The following article was written some years ago by Margaret Richardson.
Founding of Chrishall Methodist Chapel
The church was started on the 5th May 1838 by two men from Upwell in Norfolk who founded the Saffron Walden Methodist Circuit. The church met in what is now Camps Cottage in Broad Green and soon expanded into an adjoining barn; two women being the leaders at this time. As numbers grew there was a need for a dedicated building and eventually some land was purchased in Crawley End and the chapel built in 1862. This was extended in 1871. Later, an adjoining piece of land was acquired for the Methodist Hall and what is now the car park. Better kitchen and other facilities have been added over the years and now the premises are used regularly by several village groups. The first burials took place in 1916 and although marriages were not officiated there for a number of years, several ceremonies are conducted each year now. The Chapel has lists of all members from 1842 and registers from about the same time. ~ Notes by Mrs Maggie Richardson.
The Walk for Jesus
On 5th May, 1838, two Methodist preachers came walking and singing through Chrishall. They drew a large group of people and formed the first House Church in what is now named Camps Cottage, Broad Green. That walk has led to the present Methodist church through use of the Barn at Broad Green until the church building could be afforded. New evidence has recently come to light that it did not stop there. The walk went on to Australia. It seems that a family called Pitches lived in Camps Cottage and opened it for the church services. They then decided in that period of serious agricultural depression, to go to Australia. The membership of the church was growing fast and they needed bigger premises and moved to the barn owned by Chapman and Anne Woods. Anne became the second female leader of the church at that time.
In turn Chapman and Anne left for Australia. There they met up with a family called Pitches and here the proof is needed and started a Methodist Church there. A long way to go for a church “planting” you may think!
To celebrate this move the members of the church and many friends walked, singing from Broad Green to the present building to celebrate our 150th anniversary in 1988. So the Walk for Jesus goes on. If anyone can add to my knowledge of this story I would be very grateful. Were they the same Pitches who lived at Broad Green? Did letters sent by them encourage others from the village to emigrate? Our records show that several families left for Australia during this period. Margaret Richardson.
Due to declining numbers the chapel was closed in 2014 and has been purchased by the village where it now has a new life providing a beautiful hall and community space (see the website here).
Spreading the word
Several Chrishall inhabitants have made the journey to a new life in Australia over the years – chapel members among them. Ken Thompson has very kindly sent in the following information:
I can confirm that both Mary Pitches and Anne Woods were leaders of the South Essendon Methodist Church, Melbourne, Victoria, formerly Primitive. As a result of my interest in Family and Church History I have collected a great deal of information on the Pitches and Woods families.
The following is from a “Centenary Celebrations 1849-1948”
“Mr and Mrs Joseph Pitches with their family arrived (in Melbourne) on the 7th January 1849. They settled in Essendon, and Divine worship was commenced in their home. A society Class was formed and regular services conducted on the arrival of the first minister the Rev John Ride in 1850.
In 1854 Mr and Mrs Woods came to Essendon and joined the Society”
Descendants of the Pitches and Woods continued to multiply and were church and community leaders for many years. Mary Pitches died 17 July 1858, Anne Woods died 2 November 1877.
When John and Peter, sons of the Pitches, arrived in Essendon they each opened a hotel and one is still operating. At times Joseph helped in the bar especially in the evening. This surprises some people today but in the 1850’s not all Methodist were prohibitionists. I assume they were related to James Pitches a publican of the Red Cow and learnt the trade from him. (Note I have not yet been able to find that connection.)
Y: 1838 C: 19th century