Each Baptist church is independent and self-governing, and there are two broad branches of Baptists, Strict and General. Strict, or Particular, believe that in order to take communion you must have been baptised, while General Baptists offer open communion. Both believe that in order to be baptised you must be old enough to confess Jesus as Lord and Saviour (although there were fringe groups of Paedo-Baptists who did practice infant baptism), and baptism is via full immersion in water.
I believe all the Baptist chapels in Wing were General. There was a list of Strict Baptists churches and ministers published in the Baptist Magazine of 1811, and Wing is not listed so there wasn’t one then – the Strict Baptists living in Wing at that time seem to have gone to Leighton Buzzard to worship, or perhaps the minister came to them! One such visitor was Thomas Wake, pastor of the Lake Street Baptist meeting in Leighton Buzzard, who would visit Burcott once a month on the Tuesday evening closest to the full moon circa 1810.
Births or baptisms would have been recorded in the chapel records, either in a register or in the minutes. Remember that for Baptists the date of a baptism is no indication of the approximate birth year of the individual involved unless this information is specfically stated – however I have found more records of births rather than baptisms! Marriages of Wing Baptists will likely be found in the registers of All Saints Church, or the spouse’s home parish church, as I am not aware that any of the Wing Baptist chapels were licenced for marriages. As far as I know there was no Baptist burying ground in Wing so burials would have taken place at All Saints.
The first specific mention of a Baptist chapel in Wing that I am aware of is in the Return of Dissenting Places of Worship from 1829. This states there was a Particular Baptist sect of around 20 Baptists – however it was John Felix, minister of All Saints, completing this return so this number may not be accurate. Wing residents are also noted amongst the congregation of the Baptist church in Leighton Buzzard in the pre-1835 period (see below). By 1851, the Ecclesiastical Census lists two Baptist churches, the Wing Baptist Meeting House (total daily attendance 73 out of 120 sittings, and although the space was used exclusively as a place of worship it was not a separate and entire building), and the Burcott Baptist Chapel (total daily attendance of 40 out of 50 sittings, and preaching on Tuesday/Wednesday evening rather than Sunday). The 1853 Musson & Cravens directory also notes the existence of a Baptist chapel in Wing but with no regular minister (it is not mentioned in subsequent directories that I am aware of).
The Baptist chapel in Burcott was originally founded in 1840 as a daughter chapel of the Free Communion Baptist Church of Lake Street, Leighton Buzzard (although some Wing residents evidently preferred to continue to worship in Leighton Buzzard – see below). The 1851 Ecclesiastical Census records this chapel opened in 1845, so perhaps there was no dedicated building between 1840 and 1845. The congregation then moved across to a new building in Littleworth in 1854 or 1857. The Baptist cause was already declining by this point and the building was subsequently sold to the HELEY family around 1870 who reopened it as the Congregational Union chapel.
All Saints Church
One key tenet of the Baptist faith is that individuals are baptised as adults rather than as children. It seems that sometimes this could take place in the parish church rather than a Baptist chapel as the registers for All Saints Church include the following entries:
* Mary the wife of Richard DYMOCK at the age of 27 years, and Hannah HOLBEY daughter of Thomas and Elizabeth Holbey, both of the Anabaptist persuasion were baptised in the church by me H J de Salis 7 Jul 1778
* Elizth wife of Thos HOLBEE and Samuel son of Thos & Elizth HOLBEE of the Anabaptist persuasion bapt by Edm Wodley 18 Jun 1782
* Eliza GREEN of this parish, Baptist age 16y8m 31 May 1804
Leighton Buzzard Particular Baptist Church, 1771-1835
A few families were heading over to Leighton Buzzard to worship at the Particular Baptist church. The following Wing residents are included in the register of births (not baptisms) and burials (available at the Bedfordshire & Luton Archives and Record Service or on LDS film number 1279202). Interestingly enough, some of these children were baptised at All Saints soon after their birth – perhaps the children in question were not expected to live?
George & Mary BAKER of Wing have the following children listed: Elizabeth 10 Sep 1804 [bap. All Saints 12 Sep 1804], Mariah 7 Jul 1806 [bap. All Saints 3 Oct 1806], Richard 14 Oct 1810, Thomas 4 May 1812 [bap. All Saints as an adult 8 Jun 1834], Rhoda 1 Jun 1815, Joseph 1 Jan 1818, Hannah 19 Oct 1820 [bap. All Saints as an adult as Sarah Hannah 25 Jun 1837] and Sarah 15 Dec 1822.
Jonathan & Alice BECKET of Wing have the following children’s births listed: Mary 6 Aug 1803 [bap. All Saints 7 Aug 1803], Maria 6 Oct 1805 [bap. All Saints 13 Oct 1805], Peter 7 Oct 1807 [bap. All Saints 3 Jan 1808], Joshua 18 Oct 1810, Caleb 25 Mar 1812, Martha 9 May 1814, David 11 May 1816, Jonathan 22 Feb 1821, Jesse 10 Feb 1825, Ruth 15 Dec 1826.
Jonathan & Maria BECKET of Burcott Wing have the following children listed: Jonathan 22 Feb 1821, Jesse Ruth (dau) and Jesse (son) 10 Feb 1825 [two separate entries, but is this an error?], Ruth 15 Dec 1826.
Hannah COOK of “Burcut” was buried 22 Mar 1786.
Thomas & Elizabeth DIMOCK of Littleworth have the following children listed: Hannah born 8 Dec 1802 [bap. All Saints 9 Jan 1803], Mercy 14 Feb 1806, Leah 7 Apr 1808, Richard 10 Jul 1810, Zilpha 13 Aug 1812, Matthew 11 Feb 1816, Thomas and Elizabeth [BVRI has 31 Aug 1818 however this is the date of the unrelated entry immediately above these two, the date for these two entries is blank]
Joseph & Susan GURNEY of Wing have the following children listed: Jesse born 13 Nov 1805, Jethro born 13 Jan 1809, Jabez born 16 Aug 1812, Ann born 3 Nov 1818.
Leighton Buzzard Free Communion Baptist Church
The following Wing General Baptists are included in the list of members 1838 to 1894 of the Free Communion Baptist Church on Lake Street, Leighton Buzzard (available at the Bedfordshire & Luton Archives and Record Service or on LDS film number 1279202). Each list was added to and amended, then periodically a new list was begun.
List of Members 1838-1853
#124 JN ELLIOT of Burcot
#129 JW CARTER of Burcot
List of Members 1854
#58 J CARTER of Burcott, resigned/removed Jun 12 1862
#73 Mark JENNINGS of Burcott, baptised Mar 1851
#74 Mrs BUCKMASTER, baptised May 1851, died Mar 1856 “her end was peace”
#82 Mrs JENNINGS of Burcott
#88 Jessy BECKETT of Burcott, baptised Jan 1854, died Jan 1861 “killed by a horse, leaves wife and son” [actually several sons and daughters according to the 1861 census]
#99 Mrs HAWKINS of Burkitt, received Jul 1854
#125 Mrs BECKETT of Burcott, baptised 30 Mar 1856
#126 Mrs MASON of Burcott, baptised 30 Mar 1856 died Jul 1856 “[obscured] simplicity”
#142 Mrs MORTIMER of Burcott Wing, received by experience Nov 1859
List of Members 1862
#51 Mark JENNINGS of Burcott, baptised Mar 1851
#56 Mrs JENNINGS of Burcott
#59 Mrs HAWKINS of Burcott, received Jul 1854
#70 Mrs BECKETT of Burcott, baptised Mar 1856
#91 Mrs MORTIMER of Burcott Wing, received Nov 1859
(It is recorded in the Baptist Magazine of 1862 that 10s. 8d. was raised in a collection amongst the Burcott folk worshipping at Leighton Buzzard.)
List of Members 1865
#32 [crossed out] JENNINGS of Burcott, “Union Chapel Burcott”
#33 [crossed out] Mrs HAWKINS of Burcott
#41 [crossed out] MORTIMER of Burcott
A 3-page obituary from 1831 for Hannah HAWKINS who married William HELEY can be found in one of the editions of the Baptist Magazine on Google Books (sadly the name of the author is not given)
Frederick Woolhead born in 1863 declared himself a Baptist upon enlisting with the Bedfordshire Regiment in 1883 (found on the WO364 series)