One of Norfolk’s smallest places of worship holds final service after 70 years
PUBLISHED: 08:24 31 December 2018 | UPDATED: 08:30 31 December 2018
It was originally an army hut built in 1942 as part of the wartime effort, but a humble unassuming building in Diss has since seen generations worship under its roof.
The Bethel Chapel, on Victoria Road, has attracted loyal congregations down the decades but no more after it hosted its final Sunday service this week.
Dwindling numbers has seen organisers at the tiny non denominational chapel, where services are given by visiting preachers, decide to close its doors.
At one time the chapel held Sunday schools, with children collected around the town in a van to attend, whilst prayer meetings also took place on Tuesday evening amongst other mid-week groups and community activities.
As numbers have slowly fallen, the chapel has just hosted its Sunday service and an annual carol service the final of which took place on December 23.
Secretary and organist Joan Bassett said: “The building dates back to 1942 and it was originally part of a larger complex on the corner of Victoria Road and Stuston Road that was owned by a Mr Cutting but when he died it passed on to other hands.
“Jack Thrower took it on and sourced preachers for evening and Sunday services. A lot of the older folks remember coming here to the Sunday school.
“We did groups during the week until relatively recently but numbers had dropped off and we haven’t really got enough help to keep going. We have kept the Sunday services going but decided this week would be the last.”
Mrs Bassett’s husband Cecil had been a regularly preacher at the chapel until his death five years ago. The final service, which attracted about 50 people, far more than usual, and was overseen by their son Pastor Mark Bassett, who normally preachers in Lancashire but had returned to led worship.
He said: “Our family have been involved with the chapel for about 20 years. My father was a preacher here and when the gentleman who was running it at the time passed away he offered to step in and help out along with others.
“There have never been huge numbers in that time but it is slowly reducing. Today is a sad occasion and upsetting for some for whom this building has been a long part of their lives.”
Mrs Bassett said: “I’m pleased that the final service has attracted a large turn amount, many more than we usually get that has often been 10 or 15 people.
“It is sad because many people have long memories of the chapel. I will miss it because it has been a part of my life for a long time, but I will still see the people that I know in town.”
HISTORY OF A HUMBLE PLACE OF WORSHIP
The building that became the Bethel Chapel was built in 1942 and was part of a complex owned by Mr Cutting. When Jack and Hilda Thrower moved to Stuston Road, behind Bethel Mission Hall, he took over in 1959 sourcing preachers for afternoon and evening services.
Jack played the organ and sometimes took services. He also ran the Sunday school on Sunday mornings and went around the town collecting the children in his Bedford van. Hilda regular cleaned the mission hall and supplied the flowers and Jack kept the grounds tidy outside.
The Faith mission used to camp on the grounds in the summer and provided extra services. There was a Christmas party for the Sunday school children.
When Jack died suddenly in 1995, Hilda carried on with help from Cecil and Joan Bassett. Hilda died in 1999 but the Bassetts carried on until the present day.