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Methodism in Girtford

Saint Neots Road Methodist Church March 2010
Saint Neots Road Methodist Church March 2010

A pamphlet entitled Jubilee Celebrations to mark the 50th anniversary of the saint Neots Road Primitive Methodist Chapel in 1960 stated that the original Primitive chapel, in London Road, near the junction with Saint Neots Road, was built in 1868 at a cost of £270. It was first registered by William Birks of Commercial Road, Bedford, the minister, on 15th May 1869. The pamphlet commented: "Records of this Church are practically non-existent but does mention the first trustees who were:

  • John S. Gosling of Bedford, upholsterer;
  • William Spurgeon of Bedford, iron moulder;
  • Thomas Wootton of Bedford, tailor;
  • Alfred W. Hawksworth  of Bedford, ironmonger;
  • John Brown of Maulden, shoemaker;
  • Richard Hall of Girtford, gardener;
  • Joseph Hepton of Blunham, oilcake maker;
  • John Panter of Oakley, platelayer;
  • Samuel Crosley of Clapham, bookseller;
  • Charles Graham of Bedford, bootmaker;
  • John Deighton of Bedford, labourer.

The plaque on Saint Neots Road Methodist Church March 2010
The plaque on Saint Neots Road Methodist Church March 2010

In 1904 sanction was given to purchase a plot of land on Saint Neots Road from Walter Gill who lived in the adjoining house, Number 82, for £64. This was sold back to Gill for the same amount in 1909. A new site was chosen and the land donated by James Hall in exchange for the old chapel site in London Road. Hall also donated £200 towards the new building. The foundation stone was laid on 13th June 1910 and the new church opened on 6th October. The Bedfordshire Times of 14th October carried the following report:

"In connection with the opening of the new Primitive Methodist church, a public meeting has held on Thursday evening. The building was crowded. The chair was occupied by Mr. W. Adams. The principal speaker was the Rev. J. Ritson, and the others were the Rev. F. W. Wilkinson, the Rev. F. E. Miller and the Rev. W. G. Leadbetter. Mrs. George Truin sang a solo. The total income during the day from all sources amounted to £52. The opening services were continued on Sunday, when the preacher was the Rev. G. Shapcott, of Kilburn. The collections for the building fund amounted to £3".

In July 1920 a war memorial was placed on the east wall of the church listing all the congregation members who died on active service in the Great War. In 1927 the church was registered as a venue for marriages.

In 1932 the primitive Methodists came together with the Wesleyan and United Methodists to form the Methodist Church of Great Britain. In 1943 a new organ was bought to replace the 1902 harmonium which had come from the London Road church.

In 1946 electric lighting replaced the gas lighting in the church and a war memorial provided in 1956 in the form of a new pulpit, communion rail and table. 1956 also saw the replacement of the gas central heating by an oil fired boiler.

At the time of writing [2010] the chapel in Saint Neots Road is still used for Methodist worship. It has been in the Biggleswade Circuit since 1970, having previously been in the Bedford Primitive Circuit until 1897, then Bedford II (Cauldwell Street) Circuit until 1942. Jubilee Celebrations listed the ministers from 1897 as follows:

  • 1897-1901: R. Newman Wycherley;
  • 1901-1906: Arthur Fawcett;
  • 1906-1908: John W. Whittaker;
  • 1908-1912: William G. Leadbetter;
  • 1912-1915: S. E. Mowforth;
  • 1915-1917: M. Robinson;
  • 1917-1918: W. H. Maxwell;
  • 1918-1924: R. Newman Wycherley;
  • 1924-1929: W. Sutton;
  • 1929-1935: William Schofield;
  • 1935-1941: T. Roland Spray;
  • 1941-1948: Richard J. Payne;
  • 1948-1949: Arthur Ward;
  • 1949-1951: George East;
  • 1951-1953: G. Emerson Barritt;
  • 1953-1956: W. G. Carty;
  • 1956-1960: Percy W. Mably;
  • 1960: Albert Fairhurst.

Bedfordshire and Luton Archives and Records Service has the following records relating the Methodism in Girtford.

  • MB1854: Sandy names in Bedford Primitive Circuit register of baptisms: 1841-1904;
  • MB1423: Biggleswade Methodist Circuit register with deeds etc. to Sandy Primitive chapel: 1892-1965;
  • MB1444: Girtford chapel trustees' minute book: 1913-1976;
  • MB2120: papers concerning wartime use of the schoolroom: 1940-1944;
  • MB1784: Bedford (South) Circuit schedule book including Sandy: 1949-1970;
  • MB1426: copies of Sectional Roundabout the quarterly newsletter of Girtford, Beeston, Mogerhanger, Everton, Potton and Gamlingay: 1970-1973