Ringwood Meeting House

Meeting House Lane
December 7, 2024 8:00 pm

History

Ringwood meeting house was built in 1727, via a local group of presbyterian dissenters.

They were known as non-conformist, because they did not conform to the church of England’s articles of religion, as laid down in the book of common prayer they wished to worship God in their own way, the first minister of newly erected Ringwood meeting house was James Whittaker. He was the grandson of Alice Isles, the lady of Moyles Court just outside of Ringwood, who was executed following the Monmouth Rebellion in 1685.

During the 17th century, Presbyterian ministers had suffered great penalties for refusing to obey the act of uniformity. However, the Presbyterian cause remain very strong in Ringwood. The most influential members of the congregation came from families of wealthy tradesmen of Ringwood. They were clothiers Tanners brewers and General merchants. It is these people who purchase their own family pews in the chapel, the register of baptisms, which began in 1748 records frequently mentioned the families such as Kittier, Tilly, Fryer Gosse and veal.

The minister at the time was Reverend William Wright, who lived in the House next door to the meeting house now an inn. The burial registers exist only from 1815, but a few early gravestones from the burial ground at the front of the meeting House are retained under the gallery stairs.

The family box pews, which we now find so unusual were very common in England during the 18th century, but were removed from most churches and chapels during the Victorian time. Although the height of some of these pews may have been reduced seating, remains essentially in its 18th century form. The plain panelpanelled woodwork at the doors hinges being most of 1727. It may seem strange to us today that the pews are arranged in squares so that some people sat with their backs to the pulpit, but it did not seem to bother the 18 century congregation, the survival of these pews particularly the central pew table has gained the buildings. It’s grade 2 listing in recognition of its outstanding merit Although the pulpit is not the original one It would probably have been a large three decker It is kept in the original Central Place prominence from it. The minister would have read the Bible and preached his long sermon which often lasted hours he timed the sermons by the large act of parliament clock which hung on the side of the facing gallery. Sadly, this clock was stolen from the meeting house in 2002 A modern replica has been made to replace it The building appears to have undergone very little alterations since its erection. In 1727 This date can be seen higher up on a triangular pendant on the North front, the main ceiling is an arched barrel vault with side full supported by Oak Columns , raising up from the floor and carrying the Gallery fronts on its way up, the design shows influence of Ren who uses on a grand scale in many churches during the 18th century, the building was known as the upper or Great meeting house to distinguish it from the independents who broke away to build their own chapel known as Trinity United Church.

By the early 19th century, the Ministry appears to have become Unitarian and the building had become sometimes known as St Thomas Chapel by this time records show that hymns by Isaac Watts had become part of the service, although originally there would have been an unaccompanied singing of metrical psalms the meeting house is remarkable for its good acoustics.

The first organ was installed in 1843, as a request by one of the meeting house greatest supporters brewer William Clark, who established the Clarks almshouses in Ringwood. The present organ dates from 1860, although it was not installed into this chapel till 1933.

another of the meeting houses most devoted supporters during the 19th century was the Conway family they carried on the trade of tanning in Ringwood on a site now blynkbonnie carpark John Cogan Conway, the last surviving son of the family is commemorated by the Conway Hall erected 1925 by his wife flora, this hall, which joined the meeting house, was demolished in 1980, when the supermarket was built the tomb at the rear of the meeting house and the two wall parks inside and now Conway family memorials.

The Meeting House in Ringwood is now the only dissenting meeting house in Hampshire to survive from the period before 1800 in a virtually unaltered state.

Beneath the meeting House lie many burials of women, children and men there is a tomb of Mary within the floor with a headstone just outside the building is the Tomb of John Conway which has fencing around.

Paranormal

There are many spirits dwelling within this meeting house. Spirits of children have been heard running along the gallery upstairs. People feeling nauseous and feeling off kilter when entering the building. Slight heaviness can be felt, a light headed feeling.

Many years ago a seance was conducted at the meeting house and the 17th century table lifted off the ground to a fair height on its own I’m told by the events manager Ellie who was there at the time.

Join us on this paranormal investigation to find out who is dwelling in this meeting house, whether John Conway, or Elizabeth or William, George all the souls of the children buried beneath let’s try to discover why people feel sick and very unwell in this building so much so they’ve had to be driven home.

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