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Wesleyan Methodism in Eaton Bray

The Methodist chapel December 2008
The Methodist chapel December 2008

The Methodist chapel in Eaton Bray is a listed building. It was listed by English Heritage in February 1991 as Grade II, of special interest. The building dates from 1795 and was enlarged in 1806 and 1829 and improved in 1864. It is built in red brick and has stucco dressings. The building comprises two storeys beneath a Welsh slate roof.

Eaton Bray was in the Leighton Buzzard Wesleyan Methodist Circuit. On 29th or 30th June 1795 the dwelling house and premises of John Rawlins, higgler (a peddler who had a cart) was licensed by John Rawlins himself, John Hickling and Jeffery Gadsden [ABN1/1, ABN2/75] and on 21st or 24th November that year the chapel was registered by Richard Partridge, Jeffery Gadsden, Byron Mouse and Curtes Travell [ABN1/1, ABN2/77]. During the alterations other buildings were licensed for worship: on 8th May 1806 a building adjoining the dwellinghouse of Jeffery Gadsden was registered [ABN1/1] and on 13th June 1829 it was a building in the occupation of William Sear [ABN1/2, ABN2/244, ABN3/3, 93]. On 29th December 1838 the chapel itself was once more registered, by William Sear, Joseph Eustace and Thomas Gadsden [ABN1/2].

Bedfordshire and Luton Archives and Records Service has a baptism register for the chapel on microfilm [Mic152] which covers the years 1798 to 1828. A class book for the Leighton Buzzard Wesleyan Circuit [MB1533] contains names of the members at Eaton Bray. The male leader, Thomas Dimmock, was from Northall [Buckinghamshire] and the female leader Mary Thorne from Eaton Bray, the other names were as follows:

  • Mary Baines of Eaton Bray;
  • Edward Bostock of Eaton Bray;
  • Mary Bostock of Eaton Bray;
  • Ann Cook of Eaton Bray;
  • James Cook of Eaton Bray;
  • Ann Crawley of Eaton Bray;
  • Joseph Crawley of Eaton Bray;
  • Hannah Dimmock of Northall;
  • John Ellingham of Eaton Bray;
  • Margaret Ellingham of Eaton Bray;
  • Rebecca Ellingham of Eaton Bray;
  • Sarah Falkner of Eaton Bray;
  • William Falkner of Eaton Bray;
  • Mary Gadsden of Eaton Bray;
  • Sarah Goodman of Eaton Bray;
  • Thomas Goodman of Eaton Bray;
  • Hannah Goodson of Eaton Bray;
  • Sarah Goodson of Eaton Bray;
  • James Hamp of Eaton Bray;
  • Sarah Hamp of Eaton Bray;
  • Elizabeth Henley of Eaton Bray;
  • Mary Monk of Eaton Bray;
  • Hannah Mossman of Eaton Bray;
  • Ann Mouse of Eaton Bray;
  • Elizabeth Noah of Eaton Bray;
  • Ann Pointer of Eaton Bray;
  • John Pointer of Eaton Bray;
  • Susan Pointer of Eaton Bray;
  • Esther Price of Eaton Bray;
  • Elizabeth Puddifoot of Eaton Bray;
  • John Puddifoot of Eaton Bray;
  • Mary Puddifoot of Eaton Bray;
  • Samuel Puddifoot of Eaton Bray;
  • John Rollings of Eaton Bray;
  • Mary Rollings of Eaton Bray;
  • Ann Smith – “Trial”;
  • Ann Standbridge – “Trial”;
  • Jeremiah Standbridge – “Trial”;
  • Eleanor Stephens of Northall;
  • William Stephens of Northall;
  • Mary Tarle of Eaton Bray;
  • Ann Thorne of Eaton Bray;
  • Thomas Turvey of Eaton Bray;
  • Elizabeth Usherwood of Eaton Bray;
  • Elizabeth Wigg of Northall.

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 Wesleyan Methodist church was made by the steward, Joseph Eustace, who noted the following pieces of information:

  • There were 160 free seats and 250 others;
  • The general congregation in the afternoon was 300, with 125 Sunday scholars – total 425;
  • The general congregation in the evening was 320;
  • The average morning congregation was 300 with 120 Sunday scholars.

Eustace noted: “It is difficult to state the exact number of a congregation, but believe this to be about correct”. There was a Primitive Methodist chapel in Eaton Bray but it did not send in a return and so was probably not in existence in 1851.

In 1932 the Wesleyan Methodists, Primitive Methodists and United Methodists came together to form the Methodist Church of Great Britain. A notebook was compiled of circuit property in 1938 and annotated into the 1970s. The former Wesleyan chapel was described as being in Chapel Court and built on seven perches of land. The original value was recorded as £500 which had risen to £3,000 by 1938. The original deed of acquisition was noted as being dated 22nd September 1795 and the land and premises was conveyed to the chapel trustees by W. Thorne. A further bargain and sale is dated 14th May 1806, again from W. Thorne, and, presumably, was of additional land to allow for the alterations of that year. Further land was conveyed, by Alfred Ewen on 22nd June 1905 and by R. Thorne on 19th February 1906.

Bedfordshire and Luton Archives and Records Service has a number of records referring to the chapel at Eaton Bray, both from the chapel itself and within the circuit archives, including the following:

  • MB309: Eaton Bray chapel accounts: 1810-1847;
  • MB1533: Circuit class book: 1812-1827;
  • MB1534: Circuit class book: 1828-1836;
  • MB203: Circuit Plan: 1837;
  • MB1539: Circuit Baptism Register: 1837-1856;
  • MB1557: Leighton Buzzard Circuit schedule book: 1838-1844;
  • MB230: Eaton Bray trust account book: 1848-1917;
  • MB1540: Circuit Baptism Register: 1854-1873;
  • MB1558: Leighton Buzzard Circuit schedule: 1855;
  • MB196: Local preachers minute book: 1859-1878;
  • MB1527: Circuit Quarterly Meeting minute book: 1859-1884;
  • MB202: Ministers’ houses’ account book: 1864-1887;
  • MB1541: Circuit Baptism Register: 1873-1878;
  • MB231: Eaton Bray day school account book: 1878-1894;
  • MB1542: Circuit Baptism Register: 1878-1882;
  • MB197: Local preachers minute book: 1879-1911;
  • MB199: Circuit Stewards’ account book: 1880-1893;
  • MB1543: Circuit Baptism Register: 1882-1889;
  • MB192: Circuit Committee Quarterly Meeting minute book: 1884-1918;
  • MB1545: Circuit Baptism Register: 1887-1905;
  • MB1544: Circuit Baptism Register: 1888-1898;
  • MB200: Circuit Stewards’ account book:: 1893-1917;
  • MB204: Circuit Plan: 1900-1901;
  • MB1546: Circuit Baptism Register: 1905-1917;
  • MB232: bundle of papers regarding the new school and Sunday school building fund: 1910-1914;
  • MB198: Local preachers minute book: 1912-1953;
  • MB2138: Eaton Bray trustees minute book: 1912-1949;
  • MB1530: Circuit Sunday School Council minute book: 1912-1943;
  • MB191: Circuit membership book: 1914;
  • MB201: Circuit Stewards’ account book:: 1917-1937;
  • MB1547: Circuit Baptism Register: 1917-1929;
  • MB193: Circuit Committee Quarterly Meeting minute book: 1918-1935;
  • MB205: Circuit class book: 1929-1934;
  • MB1548: Circuit Baptism Register: 1929-1947;
  • MB194: Circuit Committee Quarterly Meeting minute book: 1935-1945;
  • MB1531: United Trustees minute book: 1937-1973;
  • MB1537: Circuit property register: 1938-1972;
  • MB195: Circuit Committee Quarterly Meeting minute book: 1945-1947;
  • MB1535: Circuit plan: 1945-1957;
  • MB1549: Circuit Baptism Register: 1947-1956;
  • MB1575: Eaton Bray trustees minute book: 1950-1977;
  • MB1529: Local Preachers Meeting minute book: 1953-1965;
  • MB1532: manse Trust minute book: 1954-1977;
  • MB1550: Circuit Baptism Register: 1956-1971;
  • MB1528: Circuit Quarterly Meeting minute book: 1957-1964;
  • MB1538: Circuit records book: 1960-1977;
  • MB1576: Eaton Bray Leader’s Meeting minute book: 1961-1976;
  • MB2139: Eaton Bray account book: 1964-1986;
  • MB1536: Circuit plans: 1973-1990.

The interior about 1900 [Z50/39/62]
The interior about 1900 [Z50/39/62]