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Wesleyan Methodists in Cardington

The Wesleyan chapel about 1900 [Z50/24/97]
The Wesleyan chapel about 1900 [Z50/24/97]

Methodism was founded in 1740 by John Wesley. Over the course of time splinter groups formed their own versions of Methodism, the original form becoming known as Wesleyan Methodism. The Wesleyan Methodist chapel in Cardington was built in 1823 on Cople Lane Close purchased from William Henry Whitbread for £6/15/-.

In her 1973 pamphlet A Cloud of Witness, Norah M. Addington stated [MB2083] that the building was thirty feet by twenty one feet and had a gallery for sixty as well as a harmonium. A vestry behind the church was at first storey height and reached both from the gallery and by a flimsy outside staircase. A schoolroom adjoined the chapel. The Methodist Magazine wrote of the chapel at its opening: "The preaching of the Methodists in this village commenced about two years ago. The Chapel is so situated as to accommodate also the adjoining village of Cople". The chapel was registered with the Archdeaconry in 1824 by its new minister. It began its life as part of the Bedford and Ampthill Circuit, moving to Bedford, Saint Mary’s Circuit in 1875, to Bedford South Circuit in 1942 then to Bedford South and Ampthill Circuit in 1971.

The first minister was Thomas Rowe and the first trustees Thomas Row, draper, Isaac Wale, tailor, John Dowsett, surgeon, John Isitt, butcher, John Howard, ironmonger, Benjamin Johnson, carpenter, Joseph Swannell, farmer, Thomas Hine, farmer, Samuel Bennett, farmer, William Bennett, farmer, Charles Armstrong, farmer and William Biggs, baker. At first the cause did not seem to prosper and closure was considered. In 1898 marriages were licensed at the chapel.

The Methodist Church of Great Britain was formed in 1932 when a number of strands of Methodism, most importantly for Bedfordshire, Wesleyan and Primitive Methodism once more joined together. The chapel in Cardington closed in 1983 and is now a private house. In May 1984 the building was listed by the former DEpartment of Environment as Grade II, of special interest. In 1985 an agreement with the United Reformed Church allowed the Methodists to share the Howard Meeting in Cardington [MB1791].

Bedfordshire and Luton Archives and Records Service has the following records relating to the chapel:

  • PM2741: site for the chapel: 1824
  • MB26 pages 270-274: pew rents: 1854-1876;
  • MB1789: baptism register: 1871-1983;
  • MB2077-2078: trust fund minutes: 1929-1973;
  • MB2075: memorial for Samuel Church, lost in the R101 disaster: 1930;
  • MB2076: war memorial: 1939-1945;
  • MB2079-2081: church accounts: 1973-1994;
  • MB2083: booklet: A Cloud of Witness: 1973;
  • MB1790: papers regarding closure and sale: 1982-1985;
  • MB1791: sharing agreement with the United Reformed Church: 1985

The former Wesleyan chapel in March 2007
The former Wesleyan chapel in March 2007