Wesleyan Methodism in Houghton Conquest
The former Methodist chapel January 2016
The earliest mention of Methodism in Houghton Conquest is in 1796 when William Baker registered his house for worship [ABN1/1]. Two years later Matthew Goss registered his house [ABN1/1]. The registration certificates do not name the denomination meeting at the properties but less than a decade later both men were trustees of the Wesleyan chapel.
In July and October 1805 the Wesleyan Methodist chapel “property of John Armstrong” was registered by Armstrong himself, William Baker and James Kent [ABN1/1; ABN2/119]. The original conveyance on 12 December 1818 was copied in 1862 and survives [MB2/HC1/6/4473]. John Armstrong of Houghton Conquest, farmer conveyed the Wesleyan chapel to trustees: William Baker of Houghton Conquest, farmer; John Bennett of Flitwick, farmer; Matthew Goss of Houghton Conquest, shoemaker; George Walker of Ampthill, labourer; Thomas Row of Ampthill, straw plait dealer; William Cumberland of Bedford, shoemaker and Isaac Wale of Bedford, tailor. As well as the chapel itself a good quantity of land was conveyed: 1 acre, 2 roods adjacent to the chapel; Green Lane Close of about four acres; Wickets Close of about one acre and cottages in occupation of Francis Brazier and Joseph Stonebridge. The rents from this land and property would be an important source of income for the chapel.
In March 1834 the Wesleyan chapel was again registered, this time by Isaac Wale, trustee [ABN1/2; ABN2/284]. On the last Sunday in March 1851 a mandatory ecclesiastical census was held throughout the kingdom. Thomas Bunker, trustee of the Wesleyan chapel in Houghton Conquest reported that it had been established in 1832 (which does not tie in with either of the registration dates given above!). The building contained 120 free seats and 70 others. The general congregation was 124 in the afternoon and 180 in the evening, with 39 Sunday scholars attending in the morning. These were close to the averages for preceding months.
On 17th February 1854 the Wesleyan chapel was again registered, this time by William Henry Clarkson of 4 Harpur Street, Bedford, superintendent minister. The final registration was on 30th October 1878, by George Henry Bellamy of Woburn Street, Ampthill, minister. This was the newly rebuilt chapel [MB2/HC1/3/2634-2636] which was opened on 14th November that year [MB/HC1/3/2637] having been built by Samuel Foster of Kempston at a cost of £710/2/1 [MB2/HC1/6/1390].
Before about 1829 the chapel was part of the Bedford Wesleyan Circuit. From then until 1875 it was part of the Bedford and Ampthill Circuit, then part of the Ampthill circuit until 1971. In 1971 the chapel became part of the Bedford South and Ampthill circuit.
In 1932 the Wesleyan, United and Primitive Methodists came together to form the Methodist Church of Great Britain. This meant that there were now two Methodist chapels in Houghton Conquest as the former Primitive chapel in How End remained open until 1972. The former Wesleyan chapel closed in 2002.
Bedfordshire Archives and Records Service has the following records from the chapel:
- MB2/HC1/6/1388: consent by the national committee to build the new chapel: 1878;
- MB2/HC1/3/2637: account book for the new chapel: 1878-1887;
- MB2/HC1/6/1389: bundle of bills for the building of the chapel: 1878-1880;
- MB2/HC1/3/2634-2636: subscriptions towards the new chapel: 1878-1879;
- MB2/HC1/6/1390: bill of Samuel Foster for building the chapel: 1879;
- MB2/HC1/2/2633: minutes of trustees meetings: 1909-1915;
- MB2/HC1/6/2638-2639: plans for a manse: 1914;
- MB2/HC1/3/1393: collection journal: 1940-1962;
- MB2/HC1/2/1391: trustees’ minute books: 1947-1966;
- MB2/HC1/6/2640-2641: plans for a proposed latrine and store: 1948;
- MB2/HC1/2/1392: trustees’ minute book: 1966-1977.