Sharing the secrets of time capsule found at historic Tabernacle

From left, Cllr Ben Nutland, Pat Jefferies, Carol Nutland, trustees Kim Scudamore & Amy Curtis, and site manager Adrian Crompton

A time capsule has been found in the wall of the Whitfield Tabernacle in Kingswood during restoration work.

Site manager Adrian Crompton, from historic building conservation specialists Carrek Ltd, says the bottle containing several items was found in the east wall of the Grade I listed building which is being turned into a community arts venue.

It had been placed there in the mid-1930s by James Gardner, caretaker at the Tabernacle at the time who lived in the nearby Chapel House. The capsule contained items relating to the erection of a plaque held two decades previously in honour of George Whitfield, one of the founders of Methodism and the evangelical movement in the 18th century. The event also honoured John Cennick, a contemporary of Whitfield.

James Gardner was succeeded as caretaker at the Tabernacle by his son James Edward Gardner, who also lived in the Chapel House with his family, including daughters Pat and Carol. They had been told about the capsule by their grandfather so were thrilled to hear it had been found and were invited to visit the Tabernacle in Park Road last week.

Pat Jefferies and Carol Nutland, as they now are, were shown around by Adrian Crompton and joined by trustees Amy Curtis and Kim Scudamore, who is also a South Gloucestershire councillor. Carol’s son Ben, who is also a South Gloucestershire councillor, accompanied them.

Built as a school and a meeting house, the Tabernacle dates from 1741 and was extended in 1802 and 1830. It went on to serve the Kingswood community in many ways. But it was a derelict shell for decades after being vandalised and damaged by fire. It was acquired in 2019 by the Whitfield Tabernacle Trust and is now being restored.

Pat and Carol recalled memories and knowledge of the Tabernacle, including of the harvest suppers held there, that it was used as a polling station and by the Home Guard during the Second World War.

Adrian Crompton, right, gives a tour of the historic building which is being renovated

Kim presented the sisters with copies of two of the items found in the buried glass bottle – a page from the Western Daily Press dated Wednesday April 30th 1913 about a forthcoming event at the Tabernacle and a copy of a poster advertising the event on Saturday May 3rd.

The capsule also included an order of service for the event and a letter inviting people to attend.

There are plans to place the items in another capsule for reburial, along with present-day items. The trustees welcome ideas for what could be included and are also looking for old photos.

Kim said: “We’re really trying to build up an archive of any memories, but especially photos, of how the Tabernacle has been used in the past.”

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