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Methodists in Stevington

Park Road Almshouses and Primitive Methodist Chapel about 1900 [Z1306/112]
Park Road Almshouses and Primitive Methodist Chapel about 1900 [Z1306/112]

On 30th March 1851 a census was carried out of public worship across the whole country. The Bedfordshire results were collated by David Bushby and published by Bedfordshire Historical Records Society as Volume 54 in 1975. The Primitive Methodists then met in a room of a house occupied by William Wilcox of Duck End. Henry Kent of Bedford, baker and local preacher reported that there had been thirty in the congregation in the afternoon and sixty in the evening, the latter being the greatest number the forms would hold.

On 28th December 1860 the dwelling house of Thomas White was registered by Primitive Methodist minister Edward Bishop of 6 Adelaide Square, Bedford. Bishop registered a Primitive chapel at Clapham on the same day. The registration was cancelled on 31st December 1866. Edward Bishop registered the new Primitive Methodist chapel on 19th November 1863 and it was cancelled on 9th August 1957.

The owner of the former chapel, Robert Shaftoe, bought in the deeds for Bedfordshire and Luton Archives and Records Service to photocopy and these are available in the searchroom [CRT130Stev18]. They begin with an extract for the Manor of Stevington Court Roll for 28th October 1864 at which it was noted that on 20th November 1863 William Cullip of Felmersham, domestic servant surrendered copyhold land in Stevington for £16 to the chapel trustees George Panter, John Harpin, George Brown, William Cox and William Hide, all of Stevington, labourers, William Cooper of Kempston, farmer, Thomas Hulatt of Oakley, grocer, Joseph Hulatt of Pavenham, baker, William Spurgeon of Bedford, moulder, John Panter of Bedford, labourer, George Deighton of Bedford, labourer and Samuel Salisbury of Bedford, smith. The land was described as "chiefly plantation and very small part arable situate in park End in Stevington aforesaid, containing by admeasurement one thousand, four hundred and forty superficial feet or thereabouts, bounded on or towards the north-east by the highway, on or towards the north-west by gardens of almshouses and on all other parts by property of the said William Cullip and having a frontage towards the highway of thirty feet and is in depth forty eight feet". It had formerly been described as orchard and pasture and had been formerly in the occupation of Francis Hulatt.

Eight days after this conveyance of the land the chapel the Bedfordshire Mercury recorded the opening of the chapel: "NEW CHAPEL. - On Sunday last the new chapel in connexion with the Primitive Methodists was opened, the Rev. Edward Bishop preached morning and evening and the Rev. W. Antliff, President of the Conference, in the afternoon. On the following Monday the Rev. W. Antliff preached in the afternoon; there was a public tea a five o'clock, and a meeting in the evening, presided over by Dr. Barker, at which addresses were delivered by Henry Armstrong Esq., Rev. W. Antliff, the Revs. E. Bishop and Clark and Mr. Usher. The attendance was large, the audiences enthusiastic, and the collection very liberal, upwards of £60 having been subscribed and collected. The chapel is a very neat and substantial structure, conveniently situate at the east end of the village. It was built by Mr. James Harris, from designs by Mr. Usher, architect, of Bedford, and cost about  £200".

At the time of its opening the chapel was part of the Bedford Mission (Hull Circuit). In 1867 it became part of the Bedford Primitive Methodist Circuit until 1897 when it became part of the Bedford I, later called Hassett Street Circuit.

New trustees for the chapel were appointed in 1904. The new trustees were: Jesse White Cowley of Stevington, post master; Thomas Bowyer of Stevington, labourer; William Bowyer of Stevington, plate layer; Henry Harpin of Stevington, labourer; Alfred Hulatt of Stevington, labourer; William Herbert Dawson of Stevington, labourer; Stanley Thomas Mackness of Stevington, shoe hand; Harry Cox of Stevington, labourer; Isaac Obed Hulatt of Rushden [Northamptonshire], shoe hand; John Henry Hulatt of Stevington, plate layer; Robert Tysoe of Stevington, labourer and wonderfully named Eliabut Rotherham Hulatt of Stevington, shoe hand.

In 1932 the Methodist Church of Great Britain was formed. This was an amalgamation of the previously separate Primitive Methodists, Wesleyan Methodists and United Methodists. The chapel remained in the Hassett Street Circuit until 1952 when it became part of the Bedford North Circuit.

Manors were effectively abolished in all but name by a series of Law of Property Acts in the 1920s. All copyhold land had to be converted into freehold (known as enfranchisement), with a payment in compensation to the Lord of the Manor. The Law of Property Act 1922 was the one which enfranchised the land but the compensation paid to the Lord for the chapel did not take place until 1935 - the sum being £6/6/9.

A new model deed was put in place for the chapel in 1952 by surviving trustees William Herbert Dawson and Harry Cox but the chapel closed in 1957 and in 1958 the President of the Annual Conference of the Methodist Church agreed that it might be sold. This duly happened on 25th March 1958 when the trustees sold it to Buryside Holdings Limited for £300. The trustees at this date were: William Herbert Dawson of Stevington, smallholder; Ernest George Ball Parrott of Oakley, engineering machinist; Douglas Gordon Pullinger of Bedford, French polisher; Albert Edwin Keech of Bedford, clerk; Benjamin Joseph Catlin of Bedford, builder; Robert Askew Bunney of Oakley, male nurse; Robert Charles Lancaster of Bedford, joiner; Ewart Kenneth Martell of Pavenham, solicitor; Maurice Clare Stanton of Bedford, bank official; Colin Ernest Baldwin of Ravensden, progress clerk; Percival Warwick Rush of Bedford, printer; Raymond Swindell Pimperton of Oakley, shoe buyer; Kate Olive Day of Turvey, married woman; Frederick John Day of Turvey, retired farmer; Charles Spencer of Bedford, company director; Leslie Stephen Brown of Bedford, deputy clerk to the justices and Arthur George Wilmer of Bedford, insurance agent.

The former Primitive Methodist chapel December 2008
The former Primitive Methodist chapel December 2008