The Ling family’s association with North Walsham Methodist Church
(an account by David Ling)
My grandfather, Frederick Ling was born in Aspley Green, Bedfordshire on 11 February 1872 the son of William & Susan Ling (nee Green) and married 2 August 1862 in East London. Died 12 June 1880 in Bedfordshire. He moved back to Norfolk with his father and sister on the death of his wife. William re-married Sarah Ann Green in Holt Parish Church on Easter Day 1884. She died in Holt on 23 October 1884. They had a son Walter 18 October 1884. This must have been devastating for my great grandfather to have lost his second wife within a year marrying and just 5 days after the birth on their son.
Frederick married Mabel Robins at Roughton Parish Church on 14 December 1894 they had been part of the Primitive Methodist Church at Aldborough and Roughton . Mabel was the daughter of Joseph William & Ann (Nee Smith) Mabel was born on 6 November 1872 in Aldborough. Her father was the local butcher. They went to live in Roughton were three of their children were born. Frank Robins was born on 17 December 1897, Reginald Frederick on 5 July 1899, Herbert on 16 October 1901 they then moved to Aylsham were their daughter Ellen Gertrude was born on 21 July 1908. Both Frank and Herbert were baptised at the now closed Primitive Methodist Chapel at Roughton 22 February 1898 and 12 November 1901 respectively.
Frederick and Mabel moved to North Walsham in 1910 and in the 1911 census they are recorded as living at Hagg Farm, North Walsham, an isolated farm about 2 miles on the outskirts of the town with their family and a nephew. Fred was the Farm Bailiff for his uncle Harry Bloom who also had a butcher’s shop in North Walsham.
This began the Ling association with Methodist (then Primitive Chapel) Church in North Walsham which spans five generations.
Frank saw war service during World War 1 and was wounded in Germany, married at the church on 9 May 1923 Olive Mary Trivett. They had two children both baptised in North Walsham. He later became a chauffeur to a local doctor and eventually Park Keeper for North Walsham UDC in 1946. They had two children George and Doris
Reginald spent some years in Canada and on his return to Norfolk married Rosa Mildred Scarff at North Walsham on 2 November 1933. He was Head Gardner for Major Batt of Gresham Hall. They had one son, John
Herbert lived at home until his marriage to Beatrice Ellen Baker one of 7 children of Alfred and Charlotte Baker of Lessingham and Sutton. Married at Lessingham Methodist Chapel on 20 May 1933, he worked with his father at Hagg Farm and various other farmers (Tom Youngs and “Cockey” Watts) until he became joined his brother, Frank, as assistant Park Keeper at the Memorial Park in North Walsham. They had two sons David & Keith.
Ellen trained as a nurse on Woodbridge, Suffolk and then to Selley Oak, Birmingham. She went on to become a Missionary with the Methodist Church in China from 1933-1943. She married Stephen Ward on 14 February 1955 at The Methodist Chapel Buildings, Camelford, Cornwall.
Both Herbert and Beattie were active members of the church. Herbert was for many years “chapel keeper” responsible for lighting the fires for midweek meetings and lighting the coke boiler that heated the church and hall at weekends. He was a trustee and sidesman and above all he prepared the table for Holy Communion, a job he took very seriously and in which he took great pride.
Beattie had many roles, Sunday school teacher and secretary, member of the Women’s Own and the Christian Endeavour and class leader. She was also involved in the Temperance movement being an active member of the British Women’s Total Abstinence Temperance Movement and little White Ribboners. When a Public House was proposed on the newly built Millfield Estate she fought, almost single handed against the proposal, when to court and one the case!
David married Linda Eade in September 1963 at North Walsham Methodist Church and Keith married Susan Boagey in Battersea Parish Church. Keith and Susan have two children, Jane & Matthew and David & Linda have three children Kevin, Christopher and Sarah. David & Keith were baptised in the Methodist Church as were their children.
Early memories of church life.
The church was a Primitive Methodist chapel which was joined by the Wesleyans at Methodist Union in 1933/34. Being a Primitive tradition many of the local preachers were from that tradition. Most were labourers, small farmers and village shop keepers.
Outstanding were characters like Dan Mount, a blacksmith - sermon quote “Income tax - I thank the Lord my earn enough to pay tax!” Jimmy Culley, cow man from Skeyton “when I sit on my stool to milk my cows I can see the tip of the spire on Norwich Cathedral”; John Hill a small farmer from Westwick who on Easter Day once said –“I’m sorry friends I haven’t got a Easter Message” (he did not even have an Easter hymn!). There are many others the Hicks Bros from Trunch, Arthur Amis, a cow man who became agent for two Methodist Labour members of Parliament (Edwin Gooch and Bert Hazell). Arthur’s memorial window in Trunch Methodist shows amongst other symbols a cow and Labour Party logo, Frank Ling – the “Bishop” of Paston because he collected the chapel cottages tenant’s rents every week.. There were others from the Wesleyan tradition of whom two that I remember Wilfred Morris, Surveyor to North Walsham UDC and Miss Moon one of the first women to be awarded a BA.
Worship was a traditional with little congregational participation other than the usual Amen! and “that’s right brother” and other murmurs of approval during the sermons. The minister would preach about once a month and Holy Communion was administered once or twice a quarter, The Communion was never part of the main service and “tagged on” at the end of worship. At least half the congregation would leave and those who remained changed seats. This enabled the stewards to pass freely with everyone who remained sitting in alternative seats. Elements were always served by stewards and we never went to the communion rail other than for an “altar call” Children did not received Communion and what was under the white cloth on the communion table always remained a mystery. Ministers never wore vestments other than perhaps a preaching gown, although I do remember one had a frock coat. They all had large black over-coats when conducting funerals.
Sunday school was held in the hall and the small room at the back of the church. Children attended the first part of the service and were given a “story” from the preacher. There was always a children’s hymn taken from the small children’s section of the Methodist Hymn Book (1933 edition). When mothers of Salem was a popular choice as was O Jesus we are well and strong.
The senior children met in the Hall for their “lessons” Mr Hubert Grey, a local shop keeper, was superintendent. We sat on long benches. Many of the pupils were from the Millfield Estate, a council estate which had been built by the UDC in 1933. The infants met in the smaller room under the leadership of Miss Edna Cutting. The highlight of the year was the Sunday School Anniversary, always on Whit Sunday, in the church. Services were held morning, afternoon and evening and always attracted large congregations. There was a “special” preacher, always a Lay person. The material often lacked substance! The anniversary collections were used to pay for the outing on Whit Monday and later in the year for the Christmas party. Nativity plays also featured in the year’s activities. Christmas Parties were a particular feature enjoyed by all.
The Sunday school organised a savings club, similar to the public houses’ “slate club”. Children brought regular contributions each week sent by their Parents which was withdrawn when they needed to buy clothes etc. Few parents attended church other than special occasions.
Other church services
Good Friday was traditionally the day when the men planted their seed potatoes but after lunch we would pick primroses which were placed in Gale’s honey jars and placed on the window sills in the hall in preparation for tea and the evening “Service of Song” This was always well attended and greatly enjoyed.
Harvest Festival was a grand occasion – the church was lavishly decorated, a special preacher invited, On Monday evening there was a short service in the hall and the produce was sold. There was always fierce rivalry in the bidding, each “leader” trying to outbid the other. The proceeds were for the “Trust Fund” This fund was used for the maintenance of the church buildings. From time to time there was a Trust Fund collection on a Sunday.
Christmas, like most festivals was not celebrated as today although the children did perform a Nativity play a few days before Christmas. A watch night service and social evening was always held on New Year’s Eve.
The oldest midweek meeting still operating very successfully is the Women’s Own. Founded on 1924 by the then Minister’s wife it has met regularly every Wednesday from September-May. There meetings are devotional and have always had speakers from various denominations. Highlights of the year were the annual rally when ladies from local churches from the circuit and other churches gathered for a service followed by tea. The service always had a “roll call” of all churches represented. Other events during the year included an annual outing – Lowestoft, Hunstanton etc and Christmas parties.
The Christian Endeavour
This was an inter-denominational organisation which met every Tuesday. Three of the monthly meetings were devotional; the fourth was a Members’ meeting when everyone participated. It is not known how many people received the call to preach from these meetings. They always had a special service in the spring with a guest preacher, often the National President. A Junior section met after school also on Tuesday.
The Prayer Meeting – like now, the smallest attended meeting met on Friday evenings. Local Preachers were planned (and listed on the Circuit plan) each week.
The Guild – this was a Young People’s meeting and was a mixture of social and devotional meetings. They took part in local, district and national events. In order to pursue their social activities they had to have permission from the Trustees to hold dances on the church premises, although granted the decision was not unanimous!
There was always a very strong lay leadership, predominately male. They were often strongly opinionated and I am sure argumentative! Some were involved in the community in many organisations. The church cared for armed service men from both world wars – there were Army barracks located in and around the area. The church was managed by Trustees, the Leader’s meeting and of course the Circuit meeting. Each organisation had its own committee with a chairman, secretary and treasurer.
[David Ling - 2020]