Like most villages in Thanet and the surrounding area, Manston has undergone many changes over the centuries. First recorded as Mannestone, meaning the farm on top of a hill, by 1381 it had acquired its modern spelling. In that year, its residents together with those in neighbouring hamlets took part in Watt Tyler’s Peasants Rebellion.
Spratling Street has enjoyed numerous spellings over the years and owes its name to the Sprakling family, who from 1558 to 1659 lived in Ellington, Ramsgate, when Manston was still part of St Lawrence Extra.
Manston Court was the seat of the Manston family for many years, some of whom held high office; notably Richard de Manston in the time of King John, and William Manston who was Sheriff of Kent in 1436.
Manston Methodist Church
Prior to the establishment of the present Chapel there was an existing Wesleyan presence in Manstone (this was the then usual spelling of the village name) on land purchased in 1834 and 1846 from Mr William Peake of Cliffs End and although little evidence can be found to precisely pinpoint its location land ownership records of 1840 suggest that it was situated on land in close proximity to the old sunday school building which still exists and stands to the rear of Rose Cottage in the High Street.
Manston(e) because of its rural nature has always essentially been comprised of a community that were intimately involved in agriculture situated as it is in the rich agricultural hunter land of the Isle of Thanet. This involvement with the land was certainly very strong in the mid 1850’s, and is evidenced by the occupational backgrounds of those who were involved in the events of 1856.
Thoughts for the construction of "a new and more commodious chapel at Manstone" were raised at a meeting on April 28th 1856 in Margate in the vestry of the Hawley Square Chapel. The Rev W H Sargent of Ramsgate was in the chair, and it was agreed that a Committee be appointed to find a suitable site for the construction of a new chapel. It was also decided that a new trust should be formed and that approaches should be made to secure new trustees for this purpose.
After this first exploratory meeting matters moved at great speed and the Hawley Square Chapel at Margate played host to a succession of meetings which were convened to discuss the practicalities of implementing the proposal for a new chapel.
The meeting on the 15th May 1856 heard that Mr J Wanstall of Margate had offered to sell a plot of ground which the organising Committee felt was suitable for the sum of £20, the purchasers to pay the necessary legal costs. It was unanimously agreed that Mr Wanstalls offer be considered, and that Rev Sargent together with Mr J Miller, and Mr G B Gaskell should make a further inspection of the site. At the same time the preparation of the necessary form of application to the Kent District Meeting during the next week was agreed, Rev N D Coy to present the case for the consideration of that Meeting for power to sell the existing chapel, if necessary, and to erect a new building in its stead. It was also agreed that if the District Meeting and the Chapel Building Committee gave permission to the erection of the new chapel, and the sale if necessary of the existing chapel, that the chapel and adjoining ground should not be sold for less than £40.
During June 1856 no less than four meetings were held at Hawley Square, the first being on the 2nd of the month. On this occasion members were informed that the recent District Meeting had approved plans for a new chapel at Manston, subject to the debt involved not exceeding £30, and the ability to sell the old chapel had also been agreed.
It was agreed that Mr Barwick of St Peter’s be asked to provide the plans and specifications for the works on the understanding that if he was awarded the contract the plan and specification costs would be considered as included in this estimate for the building, but if the contract was awarded elsewhere then he would be paid for the plans etc prepared.
Discussion at the meeting on the 6th June concentrated on the desirability of the site which had been offered by Mr Wanstall. The meeting felt that the land adjoining the existing chapel, owned by Mr Peake, would have provided a more ideal site, but as Mr Peake was in America and any approaches to him would have involved a delay of between four and five months it was thought expedient by the meeting to discuss matters further with Mr Wanstall.
The meeting then turned to the plans and specifications which had been submitted by Mr Barwick, and after approving these agreed to ask him to forward his estimate of the cost of the new chapel to the Trustees for their consideration on the 9th June, with the understanding that, if satisfactory, matters proceed without further testing the competitive nature of the estimate.
Rev W H Sargent informed the Meeting on the 9th June, that Mr Barwick’s estimate totalled one hundred and eighty six pounds ten shillings (£186-10-0), and it was unanimously agreed that work should proceed on this basis. It was further agreed that Messrs Brooke and Mertens of Margate should act as Solicitors for the conveyance of the ground and for the preparation of the trust deed. This they did at a net cost of £11-16-2, having made a donation of £2-2-0 to the Chapel. Mr G B Gaskell was unanimously appointed Treasurer and Secretary to the new trustees.
A Building Committee was formed consisting of Rev Sargent and Messrs G Gaskell, G B Gaskell, J Miller and H Morton with power to add additional members if thought necessary.
The final resolution of the meeting was that a bell turret be added to the Chapel if Rev Sargent supply the bells.
By the time of the next meeting which was held on the 24th June in the existing chapel at Manston, Mr Barwick had signed the contract to construct the present chapel, and the members present decided that he should receive his money in three instalments of £62-3-4 24th July, 24th August and three months after opening the Chapel assuming the work was all approved of by the Building Committee.
In fact Mr Barwick had actually commenced building on Thursday 19th June, and on Tuesday 24th June a memorial stone was laid in the north-east wall by Mrs G B Gaskell the wife of the Treasurer and Secretary.
A great deal of activity now took place in that Summer of 1856, the builders pressed ahead with the construction of the new chapel, whilst the Trustees devoted considerable time to fund raising.
Contributions, large and small, continued to flow in and provided the financial backing for the costs of erecting the new chapel. In all donations amounted to £178-8-4.
Payments to Mr Barwick, as the work progressed, were made as follows:
June 27 £10-0-0
July 4 £20-0-0
July 24 £32-3-4 Balance of 1st instalment
August 1 £25-0-0
August 14 £5-0-0
August 21 £10-0-0
September12 £12-3-4 Balance of 2nd instalment
September30 £42-3-4 Balance of 3rd instalment
During the construction of the chapel Mr J Miller acted as unpaid surveyor, and considerable help was given by Mr Wootton (of Ozengell), Mr G Philpott (of Haine) and Mr G B Gaskell (of Manston(e)) who freely offered the use of their men and horses for the carriage of materials during the building works.
The opening of the new chapel was celebrated on Sunday 7th September 1856 with three services. The handbill publicising the dedication celebrations is reproduced at Appendix II. The preacher at the morning (10.30 am) and evening (6.00 pm) services was Rev J H James of the City Road Circuit London, and the chapel’s good friend Rev W H Sargent of Ramsgate preached in the afternoon at 3.00 pm.
Celebrations continued during that week with further services on Thursday 11th September when the Rev John Rattenbury, again from London, preached at 2.30 pm and at 5.30 pm. These services were held in Mr G B Gaskell’s orchard, and between the two services tea was served in a large marquee that which had been erected.It was estimated that approximately 600 persons sat down to tea that day, and that 1100 and 1200 people were present for evening service.
The collections taken on both these days were devoted to the building fund, and in all £35-3-6 was given by those present.
Over the next few months small adaptations and improvements continued, and in March 1857 the final small payment to Mr Barwick the builder was made amounting to £5-5-6. In recognition that he had been paid in stages which were more generous than those upon which he had based his estimate for the work, Mr Barwick returned the sum of £5-0-0 to be added to Chapel funds.
The first annual Trustees meeting after the completion of the new chapel was held on the 9th March 1857 at Mr W Robinson’s house in the High Street at Margate.
Those present were able to look back at the successful completion of a great enterprise, and to look forward to the further endeavours and opportunities which the new venture afforded.
It was the unanimous wish of those present that Mr Barwick should be cordially thanked for the very creditable and satisfactory manner in which he fulfilled his contract with the Trustees in the erection of the new Wesleyan chapel at Manston.
Grateful thanks were also asked to be conveyed to Mr Thomas White of Cowes in the Isle of Wight for his magnificent gift of a pulpit for the use of the new chapel.
The meeting extended its warmest thanks to the Rev W H Sargent for his indomitable perserverance and untiring assidity in collecting contributions and affording his counsel and experience during the whole undertaking.
Insurance on the new chapel was agreed at £225, and on the old at £25.
It was agreed by the meeting that the annual services be held in order to liquidate the debt outstanding on both the new and old chapels.
The necessity for this course of action was extremely short lived as by September 1858 both the new and old chapels were entirely debt free. Anniversary services have, of course, continued up to the
present but the primary purpose of the first Trust Meeting in March 1857 has disappeared
The New Sunday School hall at Manston
For many years the operation of the Sunday School had been restricted by the lack of appropriate accomodation and facilities. The Chapel itself was hardly ideal. A purpose built hall attached to the Chapel with kitchen and toilet facilities would offer convenient and comfortable surroundings in which not only the Sunday School could operate but also refreshments could be provided for Chapel anniversaries and other meetings and Social gatherings could be held. In previous years refreshments for Chapel anniversaries were provided in the village hall, once the village school, close to St. Catherine’s Church.
Although dreamed about for some considerable time practical steps and fund raising for the creation of the hall began to take place after the death of Mr Reginald Solly in 1958 who for a long period had been the Sunday School Superintendent. He is commerated by a plaque on the wall at the pulpit end of the Chapel. The creation of the hall was intended to be partly a memorial to him and to further the work amongst the young in which he had been involved. The land on which the hall was proposed to be built was to be donated by the Solly family.
Plans for the envisaged new hall were prepared in January 1963 by W S Cole and Son of Monkton and after the necessary approvals had been granted the contract for its construction was signed. Stage payments were to be requested by the builder as the work progressed.
Letters were sent to a considerable number of people who had continuing or past connections with the Chapel asking for donations to the building fund. In addition, invitations were extended for people to attend the stone ‘Laying ceremony on 25 May 1963 and also to buy a brick and lay it on that day. 120 bricks were "sponsored" in this way.
The stone laying ceremony was attended by about 30 people and included the local press. Mr Stanley Solly laid the foundation stone itself and during his address Reverend Stanbury said that "we are building the hall in memory of those who have worked among our boys and girls in the past".
Work on the hall proceeded rapidly and the official opening was arranged for 24 August 1963. The hall was to be opened by Mrs R Solly (widow of Mr Reginald Solly a previous Sunday School Superintendent) and the dedication was taken by Reverend F Donald Ducker, Chairman of the District. A commemerative wall plate is situated over the door to the hall.
The benefit of the new hall was felt immediately when tea was served therein after the conclusion of the service.