When the Rev’d Thomas Hunt, Vicar of Badsey and Wickhamford from 1852 until 1887, answered a questionnaire sent to him by Christchurch, Oxford in 1868, he made some interesting comments about Wickhamford. He said that the villagers were poor churchgoers and that “a cottage holds an evening service for Wesleyans”.
The Worcestershire Chronicle of 27th July 1864, reported on a tea meeting, the previous Thursday, at Mr Smith's Wickhamford Mill. About 120 people attended a Wesleyan gathering to raise money for the Circuit funds. The meeting was addressed by Rev'd H. Laughter and Rev'd Sharp. It is unlikely that the Mill would have been referred to by Rev'd Hunt as "a cottage", so more investigation was followed.
The Eureka Partnership has published two small booklets on the Evesham Methodist Circuit and a few references to Wickhamford can be found. This may make it possible to identify the Methodists who lived in the village and, perhaps, where they held their services. One booklet deals with Methodist baptisms in the Evesham area from 1813 to 1879 and it contains two references to families in Wickhamford. The second booklet covers the period of 1880 to 1915 for baptisms and mentions one more family.
On 16th April 1839 Mary Ann Hall was baptised in a Wesleyan-Methodist Chapel. She was the 5-week-old daughter of Thomas and Mary Hall. According to the 1841 census, they lived in what is now Robin Cottage, Manor Road, Wickhamford. At that time, Thomas Hall was a labourer, aged ‘25’ and Mary was aged ‘35’ (ages were rounded to the nearest 5 years in that census). Apart from young Mary, they had a son, William, who, although only aged 8, was employed as a silk throwster, a cottage industry.
By 1851, the family were living in a cottage on the site now occupied by 52 & 54 Manor Road. Mary Ann was 12 and her parents, Thomas and Mary were 36 and 45 respectively. Ten years later, Mary Ann Hall was back at Robin Cottage, keeping house for the elderly occupant, 89-year-old Elizabeth Cook. Her parents were still at the same address as in 1851, but her mother was recorded as an invalid.
For the 1871 census, the Hall family were re-united in their long-term home, with Mary Ann now aged 31 but unmarried and working as a gloveress. Therefore, the old cottage on the site of 52 & 54 Manor Road, could well be the place mentioned by Rev’d Hunt in 1868 as one where the Methodists worshiped in the evening.
Another baptism recorded in the Methodist records is that of John Newbury, son of Edward and Sarah Newbury of Wickhamford. John was 4 weeks and 6 days old when he was baptised on 13th June 1861. In the census of that year, the Halls were living in a cottage where 38 Manor Road now stands. The census took place on the night of 7th April, and Edward and Sarah were recorded as having a 2-year-old daughter, Elizabeth, but there is no mention of baby John. There is no record of his death, so he may have been living with relatives. This family had moved away from Wickhamford by the time of the 1871 census, but may have still been in the village in 1868. Their cottage cannot be ruled out as the place where the Methodists worshiped, but it is less likely.
There are no further references to Wickhamford in Methodist records until Celia Mary Bullock was baptised, at a private house, on 24th September 1889. She had been born on 29th June, the daughter of Frederick William and Lucy Amelia Bullock, who lived at Longdon Villa (now Oxley House), on Longdon Hill.
The records for the 1891 census show that Frederick Bullock was a market gardener and that, apart from Celia, he had a son, William Edmund, aged 3. Frederick lived in the village in 1881, when he was unmarried and he had been born in Quedgley, Gloucestershire. The records for this family would rule them out as the hosts for the 1868 evening services.
Later Methodist connections
Benjamin Carter (1842-1926) came from Somerset to farm at The Farm, Wickhamford (now Orchard Court, Longdon Hill) by the time of the 1891 census. He was active in the local Wesleyan community and was involved in fund-raising for the building of the Wesleyan Church at the lower end of Bridge Street, Evesham. As part of this effort, he held a large garden party his farm on 16th June 1909.
Benjamin Carter’s wife, Emily Ann, is mentioned in the Eureka Partnership booklet as being a witness at two weddings, in 1905 and 1907, at the Wesleyan Methodist Chapel, Evesham. On 21st September 1905 Roger Louis George Van der Beken married Benjamin and Emily Carter's daughter, Jane Tilly Carter. On 24th July 1907, Arthur Pearce married Una Ebborn, aged 21, a spinster of Lower Farm, Murcot, a daughter of William Ebborn, a farm bailiff. Emily was recorded in both cases in the style of the time as ‘Mrs B. Carter’.
Tom Locke, November 2023