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Methodism in Upper Caldecote

The old Wesleyan chapel in Hitchin Road February 2010
The old Wesleyan chapel in Hitchin Road February 2010

Bedfordshire & Luton Archives & Records Service has a number of registrations of Wesleyan meeting houses in Upper Caldecote, the first being in 1832 in part of the dwelling house of Griffin Cant and registered by Cant himself - as the form was a pre-printed proforma of the type used by Wesleyans it is possible this was the first registration of a Wesleyan meeting [ABN1/2, ABN2/273 and ABN3/3, 121]. Another possible Wesleyan meeting was registered in 1851 in the house of John Millenier or Millena by the suggestively named John Wesley Wilson [ABN1/2 and ABN2/426].

The first definite registration of the Wesleyan chapel was in 1856 by Thomas Wood of Biggleswade, the minister. The first trustees of this chapel were John Odell, John Bond, John Neal, Samuel Cocking, Nodes Woodham, Ebenezer Marshall, John Sargeant, Allen Jeeves, William Woodward and William Odell. This chapel, in Hitchin Road, which still survives, though now used for commercial purposes, cost £207 to erect. In 1887 the chapel was renovated and a schoolroom added. A licence to hold marriages being granted in 1901 - the first one held being that of Matthew Brunt of Upper Caldecote and Charlotte Bowles of Ickwell.

In the middle of the 19th century the secular authorities wished to know how many people in the country attended worship and the rough proportions for each denomination. Thus a census of worshippers was held on Sunday 30th March 1851, known as the Ecclesiastical Census. It was not a particularly popular exercise and the day itself, cold, wet and unpleasant, did not exactly encourage people to go outdoors. Nevertheless, John Odell, the steward, recorded that fifty seven people attended the afternoon service and fifty two came in the evening. The meeting house could seat fifty people.

The new Wesleyan chapel about 1910 [Z307/1]
The new Wesleyan chapel about 1910 [Z307/1]

In 1907 the chapel trustees purchased a piece of land for a new chapel from Mrs.Glynn Taddy. The new building was designed by Thomas Cockrill in 1908. His first design for a 250 seater chapel came in an £1,350 and he was asked to scale it down to 200 seats and a cost of £1,000. In the event the lowest tender was £1,256/1/7 by Charles Wright of Langford, who had also built the Wesleyan chapel in Northill in 1902. The building was redecorated in 1937, a new organ installed in 1948 and a new heating system installed the next year, with a new stove in 1951. The chapel was completed in 1909 and still stands at the time of writing [2007] and is still used as a chapel.

In 1927, in common with the rest of Bedfordshire, Upper Caldecote was valued for rates under the Rating Valuation Act 1925. Every piece of land and building was valued, including chapels. The valuer reported that the old Methodist chapel [DV1/C/4: 85] was "used as store shed and for chitting potatoes [standing seeds in a tray in the light until shoots appear] was a chapel".

The Methodist Chapel March 2010
The Methodist Chapel March 2010

In 1932 the Wesleyan Methodists joined the Primitive and United Methodist toform the Methodist Church of Great Britain. At the time of writing [2010] the chapel in Biggleswade Road remains a place of Methodist worship. Bedfordshire & Luton Archives & Records Service sources for Wesleyan Chapel in Upper Caldecote:

  • MB840: Biggleswade Circuit baptism register: 1838-1851;
    MB841: Biggleswade Circuit baptism register: 1851-1859
  • MB835: Biggleswade & Hitchin Circuit schedule book with Upper Caldecote from 1852: 1852-1860;
  • MB842: Biggleswade Circuit baptism register: 1859-1872;
  • MB836: Biggleswade & Hitchin Circuit schedule book: 1861-1870;
  • MB910: Sunday School Teachers' Meeting minute book: 1863-1878;
  • MB839: Biggleswade Circuit Sunday School schedules: 1869-1874;
  • MB912: Sunday School attendance register: 1871-1875;
  • MB913: Sunday School attendance register: 1872-1877;
  • MB843: Biggleswade Circuit baptism register: 1872-1897;
  • MB911: Sunday School minute book: 1890-1934;
  • MB914: Sunday School attendance register: 1892-1893;
  • MB906: Trustees' account book: 1893-1956;
  • MB915: Sunday School attendance register: 1894-1895;
  • MB844: Biggleswade Circuit baptism register: 1894-1897;
  • MB916: Sunday School attendance register: 1895-1899;
  • MB845: Biggleswade Circuit baptism register: 1897-1947;
  • CD881: draft codicil to will of Anne Jane Harvey of Ickwell Bury leaving £500 to chapel trustees for two windows "or some other suitable memorial" to memory of her daughter Beatrice Susan Audley Harvey: 1898;
  • MB1425: Wesleyan Methodist Twentieth Century Fund historical roll in two volumes - Upper Caldecote in Volume II: C20th;
  • MB907: papers regarding appointment of and resignation of trustees: 1900;
  • MB902: Trustees' minute book: 1907-1912;
  • MB908: receipt from Charles Wright of Langford, builder, for erecting new chapel: 1909;
  • Z307/1: exterior photograph: c.1910;
  • MB909: signed discharges of three trustees: 1915;
  • MB903: Trustees' minute book: 1915-1935;
  • MB1687: Biggleswade Circuit Sunday School Union Council minute book: 1921-1938;
  • MB922: Receipt for installation of hearing aid in chapel: 1933;
  • MB904: Trustees' minute book: 1936-1963;
  • MB837: Biggleswade Circuit schedule book: 1936-1955;
  • MB918: Collection Journal: 1942-1950;
  • MB923: Organ Fund account book: 1943-1948;
  • MB925: correspondence etc. regarding installation of new organ: 1947-1949;
  • MB924: Souvenir programme for dedication of new organ: 1948;
  • MB919: Collection Journal: 1950-1961;
  • MB920: Pulpit Notice Book: 1951-1955;
  • MB917: Wesley Guild minutes: 1953-1974;
  • MB838: Biggleswade Circuit schedule book: 1956-1966;
  • MB926 and pamphlet 170: CaldecoteMethodistChurch: Centenary of the Building of the FirstMethodistChurch 1857-1957: 1957;
  • MB927: copy Biggleswade Chronicle with report of centenary celebrations: 1957;
  • MB921: Pulpit Notice Book: 1959-1963;
  • MB1423: Register of Biggleswade Circuit property including Upper Caldecote: 1960-1977;
  • MB1424: List of Trustees of Biggleswade Circuit chapels: 1965;
  • MB905: Trustees' minute book: 1963-1977