In 1819 John Adey, a young Congregationalist itinerant preacher descended from a long line of religious dissenters, visited Great Horwood from Winslow. He found so much ignorance, Sabbath-breaking and drunkenness that he stood on The Green and began preaching. Adey attracted so much interest that he was able to start a Sabbath school and a day school, and formed a congregation. A brick barn in Nash Road was given to the congregation by Mr Hogg and, converted into a chapel, was registered as a nonconformist meeting place in March 1821.
The chapel was well attended for much of the 19th century. At the religious census of 30th March 1851, a Sunday morning attendance of 140 and evening attendance of 200 were recorded. These people came from nearby villages as well as from Great Horwood and Singleborough. The parish church at the same time had a morning congregation of 234 and an afternoon congregation of 349. From the outset, the children of congregation members were baptised at the chapel but the chapel was not registered to solemnise marriages until September 1869. Services were held in the Congregational chapel until around 1972 when the old Congregational Union was dissolved. Membership was down to nine by this time and the last minister, the 92-year-old Reverend Charles Martin, joined the United Reformed Church. However, special permission was granted for the chapel to be used for the funeral of Nancy Varney’s father, Arthur, in 1980. The chapel is now a private house.
Primitive Methodist Chapel, Little Horwood Road
The Primitive Methodist chapel was built in 1875. Before this, Primitive Methodists living in Great Horwood went to Buckingham and elsewhere to worship and for baptism and marriage. The chapel was built on land occupied and later owned by James Hollis, a baker of 17 The Green. The congregation had taken out a loan to build the chapel and were constantly engaged in fund-raising to improve or repair it and to reduce the debt. In the early years, they received regular donations from the better-off members of the congregation. They also charged seat rents from 1878 to 1888. During the late 19th century, the Primitive Methodists also raised funds through carol singing, vegetable stalls, bran tub (lucky dip), jumble sales, teas and, in 1883, a magic lantern slide show.
Whereas the Great Horwood Congregational chapel had its own minister until late 1883, when it became affiliated with Winslow, the Primitive Methodist chapel was always part of a circuit of churches served by a minister. When the chapel opened the congregation and trustees came mainly from Great Horwood and Singleborough. However, membership declined from the early 20th century and when new trustees were appointed in 1931 none of them came from the village. The building was sold in 1952 and has been used as a storeroom for many years. Planning permission has recently (2017) been granted to convert the chapel into a dwelling.
The junction of The Green with Little Horwood Road. The Primitive Methodist chapel is in the centre.
The former Primitive Methodist chapel
Relationships Between Denominations
The relationship between Anglicans and nonconformists seems to have been better in Great Horwood than in many other places. Neither chapel had its own graveyard so members were buried in the parish graveyard, where the graves of Anglicans and nonconformists were intermingled, not segregated. When the Rector, Simon Adams, gave every poor family in the parish a hundredweight of coal, he did so ‘without distinction to sect or party’.
The Congregationalists and the Primitive Methodists co-existed peacefully. They shared common ideals, such as teetotalism and political liberalism. Liberal party meetings and temperance meetings were held at both chapels. After one temperance meeting at the Congregational chapel some of the visitors encountered a drunk man on their way home and ‘in order to work a reformation in him, kindly became informers, and had him fined at the Magistrates’ Chamber’. So well did the two congregations get on that the Methodists even let the Congregationalists use their chapel when their own was undergoing extensive restoration after the frosts of 1894-1895 left it in danger of collapse. During the 20th century, some people belonged to both congregations. Nancy Varney remembers regularly attending services at both chapels until they closed.
Primitive Methodist Chapel Book Great Horwood 1876, MS, CBS, NM511/3/1.