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Methodism in Mogerhanger

Village Hall (built 1977) possibly on the site of the old Wesleyan Methodist meeting
Village Hall (built 1977) possibly on the site of the old Wesleyan Methodist meeting

Although the records seem to hint that a regular meeting-place was not always sustained within the village, there is evidence of Methodist congregations in Mogerhanger from at least the early 1830s: the ‘dissenters’ meeting house’ registered in the Archdeacon’s Court on 19 May 1832 was most likely Wesleyan (judging by the printer of the registration form, T. Cordeux of London, who Edwin Welch in his Bedfordshire Historical Records Society volume 75 on nonconformist meeting houses (published in 1996) identified as printing forms used in other Methodist registrations) [ABN1/2; ABN2/270; ABN 3/3, entry 119]; it was registered as meeting in Mogerhanger in the house of William Odell, one of three men who signed the registration application. A worship licence is recorded for a Wesleyan Methodist Chapel there in 11 February 1854, registered by William Henry Clarkson of Bedford, superintendent minister.

Cash received from ‘Muggerhanger’ shows in the Bedford Circuit account book from the book’s first entry 28 March 1842, but records of the congregation’s offerings cease after the entry in 28 June 1852 [MB13].  In 1843 there was declared at least an intention to build a chapel:  item 6 of the minutes of the quarterly Circuit meeting, held at Bedford on 27 March, records the resolution, ‘That a Wesleyan Chapel be built at Muggerhanger, providing it does not cost more than £100, including writings and land, and provided also that £75 be raised previous to the commencement of its erection—and that a committee consisting of Messrs. Twitchell, Howard, James, Brown and Rowe, do supervise the erection of the chapel’ (MB 6, p. 21). 

In 1852 the Registrar General took over from the Church of England the licensing of meeting houses for worship, and a Wesleyan Methodist Chapel at Mogerhanger is shown as registered for worship on 11 Feb 1854,  as noted above.  However, the registration is also shown as cancelled on revision, 19 April 1895 (records held at The National Archives, sub-series RG70), and there is no entry for Mogerhanger in the list of Bedfordshire Places of Religious Worship for 1908. 

It is not certain where the earlier meeting house was; however, the 1877 edition of Kelly’s Directory states, ‘There is a schoolhouse here, which was originally a dissenting chapel, but now the property of E.H. F. Dawkins, Esq., who has considerably enlarged and improved it.’  This apparently is on the site of what is now the Village Hall, on the north side of the village toward Chalton.  More concrete evidence would need to be found to back up the evidence of the directory, but it provides at least one lead to follow in locating an earlier meeting house site.  That it appears that a beerhouse called the ‘Live and Let Live’ was just down the lane toward Mogerhanger makes one wonder whether, if the name was at all contemporary with the presence of a Methodist meeting, it might be a tongue-in-cheek reference to its teetotal neighbour chapel across the field.

No Methodist chapel building is marked on the first and second editions of the Ordnance Survey maps (c. 1880s, c.1901; 25-inch series), which may indicate either the lack of a congregation or perhaps that they were meeting in some premises other than a purpose-built chapel when the surveying was done.  All that changed in the 1920s: in the minutes for the Annual United Trustees Meeting (for the Biggleswade Circuit) held on March 17th, 1927, it is recorded that Mr. F. Matthews had offered a site for a new chapel at Mogerhanger 70 feet deep by 40 feet with a frontage to a main road "and his generous offer was gratefully accepted".  They noted that it would be arranged ‘to have the site conveyed to a body of trustees at an early date' [MB 849].  The chapel collections books start from 1927.

In 1932 the Wesleyan Methodists came together with the Primitive and United Methodists to form the Methodist Church of Great Britain. The chapel in Mogerhanger is still open at the time of writing [2007].

The Methodist chapel in November 2007
The Methodist chapel in November 2007