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Congregationalists in Eggington

The Congregational meeting about 1900- it is at tyhe end of the row of cottages [Z50-42-3]
The Congregational meeting about 1900- it is at tyhe end of the row of cottages [Z50/42/3]

In the early 19th century independents, as the Congregationalists were known, from Eggington attended the meeting in Hockliffe according to H. G. Tibbutt in his 1959 booklet Hockliffe and Eggington Congregational Church 1909-1959 on which this article is largely based. In 1831 a list of members of the Hockliffe meeting included fifteen from Eggington.

Then, in 1840, a meeting was built at Eggington Tibbutt quotes a contemporary account of the opening: “On Thursday, 12th November 1840 a new Independent chapel was opened at Eggintone in connection with the church at Hockliffe, Beds, when two sermons were preached by the Rev. Caleb Morris of London: that in the afternoon from Revelation, verse 7 and in the evening from Acts, chapter, 9 verse 6. The hymns were given out by the Rev. Rutton Morris, the first pastor at Hockliffe. The Rev. Mr. Bright of Luton commenced the service in the afternoon by reading and prayer; and the Rev. Edward Adey of Leighton Buzzard began the service in the evening. On the following Lord’s-day the Rev. Rutton Morris preached at Hockliffe from Acts, chapter 4, verse 31 in the morning and at Eggintone from Galatians, verse 19 in the evening: the Rev. William Lewis, the present pastor, having preached at Eggintone in the afternoon from Psalms 118, verse 25. On each day the attendance was large and on the Lord’s-day numbers unable to get into the new chapel listened to the services outside. The collections were liberal, especially considering that the inhabitants of the village, with scarcely an exception, had previously expressed their goodwill to the object by cheerful contributions according to their ability. Such readiness in the poor villagers to help themselves, encourages the hope that other friends to the Gospel in the neighbouring towns, and in London, will be disposed to encourage their pastor when he is able to call on them. About £100 will be still wanted to defray the expense of the building”.

The Bedfordshire Historic Environment Record [HER] contains information on the county’s historic buildings and landscapes and summaries of each entry can now be found online as part of the Heritage Gateway website. The entry for the Congregational meeting [HER 10791] states that a gallery was added to the new building in 1842 and a schoolroom in 1844. It was this schoolroom that was used as Eggington British School from 1848 to 1864.

On 12 January 1843 the chapel and premises, described as in the occupation of John Reed and others was registered by Reed himself. Michael Castleden, now retired from being pastor of the congregational meeting in Woburn often preached at Eggington. Discipline at Eggington was strict. In January 1848 Eliza Ellingham was excluded “on account of conduct inconsistent with the Christian character and profession” and in March 1851 Ann Pantling was suspended from communion for three months “on account of having allowed herself to be overcome by strong drink and thereby acted inconsistently and occasioned the enemy to speak reproachfully”. It may be significant that a William Pantlin registered his house for worship in 1821. Was this the first Congregationalist meeting in Eggington?

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 Independent chapel was made by the Hockliffe minister, James Sleigh. The meeting had 140 free seats and 74 others. The general congregation had been 42, with 50 Sunday scholars in the afternoon and 67 in the evening. Sleigh recorded averages for the preceding twelve months as 55 with 50 Sunday scholars in the afternoon and 63 in the evening. Repairs to meeting and schoolroom were carried out in 1854. The meeting was re-pewed in 1868.

The Congregational meeting at Eggington continued well into the 20th century. Eventually, however, the presence of a flourishing Methodist chapel proved too much competition. The Congregational meeting was sold 1959 and today a modern house stands on the site.

Bedfordshire and Luton Archives and Records Service has a few items from Eggington meeting as follows:

  • Z206/41: correspondence relating to Eggington and Hockliffe churches: 1919-1927;
  • Z206/42/1: treasurer's account book: 1926-1950;
  • Z206/42/2: income froms ervices and other sources: 1950-1955;
  • Z206/42/3: ledger of accounts: 1950-1955;
  • Z206/42/4: treasurer's rough account book: 1950-1955;
  • Z206/42/5: bank account: 1952-1958.