Methodism in Turvey (3): The fight to survive and closure

Despite the enthusiasm expressed in the refurbishment of 1954, the active membership of the chapel declined. The trustees, led by the Days, decided to attempt to evangelise the village.

In October 1960 a mission to the village was conducted by two evangelists from Cliff College, a Methodist College in Derbyshire which trained lay missioners. Mr & Mrs Day provided accommodation for the two young men and the mission lasted 10 days.  As a result of the meetings held and the visits made, Mr Day reported to the trustees in 1961 that ‘10 young people had professed conversion, seven of them belonging to the Church of England (these names had been passed to the Rector, Rev B E Butler), two to the Congregational Church and one young Methodist, Barbara Smith. In appreciation for the mission the trustees sent a sum of £7 10s to Cliff College.’

The minutes of the same meeting record a less happy situation concerning the then tenants of Wesley Cottage ‘as they do little or no work for the Church.  It was agreed that Mr Watts (the Superintendent Minister) should speak to the tenants and ask if it would be possible to start any youth work, particularly as some of the young people in the village had been greatly influenced by the recent mission.’

Only a year later, a special meeting of the trustees was held at St Pauls Church in Bedford on Saturday 14th April 1962 ‘to consider the serious situation which has recently developed. Ten trustees were present – Mrs D Smith, Mr J Fountain, Mr L Fountain, Mr W Poole, Mr P Rush, Mr C Spencer, Mr K Martell, Mr J Thorpe Mr F J Day (Chapel and Society Steward) and the Secretary, Mrs F J Day.

The Superintendent Minister, Rev G Maskell, presided and gave an outline of the situation:

The death of Mr David Smith was deeply regretted and Mr Maskell had received intimation that the tenants of Wesley Cottage intended severing their connection with Methodism and joining the Church of England. If Mrs Smith was unable to get a house locally she and her family would probably have to return to Lancashire (as her husband was a farm manager at Carlton Training School, his present home would be needed for a new farm manager). These events would mean that there would only be three members left- Mr and Mrs F J Day and Mrs Timberlake of Barton Homes, Turvey.

Mr Maskell concluded by saying that unless help was forthcoming, and coming quickly, it seemed that the work at Turvey would cease.

Long, earnest and sympathetic consideration was given by the meeting to this serious situation, and eventually three proposals were made….

…that a letter should be sent to the tenants of Wesley Cottage asking them to leave as the house was wanted for another Methodist.

…Mr Maskell promised that he would contact Methodists living in Bromham and ask for their support, even if it could only be of a temporary nature.

…Thirdly, (Mr Maskell) suggested that during the summer he and his colleagues might visit intensively in Turvey and find if there were possible contacts.’

The minutes of the Trustees Meeting of October 11th 1963  record that ‘Mr and Mrs Day have left the village and their membership transferred to Putnoe (Methodist Church, Bedford). There is left a membership of three, not one of whom had attended service for a year.’

The chapel house had been vacated in the September and the Trustees decided on one last effort to revive the chapel.  An advertisement was placed in the Methodist Recorder of October 17th

Applications invited from Methodists for tenancy at reasonable rent of a 3-bedroom house with modern conveniences in village 7 miles north of Bedford. Applicants should be willing to work for revival of local Methodist witness.
Further particulars from Church Secretary, Mrs F J Day, 21 Mount Drive, Putnoe, Bedford.

There was one promising reply to the advertisement and Mr Oliver Smith from Bulwell, Nottingham visited Turvey to look at the situation. After prayerful consideration he agreed to take up residence at Wesley Cottage and promised that ‘an organist would be provided for each service and that he would keep the chapel and garden tidy’.

At a Trustees Meeting on 21st October 1965 a letter from Mr Smith was considered.  He wrote ‘No useful purpose would be served by maintaining the premises for worship when sometimes they are not used owing to no congregation. (Actually, for several weeks services have been discontinued).’ He did report that a Methodist Fellowship meeting was held fortnightly in the Manor Room.

‘It was agreed to ask for the consent of the (Methodist) Connexional Home Missions Committee to discontinue services.  A meeting to be called for deciding the future of the property.’

In 1969 it was reported that interest had been shown in the renting of the church by Mr Harris of The Laws for storage of antiques and the sale of the church to Mr & Mrs Harris was completed on 7th July 1972 in the sum of £1100.  Wesley Cottage was sold separately for £2000. The proceeds from the sales were allocated in part to the Oakley Methodist Church Building Fund (£2270) and the residue for the Circuit Manses Fund (£1000).

The final meeting to wind up the Trust was held on 22nd March 1977.  Revd Sidney Groves was in the chair and the remaining Trustees present were Mr J Thorpe, and Mr C Spencer.


The author is grateful to the Bedfordshire Archives for access to the minute books of the Turvey Wesleyan Chapel Trustees – MB2/TUR/2/94 , MB2/TUR/2/4649 and MB2/TUR/2/4650 , of the Bedford and Ampthill Circuit Quarterly Meeting  – MB1/BA/2/6, The Circuit Book 1817-1837 – MB1/BA/12 and numerous other documents.

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