My name is Matt Sheard and I would like to adopt the Englesea Brook Chapel and Museum of Primitive Methodism.
Tell us a bit more about yourself
After working in a number of museum venues over the past couple of years I’m about to start as Audience Development Officer at the University of St Andrews, where I’ll be aiming to get more people excited about the fantastically diverse, incredibly interesting and often pretty bizarre objects and artworks that it cares for. I’m especially interested in the ways in which museums display and interpret collections with religious links.
Tell us a bit more about your adopted museum
The museum is housed in a disused chapel in the small village of Englesea Brook, England. It’s well off the beaten track, about five miles south-east of Crewe in Cheshire, and you’re unlikely to visit unless you’ve gone with the specific intention of doing so. The site examines the history of Primitive Methodism and displays a range of artefacts related to the movement, including the largest collection of painted banners in Britain. The museum is free to enter and considered one of four key Methodist heritage sites in the UK. It’s open from May to October.
Why have you chosen to adopt this museum?
i. I learnt something – I’d never heard of Primitive Methodism before visiting this quirky little museum, yet its introductory video and replica Victorian magic lantern show meant I came away with a good understanding of the movement’s beginnings and the life-changing influence this particular branch of Christianity had on the lives of individuals and on society at large. The museum takes up only the small chapel and Sunday School room, yet packs a lot in.
ii. I was challenged – the museum’s not afraid to tackle controversial subjects and aims to really make visitors think, encouraging visitors to question their own faith (or lack of it), regardless of what that may be, and tackling controversial subjects such as women preachers and colonialist approaches to overseas mission. As a firm believer that museum objects should challenge, I strongly support the place.
iii. I thoroughly enjoyed myself and left with a massive grin on my face – exactly as it should be and largely due to the engaging staff there.
Why would you recommend people visit?
Yes, it’s in the middle of nowhere and yes, it’s a bit of a hike, but you’ll undoubtedly learn something, be challenged, see some very interesting objects and, above all, you’ll laugh and come away smiling. The staff, many of them volunteers, are incredibly friendly, offer every single visitor a cup of tea and a few biccies and guide you around in an engaging and informal manner, chatting away happily, telling you far more than you could ever glean from reading a few text panels, sharing their enthusiasm through some fantastic stories about the characters featured and listening to your stories and experiences too. It looks to be run on a shoestring budget, yet the place is one of the most engaging museums I’ve visited and it’s all down to the front of house team. And if you’re a teacher, take your class! Their education sessions look excellent and their Victorian funeral looks like a fantastic way of tackling the sensitive subject of death.
How would you sum up your museum in three words?
Quirky, friendly, challenging.