Cook, implying that her maiden surname had been Geering. Both she and John were unable to sign their names.

In 1816 Mary and John produced a child William who died when just 2 days old and was buried at St. Martin’s on June 7th, the register giving their abode as the Old King’s Head, a former public house in Dorking’s North Street; its licence had been withdrawn in 1800 and was not renewed until 1850. In 1817 they produced a child John who was baptised at that same church on July 27th, the family still living at the Old King’s Head. This child died at age
9 months and was buried at St Martin’s on March 25th 1818. On March 28th 1819 they baptised a daughter Sarah there and were still living at the Old King’s Head.

Having eventually returned from Dorking to Effingham, presumably after being deserted by John Earl, Mary produced in 1835 a daughter Phillis Cooke who was baptised at St Lawrence on September 24th; the register names only Mary as a parent which suggests that the father may not have been her first husband Henry. Phillis died within a fortnight and was buried at St Lawrence on October 5th. Reportedly Mary had produced other children too but records for these have not yet been found.

The origins of Mary, Henry and John remain unknown. Parochial records for Dorking and Effingham may shed more light upon their ‘marriages’ and their dealings with the parish authorities, depending upon what has survived. The maintenance of such records was often haphazard. In the case of Epsom, for instance, Mr Mott’s report in 1836 said the following:

The King’s Head in Dorking
(click to enlarge).

“At Epsom, some years since, the vestry clerk died, or became bankrupt, when the whole of the parish books and documents were put up for auction with his other effects, and sold as waste paper at so much per pound, thus destroying in that parish all record of parochial transactions up to that time.”

Even with benefit of such records one is unlikely to arrive at a true understanding of these people’s actions, as Thompson [ibid] warns:

“To recover the ‘truth’ about any marital history is not easy: to attempt to recover it … after 150 years have passed is to go on a fool’s errand.”

Mr Mott also mentioned, in relation to the ‘receipt’ said to have sealed the bargain for the ‘sale’ of Mary at the Croydon market, that
the original is now in my possession“, making it yet more uncertain as to where the records pertaining to this case might be found today.
The case was of sufficient interest to appear occasionally in the newspapers. On January 22nd 1910, for instance, The Aberdeen Journal published an account of it which included the curious additional detail that in 1814 when the Governor of Effingham’s Workhouse was seeking to avoid taking on Mary and her child by means of ‘selling’ her, “her husband was in prison“. How this detail was obtained we do not yet know.

Putting aside the matter of Mary Cooke’s identity and history, she lived only four more years after her home had begun being used for Methodist meetings. She died in late 1848 [GRO Ref: Dorking 4 104, 1848 (Q4)]. Her death certificate states that she died on December 21st and describes her as aged 52 and the wife (not widow) of “Harry Cook”, a gardener. The place where she died is entered as simply “Effingham”. The cause of death was stomach cancer (nine years). The informant, present at the death, was Hannah Stanbridge of Effingham. Mary was buried at St Lawrence, neither the precise date nor her precise abode being stated in the burial register.

At the time of the 1841 Census the only other person in Mary’s Ruffinshaw household was a man named Henry Cooke described as a Surrey-born agricultural labourer with (rounded) age ’25’. He is presumed to have been the child she had conceived by her first husband in 1814. He may have been the child baptised on May 1st 1814 at St Martin’s, Dorking, the father Henry (senior) being recorded as a shepherd then living at Box Hill. In the summer of 1844 Henry (junior) married Eliza (née) Smith. This couple produced a child Henry baptised at St Lawrence on October 6th 1844, the register describing Henry (junior) as a gardener residing in Effingham. Soon afterwards they moved to Bookham and produced two further children there. This is where they would have been living when Mary died. Then, in 1849, Henry (junior) died aged just 35. He was taken back to Effingham to be buried at St Lawrence on August 2nd. The 1851 Census finds widowed Eliza back in Effingham, apparently living with her children in the Almshouses. This is certainly where she was living in 1861, but by 1871 she was living in Ruffinshaw, possibly in the same part as Mary had lived in thirty years previously.

In 1851 a Religious Census was carried out. A transcription of the return for the Effingham Methodists is shown at right, taken from the Surrey Record Society’s transcription published in 1997. It shows that the meeting place, presumed to have still been the one in Ruffinshaw, was able to accommodate 70 people. On the evening of March 30th 1851 there had been 55 present.

This was the only religious census taken. It had shown that only a minority of people went to church and that half of those were Dissenters.

The Methodist Chapel in Effingham

The construction of a purpose-built Methodist Chapel in Effingham was begun in April 1854, and followed on from an indenture made on November 30th 1853. This recited in turn summary details of two preceding indentures, one made on July 20th 1853 and the other six years earlier on April 5th 1847. Neither of these two preceding indentures has been located and so their full contents are unknown: we have only their summaries as recited in the November 1853 indenture, a document which is in the safe-keeping of the Dorking & Horsham Methodist Circuit Archivist.

Indenture of April 5th 1847

The first party to this was widow Mrs Elizabeth Fish mentioned earlier. Its purpose was to convey a parcel of land (evidently being part of the south-western section of the plot 257 shown in the above Tithe Map) to the second party consisting of William Miller, a Dorking auctioneer, and William Tucker, a Gentleman. This is the plot on which the Chapel would in due course be built. Tucker may in 1847 have been occupying Mrs Fish’s property Vine Cottage in The Street: he was certainly living there four years later at the time of the 1851 Census. The indenture stated that Miller and Tucker would hold the land for her use until her forthcoming remarriage had been solemnized, after which they would instead hold it in trust for specified purposes, the nature of which we do not know. They would be able to dispose of it in her lifetime only with her consent, but after she had died they could dispose of it freely. Also, subject to her consent while she was still living, they could nominate and appoint future trustees in place of themselves. Mrs Fish was, in fact, due to marry the day after making this indenture, and so the intended trust would become operative from April 6th. On that day she married at St Lawrence Church a widowed farmer John Johnson. Tucker signed the marriage register as one of the three witnesses. Johnson was the third party to this indenture and featured there only for the purpose of affirming his consent to the transaction. Why that was considered necessary, prior to her marrying him, is unclear, but it may have been to preempt any post-marital disputes over Elizabeth’s rights or freedoms in respect of her estate.

Three years previously William Tucker had served with Elizabeth as co-executor of the Will of her husband Robert Fish (senior); in that Will he was described as “my good friend William Tucker of Loxwood in the Parish of Wisborough Green in the County of Sussex Gentleman“.

Indenture of July 20th 1853
The first party to this was William Tucker aforesaid. He wished to be discharged from the above trust settlement entered into in April 1847. The second party was his fellow trustee William Miller who wished to nominate and appoint Robert Fish (junior) in place of Tucker. The third party was Fish’s mother Elizabeth Johnson, giving her consent to this substitution. Fish was the fourth party. The fifth party was John Pontifex to whom the land was now conveyed, as an absolute sale, by the existing trustees Miller and Tucker, and to be held by Pontifex in trust for the use of Miller and new trustee Fish, maintaining the purposes (whatever they were) that had been established by the preceding indenture of 1847. The sixth party consisted of Miller and Fish for the purpose of this conveyance to Pontifex.

John Pontifex was most probably the solicitor of that name who had been born in about 1795-96 and articled as a solicitor’s clerk in 1811. In 1853 he was living at 5, St Andrew’s Court in Holborn, the same address where he had been in 1841. This seems to have been his address and residence for business purposes, although he appears also to have had a house in Greenwich where he was residing with his family at the time of the 1851 Census. His connection with affairs in Effingham is unknown and we can only presume that he had been a long-standing and trusted friend of the Fish family.

The summary of the position in July 1853 immediately after execution of the above deed of settlement is this: the land on which the Chapel would be built was owned by London solicitor John Pontifex, held in trust for the use of William Miller and Robert Fish (junior) for specified purposes and their actions in relation to these purposes were for the time being subject to the approval and consent of the latter’s mother Elizabeth. 

Indenture of November 30th 1853
Only fourth months later, another transaction was undertaken by this third indenture, to which there were four parties. The first of these consisted of the two trustees William Miller and Robert Fish (junior) whilst the second was Robert’s mother Elizabeth. The third party consisted of ten persons: John Corderoy, a merchant of Tooley Street, Southwark; Thomas Gurney, a gentleman of Brixton; John Coulson, a yeoman of Dorking; Henry Cole, carrier of Dorking; Samuel Beves, a watchmaker of Dorking; Amos Loxley, a yeoman of Little Bookham; Edward Cropley, a wheelwright of Little Bookham; Isaac Arrow, a cordwainer of Great Bookham; Richard Arrow, a cordwainer of Great Bookham; and William Tilley, a grocer of Effingham. The fourth party was Alexander Puddicombe, superintendant preacher of Dorking.

The purpose of this indenture was, through the direction and consent of Elizabeth, to discharge the trusteeship of Miller and Fish and establish the ten persons of the third party as new trustees. Additionally, the plot of land was also conveyed to those ten persons for the price of £15. It is not yet understood how this conveyance could have been made without also having John Pontifex as a named party acting as the vendor – it may be that the trust arrangements established in 1847 empowered the trustees to convey the land irrespective of who nominally held the freehold.

The indenture set in place a trust having new obligations, specifically that the new trustees should erect a Chapel or Meeting House on the land and should raise the money required for that. Appropriate provisions were made for future eventualities concerning mortgages, leases, resales and so on. The number of trustees would have to be maintained at ten. Constraints were imposed upon who the preachers at the new Chapel could be and upon what they could preach. Financial accounts would have to be presented to the quarterly Circuit meetings. Provisions were made for the eventuality of the Chapel ceasing to be a place of Methodist worship, in which case any surplus funds would be distributed at the direction of the appropriate circuit preacher. As the latter was currently Alexander Puddicombe, he was the fourth party to the indenture.

On March 7th 1854 the indenture was lodged by Puddicombe at the Enrollment Office of the Court of Chancery .

Use the upper button to view a complete transcription of the November 1853 Indenture.


Use the lower button to view scans of some parts of it (the entire document is too unwieldy to scan the main body of it).

With the new board of trustees in place, progress towards constructing the Chapel was rapid. Just five months afterwards the foundation stone was laid. The article opposite, which was published in The Sussex Advertiser and Sussex Gazette on April 25th 1854, states that the stone had been laid by Robert Fish on Friday 21st and that a celebration was then held for about a hundred guests at a location in Little Bookham.

Nearly fifty years later an article about Methodism in Surrey written by Rev John Telford was published by The Methodist Recorder on July 9th 1903. In it he asserted that the site for the Chapel had been “given” by Robert Fish and his mother but, as noted above, the precise legal import of the indentures and the trusts contained in them awaits clarification. Telford further states that:

The first meeting of the building committee was held at the house of Thomas Wells, Phoenix Farm. The Rev. Thomas Puddicombe entered heartily into the work, and furnished the ground plan for the chapel. The foundation-stone was laid by Mr. Fish on Good Friday, 1854, when a tea was held in Mr. Cropley’s workshop. The chapel cost about £300, and was opened by the Rev. C. Westlake on October 4, 1854.

Telford may have based this on what he could learn from elderly residents in Effingham. His reference to “Good Friday” was mistaken and the home of Thomas Wells was Phoenice (not “Phoenix”) Farm in Bookham. Mr Cropley was most probably Edward Cropley, one of the new trustees and a wheelwright by trade. In 1851 he had been living in March, Cambridgeshire and by 1861 was in Isleworth, Middlesex but he may have been in Effingham between these years. His brother William, a grocer and draper, certainly came to this area in that decade, living at Oaken Wood Cottages near Little Bookham Street. The shed in which the celebration took place in 1854 might have been William’s.

From the British Newspaper Archive : © British Library Board

Revds Alexander Puddicombe (at far left) and John Telford (click either to enlarge).

On September 29th Puddicombe completed a certificate for the General Register Office certifying that the new Chapel was to be a place of worship for Wesleyan Methodists. It was recorded at the GRO on the 30th.

The GRO certificate of September 1854 can be viewed here.

This concluded the process by which Effingham came to have its own Methodist Chapel, today referred to as the Methodist Church. The earliest known photograph of the building is that below, the owner of which stated that it was dated September 28th 1877.