Primitive Methodism arrived in Luton from Aylesbury 1839. S Turner and H Higginson are the ‘connexional pioneers’ credited with evangelising Luton and Dunstable. The church developed so that in 1843, Luton was made into a separate Circuit.
The 1851 Religious Census includes a return for High Town PM Chapel, Luton made by Henry Pope, Minister Wellington Street. The return states that the chapel had been erected in 1839 and contained 130 Free Sittings, 220 Other sittings and 50 Standing. However, Pope noted that ‘Our religious Services were held in the Town Hall, our Chapel being too small. Attendances on Census day, 30 March and the average attendances for the preceding 12 months were:
Census Day30 March
Average for preceding
In 1852 a new chapel was erected and was registered for worship by Thomas Bennett of Luton, grocer (trustee) on 15 December 1852. This chapel was registered again for worship on 14 December 1866 by William Kitchen, Hightown, Luton, minister and registered for marriages the following day.
In June 1867, High Town chapel, Luton hosted the PM Conference. A Conference Camp Meeting was held in the town. 2 processions were formed starting from High Town and Park Town chapels which met on Park-square where they were addressed by Rev R Fenwick. The Bedfordshire Times and Independent estimated that ‘there could not have been less than between 5,000 and 6,000 persons present’.
Although other PM chapels were built in Luton, a new chapel was built in 1897 at High Town adjoining the 1852 building which became the Sunday School. Fundraising for the new chapel started in 1895. There were no less than 3 stone-laying ceremonies for the new chapel between April and November 1897. The contract value of the chapel was £2,566 and the contractor was Mr Parkins. The chapel accommodating 900 people was opened on 4 May 1898 by the Mayor of Luton in a service led by the Superintendent minister Rev Thomas Humphris. This chapel was registered for worship and marriages by Thomas Humphries, 74 Wenlock St, Luton, superintendent minister on 17 May 1898.
Sources and References
HB Kendall The Origin and History of the Primitive Methodist Church Vol 2 – HB Kendall
Bedfordshire Chapels and Meeting Houses: Official Registration 1672-1901 Volume 75 Bedfordshire Historical Record Society – Edited by Edwin Welch
The Ecclesiastical Census, Bedfordshire, March 1851 Volume 54 Bedfordshire Historical Record Society – Edited by DW Bushby
Bedfordshire Times and Independent – 8 & 18 June 1867
Luton News and Bedfordshire Chronicle – 11 March 1897; 4 November 1897
Luton Times and Advertiser – 6 & 27 May 1898
Bedfordshire and Luton Archives and Record Service – Community Archives website