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Primitive Methodism in Colmworth

The former Methodist Chapel September 2009
The former Methodist Chapel September 2009

The first mention of nonconformists in Colmworth is in 1725 when a house used for dissenting worship was registered with the Quarter Sessions [QSR1725/76], sadly the document is damaged and no names survive.

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. Some of these early 19th century registrations for Colmworth may be of Methodist meeting houses given that the only nonconformist meeting in the parish known later in the century is that for the Primitive Methodists.

The first known reference to primitive Methodism in Colmworth is in 1831 when the parish first appears in steward's accounts for the Saint Neots Circuit [MB1346]. In 1830 the dwellinghouse of Robert Shimmon or Skinner was registered by Shimmon/Skinner himself, who could not sign his own name, and witnessed by Samuel Barley and John Fielding [ABN1/2, ABN2/248 and ABN3/3]. Given the proximity in dates this may be the first Primitive Methodist meeting in Colmworth but unfortunately the entry does not give a denomination.

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 David Bushby. A return was made by Isaac Gadsden, local preacher, for the Primitive Methodist chapel, which had a hundred free seats. Thirty people had attended in the afternoon and sixty in the evening. The preacher noted: "This place of Worship is a house, one room is on purpose kept only to Worship God in".

Clearly this room was insufficient: in the Bedfordshire Times of 8th October 1853 an advertisement appears with the following text:

TO BUILDERS &c. 

"Persons desirous of Contracting for the Building of a New Chapel at Colmworth, may see the Plans and Specifications between the hours of Nine and Four, at the Primitive Methodist Chapel, Hassett-street, Bedford; or at Mr. Cooper's Chapel House".

"The Tenders to be forwarded, under cover, to the Rev. Wm. Cooper, Primitive Methodist Minister, Brace Street, Bedford, on or before Three o'Clock p.m., Saturday, October 22nd, 1853".

"The Trustees do not bind themselves to accept the lowest or any of the Tenders".

The new chapel was registered on 28th February 1854 by Henry Kent of Bedford, baker. Clearly by this date Colmworth no longer fell under the Saint Neot's Circuit; it was now under The Bedford Mission (Hull Circuit) where it remained until 1867. At that date the Circuit became known as the Bedford Primitive Methodist Circuit, becoming the Bedford I Circuit, later called the Hassett Street Circuit, in 1897.

Interestingly, the chapel building standing today [2009] in Chapel Lane has a date of 1866 inscribed just under the roof line. It may be that the 1854 chapel was only used for twelve years and a new one erected in 1866, or simply that repairs, alterations or an extension occurred to the 1854 building in 1866; Bedfordshire and Luton Archives and Records Service does not possess the records to determine this. It is a curious little building, a house occupying the western end and the chapel the eastern end.

The Rating and Valuation Act 1925 specified that every piece of land and property in the country was to be assessed to determine rateable value. The valuer visiting the chapel discovered that, then as now, the western half of the building was a private house - owned by Mrs. J. Colgrave and occupied by Mrs. Infield who paid no rent as she was family. Her house comprised a kitchen and scullery downstairs with a single bedroom above.  Mrs. Colgrave also owned the chapel next door. Interestingly the chapel's registration was cancelled on revision in July 1925 but the valuer makes no reference to it being disused, noting that the trustees are still leasing it from Mrs. Colgrave.

In 1932 the Primitive and Wesleyan Methodists came once more into union to found the Methodist Church of Great Britain. Clearly at some point the Methodist chapel in Colmworth closed. Today [2009] the building is used by a group called The Faith Mission. A board outside advertises meetings every Sunday at 2.30 p.m. except the first Sunday in the month when they are held at 11 a.m.