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Wesleyan Methodists in Clapham

Clapham Methodist Church March 2017
Clapham Methodist church March 2017

Edwin Welch researched the history of registrations in Bedfordshire for Bedfordshire Historical Records Society Volume 75 Bedfordshire Chapels and Meeting Houses [published in 1996] and found entries registering Wesleyan Methodist meetings: on 12th June 1815 (six days before the Battle of Waterloo) the house occupied by Thomas East was registered by John Dean of Bedford [ABN1/1, ABN2/169]. On 9th February 1854 a chapel was registered by William Henry Clarkson of Harpur Street, Bedford, superintendent minister. The chapel was again registered on 9th November 1876 by John Clulow of Bedford, minister. The chapel was registered for marriages on 22nd October 1880.

On 30th March the one and only census devoted entirely to religious worship was undertaken. Every place of worship was expected to complete a return noting numbers at each of its services on the day. Isaac Moore, the Superintendent of the Wesleyan School at Gwyn Street, Bedford, filled out the census for the Wesleyans in Clapham. They were in a building which dated from 1829 and had fifty free seats and sixty others. The evening service attracted one hundred people, including Sunday scholars. This was the average for the preceding twelve months.

The earliest record from the chapel itself dates from 1859 and is an account of the chapel registered in 1854 [MB1/BA6/16]. An account of the Methodist church in Clapham [CRT170/6/15] states: "the Methodists met in what is now a house in The Warren”. Until 1875 Clapham Wesleyan meeting formed part of the Bedford and Ampthill Circuit.

From 1875 to 1952 Clapham formed part of the Saint Paul’s Circuit. In 1876 a new chapel was built in Clapham and this is the building which survives today. In 1932 the Wesleyans came together with the Primitive Methodists and United Methodists to form the Methodist Church of Great Britain.

The account of the Methodist church in Clapham  states that the chapel looks outwardly much as it did in 1876 but: “the chapel’s interior was altered very drastically in 1958 and the hut at the back was added”. The congregation had hoped to move to a new part of the village or to build an entirely new chapel but had to be content with altering the one they had. In an era when many chapels have closed the one at Clapham remains a place of Methodist worship at the time of writing [2017].

Bedfordshire Archive and Record Service has the following records from the church:

  • MB2/CLA/2/166 and 4257: trustees’ minute books: 1900-1973;
  • MB2/CLA/2/4258-4259: leaders’ meeting minute books: 1962-1976;
  • MB2/CLA/3/167: chapel account book: 1877-1951;
  • MB2/CLA/3/168: trust cash book: 1912-1928;
  • MB2/CLA/3/4260-4261, 1337-1339: collection journals: 1909-1955;
  • MB2/CLA/3/4263: income and expenditure register: 1965-1977;
  • MB2/CLA/6/4266-4269: county council use of the Sunday school room for Clapham County Primary School and other uses: 1959-1964;
  • MB2/CLA/11/4265: annual reports: 1967-1976;
  • MB2/CLA/15/4270: trustees’ papers: 1956-1975;
  • MB2/CLA/16/4272: 1900-1921;
  • MB2/CLA/16/4273: notice books: 1945-1965