A Visit to Coleorton Methodist Chapel which changed my Life

I was informed by my partner one Sunday to come to Chapel. We had moved into the village of Coleorton in 1996. Dorina had been twice to please her mother and now it seemed I had to visit to please both of them, and was told in no uncertain terms to go and get ready. On parking the car in the Chapel car park I looked at this poor neglected house of worship; being an ex M.O.D. inspector my eyes were taking in leaking gutters and downpipes, drains blocked to overflowing and paths with holes you could break your ankle in. I was pushed into the foyer and introduced to one of the members who gave me a hymn book and said to me “When you go into the Chapel please don't let the door bang - it's the plaster you know.”

I stood with a puzzled look on my face but was pushed unceremoniously into the Chapel, sat in a central pew and looked round with my mouth open. I could see what she meant by “it's the plaster you know”. Now, I'm a well-built lady, but you could have got me between the wall and the plaster; how it was still attached I will never know. I was given a sharp dig in the ribs to pay attention.

When the organ came into full crescendo my eyes shot to the plaster expecting it to fall to the floor in 9-foot lengths; and as most people know, the Methodists have a good volume when singing, so by the end of the service my nerves were ragged.

Later, over dinner, I told Dorina and her Mum what needed doing to the place and was informed “Don't tell us - tell them, it will give you something to do." "No, I'm not doing that on my own; we can give them some advice, I don't mind that.” So we approached them after service the following week. The first question we asked was “How much money did they have to play with?” “£100" we were told. I looked at my partner with a defeated look. One member piped up “We could start on the plaster with that.” “NO, NO!” I said, “you need to start on the OUTSIDE and then maybe the inside - and we're talking thousands of pounds.”

They sat in the pews and said “Well that's that then…” so our only hope was to find a way of making money and to start getting quotes and favours from qualified friends. At the end of the meeting we were asked to become their Property Stewards. We accepted, not knowing it would take two years of our life. So from then we became “Miss Marian Walsh and Miss Dorina Morgan, Property Stewards".

To raise funds we held antique fairs once a month, art exhibitions, boot fairs, and the money started to come in quite quickly. We had the two turrets on the front of the Chapel re-leaded, all roof slates and covings inspected, guttering and downpipes mended or replaced and drains cleaned of debris. New steps were added to the vestry and handrails and paths restored. Of course this did cause upset within the congregation who thought the money should be spent on the inside. We had now run out of money, so we started selling plants outside the local Post office; that got them all involved and we made a lot of money. Now we could move into the Chapel.

The builder told us we'd need a lot of scaffolding. Several companies we rang didn't want the work and then I met the last one at the Chapel and he could see the state of the place. He quoted £4,000 for the floor to ceiling scaffolding. I said “I'm sorry, we can't afford that.” I felt defeated after having come so far, when he turned to me and said “My grand-parents and my parents came to this Chapel so I'll put up your scaffolding in their memory. Will tomorrow do for you?”. I was jumping for joy to pass on the good news that had the scaffolding “for nowt” as they say.

So we still needed money for the plastering and decorating and started holding ploughman’s lunches in our garden. The money poured in. It was hard work but everyone knew we were on the home straight.

While the Chapel was being re-plastered we decamped to the Old Chapel Sunday School next door. It was so good to see those sheets of plaster fall at long last. A father and son completed the decorating while the scaffolding was in place till they finished.

Work at the Chapel was now finished but everything was covered in dust. The congregation came together joyfully with all the cleaning resembling busy Hobbits. The Chapel became known as the best on the circuit.

Dorina and I went down when it was finished; it looked so new and different from the time I opened that door with the words ringing in my ears “It's the plaster you know”. I turned to Dorina and said “Next time you ask me to go with you to an old neglected building, you will find I've done a quick getaway!”

Marian Walsh
member of Coleorton Heritage Group
September 2022

Dorina Morgan was a member of the Coleorton 2000 committee.

More about Coleorton Methodist Chapels >>

Coleorton Methodist Church

The new Coleorton Primitive Methodist Church built in 1901

Inside Coleorton Methodist Church

Inside the Chapel and the organ.