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Methodism in Steppingley

On 30th March 1851 the one and only religious census was held in Britain. Each place of worship had to record the number of worshippers it had accommodated on that day. The Wesleyan chapel at Steppingley complied and gave the additional information that it had opened in 1847. The first mention of Methodists in Steppingley is in the circuit records for 1841 [MB1347].

Map of 1901 showing the Methodist chapel
Map of 1901 showing the Methodist chapel

The meeting stood on the site of the southernmost block of four Bedford Estate cottages in Church Road and had 45 free seats, 40 others and standing room for 15. The general congregation had been 40 in the afternoon and 96 in the evening. The minister Walter Coates stated that the average for the preceding six months had been 90 at both services. The Wesleyan chapel was registered on 5th February 1861 by the circuit minister Charles Carter.

 The former Methodist Chapel December 2016
The former Methodist chapel December 2016

A new chapel was built in 1903 and 1904 on a different site on Flitwick Road, to the designs of architect John Wills of Derby and officially opened on 9th February 1904 [MB2/STE/2/2653]. It was re-registered on 29th December 1903 [MB2/STE/15/1524]. It was certified for the solemnisation of marriages on 25th March 1905 [MB2/STE6/1524]. Not surprisingly, the Rector of the church had been opposed to the new chapel’s competition! [P82/28/9 page 43].

In 1932 the Wesleyans came together with the Primitive Methodists and United Methodists to form the Methodist Church of Great Britain. The chapel was originally part of the Bedford and Ampthill Circuit. In 1875 to changed to the Ampthill Circuit and in 1971 to the Bedford South and Ampthill Circuit. The chapel closed in 1975 [MB2/STE/6/1526] and is now a private house.

The chapel records include the following:

  • MB2/STE/3/2654: cash book of the stewards of the Wesleyan Methodist Society: 1865-1875;
  • MB2/STE/3/2655: treasurer’s account book: 1881-1910;
  • MB2/STE/6/1404: papers regarding the new chapel and school room: 1902-1907;
  • MB2/STE2/2653: trustees’ minutes: 1902-1927;
  • MB2/STE/15/1524: certificate of registration and certificate as a place to solemnise marriages: 1903-1905;
  • MB2/STE/3/1525: setting up of the Richard Jeffs Trust fund to be divided between the Sunday school and the poor members of the chapel: 1928-1929;
  • MB2/STE/6/1526: closure of the chapel: 1975-1977