My paternal forebears, the Parsons family, lived in the village of Warehorne, just above the Romney Marsh, near Ham Street, south of Ashford in Kent, for as far back as we have been able to trace (late 18th century). My grandfather, Fred Parsons, was the last of the line to have lived in Warehorne, before he left the village as a young man, some time in the 1890s I think – though there were other members of the family by marriage (notably the Barling family) still in Warehorne till about 30 -40 years ago. Numerous members of the Parsons and Barling families are buried in the Warehorne churchyard. My family were Bible Christians, going back, we think, to when the Bible Christians first came to Warehorne.
The mission to Kent began in 1820 when James Thorne and William Lyle went to Chatham, soon to be supported by two women preachers – Ann Cory and Catherine Reed. By the following year, there were chapels in Faversham, Sheerness, Brompton, Chatham, Canterbury and Hartlip. Other early preachers sent to Kent were Henry Freeman, Harry Major and James Damrel. Just after Christmas 1841 there was a revival at Woodchurch – a few miles away from Warehorne, on the Tenterden road – when a young man from Warehorne was converted and brought several more to the meetings. It looks as though the Bible Christians didn’t build a chapel in Warehorne for another 25 years – December 1866. That chapel was still in use when I was a boy. I remember being taken to services there, during family visits to the village. Its date bears out what I was always told, that my great-grandfather, Charles Parsons, made the pews for the chapel. He’s listed on several family history documents as a carpenter. But one document that I have (his son – my grandfather – Fred’s marriage certificate) lists Charles as a ‘builder’. Was he, I wonder, involved in the building of the Bible Christian chapel, as well as making the pews? Another document that I have says that he was also Sunday School Superintendent. I know that at least some of the Parsons family were active Bible Christians in Warehorne, at least until the latter years of the 19th century, and probably to the 1907 Methodist union and beyond. I have a diary that my grandfather Fred (born 1872) kept for a few years when he was still a young man, and it shows that he was quite pious and a regular chapel-goer, at least till he left Warehorne and moved to work for his uncle in St. Leonard’s.
The Methodist Circuit closed the chapel some decades ago but the building is still there as a private house.