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Primitive Methodists in Stanbridge

The Primitive Chapel in 1901 also showing the School and Mere Cottage to the east
The Primitive Chapel in 1901 also showing the School and Mere Cottage to the east

On 15th December 1842 Daniel Brown of Luton, mealman, conveyed a plot of land in Stanbridge to Thomas Day of Luton, bonnet ironer, Matthew Plummer of Luton, also a bonnet ironer, Charles Mayo of Cockernhoe, Offley [Hertfordshire], brickmaker, John Bodsworth of Mangrove, Offley, plait dealer, Samuel Wells of Toddington, labourer, John Giltrow of Stanbridge, thatcher and David Giltrow of Stanbridge, labourer for £5. The land was thirty feet square and described as being on the west side of Tilsworth Road [although north side would have been more accurate] and was conveyed in trust "to  the intent that a Chapel or Meeting House and School shall be erected thereon by the members of the Primitive Methodist Connexion resident in Stanbridge aforesaid and the neighbourhood thereof" [CCE1035/12].

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 Primitive Methodists was made by David Giltrow, one of the original chapel trustees and now the Chapel Steward, who noted that the meeting had opened in 1842 [making the conveyance quoted above retrospective, unless the chapel was built inside sixteen days!] and that there was seating accommodation for 100 with standing room for a further 50. Attendance was 50, with 20 Sunday Scholars, in the morning, 80, with 20 Sunday Scholars, in the afternoon and a mixed congregation of 150 in the evening. In addition John Hill, the preacher, added: "Often times the Congregation exceed the Number Stated But we think we may safely say that the number specified is correct". 30th March was a cold, wet day, which did not encourage people to venture out of doors.

The Primitive Methodist chapel was registered on 9th January 1861 by Matthew Plummer of Luton, bonnet manufacturer, one of the original trustees. In December 1869 Lydia Brown of Park Street, Luton, widow and Richard Littleboy of Newport Pagnell [Buckinghamshire] and Mary, his wife, conveyed a small piece of land to the trustees for a total of £5. The land was described as being 18 feet wide, east to west and 30 feet north to south. It was described as adjoining the south side of the chapel premises, though west  side would have been more accurate. The trustees were now: David Giltrow, labourer; Thomas Higgs, cordwainer; Joseph Giltrow, labourer; Charles Shillingford, labourer; David Giltrow [junior?], labourer; John Bracey, straw factor; George Dickerson, labourer and Samuel Timms, plat dealer, all of Stanbridge. The Superintendent Preacher was George Goodbourne Pinder of Dunstable [CCE/1035/11].

Stanbridge Council School and Primitive Methodist chapel about 1910
Stanbridge Council School and Primitive Methodist chapel about 1910 [Z1306/108]

In 1932 the Primitive, Wesleyan and United Methodist churches united to form the Methodist Church of Great Britain. Stanbridge already had a larger Wesleyan Methodist chapel and two chapels in one village were not economic. Therefore, on 7th April 1937 the Methodist Annual Conference declared the former Primitive Methodist chapel and schoolroom redundant [CCE1035/10]. In July 1944 the disused chapel was conveyed to Emma Lucy Sims of Sidcup [Kent], widow for £175 [CCE1035/9]. Three years later she sold the old chapel to Kathleen Alice Mary, wife of Deryck Anthony Morris of Clifton Road, Dunstable for £125 [CCE1036/8]. The Morrises continued to live in Dunstable and sold the old chapel to Bedfordshire County Council in 1954 for £125 [CCE1035/4]. This was because the old chapel premises adjoined the eastern boundary of Stanbridge County Primary School. The chapel lay right on the road and was soon demolished and the cleared site used to extend the school buildings and site to the east.

Stanbridge School March 2008
Stanbridge School March 2008 the new building on the right is on the site of the Primitive Methodist chapel.