The Methodist church was established in 1741 by John and Charles Wesley. After John’s death in 1791 the church subdivided into several different groups, but eventually were all reunited again by 1932.
Methodism aimed to be more methodical than the Anglican church. There was a strong focus on education and a conscientious approach to work. Chapels were arranged in circuits, and ministers would travel around the circuit with parishioners following where this was practical. Methodists often had no objection to their children being baptised in the parish church, so finding baptisms in the registers of All Saints is not necessarily an indication that the family were not Methodist.
In Wing were found two of the larger branches, the Wesleyan Methodists and the Primitive Methodists. Key differences between these two branches (generally speaking) were that Primitive Methodism was less conservative, more open to alternative beliefs, and more decentralised than Wesleyan Methodism. Women played only a minor role in Wesleyan Methodism, while the Primitive Methodists went as far as to have female preachers! However while the Primitive Methodists were seen as much more radical when they split off in 1810, in the following decades they became less so while Wesleyan Methodism became less rigid, so the differences between them in Wing may not have been great.
A Wesleyan Methodist group is recorded in the Returns of Dissenting Places of Worship completed by John Felix, minister of All Saints, in 1829 – he stated that there were around 80 Wesleyan Methodists but this may or may not be accurate. The chapel is first noted in the 1847 Post Office directory with “various ministers”, and was a dedicated building erected in 1813 according to the 1851 Ecclesiastical Census. By 1851 the Wesleyan Methodist chapel had the highest daily attendance (542) of all the churches listed, including All Saints Church!
The building itself must have subsequently changed, as the Kellys directories for 1887 and 1899 state that the Wesleyan chapel building was built in 1864 and seated 350 people. This particular building was a large brick building in the High Street and was in use up until the 1940s. It was demolished in 1968.
The Leighton Buzzard Observer held a report of the anniversary of the Wesleyan Sunday School in its 26 May 1863 issue.
The Wesleyan Methodist chapel fell into the Leighton Buzzard circuit. The following records are currently held at the Bedfordshire & Luton Archives and Record Service in Bedford:
* minutes, accounts, collection journal and society steward’s book (ref MB 299-303, 1624-1626, 2162-2165)
* record books, subscriptions, deeds and docs (ref MB 1538)
* 1812: list of members (ref MB 1533) – these members would have been instrumental in funding the physical chapel
* 1838-1844: circuit schedule book (ref MB 1557)
* 1855: circuit schedule book (ref MB 1555)
* 1951: property register upon sale (ref MB 1537)
The Wesleyan Metropolitan Register began in 1818 as a central place to record baptisms. Some were entered retrospectively (back to 1773) and it ran up until 1838. It’s now at National Archives in series RG4 and has been digitized at http://www.bmdregisters.co.uk/ (available via a credit purchase system or via subscription to The Genealogist). These entries are also included in the British Vital Records Index however as the birthplace isn’t included in that version I can’t see what entries if any there might be for Wing people.
On 24 September 1838 a licence was granted for John BRANDON’s house in Ascott to operate as a Wesleyan Methodist place of worship (CBS D-A/C/22).
Robert FLEMONS, a farmer at Crafton from 1852 to 1854, was from Leighton Buzzard – in 1852 he is listed as a trustee of the Methodist chapel there, and in 1862 he purchased an acre of land on which was built the Hockliffe Street Wesleyan Methodist chapel a few years later.
In the 1871 census a young Wesleyan lay preacher, Frederick Charles Moseley, is visiting Joseph & Naomi BRANDON (piece 1563 folio 28 pg 23). Naomi was a DOLLIMORE, and other DOLLIMOREs from Wing were also Methodists.
The 1873 Returns of Accommodation Provided in Wesleyan Methodist Chapels shows that the Wing Wesleyan Methodist chapel held 411 seatings.
A photo of the Wesleyan congregation, taken around 1890, appears in Wing As It Was (vol 1).
William WOOLHEAD born 1870 declared himself as a Wesleyan upon enlistment in the army in 1890 (found in the WO364 series), as did Charles CARTER in 1889 (from the WO363 series). Joseph WOOLHEAD born 1886 declared himself Methodist when signing up for the Canadian Overseas Expeditionary Forces during WW1 (found in his CEF attestation papers). In 1914 Alfred William ROADNIGHT gave his religion as Wesleyan when enlisting for WW1 military service, as did Herbert James SAMUELS in 1918 (both from the WO363 series).
In the registers of All Saints Wing we find the odd Methodist entry, like:
PAGE George, age 63, buried 28 Sep 1900, by Wesleyan minister
DENCHFIELD Leah, age 15, buried 27 Jan 1902, by Methodist minister of Stewkley
WATSON Minnie, age 32, buried 21 Apr 1902, by Stewkley Methodist minister
Newspapers give the odd marriage entry taking place in the Wesleyan chapel, like the following:
MALLET Elizabeth Ann (Annie), second dau of Thomas, married John Wood of Aylesbury on 8 April 1891 (by Rev Wm Birchall of Bath)
LANGLEY Maud Emily, third dau of H Langley, married Ernest James Hing of Leighton Buzzard on 7 June 1907 (by Rev S Y Richards)
In 1898, a decision was made to undertake a grand collection, known as the Twentieth Century Fund, to pay for a new centre for Methodism in London. The Wesleyan Methodist Roll records the names of all those that contributed a guinea to the cause. It was also possible to contribute a guinea in memoriam for those Methodist relatives who had passed on. The Roll itself is held at the Hall in London, and is also available on microfiche – I recommend you check your local archive centre to see if they hold a copy as the individuals recorded their own names in the Roll Book. These Wing people are listed in the Leighton Buzzard circuit, volume 7, fiche #5-6).
In 1904, Mrs COLLINS of Crafton laid the foundation stone for the Wesleyan Methodist Atterbury Mission Hall in Vandyke Road, Leighton Buzzard.
In April 1835 Mr James Pole, a preacher from the Primitive Methodist’s Hounslow circuit, set off on the first missionary trip through Buckinghamshire. One place he is recorded as preaching in is Littleworth, where he was received favourably.
On 26 September 1840 a licence was granted for Thomas BAKER’s house in Wing to operate as a Primitive Methodist place of worship (CBS D-A/C/22).
The Kellys directory for 1899 states that the Wing Primitive Methodist chapel was built in 1847 and seated 200. This building is still in existence (at 11a Church Street) and is now a private residence. The 1851 Ecclesiastical Census lists confirms the erection date for this Primitive Methodist Connection chapel in Wing (total daily attendance 437 plus 47 Sunday School scholars – the evening attendance was technically more than the total sittings available which suggests that this was a popular chapel), and the existence of a second Primitive Methodist chapel erected in 1844 (total attendance 13 out of 40 sittings, although the average for the previous 12 months had been 30, with no exclusive building).
The 1911 Kellys directory tells us a separate Primitive Methodist chapel was built in Crafton in 1889 – according to Wing As It Was the COLLINS family were the main benefactors of this chapel. The Crafton chapel closed in 1968. It was subsequently converted into a lean-to (see photo in 1999 on the Primitive Methodist Ancestors website) within the grounds of Rose Cottage, and the facade then rebuilt in more recent times in a similar design to the original building (see photo above).
Wing’s Primitive Methodist chapels fell into the Aylesbury circuit, and surviving records are mostly held at the Centre for Buckinghamshire Studies in Aylesbury (however the Bedfordshire and Luton Archives and Records Service holds the minutes for 1874 to 1899, ref MB 1623, and a collection list taken by the Stewkley Primitive Methodist circuit for their missionaries in 1931, ref MG 1555). The records held at CBS include the Church Street chapel’s register of marriages from 1902 to 1983 (ref NMP/401 – you can also order a lookup transcript) and various miscellaneous deeds and accounts for the Crafton chapel dating from 1920 to 1973.
The Eureka Partnership has transcribed baptisms from 1844 to 1905 from the Aylesbury circuit and have kindly given permission to publish extracts of Wing people. They have also transcribed baptisms for the High Wycombe circuit which includes a couple of relevant entries:
6 Dec 1846 James PIZZEY born Dorney
22 Sep 1850 Edwin PIZZEY born Burnham
1 May 1853 William PIZZEY born Burnham [parents George & Charlotte evidently moved around a bit as they gave their parish as Littleworth for these three entries even though the children were born elsewhere, and had further children born while they were living in other parishes]
Some Wing residents were trustees of the Mill Road Primitive Methodist chapel in Leighton Buzzard in 1852 – Ezra TRIPP, bricklayer, George DENCHFIELD, carpenter, Thomas BAKER, labourer, and William GREEN, labourer.
The following Primitive Methodist burials appear in the Wing parish registers:
BRAND Elizabeth age 73, 15 Apr 1891 [specifically noted as being buried under the Burials Act rather than as being Primitive Methodist]
BRAND John age 75, 15 Apr 1891 [specifically noted as being buried under the Burials Act rather than being as Primitive Methodist]
GUESS Ernest, age 3 1/2, 8 Aug 1898 [the GUESS family lived next door to the Chapel in the 1890s]
TEARLE Rose, age 20, 15 Sep 1898
The trustees of the Methodist Chapel (this must be the Primitive Methodist Chapel as the TEARLEs were Primitive rather than Wesleyan) in 1898 were:
William BANDY, labourer
David CUTLER, cowman
Henry HOUNSLOW, gardener at Ascott
George JORDAN, smallholder & grocer
George PAGE, miller
John RANDALL, shopkeeper
Moses SYRATT, property-owner
George TAYLOR, coal merchant
Levi TEARLE, blacksmith
John WOODWARDS, labourer
Source: A History of Wing by R.W. Holt
Levi TEARLE was a prominent force within the Primitive Methodist community of Wing – for many years he was superintendent of the Chapel and Sunday School.
In the 1901 census 17-year-old Methodist evangelist Willie Owen is visiting Thomas & Hannah GUESS (piece 1509 folio 7 pg 6).
Other Methodist Snippets
Robert HEDGES baptised 3 Feb 1811 in Wing is living in the hamlet of Billington (Leighton Buzzard) in 1861 and lists his occupation, along with farmer, as Local Methodist Preacher (by 1817 he’s a coal dealer in Houghton Regis). He moved from Wing some time between 1851 and 1861, could this tell us anything about Methodism in Wing at this time or was he just moving on to seek better day-job opportunities?
The Rothschilds were notable benefactors to the Methodist chapel in Wing.
Charles Able RICE, a butcher living in Burcott, listed himself as a Methodist when enlisting for WW1.
- Methodist Archives and Record Centre at the John Rylands University Library of Manchester
- Wesley Historical Society – includes link to their library catalogue
- Oxford Centre for Methodism and Church History
- Methodist Heritage UK
- Google Books – The History of the Primitive Methodist Connexion to 1859
- Non-Conformity in Leighton Buzzard at the Bedfordshire Community Archives