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Extracted from the Diamond Jubilee Souvenir Handbook
Higham Ferrers Wesleyan Chapel
Diamond Jubilee 1903 - 1963

The Wesleyan Church due for demolition
In the 1970s - but it awaits demolition (2009)
Photograph by C D & A Willmott

Rev Arthur Thornton
The Minister's Message
The publication of the handbook and the special services which have been arranged for this time are designed to mark in fitting fashion the sixtieth anniversary of the opening of the buildings in which we now work and worship. But we must not forget that Methodism in Higham Ferrers goes back far beyond the turn of this present century. Our fathers worshipped in an earlier building for well over a century before the present buildings were erected, and even before that, for a few years, services were held in various houses in the Borough. In fact Methodism in Higham Ferrers goes back to the time of the Wesleys, and Daniel Pressland who was its founder met John Wesley on one occasion at Bedford and held conversation with him, a memory which remained very precious to him.

It should also be noted that Methodism in the Borough began through the activities not of a Minister but a layman, and of a young layman, for Daniel Pressland was not more than thirty years of age when he began to have a concern for the spiritual welfare of his friends and neighbours. Since those days the Society has been served by a splendid succession of Ministers, but they would have been the first to say that without the co-operation of gifted and consecrated laymen given in so generous a fashion their work would have been in vain.

Jubilee 1903 - 1963

There is another strand in our history which goes back to the beginning and that is the close link between the devotion to Christ expressed in the Church and in the civic life of the community. Daniel Pressland was for forty-four years a servant of the Corporation, and others, through the years, and at this present time, have honoured that two-fold obligation of service, and in so doing have shown that Methodism still knows no holiness which is not social holiness.

As we look back and note the great things done in the past we salute those who laboured so hard and so long, whose faith was so unshakcablc and who had so remarkable a capacity for kindling-faith and zeal in others. That we have entered into a rich heritage no one can doubt who takes the trouble to read even the brief historical notes contained within this handbook.

But we must not look backwards too long nor too wistfully lest we should be discouraged by comparisons, or fall into the error of slavishly worshipping the past. They with their forward look would be the first to say to us:

"New occasions teach new duties Time makes ancient good uncouth."

In some ways our task is harder than theirs. Men do not accept so readily to-day the essential truths of the Gospel, nor do they see so clearly their need of a Saviour. There is no fashion of church-going to-day, and so congregations are smaller. The Coming of the Kingdom means for many material prosperity rather than reconciliation with God. The Jubilee must mean for us therefore the bracing of ourselves to face the challenge of the present so that like our fathers before us we may endeavour by every means open to us to present Christ to men as an ever-present Saviour.

Church Officers
Rev. Arthur Thornton, 20 Wharf Road
Society Stewards:
Mr. A. E. Sawford, 3 Bryant Way
Mr. S. A. J. Knights, 7 Milton Street
Mr. J. Kay, 4 Stanwick Road
Mr. D. Rainbow, 3 York Road
Poor Stewards:
Mr. P. Beaumont, 4 York Road
Mr. M. Pack, 45 Tann Rd, Finedon
Mr. R. Perkins, 26 Westfields Terrace
Leaders' Meeting Sec.: Mr. A. E. Sawford, 3 Bryant Way
Magazine Secretaries: Miss E. Parsons and Mrs. A. Cobley
Overseas Missions
J.M.A. Secretary:
Miss Helen Groome, 3 Kimbolton Road
Mrs. E. Bird, 82 The Hedges
Box Secretary: Mrs. C. E. Groome, 5 High Street
Box Openers: Miss Celia Hilson, Mrs. D. Hudson, Miss C. Garley,
Mrs. H. Cobley, Mrs. A. Cobley
Women's Work
Vice-Presidents: Mrs. A. O. Groome, 30 Lancaster Street
Mrs. A. Thornton, 20 Wharf Road
Secretary: Miss Ivy Green, 7 Lime Street
Treasurer: Mrs. D. Garley, 55 High Street
Class Leaders:

Mrs. A. O. Groome, Mrs. C. E. Groome, Miss Ivy Green, Mr. P. H. Cobley, Mr. J. W. Gilks, Mrs. E. Pack,
Mr. and Mrs. B. Bass, Miss H. Groome, Mr. A. E. Sawford, Mrs. D. Garley, Mr. G. King.

Local Preachers: Mr. E. E. Wood, Miss E. Miller, Mr. E. S. Tanner,
Mr. J. E. B. Home, Mr. Colin Garley, Mr. D. Hudson.
Officers of the Trust Chapel Stewards: Mr. F. Pack, 13 Wharf Road, Mr. D. Rainbow, 3 York Road.
Trust Secretary: Councillor R. G. Williams, 18 Bryant Way
Trust Treasurer: Alderman E. J. Rowlett, J.P., The Bungalow, Vine Hill Drive
Sidesmen's Secretary: Mr. S. A. J. Knights, 7 Milton Street
Organists (Assistant): Mrs. G. King, 11 Wykeham Road, helped by Mr. J. Brown, Mr. J. Harris and Mr. Randall Williams
Choirmaster: Mr. E. S. Tanner, 10 Vine Hill Drive
Assistant Choirmaster: Mr. V. Richardson, 19 Grove Street
Junior Bible Class: Mr. P. H. Cobley, Miss M. Beaumont
Senior Bible Class: Mr. R. G. Williams, Mrs. L. Bird, Mr. B. Tanner (Pianist).
Secretary: Mr. L. King-Underwood, 17 Grove Street
Treasurer: Mr. T. Mould, 16 Woodland Road, Rushden
Other Secretaries Christian Citizenship: Mrs. J. Upton, 59 Kimbolton Road
Plan: Miss Joy Sherwood, 3 Lancaster Street
Flowers: Mrs. A. E. Sawford, 3 Bryant Way
Publicity: Mr. D. Hudson, 3 Roland Way
I.B.R.A.: Mr. Keith Ward, 12 Bryant Way
Bulletin: Mr. J. Upton, 59 Kimbolton Road
Bazaar: Mr. John Garley and Miss Celia Hilson
Cradle Roll: Miss C. Garley, 55 High Street
N.C.H.O.: Miss M. Beaumont and Mrs. O. Harris
Manse Trust: Mr. E. E. Wood, 5 Kimbolton Road
Chapel Caretakers: Mr. and Mrs. B. Bass, Chapel House
Boys' Brigade Captain: Mr. G. W. King, 11 Wykeham Road
Lieutenant: Mr. M. Pack
Warrant Officers: Mr. M. King-Underwood, Mr. J. Garley, Mr. C. Garley
Treasurer: Mr. M. King-Underwood, 17 Grove Street
Life Boys Leaders: Mr. A. Cobley, Mrs. G. King, Miss F. Pack, Miss C. Garley
Girls' Life Brigade Captain: Mrs. Jean Cobley, 47 Handcross Way
Lieutenant: Mrs. Olive Cobley, 61 Upper George Street
Cadets Lieutenant: Mrs. J. W. Gilks, 57 The Hedges
Young People's Fellowship Leaders: Mr. J. W. Gilks, Mr. P. H. Cobley,
Miss F. Pack, Miss Joy Sherwood
Institute Secretary: Mrs. D. Hudson, 3 Roland Way
Treasurer: Mr. D. Hudson, 3 Roland Way
Canteen Manager: Mr. R. Perkins, 26 Westfields Street
Men's Fireside President: Rev. A. Thornton, 20 Wharf Road
Secretaries: Councillor H. J. Woodall, Mr. R. Frisby, Mr. D. Rainbow


From The The Rev. W. Shepherd, Chairman - Oxford and Leicester District

Dear Friends,

It is a pleasure to be associated with the Higham Ferrers Methodist Church on the occasion of their Diamond Jubilee and be invited to contribute this brief foreword.

So many locally, and others scattered far and wide will be sending you greetings as they recall with gratitude the times when they were closely identified with the Methodist Church and School. On behalf of the District I too would offer warmest congratulations.

A Jubilee is ever an event for thanksgiving. It is a religious term found in the Old Testament, a festival which was proclaimed with trumpets. It was an expression of rejoicing that the Lord had dealt so graciously with them. May this note be characteristic throughout your special services.

Sixty years have brought great and bewildering changes in the lives of all of us, and the Faith which has sustained us through these years, is more than ever necessary in our day as we face the changes which must always come.

Methodism has had a long and honoured tradition in Higham Ferrers, going back to 1791 when the first place of worship was built, the present church being erected in 1903.

May you find reinforcements for your work from the new generations around you, and long continue to exercise a rich and valued ministry.

With good wishes and every blessing,
Yours sincerely,


From The Rev. J. W. J. Scott, Minister of the Church 1954-1959 now Superintendent Minister of the Ellesmere Port Circuit.

Dear Friends,

I greet you most sincerely at this time of your Church Jubilee celebrations. The beginnings of the Higham Ferrers Methodist Church go right back to the eighteenth century in which Joint Wesley, under God's guidance, founded the Society of Methodists. His famous Journal does not reveal that he ever visited the Borough, but it does record frequent journeys into Northamptonshire and adjacent counties. It would seem almost inevitable from this that eventually Methodist preachers should preach in the Market Place of Higham Ferrers. And from then until the present our Church has carried forward a worthv witness. The full story however cannot be told, let it suffice to set down that the long story is full of men and women who in their day worshipped God and in His name served their generation right royally.

The immediate past reveals much good work being done, of which we all know. I find the memory of it very heart-warming.

So from yesterday we turn with confident faith to the future. Under God we look forward to our greatest days. Problems remain; the set-up of life in almost every field is vastly different from yesterday. Human needs at bottom are the same, and God abideth faithful to all His promises in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Let us be of good cheer, strong in the faith, very courageous, and by God's good grace we shall do valiantly.

Yours most sincerely,


From The Rev. Thomas Oakley, B.A., Minister of the Church 1951-1954, now retired and living at Bath.

Dear Friends,

The citizens of Higham Ferrers are justly proud of their ancient charter, which is more than seven hundred years old. Methodism in the borough is not, of course, as old as that, but it too has a long and honourable history.

As we send cordial greetings to our people on the occasion of the Diamond Jubilee of the present church we remind ourselves that our Methodist Society in Higham Ferrers began long before the foundation-stone of the present edifice was laid, and that during that long period it has been an integral part of the life of the town. The Golden Jubilee of the present church was celebrated during my ministry with you. I recall that at that time individual Methodists in addition to their church loyalties and activities, took a prominent part in civic affairs. A noteworthy feature of Methodism in Higham Ferrers has been the work of the Sunday School. A vivid memory is that of the afternoon service on our Harvest Thanksgiving. The ladies deputed to receive gifts brought by the children sat down at what they thought was the end of a very long procession, only to be told that their job was but half done, the other half of the school was about to enter.

As we think of the important place our Higham Ferrers Methodist Church occupies as head of a Circuit, and its place in our Methodist District, as well as its services to the Borough, we pray that Almighty God may continue to prosper its work and witness.

Yours sincerely,


From The Rev. T. H. Johns, Minister of the Church 1941-1946, now retired and living at Wallington, Surrey.

My dear Friends,

Greetings to you all and best wishes on the occasion of the Diamond Jubilee. I sincerely hope that your celebration will be crowned with success spiritually and financially.

My years of service spent among you, were war years for the greater part: difficult years for all of us, anxious years for those of us who had loved-ones in the Forces. As I look back I recall with gratitude the loyal and steadfast support of both officials and members of the Church. Many of my fellow-workers have finished the course and entered into their reward. I cherish every remembrance of them and thank God for their devoted service. I am confident that those who are to-day carrying on the Work of God in the Church and Sunday School will maintain the fine traditions established by their predecessors. Our difficulties and dangers in 1940 to 1945 were of "the arrow that fiieth by night"; the perils of to-day come from "the destruction that wasteth at noon-day.'' Since 1945 the people of this country are rightly experiencing a higher standard of living, and a more equitable share of the nation's wealth. We rejoice in this. The pity is that an increasing number of people are satisfied by these material blessings, and are content to go through life outside the range of organised religion. That is the greatest challenge confronting the Christian Church everywhere, and I doubt whether Higham Ferrers is an exception. But as the Higham Ferrers Methodists of the past accepted the challenge of their time, so the present generation will accept theirs and bear witness to the truth that "man cannot live on bread alone."

God bless you all.
Yours sincerely,


It is essential or at least very desirable that in a church the size of ours a capable person should be in charge of the financial affairs. How fortunate we have been that such stalwart, faithful, conscientious and able men as Mr. G. H. Groome, Mr. Thomas Patenall, Mr. H. Rollins Patenall and Mr. E. J. Rowlett have been willing to give their services and serve Our Lord as treasurer of the Church. The income of our Ghurch is now about £1,650 per annum. This comes from Offerings (£768), the Annual Bazaar (£600), Dividends, and so on. Substantial bequests have been made to the Church in recent years by three great friends and keen Methodists — Mr. Herbert Glenn, Mr. H. Rollins Patenall and Mr. A. O. Groome — and we benefit from the steady income from the investments. But the expenses of the Church arc still a little in excess of our usual income and we have had special money-raising efforts, among them a Gift Day in 1962 which brought in £380.
This office has been performed with distinction, and many will remember the care and attention given to the buildings, and the friendly greetings extended to worshippers by Mr. and Mrs. Driver, Mr. and Mrs. Hartwell, Mr. and Mrs. Daniels, Mr. and Mrs. L. Burt, and Mr. and Mrs. B. Bass.

In these pages we have recorded many names of men and women who have devotedly served their Master in our Church. And good and right it is that their names should be known and remembered. But there are those who have no memorial in stone or print. Yet we think of them and every one who has worshipped in spirit and in truth in our Church. If you seek a memorial to them, look around you. Look not only at our fine building of stone and brick, but at people whose lives have been affected by those worshippers. Look at the deeds of compassion which are being performed every day, see the Lord at work in every blessed act. Holy and humble men of heart have praised the Lord with us, and their faith and spirit live on to inspire us to greater things. We thank God for every one who has been associated with us in any way, for some thing in their lives has enriched our lives.

Trusts and Trustees - The Old Chapel
The original chapel was built on land provided by Daniel Adcock and was not conveyed to trustees until 1800 when the first Deed records the sale of a piece of land 40 feet by 26 feet, part of a garden belonging to Mr. Adcock whereon a chapel had been erected, together with a four foot right of way from the High Street and round the end of the chapel into Back Lane. The trustees were: Daniel Pressland, Draper; William Fisher, Grocer; Robert Lamb, Farmer; Samuel Parker, Cordwainer; John Tebbs, Carrier; James Cole, Woolstapler; and Joseph Chettle, Grocer.

In 1821 a small piece of land, 100 square yards, on the north side of the original chapel, was purchased from Earl Fitzwilliam for £5 to enlarge the building. The trustees were then: James Cole, William Fisher, Robert Lamb, John Tebbs, Joseph Pack, William Blott, Thomas Burgess, Henry Knighton, John Knighton and Jonathan Parker. The enlargement consisted of the extension of the original from gallery and the addition of wings.

The Present Buildings
The Deed of Conveyance in the Circuit safe shows that land was bought from George Charles Wentworth Fitzwilliam, of Milton Hall, on December 31st, 1897, at a cost of £480. A second plot of land was obtained on December 31st, 1901. The trustees at that time were the following: Thomas Sanders, Thomas Patenall, Samuel Pack, George Henry Groome, John Burt, Thomas M. Coleman, Herbert Glenn, Albert 0. Groome, A. Lawrence, A. Middleton, C. S. R. Palmer, Thomas Parker Isaac Cunnington, Thomas Cunnington and S. W. B. Harris.

The present Trust appointed July 10th, 1951, consisted of the following trustees: A. 0. Groome, H. K. Patenall, T. 0. Lawrence, F. J. Pack, T. K. Thacker, A. E. Sawford, A. E. Skeeles, J. P. Kay, P. H. Cobley, P. R. Beaumont, M. L. Pack, E. E. Wood, A. S. Baker, H. W. Miller, G. W. H. King, E. S. Tanner, G. S. Turner, V. Baker, H. Cobley, K. Blackwell, J. K. Upton, S. A. J. Knights, and E. J. Rowlett.

Note: The compilers of this booklet express here their regrets for any inaccuracies or omissions which may be noted in the historical section, which is necessarily a short account of the life of our Methodist Society. Information regarding any such would be gladly received and noted for future reference.

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