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Baptists and Congregationalists in Sheep Lane

The Union Chapel on a map of 1901
The Union Chapel on a map of 1901

A family of Baptists is mentioned in Potsgrove in an episcopal visitation of 1720. The first surviving registration of a Baptist meeting in Potsgrove was in 1792 [QSR1792/55 and QSM19 page 12] which was at the house occupied by farmer John Farey and was registered by Farey himself (by mark), John Studds, farmer, Henry Clarke (by mark), labourer and William Butterfield, dairyman.

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 the Potsgrove Union Chapel, described as an Independent chapel, was made by J. Andrews, Congregational minister at Woburn. At this time the Baptists were in Union with the Congregationalists, traditionally called Independents.

The chapel is dated to 1838 “in lieu of a cottage service carried on for many years previously". There were seats for 110 and the general congregation that afternoon had been 46, with 30 Sunday scholars. In the evening it was a general congregation of 32. Andrews commented: “Nothing like our usual numbers”.

A Union chapel is marked in the first edition Ordnance Survey map of 1883 in Sheep Lane, about a third of the way from the turn to the village and the junction with Watling Street. It is still shown on the map of 1901 but was later pulled down. Sadly, Bedfordshire and Luton Archives and Records Service has no records from this chapel.