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A short History of Ampthill Methodist Church

There is no record of John Wesley the founder of Methodism, preaching in Ampthill, despite having visited Bedford on several occasions. What we do know from his carefully kept journal is that on the 11th November 1766, he preached between one and two at a village called Millbrook to a company of plain and serious people and in the evening at Wooton Pilllinge, (now Stewartby). The next day he preached at Lidlington and then at Cople where he notes: there is at present the most lively of all the little societies in Bedfordshire.

In 1769 a Methodist Chapel was built in Houghton Conquest. However not until 1793 is there a record of an active Methodist Society in Ampthill when it was noted that a minister made fortnightly visits to fifteen listed Methodists in Ampthill who included a shoemaker, two lacemakers and a washerwoman. By the end of the century the Society seems to have folded and the real roots of Methodism in Ampthill did not begin until the 19th century.

In 1805 there is a record of meetings at the home of James Marriott a lace–buyer based in Church Street. However the Society did not have a chapel until in 1811, when a Miss Cole converted a house at the bottom of Brewery Lane. This house was described as: not very elegant but quite comfortable. In 1813 a larger chapel was built at the top of the hill off Woburn Street but both the town and the Methodist community continued to grow, by 1880 a larger space was required and the present building in Dunstable Street, was completed by 1884. The development then included an adjoining house which provided a huge but not very practicable manse.

Following two World Wars, the tide of church-going began to decline nationally and Methodist Churches throughout England had to re-group with considerable economies of scale and on-going changes to Circuit structures. With the creation of the new North Bedfordshire Circuit there have been a number of changes to the grouping of local Methodist churches and manses. The manse building adjacent to the church was sold and the ministers serving Ampthill were based firstly in Flitwick, and later in Wooton.

From September 2016 the grouping of churches within the North Bedfordshire Circuit will include Ampthill, Flitwick Haynes, & Clophill.  From this date the Minister Rev Graham Claydon-Knights will continue to be based in Flitwick and will become Minister for Ampthill.

(Much of this material is taken from the booklet published at the time of the church anniversary in 1984. This 27 page booklet contains much details information on people and events over the century)