There were no fewer than thirteen chapels built in Bitton Parish in the nineteenth century. Some of them still survive and support congregations.
Location of Chapels in the Nineteenth Century
1: St Barnabas, Warmley, 1821
2: St Mary’s, Bitton, C11th
3: Christ Church, Hanham 1842
4. St. George Church, Hanham Abbots, C14th
5. St. Anne’s Oldland , 1830
Survey of places of Worship – kindly provided by David Noble
Chapels/ Non-Conformist Churches
A: Warmley Congregational Church, 1907 (founded 1845)
B: Bridgeyate Methodist Church, 1810
C: Warmley Tower Methodist Church, 1858
D: Roman Catholic Church (Wesleyan Methodists), 1833
E: Independent Methodist Church, 1899
F: North Common Methodist Church, 1879
G: Salem, 1871
H: Cadbury Heath Pentecostal Church, 1963
I: Cloverlea Road, c.1906
J: Oldland Gospel Hall, 1927
K: Oldland Common Methodist Church, 1871
L: Methodist Chapel, c.1900
M: Oldland Common United Reformed Church, 1811
N: Longwell Green Mission, 1904
O: Longwell Green Free Methodist Church, 1856
P: Longwell Green Methodist Church c.1872
Q: Bitton Methodist Church, 1859
R: Bitton Wesleyan Chapel, 1834
S: Upton Cheney United Reformed Church, 1834
T: Swineford United Reformed Church, c.1906
The Tabernacle Congregational Church (United Reformed
Known by many local worshippers in the 1950’s as ‘The Tabernacle’, this church was built in 1811. The spiritual work surrounding this church originally began in a small cottage in the High Street in 1808, but in 1811 the cottage became inadequate and the ‘Old Chapel’ was erected with the help of the Bristol Itinerant Society. Twenty years later, in1831, the chapel was enlarged and in 1841 the Reverend J.Woods was appointed as its first Pastor. In 1860 it was found necessary to rebuild the Chapel at a cost of £400. Still very much an active fellowship.
Unity Oldland Methodist Church
Oldland Methodist Church (Now Unity Oldland Methodist) situated in West Street was built in 1871 and registered for worship two years later as a Primitive Methodist Chapel. The original stones for the building came from the quarry in Oldland Bottom. Still very much an active fellowship today.
Oldland Gospel Hall
The approach road into Oldland Common from the main A420 Bristol to Chippenham Road, brings motorist, via Bridgeyate Common along the Bath Road and into the north end of the village. On the left side of the road, just before the bend, stands what was once was the or ‘The Mission Hall’ as it was known many years ago. The timber and asbestos building was erected in1926 as a Brethren Testimony and remained so right up to its closure in 1973.
The Christian Brethren Meeting Room, Cloverlea Road
Building commenced in 1902, but it wasn’t until a little while later, in 1906, that a group of Christian Brethren first met in their new building in Cloverlea Road. This road to some elderly residence, until recent years, was still known as Gipsy Lane. Sadly, on the 29th July 1973 the building closed its doors as a place of worship and was eventually sold, while the few remaining members joined other local Brethren meetings. As indicated that when the above photograph was taken the building was derelict.
The ‘Other’ Church – Methodist Chapel in West Street
A small ‘Methodist Chapel’ build during the late 18th and early 19th centuries, not too far away from the Unity Methodist is today. Very little is known about the activities but the building, which held about 30 people, had a balcony and windows placed high up the walls. It is still in existence and adjoins the property of ‘Rose Cottage’ in West Street, almost opposite the Village Hall. The enchanting ‘Rose Cottage’, built in 1780, was the birth place of Professor Sir Bernard Lovell who was very closely associated with Oldland.
No visitor to the village of Bitton should miss the opportunity of visiting St. Mary’s Church and its’ surrounds. Church Road and Church Lane are without doubt Bitton’s pathway into history. St. Mary’s Church dates back to at least the Norman period, with some evidence of Roman and earlier buildings on the site. The North Lady Chapel, named St. Catherine, dates from1299 and was erected by Thomas de Button (or Bitton), Bishop of Exeter. A tower and chancel to the West was built in 1377. For further details please see the page St Mary’s
The Wesleyan Chapel, Bitton
Bitton used to have two Methodist Churches. The Wesleyan Chapel, built in 1834 is no longer in existence. It was situated in the High Street where Marley Automotive Components and later Magna (Intier) used to be. The other church was ‘The United Methodist Free Church’ and later the ‘Bitton Methodist Church’ in Mill Lane. This Church was a very active fellowship until its closure in 2004 and served the community loyally since it was built in 1859.
Photographed in the 1930’s it closed as a place of worship and was later demolished in the middle of the 20th Century. The only reminder of where the old Wesleyan Chapel stood is the stone indicating its name and when it was built.
The United Methodist Free Church Later Bitton Methodist Church
The Church situated in Mill Lane, Bitton remained a very active fellowship until its closure in the early 21st Century (2004)
North Common Methodist (Later Unity Methodist Church) / Brethren Salem
North Common Methodist Church, originally known as North Common Primitive Methodist Church (later North Common Unity Methodist Church). The church opened in 1879 and remained a very active fellowship until its closure in the early 21st Century (2004).Two Stalwarts of the Church, Mrs Edith Lewis and Mr Alfred Noble, both served over 80 years at the Church and in the mid 1980’s the Parish Council acknowledged their long service to ‘The Little Chapel’ naming new roads in the village after them, Lewis Close and Noble Avenue respectively.
John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, in his journal for the 13th October 1761, states, “ I preached at Newgate, at Kingswood in the afternoon, and in the evening outside at North Common. Hers a people had sprung up, as it were ‘out of the earth’ most of them employed in the neighbouring brass works. We took a view of these the next day, and one thing I learned here, the propriety of that expression from the Bible, Revelation Chapter 1 verse 15 “His feet were as a fine brass, burning in a furnace. The brightness of this cannot easily be conceived. I have seen nothing like it but clear white lightning”. Perhaps this indicates that John Wesley stayed overnight in North Common, probably with a local family.
The North Common Brethren Salem Church
The other church in North Common was located in Cann Lane and this was The North Common Brethren Salem Church. It was built and opened as a place of worship in 1871. The exact date of the closure of this Church is not known, but it is believed to be around the 1930’s that the last services were held there. It is known that in the late 1930’s early 1940’s that some elderly residents today remember playing there as children in the derelict premises. It was also used later in the 1950’s to garage the ‘Gospel Mobile Unit Van’ correctly named The ‘Evangelistic Mobile Unit’ which toured the district regularly which was organised by the Brethren members of the Oldland Gospel Hall. Sadly, there are no photographs available of this church, but its actual location was about half way down the lane on the right hand side as you turned into it from the Bath Road. Today it is a private residence.
Upton Cheyney United Reformed Church
Formerly Upton Cheyney Independent Chapel, part of the Congregational Church , located in Wick Lane, Upton Cheyney, now the Upton Cheyney United Reformed Church, was built in 1834.
Prior to the church being built, a worshipping community in Upton Cheyney was established at the time of the Wesleyan Revival which thrived in Kingswood and Hanham in the late 1700’s. Like most of the nearby areas, local folk gathered to study the Bible in cottages with regular visits from various evangelical preachers.
The Chapel which was part of the Congregational Church was built in 1834, 15 years later in 1849 the Chapels Schoolhouse was opened. Ever since the opening, members have been serving this church faithfully with regular worship and activities. In 2011 the church members at the time voted to close the chapel due to low attendances, but this bought a flurry of interest from the village and a desire to help the church and the community to re-connect. The URC Synod agreed a reprieve to test the viability of this ‘church and community’ experiment and the church today continues to become established.
The Congregational Chapel in Swineford
The Congregational Chapel in Swineford opened its doors to public worship just at the turn of the 20th Century. It membership consisted of residents from both Swineford and Bitton and It is believed that it closed in the late 1950’s early 60’s. As at 2021 it is used as a pre-school nursery.