Luton Third Circuit, Bedfordshire
Transcription of Article in the Christian Messenger by Archibald R. Tomlin
LUTON, in Bedfordshire, is not only a straw hat stronghold, but a stronghold of Nonconformity; and amongst the Nonconformists of this growing town of 40,000 inhabitants, the Primitive Methodists figure very prominently, and exert a strong influence. There are in it no fewer than five Primitive Methodist Churches, and knowing that, one may soon conclude that the foregoing statement, in reference to their influence and prominence, is correct. These churches are divided into three Circuits, and it is the third of these which forms the subject of this sketch. To say that the Methodists of Luton Third Circuit are an enthusiastic, energetic, hard-working, enterprising people will certainly be proved by the story of them and their cause which is here given, and which is not related by one of their denomination.
It was in the year 1886, and in the first month of that year, when this cause sprung into existence, the Rev. C. Jupe initiating the new departure. The year prior to the date before mentioned, the Rev. C. Jupe purchased four cottages and land of a Mr. William Smith, after events showing the wisdom of such a step. A trust was formed, and an iron building was erected, leaving the cottages which were purchased standing, the total cost of the land, cottages, and building being about £1,000. This formed part of the Second Circuit. At a Quarterly Meeting it was arranged that Messrs. Samuel Burnage and Alfred Clark should work, establish, and strengthen the newly-born cause. Mr. Samuel Burnage was society class leader and superintendent of the Sunday school, these departments being initiated by him, whilst he can boast of having filled nearly if not all the other offices in connection therewith. Much credit is due to him, therefore, for his staunch adherence to the new cause, and for the hard work he put forth in connection with it. Eventually a severance was compulsory by his removal to another part of the town, but he had the joy and pleasure of seeing the new departure well established, with fair prospects in view.
The fresh departure enjoyed a gradual, steady growth, until there was created the need for a larger building. During the period briefly described, the trustees acquired also three other cottages and land adjoining.
It was during the ministry of the Rev. John Leach that it was decided to build the new church which was so much needed. The little iron building hitherto used was removed to the rear, and served as the Sunday school; the four cottages which were purchased in the first place were pulled down, and then there was erected the present church, which is a fine capacious structure, capable of seating 700 persons. The cost of the church with the additional cottages amounted to about £3,000 so that the aggregate sum expended to that time was about £4,000.
Soon after the new church was opened, the Rev. F. Shergold became the minister of the Second Circuit, and during his time the Circuit was divided, London Road Church becoming the head of the Third Circiuit.
The Sunday school also grew, and grew so rapidly that the iron building became inadequate for the accommodation of those who flocked for Biblical instruction. The enterprising spirit of the London Road Methodists was again taxed, but they showed themselves equal to the responsibility, shouldering it with all faith and courage. New Sunday schools were erected—and a fine set of premises they were too—being opened only this year, so that during the twenty years this cause has been in existence, the Primitive Methodists of the Third Circuit have been able to erect the present church, and schools.
The school has now grown to between 400 and 500 in numbers, and is noted for the way it retains its elder scholars. Any school that solves this problem deserves the warmest of congratulations.
The present superintendent of the school is Mr. H. lmpey, who is indeed a most ardent worker in connection with the London Road cause, Not only is he the Sunday school superintendent, but Circuit steward, local preacher, teacher of the Young Women’s Bible Class, and holds a place on the Luton Town Council.
The minister, the Rev. F. Shergold is a man very much loved, and has stayed considerably over the allotted time of the Primitive Methodist minister in this part of Gods vineyard. He has a genial, pleasant disposition, and is ever ready to sympathise and assist. He is an able preacher, and a most capable man as organiser. His ministry in the Third Circuit has only just recently come to an end, preaching his farewell sermons on July 1st. His next sphere is that of Salisbury, which is his native town.
ln addition to Rev. F. Shergold and Mr. lmpey, other workers have need also to be named, these being as follows: Messrs. W.J. Primett, T. Allen, W. White, A. Heath, T. Norton, and G. Davis, with a host of others, to use the hackneyed phrase, “ too numerous to mention.”
The old iron building is still in use, and has been put to a very wise purpose, that of forming another branch in a more distant part of the town, viz., Dunstable Road. This part sadly needed a Sunday school, and London Road Methodists have embraced the opportunity. It would be a grand thing if this iron building could start again as the basis of a Circuit No. 4. In fact, it looks as if such might be the case. When the London Road cause was commenced there were only five members, but the Dunstable Road Church commenced with its teens. It was not until four or five months had elapsed after the founding of the cause at London Road that a Sunday school was originated, but at Dunstable Road, on the very first Sunday that the place was opened, there was formed a Sunday school with a morning attendance of twenty-five and an afternoon gathering of about forty. It certainly offers many opportunities for the building up and establishing of a strong, influential cause.
The coming-of-age of the London Road Church will be celebrated next year. When special meetings (D.V.) will be held.
The buildings, as can be seen in the illustration, are very imposing, and stand in a neighbourhood not only well populated but one which still grows and flourishes. They are a credit not only to the Primitive Methodists of Luton, but to the denomination which they represent. They stand there as witnesses to the perseverance, tact, energy and real down-right hard work of the members, a magnificent block of buildings of which they may justly be proud. Yet at the same time, the Divine aid and blessing vouchsafed needs to be recognised, for surely they have need to confess that the “ Lord hath done great things for them, whereof they are glad.”
Christian Messenger 1906/238