Studham Wesleyan Chapel, Beds

Methodism started in Studham in 1840 and for 13 years services were either held in a cottage or in the open air. George Barnard, a farmer,  moved into the village when he married Elizabeth Seere and threw himself into the ‘new way’ of Christianity. By 1953 the congregation was too large for a cottage and Mr Barnard offered the use of a workshop as a place of worship, providing the members paid for the windows, pews and pulpit. They raised the £16 required and the building was converted into the first chapel. The pulpit, bought second-hand from a timber merchant, was reputed to have been one from which the famous Billy Bray had preached. All three ministers from the Luton Wesleyan Circuit were present at the opening and soon a Sunday School was established.

By 1959 the congregation had outgrown the chapel and George Barnard offered a plot of land for the building of a new chapel. However, he could not get the support of the Circuit for the project and eventually the members cleared the land and built the chapel to Mr Barnard’s own plans with no architect or contract involved, just a jobbing builder and some volunteers! The foundation stones were laid on 28 May 1860 by Mr Michael Cook of Houghton Regis and Mr C S Beecroft of Luton, but none of the circuit ministers attended.

The chapel was opened for worship on 25 June 1861 by Charles Richardson, a Wesleyan evangelist know as the Lincolnshire Thrasher. With no help from the Circuit or Connexion, a large debt remained. Mr Barnard was responsible for the debt and upkeep for many years until, eventually, in 1898, Circuit Superintendent Rev J J Ingram felt this state of things should not continue and the chapel was signed over to the Connexion. A significant amount of debt remained until a big fete was held in June 1906 to clear it.

George Barnard donated a kitchen extension to the chapel in 1908. By this time, his health was failing and his son, John, took over his responsibilities. Memorial stained glass windows to both were installed in the chapel in 1925.

In 1931 electric lighting was installed and some renovations carried out.

By the time of the centenary service in 1961, the building was no longer fit for purpose and structurally beyond repair, so plans were made to erect a new building on the same site.

Eventually the funds were raised (although they were still £900 short when  the stone laying took place on 9 October 1965). The  new building was dedicated on 12 March 1966.


Studham Methodist Church Centenary 1961, A History and Programme of Celebrations



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