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Wesleyan Methodism In Billington

Chapel Cottage December 2008
Chapel Cottage December 2008

Volume 110 published by the Bedfordshire Historical Records Society in 1996 and edited by Edwin Welch contains registrations of Bedfordshire nonconformist meetings drawn from a number of sources. In 1803 a room in a dwellinghouse of James Leach was registered by Leach himself, William Garrett, William Johnson and Thomas Newens [ABN1/1 and ABN2/110]. This was probably a Wesleyan meeting place as it is known that a Thomas Newens conveyed land to the trustees of the Wesleyan chapel in 1838 [MB1537]. Certainly a circuit membership book which begins in 1812 [MB1533] includes a meeting and names of members in Billington. In 1823 a dwelling house occupied by James Pain was registered by William Piggott

As noted above the site of the later chapel, at Gaddesden Turn, was conveyed by Thomas Newens in 1838 and on 19th April 1861 the chapel was registered by circuit minister Joshua Mottram of Leighton Buzzard. Mottram registered the chapels at Eggington and Leighton Buzzard as well as the Buckinghamshire chapels of Mentmore, Stoke Hammond and Soulbury on the same day.

On Sunday 30th March 1851 a census of all churches, chapels and preaching-houses of every denomination was undertaken in England and Wales. The local results were published by Bedfordshire Historical Records Society in 1975 as Volume 54, edited by D.W.Bushby. The return for the Wesleyan chapel was made by Trustee William Olney who stated that there were eighty free seats amd fifty three which were paid for and reserved. On that Sunday sixty two had attended in the afternoon, with fifty Sunday scholars, with a hundred and one attending in the evening.

In 1861 Hannah Reading was leasing land at the rear of the chapel from the trustees [MB1560] and on 14th August 1866 new trustees were appointed; they were: Thomas Pratt of Billington; Thomas Waters of Leighton Buzzard; Walter Harris of Leighton Buzzard, James Amos Ashwell of Bishop's Stortford [Hertfordshire], James Elmes of Aylesbury [Buckinghamshire]; David Goodman of Stanbridge; David Lee Ginger of Slapton [Buckinghamshire]; James Holt of Totternhoe; Charles Prior of Eggington; Jesse Goodman of Stanbridge; Benjamin Hopkins, Jesse Partridge, John Webster, William Warwick, Henry Inns, George Johnson, William Brantom and Edward Hall all of Leighton Buzzard.

On 16th July 1867 more land was conveyed to the chapel [MB1537] and on 22nd June 1904 Sarah Partridge conveyed more land to the trustees [MB1537]. In 1932 the Wesleyan Methodists came together with the Primitive Methodists and United Methodists to form the Methodist Church of Great Britain. There was also a Primitive chapel in Billington but the community was too small to support two Methodist chapels and this closed in 1951. The former Wesleyan chapel continued for another twenty six years before the decision was taken to close it and sell it in 1977 [MB1563]. It was decided to give the hymn books to the chapel at Eaton Bray and the curtain, communion table and hymn board to Trinity Chapel in North Street, Leighton Buzzard. Funds from the sale were to be given to the Circuit Advance Fund. Plans for conversion to a private house were drawn up in 1977 and 1978 and planning permission received in February 1979 [SB/BR/77/421B]. The registration was cancelled on 11th January 1980.

Inscription on the former Wesleyan chapel December 2008
Inscription on the former Wesleyan chapel December 2008