Wesleyan Methodists in Sheep Lane
The former Wesleyan chapel in Sheep Lane September 2007
Wesleyans are first recorded in Potsgrove in 1822 when they are added to the Leighton Buzzard Wesleyan Circuit class book [MB1533]. The meeting was first registered with the Archdeaconry of Bedford in 1824 at the house of Elizabeth Sayles in Sheep Lane; it was registered by Elizabeth herself as well as John Furness, the Wesleyan Minister and Richard Eland [ABN1/2, ABN2/214, ABN3/3, 63].
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. There is no return for Wesleyan Methodists from Potsgrove.
The chapel built in Sheep Lane near the junction with Watling Street was first registered in 1863 by local preacher William Richardson of Leighton Buzzard, bookseller. This suggests that the chapel was built between 1851 and 1863. In 1932 various strands of Methodism, including the Wesleyan and Primitive Methodists reunited to form the Methodist Church of Great Britain.
As the population of Potsgrove, especially Sheep Lane, declined the chapel ceased to become viable. Its final days are listed in the trustees’ minute book [MB2160]. At the annual trustees’ meeting in January 1958 it was noted: “There then followed a general discussion with regard to the future of Sheep Lane Chapel. The Rev. Webster explained the steps to be taken in the event of the Chapel closing. It was decided that services be discontinued and that a closing service be held in May”.
In January 1959 it was recorded: “Following the decision to close Sheep Lane Chapel, it was agreed that the clock be given to Atterbury Mission, 3 electric fires to Great Brickhill and the hymn books to Heath and Reach Methodist chapel. The meeting recommended that £30 of the Trust Fund money be given to Heath and Reach Methodist Chapel. After a lengthy discussion regarding the sale of the Chapel, it was decided that another Trustees’ meeting be called with a full complement of members to make final arrangements for the disposal of the property”.
At a meeting in August: “It was learned that a tentative offer had been made for the property, but it was agreed that if a private buyer did not buy the premises, it would be put in the hands of Cumberland and Hopkins. The decision was made that 50% of the sale money be given to the Heath and Reach Methodist Trust Fund and 50% to a new Circuit Church Fund. The trustees decided to give the forms to any cause in the Circuit wishing to have them”.
The last meeting was on 29th January 1960: “The Chairman stated that he had received a definite offer of £100 for the Sheep lane Chapel from Young development Limited and it was decided to accept the offer subject to Young Development paying conveyance cost. It was agreed that Mr. D. Willis be asked to remove the inscription above the front door of the Chapel”.
For some time in the 1970s the chapel stood derelict then in 1978 an application was made to turn the old chapel into a dwelling [PL/P/MB78/338] which it remains at the time of writing .
Bedfordshire and Luton Archives and Records Service has two records from Sheep Lane chapel:
- MB2159: the trust account book: 1896-1958;
- MB2160: the trustees’ minute book: 1949-1960.