Ley Hill Primitive Methodist Chapel, Buckinghamshire

Ley Hill chapel seen from the common
© Ley Hill Methodist Church web site
© Copyright Nigel Cox and licensed for reuse under the Creative Commons Licence
© churches-uk-ireland.org

Ley Hill is a Chiltern village on the border of Buckinghamshire and Hertfordshire in the parish of Latimer, near the town of Chesham. Primitive Methodism arrived in the village in 1841, probably brought from the west, by way of Aylesbury or High Wycombe, by missionaries from the Brinkworth or Shefford Circuits, who were very active elsewhere in Buckinghamshire and Hertfordshire. In February 1841 the house of Joseph Scott on Ley Hill Common was registered as a nonconformist meeting house by the Reverend Thomas Green, who was a Primitive Methodist Minister. The 1841 census reveals that Joseph Scott was a brickmaker (then aged 50) living with his wife, Ann, and their son and two daughters. He may well have worked at “Cowcroft Brickkiln” shown on the Ordnance Survey map just a few hundred yards to the west of Ley Hill. 

For the next five years the society met in various cottages near the common until, in 1846, two cottages in the yard at the rear of the Crown public house were converted into a chapel.

Christenings at Ley Hill first appear in the St Albans PM circuit registers in 1847, although they can also be found in the High Wycombe PM circuit records in the 1850s and 1860s. In 1870 the Berkhamsted PM Circuit was formed, consisting of the societies at Berkhamsted , Crouchfield (Boxmoor) , Hemel Hempstead , Tring and Ley Hill.

A chapel is built

Eventually, in 1887, the current chapel was built on a site adjacent to the village green, slightly to the north of the Baptist chapel, on freehold land given by Lord Chesham. It cost £226 10s and was built with money borrowed from Mr Jesse Ausden. In the 1881 census, Jesse Ausden (aged 37) was living at Winkwell, a hamlet near Bourne End between Berkhamsted and Boxmoor, with his wife, Ann, and their six children. His occupation is recorded as “master blacksmith and Methodist local preacher”.

A porch was constructed in 1897 and a room at the rear of the building was added in 1907. The chapel has been registered for weddings since 1891. In 1908 the Baptists, who had been present in the village since 1786, decided to combine with the Primitive Methodists. Records held by the Hertfordshire Archives and Local Studies indicate that the trusteeship of the property was moved from Mr Jesse Ausden in 1914, when his original loan was finally paid off. The 1911 census shows that Jesse and Ann Ausden were still living at Bourne End; he gave his occupation as “small holder” whilst his wife was described as a “cow keeper”.

Following the Union of 1932 the chapel continued to serve as the local Methodist church. Further alterations to the building were made in 1976, and in 1982 the inside of the chapel was modernised with the inclusion of toilets and a kitchen. Today, Ley Hill Methodist Church (now part of the West Hertfordshire and Borders Circuit) is an active evangelical society with many young people.


Kendall, H. B., The Origin and History of the Primitive Methodist Church, Vol. 2, (London: Robert Bryant, c. 1905)

Hertfordshire Archives and Local Studies, NM3K and NM5/43

The National Archives, Access to Archives records

Ley Hill Methodist Church web site – http://leyhill.org/

Rees, N, Ley Hill Methodist Church 1887-1987 – The Life of a Village Chapel (1987)

Chesham Town Talk, No. 44 Spring/Summer 2011, http://www.cheshamtowntalk.org.uk/pdfs/CTT44forweb.pdf , (article compiled with the help of N Rees)

Census records for 1841, 1881 and 1911

Comments about this page

  • There’s a note in the February 1888 (page 124) Primitive Methodist magazine to record that “the church at Ley Hill in the Berkhampstead station have taken possession of their new building …. There is the prospect before our friends in this place of a future fruitful in good work”

    By Christopher Hill (25/08/2020)
  • I was interested to read this page as Jesse Ausden was my great-grandfather. I found this in the National Archives which suggests he owned the land. Ley Hill, Chesham, Buckinghamshire (Primitive) NM3K [n.d.] National archives administrative history: Ley Hill. “A chapel had been erected here by 1894. The freehold of the property was purchased from Mr J Ausden in 1914.”

    By Catherine Hayden (29/06/2013)
  • According to the Trustees minutes and accounts books of the chapel, Ley Hill P.M. chapel was established with eleven Trustees on 13th June 1887 including Jesse Ausden of Bourne End, Alfred Young of Boxmoor and Alfred Bruton of Ley Hill. The money for the chapel was raised locally and from the Circuit and some was borrowed from the bank. In 1914 due to the deaths of some of the Trustees such as Joseph London in 1904, a new set of 15 Trustees was appointed which retained three of the original Trustees namely Jesse Ausden, Alfred Young and Alfred Bruton who continued from 1887.

    By Neil Rees (25/02/2013)
  • Ley Hill was actually missioned from the east from Hertfordshire. John Petty write in 1864 “The Hertford Mission was transferred to Reading Circuit in September, 1840…” when they “commenced missionary operations in the southern part of the county, at Rickmansworth and in the vicinity…The following year we find… three [preachers] on Watford Mission, embracing Rickmansworth Mission and many other places…” On 17th February 1841 a house was registered as a Primitive Methodist meeting place by “Thomas Green of Watford”. That first meeting house is now one half of a combined dwelling called September Lodge.

    By Neil Rees (20/02/2013)

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