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Primitive Methodism in Silsoe

In 1794 schoolmistress Sarah Harrison wrote that a Methodist preacher had taken a large room in the only house at West End that had one in order to preach in once or twice a week. He was elderly and an intimate of Wesley. In the summer he emant to give up the room and preach on the cross in the village [L30/11/133/4].

In 1811 Lewis Harrison, Silsoe agent for Amabel Hume-Campbell, 5th Baroness Lucas and, from 1816, 1st Countess de Grey wrote that he had bought a house in West End Road for 250 guineas "to prevent the erection of a Methodist chapel which would certainly happened had it been sold to Croxford or Flint who were bidding hard". He could "get rid of it if your ladyship pleases" [L30/11/108].

He wrote in January 1812 that the Vicar of Flitton intended to have a curate for Silsoe at Easter. Harrison considered it was important that he be a good preacher "in this age and rage for Methodism" [L30/11/112]. In May that year he wrote that Mrs. Whitbread had made a request for land on which to build a meetinghouse. [L30/11/122]. In 1824 she would register her own dwelling as a meeting house [ABN1/2, ABN2/208, ABN3/3]. A few days later he wrote that he "Could not for a moment have thought a new place of worship, much less dissenting, would receive your ladyship's sanction" [L30/11/124]. He noted that there was already the parish church at Flitton and its chapel of ease at Silsoe as well as a chapel at Wrest Park and nonconformist meetinghouses at Greenfield and Silsoe. The latter was the house of James Chapman, registered in 1808 [ABN1/1].

46 High Street and Malting House Cottage March 2011
46 High Street and Malting House Cottage March 2011

The Primitive Methodists seem to have been the nonconformist sect who furthest penetrated into the Anglican sanctum if Silsoe. The baptism register for the Bedford Primitive Methodist Circuit [MB1854] has baptisms recorded from 1841 onwards and the first one at Silsoe was in May 1858 when Charles Henry, son of Joseph Bunker, gardener, was baptised. In 1856 a map was prepared for Thomas Philip, 2nd Earl de Grey showing all their tenants' dwellings [L33/12/13] and Joseph Bunker was shown living at the property today called Malting House Cottage in the High Street.

Edwin Welch researched the history of registrations in Bedfordshire for Bedfordshire Historical Records Society Volume 75 Bedfordshire Chapels and Meeting Houses [published in 1996] and found that Jacob Swannell's house was registered on 27th February 1861 as a meeting house for Primitive Methodists. The registration was undertaken by Edward Bishop of 6 Adelaide Square, Bedford, the circuit minister. It was cancelled on 29th August 1894.

18 to 22 West End Road March 2011
18 to 22 West End Road March 2011

The 1856 a map shows that Jacob Swannell was, at that time, living at 20 West End Road so this may have been the house registered. We know that in 1881 a building near the Battle of the Alma Beerhouse at 17 West End Road was leased as a nonconformist chapel for ten years [WE1278] but, unfortunately, the denomination is not stated.