The Chapel near Chappel farm

There is now strong evidence that a chapel once existed close to Chappel Farm. The farm undoubtedly acquired its name from its association with the chapel. The farm has always been in Little Totham parish, the chapel however was just over the boundary in Goldhanger Parish, and that piece of land is still within Goldhanger.

Sources of information

These two advertisements from the 1840s to a “Grove Chapel” at Goldhanger...

It is know that members of the Gurton family where associated with the “Peculiar Peoples” churches and it seems that the chapel, called the Grove Chapel in the 1840s may have been used as a Peculiar Peoples Chapel.

This is an extract from the 1839 Tithe Awards place-names of Little Totham...



Fld No

Grd Rf




land use



Other information

House, garden

Chappel Farm







Honeywood, Wm, late, trustees

Quihampton, Henry

Chapel of Lt Totham,

1396,Cl, 1578,Rntl

The entry in the Other Information column of this document, ie:

Chapel of Lt Totham, 1396, Cl, 1578, Rntl very significant as it indicates there was a chapel at this location for hundreds of years, pre-dating even the Reformation. The abbreviations mean:

Cl - Calendar of Close Rolls Preserved in the Public Record Office

Rntl - Unpublished rentals and surveys in the Public Record Office

In 2005 Lorna Key wrote and published Little Totham - The Story of a small village which included this description of Chappel Farm...

Chappel Farm preserves the memory of the chapel of Little Totham, and was mentioned in 1396 and 1578. The present house dates from 1812 at the front and the 16th century at the rear...

...The property includes two cottages, brick, stud and plaster built, thatched, and known as Bobbetts Hole, with detached brick and tile wash houses fitted with two copper coppers and an iron-roofed poultry house with a fenced in yard, a capital garden with well and pump on the opposite side of the road. Bobbets Hole is on the corner just before Blind Lane with the two cottages, Crabbs Cottages, nearly opposite.

The following entry has been found in long list of chapels in a 470 page book entitled:

The Ecclesiastical Legal Guide to Archbishops, Bishops and their Secretaries published in 1839...

The title page of the book includes these word...

from the private papers and authentic documents of a secession of  secretaries to Archbishop and Bishops

The introduction to the list of chapels includes these words...

We now proceed to give an account of the more anciently established chapels in the diocese of London, many of them unknown to the bishop ... Of many the diocesan has no account, and he will, no doubt, feel obliged to us for this information.

The list includes various other chapels in Essex, including those at:

Finchingfield, Billericay, Canvey Island, Maningtree, Salcote and Stanway.

The equivalent Tithe Awards document and its associated map for Goldhanger in 1838 reveal very little about the chapel but shows the involvement with members of the Gurton Family...










Hop Garden







Burnham Poor trustees

Gurton, Edward

Cottages, gardens





< 1


Gurton, Edward

Sebum & Appleby

Bobbetts Hole







Burnham Poor trustees

Gurton, Edward

House, garden (Pt)





< 1


Gurton, Edward

Gurton. Edward

Workshop, orchard





< 1


Gurton, Edward

Gurton. Edward

Cottage, garden





< 1

Bentall, William

Gurton, John

This leaves the precise location of the chapel in some doubt, but with the aid of the many other ancient maps now available, the location of the chapel can be more accurately determined....

The text in the 1840s adverts would suggest that the chapel was adjacent to the pair of brick of cottages. However, the ancient maps do not support this as no building is shown at that location on the earliest maps, and  Bobbets Villa, at Bobbets Hole, which has two buildings at this location shown on the 1895-97 map, would seem the most likely location.

As the 1942-52 map shows only one building at this site, and the 1910 census lists four addresses at Bobbets Hole indicating that there was both Bobbets Villas and the Brick Cottages there at that time, then it would seem likely that the chapel disappeared at sometime between 1900 and 1942.

While today it might seem that this location was very remote and an inappropriate place to site a chapel, in the past there could have been several reasons for placing it there:

- In the past Bobbets Hole was at a crossroads. The north/south route was from Little Totham to Osea Island, while the east/west route was from Goldhanger to Maldon via an in-land route that avoided the flooded Mill Beach areas in the days before there was a seawall at that location. So it was not so isolated as it appears today. More about this in... Local highways and byways from the past

- The lands in this area had a long association with Trusts for the poor and the local Rectors, so Bobbets Hole could have well have once been Church owned land, making it potentially available to build a chapel.

- The location is at the centre of a triangle in between Goldhanger, Lt. Toham and Heybridge.

- The “different” philosophy of early non-conformist sects meant that they probably wished distance themselves from established churches and their supporters, and so may have preferred an isolated location. At times in the past it has even be against the law of the land to be a member of a banned faith.

Potential religious denominations

As the chapel existed for at least 600 years, and as both the Goldhanger and Lt.Totham churches were established around the 12th century, without more information one can only speculate which religious denominations used the chapel in the past. It is very probable that more than one religious movement was involved; here are some of the possibilities, chronologically arranged...

The history of St Peter's Chapel on-the-wall at Bradwell may have some relevance, being not far away and one of the oldest Christian chapels in England dating from the 7th century. For hundreds of years that chapel laid hidden and was used as agricultural barn. It was only “re-discovered” in the 1920s.

Before the local effects of the Reformation there were non-conformist groups such as the Lollard Movement that rejected the established Catholic faith that at the time was being practiced in Goldhanger and Lt.Totham churches.

In Little Totham - The Story of a small village Lorna Key wrote about the Recusants in Essex who in the post Reformation period rejected the new church of England and continued to worship the Catholic faith in secret location. It is said that the ancient corner cabinet in the main bar of The Chequers Inn at Goldhanger could have been a Catholic shrine and occasional altar used after the Reformation in 1547, with religious items stored in a hidden cavity below. It is recorded that “all monuments of feigned miracles" were removed from St. Peter`s Church next door and sold locally.

Since the Reformation, Goldhanger has had many associations with non-conformist groups...

The Rector of St. Peter’s Goldhanger in the 1650s, the Revd Edward Howes, is well know through his extensive correspondence with John Winthrop, the first governor of Massachusetts and The New England Company, and also because of his 1650 book on mathematics. Despite being the Rector of St. Peter’s his letters are said to convey very strong Calvinistic views.

The Revd. Dr. Williams (1643-1711) who owned Beckingham Hall in Tolleshunt Major, was renowned and formidable non-conformist preacher who had a major influence on religious dissenters throughout the Kingdom. His library for “English Protestant nonconformity” is still located in Gordon Square, London.

Antinomians, Methodist and Baptists were known to have operated in and around Goldhanger in the past.

On page 63 of her book  Goldhanger – an estuary village,  Maura Benham wrote:

 “The Quarter Sessions Records of 1828 referred to two places of worship other than the church, one styling themselves Independent Methodists the other Antinomians”.

 Maura Benham's small booklet entitled:  The Story of the Chapel in Goldhanger  includes:

“The Quarter Session records of 1829 refer to a place in Goldhanger styling itself "Independent Methodists", with John Baker, the Wesleyan Minister, giving attendance as 100. The record of 1829 also mentions a group of Antinomians in Goldhanger”.

The Topographical Dictionary of England in 1840 recorded...

The National Gazetteer, Vol-2 in 1868 recorded...

The former Wesleyan Chapel is set back between No’s 7 & 9 Head St in Goldhanger, and has a plaque over the entrance declaring that it was built in October 1839 (later than many of the dates given above). Chapel records refer to a building at Goldhanger in 1829 with 100 places of worship, and then later it refers to there being just 60 places. George Alexander who was responsible for the creation of the chapel in Head St. chapel moved to Goldhanger in 1807 and is known to have preached in several locations before the chapel in Head St. was finally built.

Acquiring permission to build a non-conformist chapel within the village was known to be difficult, which is why the Wesleyan Chapel was built in the back garden of a private house and is well set back from the road. These factors might indicated that there could well have been another earlier Methodists chapel, perhaps a remote location that became redundant after the new substantial red-brick chapel was built in the village in 1839. This could account for the Grove Chapel being put up for sale in the 1840s.

Finally, the Gurton Family who are named in the 1840s property sales adverts that include the “Grove chapel”, had strong connections with the Peculiar Peoples movement in the 1800s. It is know that members of that family where associated with local Peculiar Peoples chapels and it is possible that the chapel at Bobbets Hole could have been used as a Peculiar Peoples Chapel by that family in their day.

The founder of the Peculiar Peoples group was James Banyard, who was a farm worker at Rochford in Essex.  He built his first chapel at Rochford in 1850.  The word “peculiar” originates from Latin peculiaris, meaning "special". At that time, peculiar was being used to mean “unusual individuals”. It was the reputation of the members of the sect that later led to a change in the meaning of the word to be: odd, curious, eccentric, etc.

At the height of the Peculiar People’s popularity there were 43 chapels manly in isolated locations the Essex, with some in East and London Kent. In 1956 the Peculiar People’s movement changed their name to The Union of Evangelical Churches. Sixteen chapels remain, mostly in Essex. The nearest surviving chapel is in the centre of Little Totham which was built in 1890. It is now called Little Totham Evangelical Church and it is known that members of the local Gurton family where associated with this chapel in the past.

A summary of the findings

o      Property sale adverts and census returns indicated the family was associated with a “Grove Chapel”.

o      In the 1800s the Gurton family were members of local “Peculiar Peoples” Churches.

o      That chapel was very close to Chappel Farm, on the boundary between Goldhanger and Lt.Totham.

o      There are references to a chapel at Chappel Farm in 1396 and 1578.

o      This is undoubtedly the origin of the name of the farm.

o      An 1839 document refers to “Lt.Totham Chapel, in the Parish of Goldhanger”.

o      Land in the area has had a long association with Trusts for the poor and local Rectors.

o      Old maps indicates that the chapel was at Bobbets Villa, Bobbets Hole, Wash Lane, Goldhanger.

o      The location was once a signficant crossroads but is now just a bend in the road and the corner of a field.

o      The Bobbets Hole Chapel existed for 600 years, so must have been used by many denominations.

o      Several religious movements were known to operate locally, so it could have been uses by any of these.

o      The chapel seems to have disappeared at sometime between 1900 and 1942.


Little Totham - The Story of a small village - Lorna Key, 2005

Goldhanger – an estuary village - Maura Benham, 1977

The Ecclesiastical Legal Guide to Archbishops, Bishops and their Secretaries - J. S. Hodson, 1839

The Peculiar People - Mark Sorrel, 1979

A Dream Come True, The Story of of the Little Totham Evangelical Church - Lesley Shelley, 1990


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