A long history of Methodist worship in Stewkley
Stewkley Village used to boast two thriving Methodist congregations, the Weslyans and The Primitives. Each had its own place of worship and each enjoyed growing congregations for a number of years in the 1800’s. The decline in the numbers attending worship, particularly since the last war meant that the two groups eventually merged and built a new Methodist Chapel on High Street South, the one you see here today.
Transcription of The Methodist Chapel
Area 2:1.Stewkley Methodist Chapel
There was an early and strong non-conformist element in the religious life of the village of Stewkley. By 1706 Dissenters had a meeting house and by 1781 a Methodist Society had been formed as part of the Bedford Circuit, one of the earliest in the district.
Before 1800, the Methodists had bought land and built the first Chapel. Their numbers increased and in 1839 these Wesleyan Methodists built a new Chapel in Chapel Square. Just before the Wesleyans moved in to their new Chapel, a society of Primitive Methodists had been formed which met in a building in Chapel Lane, now called Orchard Lane just opposite where you are now. They built a new Chapel on High Street South in 1903.
Both Chapels had large Sunday School Buildings. The Wesleyan Chapel (Chapel Square) closed in 1987 and that congregation joined the primitives in High Street Chapel as it is now known.
The Primitive Methodists held annual singing processions through the village and outlying areas. Sunday School Anniversaries were invariably attended by many old scholars and relatives who had left the village. Many stayed for Anniversary Monday, a recognised day off school for the Methodist pupils.
Meanwhile, the Wesleyan Methodist Sunday School Anniversary services invariably took place on the first Sunday in May and usually a fortnight earlier than those of the Primitive Methodists. Their Monday activities were similar, but the routes were reversed. Singers usually assembled in Chapel Square.
Before the afternoon cross-country leg of their Anniversary Monday walk, the Wesleyans usually stopped for a picnic lunch and drinks at kingsbridge Farm.
The Methodist Schoolroom was also used as the meeting place for the Men’s Mutual Society Annual dinner.
Today there is still a thriving Methodist community in the village and on 31st December 2011, Alistair Cook, then England’s Cricket Captain, was married in the Methodist Chapel on High Street South.