The Countess of Huntingdon
Selina Shirely was born on the 24th August 1707, later receiving the title when she married the ninth Earl of Huntingdon in 1728. During her long life she used her huge fortune to found and support establish many churches. She died on the 17th June 1791.
The Countess of Huntingdon’s Connexion
The Countess of Huntingdon's Connexion was formed as a result of forced dissension from the established church of the day. Its adherents were influenced by the preaching of George Whitefield of Gloucester, a friend and co-worker of John Wesley. Demands for meeting places came from all parts of the country and the Countess took a deep interest in each request. Initially these congregations were described as "societies in the secession patronised by Lady Huntingdon" but later the congregations formed "The Countess of Huntingdon’s Connexion".
The Countess also provided funds for a college to train of men for ministry in dissenting (non-conformist) churches.
The Countess of Huntingdon’s Connexion in Woodmancote
Non-conformism in Woodmancote appears to have begun in 1811 when a group of Calvinist Methodists began to worship in the village. At first they met in cottages but in 1825 the group built a place of worship at the bottom of Chapel Lane, between the lane and the stream. It was about this time they affiliated themselves to the Countess of Huntingdon Connexion. Until 1920, the congregation came under the oversight of the Countess Church in North Place, Cheltenham (now the Chapel Rock Gym).
In 1854 when the congregation numbered around fifty they moved to new premises in Stockwell Lane. The old chapel became a domestic dwelling and at one time a school. The new church was officially opened on Tuesday June 6th 1854. The interior measures 30 by 20 feet. Its exterior contained some special features, a bell turret surmounted by a weather vane (replaced by a cross in 1954) and carved stonework with the Countess of Huntingdon's crest. The total cost of construction came to £300, of which £245 had already been raised when the church opened.
In 1906 it was discovered that in 1854 the deeds of the new church had been entrusted to eight individual trustees who had not been replaced. In 1911, after detailed enquiries, the Trustees of the Countess of Huntingdon's Connexion once again became responsible for the Woodmancote Church. In 1920 a local committee took over the running and oversight of the church from the North Place Church.
In 1926 Arthur Kew who had served as a missionary in Sierra Leone was appointed the Church’s first Minister, a position he held until 1950.
Ministers serving since 1950 have been:
Ted Long 1973 - 1982
Douglas Bell 1988 - 1998
Keith Linzner 1999 - 2011
Andrew Hiscock 2012 -
More information about the present work of The Countess of Huntingdon's Connexion can be found at www.cofhconnexion.org.uk