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Rushden Echo, 22nd April 1927, transcribed by Peter Brown
A Wesleyan Methodist History by Stephen Michell
Article No. 19
Higham Ferrers Circuit

Swineshead is in Bedfordshire – four miles from Kimbolton. Population: 1801, 214; 1831, 262; 1901, 160.

Swineshead dates back Methodistically to the early years of the last century. In the Schedule of Chapels, etc. 1851, 1811 is the date given for the erection of the first chapel at Swineshead, and it appears in the list of those chapels which are private property and are rented or hired. There were 50 free sittings and 30 other sittings. The congregation attending on March 30th, afternoon and evening was 30 and 52 respectively. The attendance at Sunday School was 23 in the morning and the same number in the afternoon.

Swineshead is one of the preaching places in the plan of 1814, with Sunday preaching services at two and six o’clock. In March 1829 there were eleven members: 1838, 13; 1841, 12; 1848, 17; 1854, 18. In the preaching plans January – April, 1832, and February – April 1850 Swineshead is shown with the same services, and in the latter with a fortnightly service on Thursdays at 6.30.

The old chapel stood at the rear of the spot occupied by the present chapel, and had a gallery and a thatch roof. It was accidentally burnt down soon after the present chapel was built.

Mr. George Woods (born May 24th, 1828) says “The cottage next to the churchyard, occupied by the schoolmaster, was where cottage preaching was last held. I remember it and the pulpit quite well. Then a house adjoining that occupied by Mr. Smart - second house in from the road. For some years they used it for preaching services before they made a chapel of it, did it up for a chapel; it was burnt down before this one was built. My wife and I went to the old chapel five or six years before this was built (1864).''

Mr Hartwell of Higham Ferrers says "Old John Packwood's house was the first place they had for preaching at Swineshead. A School mistress now lives there. We have left nearly six years.”

Mr. Wood says “The brightest man we ever knew was Mr Payne, the circuit minister. We were both converted under him. I went to Riseley the last time he preached. I went up the road to meet him, up towards Riseley turn; it was when he had finished the Sunday night and coming round. I don’t think he ever preached in the circuit again. George goodbye goodbye. God bless you and the Lord keep you; the Devil’s on the road. He wept as he shook my hand.”

Mrs Mary Ladds (aged 69 years) says; “The first chapel was a cottage made into a chapel. I remember my husband’s mother, Susannah Ladds, saying that when the cause first started here (held in a cottage up against the churchyard then occupied by a man named Packwood, now by Mrs Kimsey). She and her husband and Richard Stringer and his wife Sarah were the first four to join. My husband’s mother has been dead about 40 years; the husband died in 1848.

“The first Super[intendent] I remember was Mr Woolmer. Old Mr Law, our local preacher, could have told you a good bit.

“I have heard my husband’s mother say they used to have a four o’clock prayer meeting in the winter-time. I have heard her say one woman got converted. She (Mrs Ladds) has gone to Melchbourne and conducted prayer meetings.

“There doesn’t seem to be the earnestness and fire there used to be. I remember going off to missionary meetings at Dean and Riseley.

“I knew the old Mrs Stringer well; she lived till Mr Archer was here. I did miss her; she was a good woman. She had some trouble at last; been dead nearly 30 years. She has a son, Thomas Stringer; he leads the singing in the chapel.”

Samuel Law deserves to be remembered; he was a worthy local preacher and class leader. The chapel was opened on Good Friday 1865. The entire cost was £265, according to return at the trustees’ annual meeting, March 31st, 1873.

Mrs Mary Woods (wife of George Woods) gives the circumstances of her conversion.

She says “I am 77 next month [this was August 24th 1907]. I was converted under the preaching of Mr Payne, and so was my husband. He said Feathers and flowers will never reach Heaven. It’s you, not her, not her it’s you I mean. I was so lulled out with feathers, flowers, and those things. I was very dressy. I had nothing, and yet I had everything I must ‘fine’ myself out. This was after I was married. I had got three children then. I was converted in the old chapel; just soon enough to help build the new one. My husband was converted about a week or fortnight before me.”

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