Framlingham United Free Church
A brief history
Within three years of the death of John Wesley in 1791 there are records of Methodists meeting in a house in Framlingham. The following year in 1795 the Methodist movement in the country was recognised as a church.
By 1808 the Framlingham Methodists erected a church building in, what is now, Station Road opposite the end of Brook Lane. By 1823 Framlingham was the centre of a circuit of nine other churches from Blythburgh in the north, Aldeburgh in the east and Earl Soham in the west. Five years later the number had grown to eighteen, now going south to Parham.
In 1853, John Peirson built a steam driven flour mill on the site at the corner of Riverside and Well Close Square. This had a set of three grind stones but it was eclipsed by a roller mill built in Bridge Street. On John's death the mill was sold and a succession of owners attempted to make a living. Finally in 1867 it was sold to a group of local business people, mainly Methodists, who formed The Peoples Hall Company and converted the mill into a reading room and meeting hall. This conversion involved the addition of a staircase within a tower and dormer windows to the meeting room. These alterations left the building looking very much as it is today.
The following year, 1868, the Wesleyan chapel in Station Road was sold to the pub landlord who pulled it down and built a skittle alley! This building still stands to the side of the Railway Inn. The Wesleyan Methodists moved to the Peoples Hall and rented the building on Sundays and the hall two nights a week.
The Methodist church has always been a free thinking, revolutionary church, which in its early days resulted in many divisions. Something happened in Framlingham because a split occurred within the church and a group of Free Methodists started meeting in Double Street. This group grew as the Wesleyans declined and in 1885 they bought the Peoples Hall from the receiver, as the company had gone into liquidation. The building and church took the title “The Free Methodist Church”
In 1889 the building was licensed for marriages.
In 1932, nationally, most of the Methodist churches united and Framlingham reluctantly went into the union.
In the late 1950s the interior was redesigned. Upstairs a false ceiling, new lighting and furniture, downstairs the hall was opened up by removing some pillars.
The Congregational Church is much older than the Methodists being formed from the dissension over the introduction of the Book of Common Prayer within the Anglican Church in 1662. As Independents, the Framlingham members met in a small building in what is now College Road. The building still stands opposite the Primary School. As the congregation grew they built a bigger church in Bridge Street but in 1770's the minister took the church in the direction of Unitarianism and a large group of Trinitarians (those believing in the Trinity, God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit) left to a new building in Fore Street, now called Fruer house after the builder.
In 1990 this church, now called the United Reformed Church after a national union with Presbyterian and other denominations in 1972, joined with the Methodists to form the United Free Church. (At that time the only church in the town “free” of Queen or Pope)
The old Methodist building was chosen as the more versatile and subsequently modernised with the addition of more toilets, a new kitchen and hall extension in the 1990s. A further refurbishment of the sanctuary including rewiring, replacing and modernising the lighting and upgrading the heating system was carried out in 2017. The use of LED lights, conversion of the heating to a gas fired central heating system, addition of secondary glazing and roof insulation has reduced the impact of the building on the environment.