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Wesleyan Methodists in Heath and Reach

 The Methodist Chapel June 2008
The Methodist Chapel June 2008

A Wesleyan Methodist chapel in Heath and Reach was registered on 10th November 1823 by the minister, Jonathan Williams of Leighton Buzzard [RI3/6824a]. There were Wesleyans in the village before that, however as the list of members for the Leighton Buzzard Circuit includes Heath and Reach residents from 1812 [MB1533].

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 Methodists in the village was made by James Tavenor "Trustee and Steward" who noted that the chapel had been opened in 1822 and could seat 310. 103, and 105 Sunday Scholars, had attended in the morning with a mixed congregation of 249 in the evening - far more than at Saint Leonard's! Tavenor elucidated: "The number specified as the evening congregation includes School Children and all other children present as well as grown up persons"

 The Methodist Chapel close-up from the front June 2008
The Methodist Chapel close-up from the front June 2008

The chapel was again registered on 15th March 1861 by James S.Haigh of Leighton Buzzard, the minister; this registration was cancelled on 27th June 1878. The present building was registered on 1st June 1878 by Abraham S.White of 1 Wesley Villas, Leighton Buzzard, the minister and cancelled on revision on 16th April 1896. An amended registration took place on 30th August 1892 by John Wallace of Leighton Buzzard, tailor, an attendant at the chapel and a few days later, on 3rd September, the chapel was registered for marriages. The chapel has a date of 1877 inscribed on the front and the list of deeds for Leighton Buzzard Circuit includes notes of two conveyances of additional land in 1877 and 1878. This suggests that the current building is either an enlargement or a rebuilding of the chapel registered in 1861 rather than an entirely new structure. It is unfortunate that no chapel minutes for that period have been lodged with Bedfordshire & Luton Archives & Records Service.

In 1932 the Wesleyans and Primitive Methodists merged to form the Methodist Church of Great Britain. The chapel closed in 2008 leaving Saint Leonard's as the only building for public worship in the parish.

 The Methodist Chapel from south-west June 2008
The Methodist Chapel from south-west June 2008

Bedfordshire & Luton Archives & Records Service has the following chapel records:

  • MB236: Trust account book: 1901-1919;
  • MB237: Sunday School account book: 1903-1941;
  • MB1578: Trustees minute book: 1948-1977;
  • MB1579: Sunday School attendance register - teachers' roll: 1896-1910;
  • MB1580: Sunday School attendance register - teachers' roll: 1910-1922;
  • MB1581: Sunday School attendance register - scholars' roll: 1907-1910;
  • MB1582: Sunday School attendance register - scholars' roll: 1910-1912;
  • MB1583: Sunday School - record of catechism: 1910-1933;
  • MB1584: Band of Hope - members' subscription register: c.1915-1926;
  • MB1585: Band of Hope - attendance register: 1913-1927;
  • MB1586: Collection journal: 1945-1954;
  • MB1587: Collection journal: 1954-1964.