John and Charles Wesley were born in Epworth, a village near Gainsborough, at the beginning of the 18th century. After starting the Methodist movement (which, incidentally, was not intended to be a ‘new' Church), John travelled the length and breadth of the country - usually on horseback and in all weathers. Many Church of England clergymen refused facilities for indoor meetings, and so people would gather in fields, on village greens and in market places in order to hear him preach. John Wesley visited Newark and Nottingham several times, and although there is no evidence of his having visited Winthorpe, it seems a possibility that he may have passed through on his way to or from Epworth. In his Journal, 3rd August 1759, he wrote "Thence (from Gainsborough) I rode to North Scarle, the last village in Lincolnshire, 10 miles short of Newark. Here a great multitude assembled from various parts, most of them wholly unacquainted with the ways of God; indeed to such a degree, that though I spake as plain as I could on the first principles of religion, yet it seemed very many understood me no more that if I was talking Greek." Perhaps this ‘great multitude' of little understanding included people from Winthorpe or Langford.
Some years later, however, he visited Newton-on-Trent. On 3rd July 1770 he wrote: "We rode through heavy rain to Newton-on-Trent, - the weather clearing up, I preached before the house to an earnest congregation. A people more loving, more artless or more a thirst for God I have seldom seen." Again inhabitants of Winthorpe may have travelled to be amongst this more favourable congregation.
For many years, any Methodists in Winthorpe and the other neighbouring villages would have to hold their meetings and services wherever they could. Outdoor meetings have always been a part of Methodism - in wet weather, services would perhaps be held in a barn, lent by a friendly farmer, and prayer meetings would be held in the homes of members. "Cottage meetings," too, have always been part of village Methodists.
White's Nottinghamshire Directory 1844, in speaking of Winthorpe, states "A neat Wesleyan Chapel was built in 1822." This cannot be the building in Chapel Yard, shown on the enclosure map of 1775, which is unlikely to have any connection with the Methodists. However, there is documentary evidence that a Methodist Chapel was built in 1849. A document dated March 15th, 1849, concerns a piece of land "in the occupation of George Harrison Gamble," bounded by Wrights Close and the Town Street of Winthorpe. This piece of land had passed to the said G.H. Gamble on the surrender of George Bellamy in 1818, and it was now to be given "for the use of the people called Methodists in the connexion established by the late Rev. John Wesley."
This piece of land was given, together with £50, by Mr. G.H. Gamble, and the chapel was erected in 1849, costing £150. The site is at the end of Mr. G. Appleby's garden and the entrance is on the drive leading to Rectory Farm. The local Methodists raised the extra £100, a lot of money in those days, possibly with the help of the Newark Methodists. The building was a plain rectangular one, nicely proportioned, and quite unadorned inside with pews for perhaps 50 people. One of the names connected with the opening of the Chapel is James Ward of Langford - grandfather of the present Frank Ward. The Ward family, has always been connected with, and in later years have been the chief supporters of the Winthorpe Methodist Church. The late Mr. Ward, of Langford and Hargon House, Winthorpe, has spoken of the days at the beginning of this century when the Chapel was full to the doors twice every Sunday, when entire families would go to the service, with their servants, too, if they had any.
Two other members of the Ward family who were great supporters of the Chapel were Mr. Ernest Tom Ward and Mrs. Annie Barlow (nee Ward), and two tablets were inscribed in their memory, inside the additions to the Chapel. These additions were built with money left by Mr. E.T. Ward - a Sunday school room and a kitchen. Both of these extra rooms were very necessary, as time passed. Between the two wars, when there was no television, and very little radio, people had to make their own entertainment, and the Methodist Chapel became very much a social centre in Winthorpe. Apart from the Sunday Services and the Sunday school, there were meetings of various kinds on most evenings in the week. Wesley Guild, Men's meeting, Fellowship, Womens' meeting, Prayer and Bible Study, all drew in many members, and musical evenings, too, were very often held.
With the advent of radio and later T.V., this kind of gathering lost its popularity, and the Methodist Chapel lost its impetus, as did most religious gatherings. A special Centenary Service was held, of course, and there have been many occasions since, when the Chapel has been full of people. Unfortunately, although Winthorpe itself grew, and other Methodists came to live here, they were mainly connected with Churches in Newark, and having cars, they were able to travel into Newark instead of joining the few remaining Winthorpe and Langford Methodists.
The need for extensive repairs to the chapel, which cost could not be met by the local members, and the fact that the local members were so few and would be able to travel to larger chapels to worship, caused the closure and sale of the Winthorpe Methodist Church. The property now belongs to Mr. G. Appleby.
Mrs. M. Suter. 1971.
R.F. Sketchley, writing in 1859 about Newark and the neighbourhood, suggests in connection with Winthorpe that the village may have had early associations with dissent :-
"The family of Winthrops came anciently from Northumberland. Afterwards it settled in a village not far from Newark from whence they went to London. ‘When the persecution of good man was in England they departed to America.' John Winthrop was Governor of Massachusetts Bay 1630 and other members of the family were distinguished men."
Mr. Sketchley does not give his source for this suggestion, and parish church records do not go back so far.