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A History of Randwick
By E. P. Fennemore
1893

Chapter 7

NONCONFORMIST CHAPELS:

WITH A SHORT ACCOUNT OF MR. KNEE.

THERE are two Nonconformist Chapels in the village, a small one belonging to the Primitive Methodists, dated 1836, which is carried on mostly by local men, and one of the Wesleyan Methodist persuasion. The first chapel of the Wesleyan Methodists was built in 1807, on ground given by Mr. Francis Holmes, of Rodborough, but service was only held here in the evening. This chapel proving too small, it was re-built in 1824 on a larger scale. In the front wall of the chapel is the village clock, whose sonorous tones are heard advantageously in all parts of Randwick; it was erected by subscription. Mr. William Knee was the person who introduced Wesleyan Methodism into Randwick, and under his judicious teaching the village became much more civilized. There is an elaborate biography of this good man in the Methodist Magazine for 1869, from which. I extract the following ;-

"The subject of this record was the eldest of eleven children. His parents, John and Hannah Knee, were members of a Baptist Church at King's Stanley, where William was born in August, 1774. While yet a youth he went to reside with an uncle in London. To gratify a long-cherished desire of going to sea, lie now entered on board a vessel trading between Hamburg and London. He afterwards apprenticed himself near Stonehouse. He was remarkably fond of music. After some time, he again went to London, and engaged himself to one who carried on business as a hat manufacturer. About this time he married his first wife, her maiden name being Martha Price. He, with his wife, then returned to Stroud, and commenced business for themselves. In the year 1804 Mr. Knee visited Randwick for the purpose of establishing a Sunday School, and here he afterwards took up his abode. He commenced his labour of love by gathering a few children together in an open space hard by the village stocks. In a short time an upper room in an inn was offered. Many of the children came bareheaded, barefooted, and unwashed - it was indeed at first a ragged school. Some of the "baser sort" of the people cursed the benefactor of their neighbourhood, and offered every kind of insult; but, on time other hand, he was encouraged by many of the children, who hastened to meet him as he entered the village, with smiling faces, and offerings of fresh blown flowers. Soon after the commencement of a school, prayer meetings were established and regular preaching followed, In 1807 the first chapel was built, but worship was celebrated there in the evening only, the children being taken to Church in the former part of the day. It appears from records duly kept that collections were made in the Church for the school, numbering 130 children, from 1808 to 1815, amounting in all to 157. For many years Mr Knee was accustomed to rise at four o'clock and go through the village, bell in hand, rousing the people to the six o'clock prayer meeting. And it is worthy of record in the simple annals of a rural people that he succeeded in filling the room at that early hour. In 1829 Mr. Knee retired from business, and removed to Randwick. He now commenced a Day School in connection with the Chapel. A few years later he removed to Cheltenham, and recommenced business, but lost a considerable portion of what he had gained in former years. While living here, three and a half years, he regularly walked over to Randwick on Sundays, sometimes starting as late as two o'clock, to open the six o'clock prayer meeting. On the occasion of the Jubilee of the School, May 2nd, 1854, Mr. Knee was presented with a beautiful Bible by the scholars and friends. In his eightieth year he resigned the office of Superintendent, and one of the last religious services in which he was engaged was the Jubilee of the Chapel. A short time after, he contracted the illness of which he died. He was buried in the burying-ground attached to the Chapel. On his grave-stone is the following inscription:--

"In memory of William Knee. Born at Kingstanley, August 19th, 1774. Died in Stroud, December 17th, 1857. He, being dead, yet speaketh."

The deaths of both his wives (for he, after the death of his first wife, contracted a second marriage), are also inscribed on the tombstone.

There is a fine portrait in oils of Mr. Knee in the upper schoolroom of the Chapel.