An Introduction to Turvey Congregational Chapel

Advertisement for the opening service. Northampton Mercury 14th March 1829.

Forty People Leave the Parish Church

The former Turvey Congregational (or Independent) Chapel is situated south of the High Street, just past Richmond House. It has its origins in 1828 when forty people abandoned the parish church and started meeting for worship in a barn on Mill Green. Such was the popularity of these meetings that a larger barn was later needed and the congregation moved to Tinsley’s Barn provided by Mr Whitworth from Turvey Mill. Services were held on Sundays and on some weekday evenings and were conducted by three local Independent Ministers, the Rev Thomas Palmer Bull, from Newport Pagnell, the Rev John Morris from Olney, and the Rev. George Bull Phillips from Harrold. Students training for the ministry at the Newport Pagnell Dissenting Academy also helped with services.

The Committee

By October 1828 it had been decided that there was sufficient support to acquire a permanent site and build an Independent Chapel in the village. The following men formed themselves into a Committee to oversee the project:

Thomas Abrahams – Lace buyer                  Edward Skevington – Farmer
Rev. John Morris – Minister                            George Finch – Baker
John Whitworth – Miller                                  Joel Gaskin – Schoolmaster
Joseph Vincent – Grocer                                  Samuel Whitmee – Grocer
Joseph Parris – Baker                                       George Osborn – Woolstapler

Research using birth, marriage, death and taxation records on Ancestry suggests that at least eight of these men were likely to have been living in Turvey at the time,  (John Morris and George Osborn being the exceptions).

Land to Build the Chapel

Thomas Abrahams gave the land for the chapel which eventually cost £530 to build, substantially more than the Methodist Chapel built at the same time which cost £150. This probably reflects the relative affluence of each chapel’s benefactors. The Independent Chapel’s opening service was held on the 17th March 1829 and was so popular that despite the Chapel accommodating 300 an additional service had to be provided in a crowded barn.

Reverend Richard Cecil

The Chapel thrived in the years following its establishment and its first minister, the Revd. Richard Cecil, established a training academy in Turvey for the Dissenting ministry. The students boarded with villagers. Richard Cecil left Turvey in 1838 and founded another academy in Ongar, Essex where one of his pupils was David Livingstone, the renowned missionary and explorer. Rev. Cecil returned to Turvey in 1847 and continued as the minister until his death in 1863. He was buried in the small burial ground behind the chapel.

Worship continued at the chapel for over 150 years until its de-registration as a place of worship in 1985. It is now a private house.

Further information as to why people took the significant step of leaving the parish church and establishing themselves as an Independent congregation can be found in the second part of this article.

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