1700 to 1925
Transcription from Hand written account
A precious handwritten account by an unnamed author has come to light, detailing the historic history of a group of Christians locally known as the Meetingers at Cam, and how they worshipped by candlelight around 1777. It records changes to the building as it became necessary for maintenance, or for upgrading to meet new developments of the vision of reaching out to the local community. Also fascinating information of the congregation paying pew rent to be certain of seats in the chapel, to enable them to hear the inspired preaching of the day. The Transcription from this hand written account of the twelve fragile pages covers the era of 1700 to 1925 , known then as The Old Meeting House. changed during the twentieth century to Cam Congregational Church.
The old Meeting House of protestant dissenters known locally as Meetingers at Cam, Glos is not now a particularly picturesque building. Built some time about the year 1700 one might expect it to be of a design more characteristic of that period, probably its original appearance was; its present plainness being the result of alterations and renovations undertaken in the years 1818-19. Unfortunately, as far as is known no drawings or sketch of the early appearance is in existence but it is possible to see some idea of what it looked like previous to that date by a close examination both of the present building and of various items of incidental expenditure entered in the old account books. Looking first at the outside, the main walls appear to be on the original foundations and show but little signs of alteration.
There is an old saying “walls have ears”; may we for a moment presume they have tongues also, some certainly speak in sign language.
Look at the front (north) wall, the portion under the most easterly of the lower windows shows unmistakably signs of being filled in from floor level up to the window sill, giving reason to assume that was the original main doorway to the body of the building. Similarly the present doorway shows signs of having been cut away from window sill level to the ground floor, the galleries being reached by means of a flight of stone steps outside the building at the western end. One of the oldest inhabitants of Upper Cam told me that while he himself had no recollection of these steps his parents had told him of them. A piece of timber which may possibly have been the lintel of the entrance door to the gallery is still to be seen.
Further evidence that the entrances were as indicated is found by an entry Jan 1st 1790 “for pitching stone and making a causeway though the meeting yard to the gallery stairs”, a proceeding quite unnecessary had the old main doorway been where
it now is close to the western end and the gallery stairs. The boundary wall had only been built the previous year and it is quite safe to assume the “gallery seaters” had been taking the most direct way to the stairs hence the need for making a path across what was then either turf or cultivated ground. There are several items for manure and digging the meeting yard, later mowing it, digging and planting shrubs. There is no evidence when first used for burials except early dates on old tombstones.
Instead of the present plain roof there must have been a single or double gable frontage. To prove this there are several items of payments for repairing the gutters between the roofs of the meeting house. Nov 6th 1783 paid Mr Tilton 8/11 and again Nov 1803. “Mr Underwood 3/- repairs to the lead gutters between the roofs of the meeting house.”
As there was then on other building adjoining the chapel up to roof level it is safe to assume this
gutter must have been between gable roofs of the main building. A close study of the expenditure on windows is interesting. There are several items for repairing and new leading, indicating small panes held in place by strips of lead.
In 1776 there is an item “paid to Humphrey Humphreys four guineas” for among other things, painting 10 framed windows @ 1/5 each and 8 two-light windows @ 7d each. In the present building there are 17 large windows, 2 of which were covered up when the classrooms were built. 6 at the back or south side, 5 at the front or north side 4 on the western end.
In the original building there were 10 large windows, probable 5 in front as now, one being where the present doorway is and 5 at the back, 3 at gallery level and 2 below the pulpit being in the place of the present one. The 8 two-light windows were evidently in the east and west walls, 4 in each.
In the south wall, between two of the present windows is clearly shown the
outline of a former small doorway which could have given direct access to the pulpit, whether ever so used cannot be ascertained.
Where the original vestry was situated there is no indication. The old vestry is stated to have been built in 1806. If this is true that the land on which it stood was conveyed to the trusties in that year but explicitly dated “with the new vestry and stable built thereon”, evidently granted before possession of the land was given. If this was for the new vestry there must have been some place used for a vestry for in 1778 twenty-eight years previous to the acquisition of the land is an item for repairing the fireplace in the vestry and in 1782 putting up the grate in the vestry. 1794 putting up the fire grate in the vestry anew.
So much for the outside, now let us look inside. The floor was most certainly paved or flagged. Evidence of this is given by an entry 1775 “paid for a large paddle for cleaning the meeting house”, also numerous items for
brushes and mops which would only be required on the stone or paved floor.
As we enter by the main door at the eastern end under the long gallery, we see the pulpit standing where the centre lower window in the south wall now is.
There would be no gallery on that side. The lone or front gallery facing the pulpit with a shorter gallery on the east and west walls. Rev Joseph Twemlow built the little chapel in Water Street, Dursley in 1715 for the express purpose, apart from it’s use as a school, for the minister of Cam Meeting to occasionally repeat his sermons in. He most likely built it after the pattern of Cam Meeting. At any rate, that is the plan of the Water Street building.
The seating accommodation was varied, there were some 43 numbered pews, probably grouped near the pulpit, the remaining space and the gallery supplied with benches. In 1776 there are several items of repayments of money lent by various persons for “repairing the pews” and in 1777, items for making 11 benches.
That the galleries were in the
manner described is further suggested by the lighting arrangement. The main body of the meeting house was lit by a central chandelier. Sept 26 1777 paid Mr Davies for hanging the chandelier and making a stepladder probably to reach to light the candles. 1791 a/c for sand and oil for cleaning the chandelier 3s. Also in 1777 paid Mr Houlson as follows
2 Two lights sconces
1 Four light sconces
8 single arm brackets
1 Brass candlestick with two branches for the pulpit
Paid for to hang the scones in the galleries. Note: 3 scones one for each gallery. The four lights for the front of long gallery, the two smaller ones for the side galleries. There is an old memorandum book beautifully written, showing that from March 25th 1791 to March 25th 1792 there were 30 people paying seat rent in the front of the long gallery, 10 in second and 13 in third. The pews in the body of the chapel, 40 of which seemed to have been occupied, some by representatives of two or more families. It is interesting
to note the rent of the seating in the front gallery was 1 shilling per quarter, 2nd gallery 9d and 3rd 6d. A rough estimate of the seating taken would mean some 159 – 200 congregation. Numerous accounts of candles occur until 1782 when for 15 years very few were bought, possibly evening services were discontinued until 1796 when items for coal and candles once again became frequent.
Heating was provided by stove from 1772 and the periodic entries for coal and chips, usually horse loads of coal, about 2cwt @ “2/- each load carried by pack horse in paniers across the horse’s back, a common method of carrying goods in olden times when roads were little more than dirt tracks.
Such then, one may assume, was the appearance of the old Meeting House previous to 1818.
The Rev John Griffiths became pastor in 1817 and immediately started to raise money for altering and renovating the building, touring a large part of Gloucestershire and Somerset begging “for the cause of Cam.”
His efforts resulting in some
£600 being raised and extensive alterations were undertaken.
The outside stairs to the galleries was removed, the galleries themselves taken down and rebuilt. the small windows taken out and all built to the same pattern, the roof was taken off and built in to present form, tiled with Cotswold stone tiles which had most likely been used on the original roof. The pulpit removed from the south wall to the east.
The Rev T. Griffiths terminated his pastorate in 1838 and went over to the Established Church and remained “a priest within her pale till the end of his life”. It is quite possible that his leanings in that direction influenced him in having the pulpit moved to the east, the usual position in all Established Churches.
The renovated chapel was re-opened on June 10th 1818 when Rev Isaac Thorpe preached. Collections taken at this service amounted to £25.15.3 from which Mr Thorpe received £5.5.3 for preaching 9/- traveling expanses and 36/- entertainment.
Little seems to have been done -
probable unnecessary until 1823 when there is an item “Paid” Mr Wilkins for whitening and cleaning inside and outside of Cam meeting £3. Two years later Mr Hancock was paid £15 for painting Cam Meeting, mending sash in vestry 1/0 ½ .
The first schoolroom was built in 1859, there being some 120 to 140 scholars.
In 1866 probably owing to the alteration in the style of the roof it was found necessary to pin the end walls of the chapel together to keep them from spreading apart. “Paid Mr Bloodworth for rods to secure the end walls together £2.8.6.
Further alterations were made in 1881; all the old box pews were taken out and the present seating arrangement installed. This is just within my memory. Unfortunately I have been unable to find the slightest mention of this in any a/c book of that date or of the cost.
I was not sure in what year this work was done although I remember calling in the Chapel with Mr Trotman on our way home
From school and seeing the men at work until I found in an old diary kept by my father “Sunday June 1881 service at Cam Institute.” I remember very well the minister Mr Williams on the platform, Mrs L Trotman at the piano with the choir sitting grouped around him. There may have been special opening services but I have no record or recollections of them.
The next major alterations was the addition of an upstairs floor to the schoolroom, giving space for 7 classrooms. This was though necessary because the number of scholars could not be dealt with satisfactorily in the limited accommodation of the old schoolroom. This was done in 1895 the first year of Rev David Truss ministry here. Cam Meeting was then a live and activity.
Morning school 9.30 to 10.30 the scholars then filing into the chapel for morning service 10.30, to take their places, either with parents or into the galleries, boys one side girls the other.
Afternoon school 2.30 to 3.45. Evening service 6 o’clock.
Prayer meeting at Cottage at Farfield: Wednesday 7pm, Thursday 7pm
The minister walked from Lower Cam to Farfield was no light undertaking. My will may say “O tempora! o mores”.
During the pastorate of Rev Owen Griffiths1907 to 1919 the porch to the schoolroom door was built by Mrs S.J. Trotman who also presented the Church with the individual Communion set now in use.
In 1925 the roof of the chapel was found to be unsatisfactory and the whole of the old roof consisting of the original Cotswold Stone tiles was removed and replaced with Roman Tiles.
Cam Congregational Church was renamed 3C Community Church in 2008: