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Methodism in Northill

The former Wesleyan chapel July 2007
The former Wesleyan chapel July 2007

The first record of Wesleyans in the area is in September 1797 when the Wesleyan Society at Beeston is mentioned in the Saint Neots Circuit Steward's account book [MB1346]. Two buildings were registered in Northill earlier in the 19th century - a house belonging to Robert Inskip in 1810 and a barn belonging to Robert Morris in 1831. The denomination of these meetings is not known, but one or both may have been Wesleyan.  The first definitely known Wesleyan meeting was registered in Northill in 1855 by Thomas Wood of Biggleswade, the minister.

The chapel at Northill was built in Sand Lane in 1902 by Langford builder Charles Wright, the land having been conveyed by James Matthews [MB1443]. Bedfordshire & Luton Archives & Records Service has a few records from the chapel as follows:

  • MB1442: subscription list for erection of chapel: 1902-1904;
  • MB982: trustees' account book: 1902-1967;
  • MB981: Sunday School minute book: 1903-1920;
  • MB979: trustees' minute book: 1915-1919;
  • MB980: trustees' minute book: 1923-1967;
  • MB1424: Biggleswade Circuit property register: 1965;
  • MB1443: correspondence concerning closure of chapel: 1965-1967

In 1932 the Wesleyans came together with the Primitive and the United Methodists to form The Methodist Church of Great Britain. The chapel closed in 1965. On closure the Superintendent Minister had to complete a form for the Methodist Home Mission Department [MB1443]. Some of their replies are illuminating. In answer to the question Has the cause failed? the reply was made: "I understand that it James never flourished very much and latterly has had no local members of Society; of the three remaining, two live at Upper Caldecote and the other at Sandy. Only the Sunday School has been functioning for a number of years.

In reply to the question Is this a dying village? came the reply: "No, but very strongly Anglican; the type of new houses being built here are such that the owners would not be likely to be attracted to this small Chapel which is in such urgent need of repair and decoration if work were to continue. With Upper Caldecote so near (excellent premises) we feel this expenditure is not justified".

In answer to the question If the Society has declined, what efforts have been made to revive the work? the minister replied: "I believe that CliffCollege men have tried. Services ceased for a long period and then were recommenced for a brief space in my predecessor's time. The Sunday School has been carried on with workers from Biggleswade, Beeston and Upper Caldecote; no help LOCALLY. All nine children on the books also attended the Anglican Sunday School in the morning (ours was afternoon); one of these two families now come to Upper Caldecote". The minister also stated that Sunday services had ceased in December 1960.

The trustees wished to demolish the chapel and build a dwelling on the site but the County Planning Officer recommended refusal because he felt that the site should not be developed in isolation [MB1443]. This attempt having failed the trustees offered the building for sale to Northill Parochial Church Council for £600 in May 1966 [MB1443]. The chapel was finally conveyed to Northill church for use as a hall in October 1967.

The former Methodist chapel July 2007
The former Methodist chapel July 2007