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Wesleyan Methodists in Shefford

Wesleyan chapel about 1912
Wesleyan chapel about 1912 [Z1306/101]

The first record of Wesleyan Methodists in Shefford may date to 1824 or 1834 - the date on the piece of paper says "1824" but, given the context it may be a mistake [see the transcription below] certainly Shefford first appears in Biggleswade Circuit records in 1835. Bedfordshire & Luton Archives & Records Service has a stray item [Z170/75] which transcribes thus: 

Money receiv'd for Shefford Chapel
December seat rents  £1/6/0

March seat rents  £1/6/0
Collection  £1/6/0½

Expences Cleaning Candles &c     7/1
Cash sent to Big'de  £3/10/11½ 
do for Hymn Books       8/1
M.C.  £3/19/0½

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 Wesleyans, made by Thomas Inskip, steward, shows quite healthy numbers - 61 and 78 Sunday Scholars in the morning, 93 Sunday Scholars in the afternoon and 207 in the evening. It seems clear that they were meeting either in a purpose built chapel (one was registered three years later) or a large barn as seating accommodation is given as 202.

The Wesleyan chapel in Ampthill Road was registered in 1854 by Robert Maxwell of Biggleswade, minister and licensed for marriages in 1897. In 1912 a new chapel was built on the older building's site. It was Listed by the former Department of Environment as Grade II - of special interest. It is built of red brick with stone dressings, with slate roofs with terracotta ridge cresting. It is rectangular and oriented north-south with shallow transepts at the south end. The Department of Environment described it as: "Art Nouveau Gothic style, remarkably unaltered". They also noted the: "fine Art Nouveau stained glass, and variety of brass fittings".

In 1927 buildings in the town of Shefford were valued under the Rating Valuation Act 1925; every piece of land and building in the country were assessed to determine the rent to be paid on them. the valuer visiting The Manse [DV1/C290/29] noted that the occupier was Rev.T.W.Kingsnorth, the owner H.Inskip. It was a brick and tile, detached building with two reception rooms, a study and a kitchen and scullery downstairs, with four bedrooms and a bathroom and wc upstairs. A barn and wash- house lay outside. He noted that there was a space 6 feet x 3½ feet "over the porch". The house was: "v.nice". He further noted: "This house is let to Chapel Managers, who sublet to Rev.Kingsnorth".

Methodist church in January 2008
Methodist church January 2008

Specifically Shefford records held by Bedfordshire & Luton Archives & Records Service are as follows:

  • MB991: Trustees' minute book: 1936-1977;
  • MB992: Trustees' account book: 1858-1916;
  • MB993: Building Fund bank book: 1912-1918;
  • MB994: Pulpit notice book: 1958-1960;
  • MB995: Pulpit notice book: 1960-1962;
  • MB996: Local Youth Council minute book: 1963-1971;
  • MB997: Church newsletter: 1978;
  • MB998: Shefford & District Council of Churches minute book: 1970-1978;
  • MB2896: Leader's Meetings minute book: 1965-1979.