For this post in the Swindon in 50 More Buildings series I’m keeping with the Stratton area. The previous post covered Upper Stratton Baptist Church – and in this one Stratton Methodist Church. So one way and another I’ve got Methodism north of the railway well-covered!

Stratton Methodist Church
Stratton Methodist Church

Stratton Methodist Church – 1883

The church’s website has a splendid history section on it with some lovely old photographs on it so it’s worth you having a look. It tells us that 1883 saw the erection of the present, rather lovely church. The school hall followed in 1893 – both on land that had once been the site of a blacksmith’s shop. At that time, these two buildings took up almost all the land owned by the Methodists.

On the north side there exists a pathway – a bare two-yards wide. A short-walled pathway on the south side and the wall of outbuildings attached to the schoolroom was the boundary on that side. The church didn’t then own the land that now forms the car park and the site of the Manse. That belonged to a Mr Freeth of Elborough Farm. The house stands still south of the chapel.

Anyone for tennis – or bowls?

In the mid-1920s one of the church trustees negotiated to buy from Mr Freeth, a piece of land that now comprises the car park on the site of the Manse.

Following completion of the sale the church established a bowling green and tennis court. The bowls club they established flourished for many years.

Levi Lapper Morse: 24 May 1853 – 10 September 1913

All the above is fine and dandy and it’s an attractive building for sure. But the thing that imbues it with particular significance is the associations the church has with Levi Lapper Morse and the Morse Family. For he is literally the cornerstone of the church.

Levi Lapper Morse cornerstone on Stratton Methodist church.
Levi Lapper Morse cornerstone on Stratton Methodist church.
Levi Lapper Morse in 1901
Levi Lapper Morse in 1901

Levi Lapper Morse – son of Charles Morse of Purton – became a business and political giant in Swindon and the area. Morse’s department store, along with McIRoy’s, remains lodged in Swindon’s cultural fabric despite being long-gone.

Educated at the High School, Swindon Lapper Morse married Winifred. Between the they produced two sons and four daughters. Both Levi and his son, William Ewert Morse (1879-1952) were devout Primitive Methodists.

Levi served as Swindon mayor in 1901-1902. Between 1906 and 1910 Levi Lapper Morse indulged his political interests as a Liberal MP for Wilton while his son, William, represented Bridgewater for the Liberals between 1923 and 1924. Further, son and father both were Wiltshire county councillors, Justices of the Peace, and Swindon Town councillors.

LL Morse died at his home, The Croft, Swindon on 10 September 1913 aged 60 years and lies in Radnor Street Cemetery, Swindon.

And the rest of the stones on the chapel

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