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Toddington Wesleyan Methodists

Wesleyan Chapel in the 19th century [Z50/126/59]
Wesleyan Chapel in the 19th century [Z50/126/59]

Methodists were meeting in Toddington from as early as 1785, when it is listed as a society in the Bedford Circuit with a membership of twenty. In the early days Toddington and Tebworth appear to be interchangeable, with the Toddington replaced in the circuit records by Tebworth, but with the membership including many of the Toddington names. In 1795 Tebworth and Toddington is listed as a single society with 15 members. In 1796 they are separate, each with a membership of nine, and with Mr. Saunders listed as a local preacher. Toddington disappears from the circuit records again in 1802, but the registration of the house of Henry Saunders as a non-conformist meeting place in 1804 would appear to be evidence that they were still meeting in the village. The Methodists were certainly well established at Toddington by the 1820s.

For some time services were held at the house of John Cotching, who is commemorated with his wife Jane on a memorial tablet on the chapel wall. Services were probably held in a barn at the rear of the 'Red House' until Cotching and his wife gave a piece of land to the west of the High Street for the building of a chapel. The first chapel on this site was built in 1823 and Revd. Richard Edland (or Elland) was licensed as its minister. This chapel was replaced by the present one in 1846. In 1866 more land was bought; two vestries were added, and other alterations were carried out. A new organ built by Messrs Trustram of Bedford was installed in 1883, and the chapel was renovated after funds were raised as part of the centenary celebrations held in 1896. Gas lighting was installed in 1863, but the Methodists of Toddington had to wait until 1931 for electric lighting.

On Sunday 30th March 1851 a census of all churches, chapels and preaching-houses of every denomination was undertaken in England and Wales. The Bedfordshire returns were compiled by David W. Bushby and published in 1975 as Bedfordshire Historical Record Society Volume 54. The return for the Wesleyan Methodists at Toddington was provided by R. Barton on behalf of the Minister, Peter Cooper. The chapel seated 330, with 180 free and 150 other seats, and the general congregation that day had amounted to 200 at the morning service and 330 in the evening.

A Wesleyan Day School was built in 1854. After it was replaced by a new Council School in 1910 the Wesleyan Hall was used as a Sunday School until it was sold in 1960. A new Wesleyan Hall was opened in 1963 which is still in use. In 1972 the church was refurbished, with pews replaced by individual chairs, and further alterations were made in 1987.

In 1932 the Wesleyan Methodists, Primitive Methodists and United Methodists came together to form the Methodist Church of Great Britain. The Primitive chapel in the village seems to have continued for some time after the merger.

The Wesleyan Methodist Church interior about 1910 [Z1130/126/31]
The Wesleyan Methodist Church interior about 1910 [Z1130/126/31]

Records held by Bedfordshire Archives include:

  • MB2/TOD1/1/2770-2778, 2997: Baptism and marriage registers
  • MB2/TOD1/2/1278: Minutes of leaders' meetings, 1911-1948
  • MB2/TOD1/5/1837/1: Chapel centenary souvenir handbook, 1946
  • CRT130 TOD 16: Non-Conformity in Toddington
  • CRT130 TOD 19: Extract from Beds Mercury reporting on opening of new organ, 1 Sept 1883

The Methodiist chapel March 2016
The Methodist Chapel March 2016