Newport, Shropshire

Newport was a small Shropshire market town in the late 18th century, set on one of the roads from Watling Street to Whitchurch and the Northwest and known for its Grammar School. A Wesleyan society had begun in Newport in 1797. In the Shrewsbury Circuit in 1813, they had services (with Lilleshall) fortnightly at 2-30 pm and 6-00 pm. They were then served in the alternate weeks by preachers from the Stafford Circuit, an arrangement which only ceased in 1823. By 1824 the Wellington Circuit plan implies a chapel, which was probably a hired room. The first known chapel was in the main street to the south of the market area in 1829, being converted from a former small theatre. It still stands as a shop. In the 1851 Religious Census this had 50 free sittings and 100 others, but only 33 attended in the morning and 50 in the evening, though they claimed an average of 80. The second chapel was built nearby in Avenue Road for £1,500 in 1876, the architects being Bidlake and Fleming. The Newport Society with its 26 members left the Wellington Circuit when the Ketley Bank and Shifnal Circuit was formed from it in 1869. The society was not strong, since the Congregationalists remained the strongest Nonconformist church in Newport into the 20th century, producing a leader such as Charles Silvester Horne, whose father was minister in Newport for most of the second half of the 19th century.

The Primitive Methodists became strong in the 1820s in villages near Newport and had a society here by 1827 when a Local Preacher, Mrs Jones, was the one who delivered the post to Edgmond. By 1830 the Wrockwardine Wood Circuit had a society in Newport which built a small chapel in Stafford Street called 'Ebenezer' at a cost of £200 with seats for 130 (60 of them rented). This was a small society, reporting only 40 hearers in the evening of the 1851 Census and only 7 members in 1860. They built their second chapel in Wellington Road in 1866 and reported then 50 hearers. The rural societies, including Newport, formed in the 1890s a new Edgmond circuit based on the villages close to Newport in the west, where there was a manse and a graveyard.

In the 20th century Newport Methodists anticipated Methodist Union. From 1924 the Newport PMs joined with the WMs at the Avenue Road chapel. They paid their last quarterage to the Edgmond Circuit in 1926, and sold their chapel to the Masons for £90 in 1931. In 1934 the united society left the ex-WM Ketley Bank Circuit and went into the ex-PM Edgmond Circuit, renamed Newport Circuit, and in 1942 the manse was moved from Edgmond to Newport. The circuit rejoined the Wellington Circuit in 1951. Methodist Union led to growth, following the building of new houses in the town, which became a desirable dormitory for the West Midlands and eventually for neighbouring Telford. 36 members in 1936 grew through 48 in 1942 to a peak of 124 in 1983.

In the 1990s dissatisfaction with the Avenue Road premises led the Methodists to come to a agreement with the local URC, the somewhat less strong descendants of the Congregational church. This led to a LEP in 2000, which agreed to sell Avenue Road and to occupy and improve the URC buildings in Wellington Road. These, now modernised and improved to be more open to passers-by, provide a meeting place for a 21st century URC/Methodist society.

Entry written by: JHL
Category: Place
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