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Wesleyan Methodism in Tebworth

The former Methodist Chapel February 2013
The former Methodist Chapel February 2013

Methodism at Tebworth can be traced back into the 18th century, often listed alongside Toddington. There was clearly a chapel here preceding the current building (see below). Until 1843 Chalgrave formed part of the Luton Methodist Circuit, changing to Dunstable from that date. In 1838 a Wesleyan Day School was built in Tebworth, which doubled up as a Sunday School and continued in this latter use until 1990 [MB2/TEB/6/3107].

In 1846 the opinionated librarian of Woburn Abbey, John Martin, visited Chalgrave church for an article on it in the Northampton Mercury. As usual this article was scathing. He also mentions the Methodist chapel in Tebworth: "In passing through the hamlet which is in this parish, we observed a large chapel for dissenters, tasteless enough, but affording, in the attention paid to propriety of appearance, a marked contrast to the neglected church of the Establishment".

This “tasteless” edifice was still quite new, having only been built in 1842. A notice of 2nd November 1842 advertising services for the dedication of this new chapel [MB2/TEB/5/3977] has, on the reverse, the following text: THIS NEW HOUSE OF GOD is situated in a populous Hamlet, where there is no other place of religious Worship, save the Old dilapidated Chapel. The Parish Church being upwards of a mile distant and quite away from the population. There are upwards of 100 Members in Christian Communion with the Wesleyan body; and the great majority of the people are regular attendants on its ministry. Under these circumstances, the Trustees have been induced to erect an Elegant but Plain, Substantial and Commodious Building in the Gothic style of Architecture, an edifice somewhat worthy of the Noble Object to which it is about to be consecrated. And having themselves made great personal sacrifices for the attainment of their object, they beg most earnestly to solicit the attendance and assistance of their Friends and the religious Public on the occasion of its opening, which from the character of the eminent Ministers who have kindly engaged to conduct the Services, they doubt not will be a season of delight and profit to all".

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 Tebworth Wesleyan Methodist church was made by the trustee and steward, David Roberts, who noted the following pieces of information:

  • There were 100 free sittings and 100 others.
  • The general congregation in the morning was 63, in the afternoon 200 and in the evening 150.
  • The average morning congregation was 150 with 77 Sunday scholars for a total of 227.

The chapel was redecorated externally in 1923 [MB2/TEB/6/1274]. In 1932 the Wesleyan Methodists came together with the United Methodists and Primitive Methodists to form the Methodist Church of Great Britain. Throughout the rest of the life of the chapel the number of members and attendees fell.

In September 1980 the former Department of Environment listed the old chapel as Grade II, of special interest. They described it as being built in the Gothic style, from red brick with a Welsh slate roof behind a castellated parapet. The chapel was closed in 1989 and sold in 1993 [MB2/TEB/6/3107-3110] after a public inquiry (necessary because of the building's Listed status) the previous year allowed sale for residential or office use. The purchasers were Chiltern Air Conditioning & Heating [MB2/TEB/10/4060]. The Sunday schoolroom was sold in 1990 [MB2/TEB/6/3/3107].

The Wesleyan Sunday School about 1900 [Z1306-26-5]
The Wesleyan Sunday School about 1900 [Z1306/26/5]