Chapel, Not Church – Non-Conformists

There were a number of non-conformist chapels and churches in Wing over the years. An ecclesiastical census of England was taken on 30 March 1851 along with the general census – returns from each parish show the churches currently operating along with their attendance numbers. The reason the census was taken was that there was concern that the population were “losing their way”, and either not attending church or straying to the “non-conformist” path. The results from Wing indicate that they had some cause for concern.

All Saints
Peter Thomas OUVRY, vicar
77 – Morning General Congregation
84 – Morning Sunday Scholars
161 – Morning Total
73 – Afternoon General Congregation
84 – Afternoon Sunday Scholars
157 – Afternoon Total
Baptist Meeting House
George TURNER, manager
12 – Morning General Congregation

25 – Afternoon General Congregation

36 – Evening General Congregation
Burcott Baptist Chapel
Edward ADEY, minister Leighton Buzzard
40 – Evening General Congregation
Crafton Independents
Thomas ASTON, minister Wingrave Chapel
40 – Evening
Primitive Methodist Connection Chapel
George DENCHFIELD, manager
120 – Afternoon General Congregation
47 – Afternoon Sunday Scholars
167 – Afternoon Total
150 – Evening General Congregation
Primitive Methodist
George GREEN, superindendent
13 – Afternoon General Congregation
Wesleyan Methodist Chapel
Henry BANKS, minister Stewkley
200 – Afternoon General Congregation
92 – Afternoon Sunday Scholars
292 – Afternoon Total
250 – Evening General Congregation

There were 366 sittings available at All Saints at this time so the church would be less than half-full. Attendance at All Saints only accounted for 23% of the population – and that’s assuming no-one attended more than one service a day which seems unlikely (the 84 Sunday Scholars clearly put in a full day – the vicar made a point of noting that no children were admitted to the Sunday School under ten years of age unless they go to the day school). Which families were non-conformist? If individuals or whole families in your Wing ancestry were non-conformist, this may explain why some of your family “events” are missing from the parish register – you may need to look in the records of another denomination.

Keep in mind that your ancestors may have moved from one chapel to another as their personal beliefs changed, ministers came and went, and the churches themselves evolved. The non-conformist preachers played a big part in the success or failure of a chapel, so a particular cause may rise and fall in popularity as a particularly good preacher came and went.

Specific Denominations in Wing

Summaries of the known families, chapels and records of each of these major “non-conformist” faiths can be found on the following pages:

Baptist ~ Catholic ~ Independent (Congregational/Union) ~ Methodist

Non-Conformity and Other Wing Non-Conformists

Any group of non-conformists meeting together could register a meeting house from 1688 onwards. This was meant to prevent persecution and prosecution, which had been the norm up till this point, but in practice did not actually guarantee freedom from harassment.

Some examples of this can be found in the 1662 Episcopal Visitation Book for the Archdeaconry of Buckingham (published by the Buckinghamshire Record Society). William NUTKINS was presented as having been preaching in a private house (belonging to John RUSSELL and his wife), with the following other people present: William JOHNSON and his wife, widow GREEN, widow WHITE, widow ALLEN and Anne TATNALL. Preacher William NATKINS got himself excommunicated for having not baptized his children (and there is a further note that he buried a child in Wing’s churchyard without a minister of the Church of England present). John RUSELL and Laurence WETHERHED were also accused of having unbaptized children. Stated as not attending church each Sunday (which was illegal) was William ROBINSON, Laurence WETHERHEAD and his wife, Thomas WHEELER’s wife, Robert RUSSELL’s wife, widow LATHWELL, Martha GREENE, Mistress Margaret HOWE, Thomas HURNDALL’s wife, Thomas HURDALL jnr, Jacob HURNDALL and William PEELE’s wife.

In the Easter 1684 quarter sessions, the following Wing individuals had been prosecuted for not attending church: William GREENE, Samuel HOLT, William JOHNSON, Daniel LATHWELL, Gabriell LIONELL, William NUTKINS senior and junior (Bucks Ancestor vol 16 no 4).

Some of the meeting houses subsequently registered in Wing once the law was changed in 1688:
William JOHNSON (listed above in the prosecution list) registered his house as soon as he was able to in Midsummer 1688. John PEELE’s house in Crafton was registered as a meeting house at Epiphany 1701/2, as was William NUTKINS’ house in Wing at Epiphany 1704/5 [Calendar to the Session Rolls 1694-1705]. Further registrations will be recorded in the Quarter Sessions records.

In 1723 Oaths of Allegiance to the King were required to be given by all those who owned land of one acre or more. Quakers and Strict Baptists did not give oaths but affirmed instead, and those doing so should also be listed in the Quarter Session reports.

Prior to 1754, marriages were only legal if performed by a minister previously ordained within the Church of England (even if that minister was now a dissenter himself). Records of such marriages if they took place outside the parish church are more than likely now lost. However the Marriage Act of 1753 (aka Hardwick’s Act) meant that marriages from March 1754 had to take place in the parish church (with the exception of Quakers and Jews who were exempt from this as they had a history of exemplary record-keeping). Accordingly from this date you should look for the marriage of your non-conformist ancestor in the registers of All Saints Church (or in the parish of their spouse, of course!) From July 1837 non-conformist chapels could be registered for marriages. The Registrar could then issue a Certificate (this effectively took the place of banns) after which the couple could marry in any registered building, although until 1898 the registrar still had to attend the wedding. Looking for the marriage in the civil registration index will likely be the most expedient way to find marriages from 1837.

From 1780 the ministers of any dissenting chapels were supposed to keep full records of births (and deaths if they had a burial ground, which was not common). After civil registration began in 1837, these registers were called in in 1840 and again in 1857. Not all these chapels handed over their registers (or were even still in existence to be able to do so), but those that were are now held by the National Archives in series RG4 and RG8. They are currently (in 2007) being digitized but are not known to include any chapels for Wing.

Quaker registers that were surrendered under the directive above were indexed before doing so. The digests for Buckinghamshire cover 1645 to 1837 for births, 1658 to 1835 for marriages, and 1656 to 1837 for burials and are held at the Centre for Buckinghamshire Studies (also in the Beds Record Office as the Bucks film covers parts of Beds). It is also available on film via your local LDS Family History Centre (1484593), however there are no people from Wing listed in it. There were also no Quakers mentioned in the 1798 Posse Comitatus for Wing.

The Dr Williams Register of non-conformist baptisms ran from 1743 to 1837 and was used by Presbyterians, Independents and Baptists to record baptisms. However there was a charge for doing so – perhaps not an option for many of the working-class residents of Wing, so only the following entries with a Wing connection are listed:

* Thomas CHEW (born 26 Aug 1818) and Sarah CHEW (born 25 Mar 1824), the children of Thomas of Soulbury, farmer, and Hannah (daughter of John WALTER farmer of Wing), both children born in their father’s house at Broad Oak Farm Soulbury, father signed both certificates, no witnesses, both registered 12 Apr 1837 [certificate references: RG5, bundle 140, certificate numbers 8487 and 8488)

* Rebecca RANDLE (born 2 Jan 1828), David RANDLE (born 11 Jun 1829), Jonathan RANDLE (born 17 Aug 1831) and Ruth RANDLE (born 17 Feb 1833), the children of Benjamin of Burkett parish of Wing, platt dealer, and Martha (daughter of John BALDWIN of Tring Herts, labourer), all born in father’s house, both parents signed all certificates, witnesses Mary Capp of Tring (on all certificates), Mary HEADY of Burkett (on Jonathan’s) and Sarah PEREY of Burkett (on remaining three children’s), all registered 31 Jul 1837 [certificate references: RG5,
bundle 157, certificates 16909 to 16912)

* Mary Ann TURNEY (born 3 Aug 1827), Sarah TURNEY (born 29 Jan 1829), John TURNEY (born 8 Jun 1830), William TURNEY (born 18 Nov 1831), Robert TURNEY (born 31 Jan 1833), Edward TURNEY (born 23 Oct 1835), Thomas TURNEY (born 4 Apr 1836) and Joseph TURNEY (born 18 Dec 1836), the children of Edward of Leighton Buzzard, grocer, and Mary (daughter of Daniel ROWE of Wing), all born in father’s house, both parents signed all certificates, witnesses Ruth Reeve of Leighton Buzzard and [-] Wagstaff of Leighton Buzzard, surgeon, all registered 12 Apr 1837 [certificate references: RG5, bundle 140, certificates 8476 to 8483]

53 High Street (behind Wantage House) was used as a chapel at one period, according to the Wing Conservation Area Designation – does anyone know which denomination this was?

The Burials Act of 1880 stated that parish vicars had an obligation to allow non-conformists to be buried in the parish graveyard (as well various other directives like allowing the burials of unbaptised children or those who had committed suicide). The following individuals are all specifically noted in the Wing parish registers as being buried under the Burials Act 1880, and may therefore have been non-conformist:

BANDY Eliza age 77, 3 Oct 1905

BRAND Elizabeth age 73, 15 Apr 1891

BRAND John age 75, 15 Apr 1891 [John & Elizabeth BRAND were Methodist]

BROWN Frederick age 44, 27 Sep 1905

Joseph Andrew POLLARD (1863-1943) was a well-known Jehovah’s Witness.