Independents & Congregationalists


The 1851 Ecclesiastical census indicates 40 individuals attended the Crafton Independent chapel for evening services, the maximum number of sittings available. It was not a building used exclusively for worship – the remarks on this census tell us that it was connected with the Wingrave chapel and services were only occasionally held in Wing.


Littleworth Union Chapel - photo by Rob Farrow
Littleworth Union Chapel – photo by Rob Farrow

The Congregational Union Chapel in Littleworth is first mentioned in the 1876 Harrods directory, however according to the 1899 Kellys directory it was in fact built in 1854, rebuilt in 1871, and held 140 people. This earlier date comes about because it was originally a Baptist chapel. It reformed as the Burcott Congregational church around April 1871, spearheaded by William HELEY and his adult sons James William HELEY and Thomas Somes HELEY. It later became known as the Wing Union Chapel.

The building was purchased by James William HELEY in October 1870 for £72 10s, and expanded in 1871 by building a second building at the back then knocking down the internal wall between the two. The building committee, for that work in 1871 was made of up J HELEY, T.S. HELEY and William HELEY all of Wing, and Mr JENNINGS and Mr SHARMAN of Leighton Buzzard. The final member was Mr TRUEMAN who’s incorrectly recorded as being of Leighton Buzzard, having come to Wing from London in 1859 as foreman of the newly-opened Littleworth brickyard. The foundation stone was laid 20 April 1871 by William HELEY. Construction costs were around £300 and the first service as held on 21 September 1871. A plot of land next to the chapel was purchased by George TRUEMAN for the chapel in 1880 at a cost of £60.

The founding members recorded in the church book were:

  • William Heley, his wife Jane Heley, James William Heley, his wife Catherine Heley, Thomas Somes Heley, his wife Annie Rolls Heley
  • George Trueman, his wife Sarah Trueman, John Jennings, his wife Elizabeth Jennings, Reuben Paxton, Jane Goff Mortimore, John Hammerton (one of the builders responsible for the rebuild in 1871), Samuell Jones (George Trueman’s nephew), Charles Sawyer, Jane Ross

James William HELEY was superintendent of the chapel from 1871 until a few weeks before his death in 1911, and was heavily involved in various unions/federations of Congregational Union chapels. His wife Kate was a Sunday School teacher at the chapel and sought-after speaker both within the wider Congregational cause and in her other areas of interest like temperance. Brother Thomas Somes HELEY focused more on the religious side of things and was known as an evangelist who would occasionally spend time in other counties preaching. There was some falling out between Thomas and the chapel that first arose in 1887 and ended with the resignation of Thomas, his wife and various other members in 1888 but the exact nature of this is not detailed in the church book.

Buckinghamshire Archives holds a number of records for this chapel, including:
* Church book 1871 to 1913 including admissions and baptisms (NC 5/1)
* Notebook of ministers supplied 1873-1897 (NC 5/2)
* Notebook by Kate HELEY dated 1879-1890 “Scraps and Incidents and Notes of the Lord’s Dealings” (NC 5/11)
* various other minute and account books for the 1870 to 1949 period

The damaged foundation stone of the Littleworth chapel Photo © Alex Coles September 2013
The damaged foundation stone of the Littleworth chapel
Photo © Alex Coles Sep 2013

George TRUEMAN bequeathed £200 (approx 1/7th of his estate) under his will proved 21 October 1887. This was for the Chapel to invest in consols (in the names of Arthur Somes HELEY and three other trustees), to be used towards the support of the ministry provided for the Chapel.

Wing As It Was (vol 1) has a photo of the women of the congregation (there’s almost 50 of them), taken in the 1880s.

By 1907, Congregational minister Rev. William HARRISON is listed as living at the Manse in Littleworth (a building owned by James William Heley). Wing As It Was states there were 32 members of the chapel that year. However he’s not listed in subsequent directories, nor is any replacement.

The worshippers here included Joseph Harold RICKARD and Emily Louisa WOOLHEAD, who were married in the chapel on 19 Oct 1915, according to Joseph’s WW1 military record in the WO363 series.

An extension to the building was built in April 1921. The building held monuments to the HELEY family and to George TRUEMAN (the latter as directed under George’s will to be erected after the death of his wife Sarah), however the interior is no longer accessible as chapel operations ceased around 2010. It was sold in late 2011/early 2012, its registration under the Marriages Act 1836 was cancelled by the Registrar-General in October 2012, and was converted to a private residence by 2014.

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