Oakley Primitive Methodist Chapel


Situated in the Ouse Valley, Oakley is about 4 miles north-west of Bedford.

The 1851 Ecclesiastical Census includes a return for a Primitive Methodist congregation at Oakley made by William Prentice, Steward. This states that the chapel was erected in 1849 and contained 108 Free and 70 other sittings. On Census day the attendances were:

 General   Congregation

The first confirmed registration for worship of a PM chapel in Oakley was made by John Symonds Gostling, Gwyn St. Bedford upholsterer (trustee) on 8 October 1852. This registration was cancelled when the Chapel was re-registered for worship by William Durrance of Bedford, Primitive Methodist Minister on 15 February 1898. On 4 March 1898, the chapel was then registered for Marriages.

In 1867 Oakley became a founding chapel in the Bedford PM Circuit and from 1897 in the Bedford I PM Circuit.

In February 1908 a new Bell-American Cathedral organ was installed and dedicated.  New Sunday School rooms (pictured on the right of the photograph) were built and opened in October 1913. Comprising a ‘central assembly room’, classrooms and kitchen were able to seat 200 scholars and cost c£600. Following this, the chapel was enlarged by removing a dividing wall to take in the old Sunday school room.

The premises were regularly maintained. On Easter Monday 1923 a tea was held followed by a concert given by the choir to help the Renovation Fund. Changes took place in the way in which worship was ordered and conducted. For example The Bedfordshire Times & Independent 5 October 1928 reported that Rev RN Wycherley and the Rev HP Ellis took part in a service in which a communion rail erected in memory of ‘past members and workers was dedicated in the presence of a large congregation’. Oakley also had a lively Band of Hope and Christian Endeavour meeting at the chapel.

Although the Primitive Methodist chapel has been replaced with a modern Methodist church on the same site, the original chapel is pictured on the Bedfordshire Community Archive and Oakley Village websites.

Sources and References

The Ecclesiastical Census, Bedfordshire, March 1851 Volume 54 Bedfordshire Historical Record Society – Edited by DW Bushby

Bedfordshire Chapels and Meeting Houses: Official Registration 1672-1901 Volume 75 Bedfordshire Historical Record Society – Edited by Edwin Welch

Bedfordshire Times and Independent:  7 February 1908; 28 July 1911; 31 October 1913; 6 April 1923; 22 November 1929

Bedfordshire and Luton Archives and Record Service – Community Archives website

Oakley village website

Comments about this page

  • The Duke of Bedford was unwilling to make land available in other villages for nonconformist chapels. In the middle of Bedfordshire at Milton Bryan, the Wesleyan Methodists were forced to build their chapel over the village pond as can be seen in the article on My Wesleyan Methodist website https://www.mywesleyanmethodists.org.uk/content/chapels/bedfordshire/milton_bryan_wesleyan_methodist_chapel_bedfordshire

    By Tim Banks (22/05/2021)
  • There is an extended account in the January 1850 Primitive Methodist magazine (pages 50-52) of the story of the erection of the first chapel, eight years after the society was established and seven years after they acquired a site. The chapel opened on September 23rd 1849 with services by J Guy of Baldock and John Parrott. The next day there was the obligatory tea meeting to celebrate.

    They faced stern opposition from Francis Russell, Duke of Bedford, the primary local landowner. This included denying them the use of the only access road to their site, refusing to sell them sand from his pits and starting to build on an alternative access route the society had acquired. None of the tenant farmers were prepared to help with the building, carrying of materials or donations because of pressure from their landlord.

    In the end, the society involved a lawyer and this brought a swift response – the next day, the Duke himself visited the site and ordered all obstructions be cleared.

    The account ends with a salute to the dedication of the labouring classes of the parish that enabled the society to succeed with no help from those with more assets.

    By Christopher Hill (22/05/2021)
  • The 1878 Primitive Methodist magazine (page 100) contains a note telling us that the Society had entered upon the occupation of larger and more commodious premises – although it tells us nothing more.

    By Christopher Hill (11/05/2020)

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