Toddington Registration and Early References
In 1672 Charles II issued a Declaration of Toleration for Protestants dissenting from the Church of England; this had the effect of some dissenting meeting houses registering with the Secretary of State. The Toleration Act of 1689 enshrined the right of protestants to dissent from the Church of England and, once again, encouraged meeting houses to register voluntarily with local quarter sessions and Anglican church. Registration provided protection against persecution, laying a duty of protection upon magistrates and so was popular with nonconformists. Most registrations were made with quarter sessions until the middle of the 18th century, presumably due to the mutual antagonism of nonconformists and established Church. However, from that point registration with the Church, via the local archdeaconry began to become the favoured method, because the archdeaconry Registrar would issue a licence at any time rather than during the days each quarter when the quarter sessions met.
Visitations by the Bishop of Lincoln to Bedfordshire in the early 18th century give some idea as to the number of nonconformists in each parish from returns made by the vicar or rector. Former County Archivist Patricia Bell has compiled returns from 1706 to 1720 for the Bedfordshire Historical Records Society (Volume 81, published 2002); the returns for Toddington are as follows:
- 1706: the parish had about 190 families, with about 30 Anabaptists (i.e. Baptists) who joined in worship with the Independents; a few of them were occasional communicants with the church of England. There were 8 Quakers and no Papists.
- 1709: out of 160 families, with over 500 souls, there were 15 Quakers and 25 Anabaptists.
- 1712: the number of families had increased to 191, with 10 Anabaptists and 3 Quakers. Neither had a settled Meeting; there was an occasional meeting for each.
- 1717: there were 154 houses, with 4 Quakers and about 30 or 40 Anabaptists. There was no constant meeting in the parish, but the Anabaptists met about once every seven weeks at the house of John Strange in Chalton. Strange was then a church-warden of the parish but had attended church only for about 14 months, and then only on "particular Occasions". Within the Town they met in the barn of John Purrat, a carpenter.
- 1720: there were still 154 houses, "some having 2 families and some standing empty", and there were now 5 Quakers and about 30 or 40 Anabaptists. They still every seven weeks met at the house of John Strange in Chalton, which the Rector believed to be licensed. Strange had been coming to the established Church "pretty constantly" for about 4 years and his children were baptised.
Volume 75 published by the Bedfordshire Historical Records Society in 1996 and edited by Edwin Welch contains registrations of Bedfordshire nonconformist meetings drawn from a number of sources. The Toddington section includes the following early registrations:
- 7th October 1724: the house of Thomas Brittain of Chalton in Toddington, cordwainer, was registered by Thomas Brittain himself [QSR1724/65]
- 28th April 1802: the house of John Holdstock, property of James Fowler, was registered by F. Hews, minister, James Fowler, Elizabeth Fowler, John Holdstock, Mary Holdstock, John Spring, Richard Marting, Henry Dale, Sarah Dale, Hannah Kingham, Ann Hallworth, William Fowler and Hannah Fowler [QSR 1802/81; QSR 21,p.108]
- 12th January 1803: the house of Thomas Pointer [ABN1/1]
- 9th April 1804: the house and premises occupied by Henry Saunders, next to the house of Mrs. Alice Wheeler, was registered by Henry Saunders, T. Willis, Alice Willis, James Bailey, Mary Saunders, Thomas Saunders, John Lee. This is likely to be the meeting place of the Wesleyan Methodists, as a Mr. Saunders was the Methodist local preacher at Toddington in 1796. [ABN1/1; ABN2/114]
- 5th December 1810: the house of G. Waller at Chalton [ABN1/1]
- 17th October 1811: the house of Joseph Butt [ABN1/1]
- 2nd June 1812: the house of Reuben Randall [ABN1/1]
- 13th June 1812: a meeting house (no other information given) [ABN1/1]
- 19 October 1847: a building was registered by Thomas Hobson, minister [QSR47/4]