Wolverton and Stantonbury Circuit, Buckinghamshire
Transcription of Article in the Christian Messenger by Rev. George W. King
WOLVERTON and Stantonbury Circuit was formed in 1905 by an amalgamation of the Buckingham and Woburn Sands stations. A few years later it became impossible to work the churches in and around Buckingham, and so the chapel in the town was sold, and the other societies were handed over to the Wesleyans. The Woburn Sands side of the circuit next created difficulties, which were rendered more acute by war conditions, and so in 1918 three village churches were transferred to Leighton Buzzard, and the probationer was removed from Woburn Sands to Bletchley. The circuit to-day comprises six churches, which, with one exception, can be conveniently worked from Wolverton.
Rev. William Cuthbert has resided in Buckingham since his superannuation in 1907. He is isolated from the church to which he gave so many years of devoted service, but his interest is still keen, and although his physical force is somewhat abated, in mind and spirit he is still vigorous.
Wolverton is known as the railway town of North Bucks, since it is here that the carriage works of the London and North Western Railway Company are situated, at which four thousand men are employed. Messrs. McCorquodale and Co. also have here a large printing and stationery factory with upwards of one thousand employees. But although Wolverton is thus an industrial town, the visitor is struck by its clean appearance and well laid out streets. The works are separated from the town by the Stony Stratford and Newport Pagnell main road. There is thus no commingling of town and works which characterises so many industrial centres, and which destroys the cleanliness and symmetry of the dwellings and streets.
Our church in Wolverton is the youngest, but also the strongest on the circuit. One wishes, however, that we could have started our work here earlier, since in other churches there are valuable workers, reared in Primitive Methodism, who came to Wolverton years ago and joined other churches because there was no Primitive Methodist Church in the town. We have been handicapped by a late start, but in spite of that we have done magnificently. The late start was not due to our people not having tried to gain a footing in the town. It was due rather to their being unable to secure land. The Buckingham circuit held services for a time in a photographer’s studio, but photography seems to have been too much for Primitive Methodism, for the venture soon came to an end. Land was secured at last by Rev. R. W. Burnett, and in a hay-loft on this land services were held until the present building was erected in 1907 at a cost of £1,700, on a better site which was obtained during the superintendency of Rev. C. H. Spivey. In March last we celebrated the extinction of the debt, and having raised £155, a good sum is left in hand for improvements.
The work in Wolverton has been generously supported by the missionary committee from the beginning, and therefore it may be termed a triumph of home missionary enterprise, since without the help of the missionary committee the work could not have gone forward. The Northampton friends, too, have been unfailing in their support, and Sir W.P. Hartley gave considerable assistance in the early days. But the success of our work in Wolverton is due fundamentally to the untiring devotion of our own members, foremost among whom, by common consent, stands Joseph Yates. Mr. Yates is not loquacious, but if the writer were asked to provide a conspicuous example of loyalty to Primitive Methodism, he would choose him unhesitatingly. From his youth his loyalty has never wavered. Whilst residing at Deanshanger, he was for a number of years the Buckingham circuit steward, and until his health failed, he was the steward of the Wolverton and Stantonbury circuit. But he is not afraid of the menial task. He has done much hewing of wood and drawing of water, and financially, in various ways, he has rendered great help. We thank God for Joseph Yates, and pray that he may be spared for many years to continue his whole-hearted service for God and Primitive Methodism. Mr. Charles T. King, the senior circuit steward, is also a loyal worker in our Wolverton church both as Sunday school teacher and organist, and Mr. J.H. Taylor, the circuit secretary, renders efficient service as choirmaster. The success of the debt extinction scheme was largely due to Mr. Taylor’s untiring efforts and able organisation. There are many other workers, both male and female, whom one could mention, but space forbids, who have supported the cause from the beginning, and today are not weary in well-doing. A large building scheme is at present under consideration by the Urban Council, and is to be carried out near to where our church is situated. We have triumphed in Wolverton, and greater days are before us.
Our Stantonbury church, which is about a mile from Wolverton, was erected in 1862, the school being added in 1893. This church has had a varied history. It has had its glorious and also its inglorious days. Its reputation has been both good and bad. It has passed quite recently through some very deep waters, but once again it is emerging from them. The curse of this church has, been its sectionalism, but we are moving gradually towards unity of effort. We have some capable workers: W.W. Jerham, F.R. Butcher, J. Blunt, F.W. Tompkins, E.D. Jones, and others. The Band of Hope is one of the best in the district, having an average attendance, even during the summer months, of nearly eighty. This meeting is efficiently conducted by A.H. Daniels, J. G. Rainbow and H.T. Plant. The premises, and also a fine site on the Newport Road, are debtless; but whether we shall launch out with a new building in the near future one cannot at present say. We have a fine opportunity in Stantonbury, and given co-operation among the members, our church has a promising future.
Deanshanger, which is four miles from Wolverton, is a charming village, and our church is one of which we can be justly proud. Primitive Methodism dates back in Deanshanger to about 1840. A chapel was built some years later, and after an enlargement, the present building was erected in 1892. Some of the stalwarts are still with us: Thomas Eales, John Harris, Deborah Goldsworth and Mrs. Taylor. A pleasing feature of this church is that the spirit of the stalwarts has descended upon the men and women of this generation. It would be difficult to find a more faithful church worker than Lawrence Webb. He is retiring, and refuses to have office until it is thrust upon him; but he is a great asset in this village church. We must mention also the descendants of Thomas Green, who toiled many years for our church, and whose widow is still with us at the advanced age of eighty-four. James Green, his sons and their families, maintain the faithfulness associated with the name. Deanshanger has revived considerably during recent years, and considering the young people connected with the church, the revival should continue.
Potterspury, Stony Stratford and Great Horwood are weak societies, creating problems which a union of the churches would probably help to solve. Stony Stratford will no doubt be dealt with when Methodist Union comes, and an arrangement might be made with the Congregationalists respecting Potterspury and Great Horwood. But leaving the future, let us place on record the constancy of those who have been responsible for the continuation of our witness in these places in the past.
Eli Tapp has been our champion at Potterspury for many years. He is over seventy, but he is still vigorous, and able to follow his employment. lf anyone suggests to him that the little chapel will have to be closed, he says at once that it never will; and so long as he is spared the doors will be kept open. He is an old-time Primitive Methodist, and is not afraid of ejaculating when the preacher makes some remark which suits him. He often expresses a wish that he had sufficient money to pay off the debt which still stands on the building. It is not a large amount, but the interest on it is difficult to raise. If anyone reading this would like to make an old man’s heart glad, here is the chance of doing it.
Charles Anstie, the junior circuit steward, has stood by our church at Stony Stratford through all its vicissitudes. At the time of writing he is seriously ill. He has been unable to follow his employment for over twelve months, but in spite of illness he still maintains his interest in our work. H. Russell, O.W. Yates, Miss Sayers, and Mrs. Anstie, also deserve to be commended for their devotion.
Mrs. Saunders, the mother of Mrs. N. Boocock, keeps the fire burning at Great Horwood. She made a promise years ago to do her best for the chapel, and that promise has been kept. She reminds the ministers and local preachers of their responsibilities, and provides generous hospitality for those who serve.
Primitive Methodism has had a hard fight in this district, but the key to the situation was found when our work was commenced in Wolverton. With Wolverton as the base, we can not only maintain our ground, but also advance. The workers look forward to the time when the circuit will be self-supporting. There will probably have to be some readjustment to make this possible, but one day it will be realised.
Christian Messenger 1919/359