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The History of Pirton Methodist Church

Kindly provided by Helen Hofton

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The revivalist preaching of John Wesley in the 18th century came at a time when there was much laxity in the Established church, many bishops and priests being neglectful of their duties. The Vicar of Pirton lived in Merton, Surrey and his duties were carried out by a curate. Wesley preached in North Hertfordshire and a local widow fired by his zeal left money for the spread of Methodism in the area. The organization of the church into circuits based on local towns, with lay preachers going out to minister to surrounding villages, was more economical than the Anglican system of a vicar in each parish. Village people took responsibility for organizing local classes and they met in humble cottages rather than in large churches. They changed the emphasis of religion.

The first record of Methodists in the village is in 1814, when a licence was granted for meetings in Tom Kingsley's house [Walnut Tree Farm] and he, William Hodson, John Woolston and Sam Jarvis met there. Lavender Cottage in Shillington Road was later licensed. In 1830 meetings were held in a barn-maybe this is the `wooden cabin' type building shown in a drawing owned by Joe Titmuss's grandmother (who was a staunch Methodist) and labelled `Wesleyan Chapel'. Wesleyan records show that this barn could hold 110 worshippers.

At this time, children of Methodist parents were baptised in the Chapel at Hitchin-the first was James Robson in 1839. By 1842, there were eight members in the Pirton Society, the class leaders being Brother Pratt and Sister Bardle. In 1874, the first brick chapel was built in the High Street, next to Hammond's Almshouses, at a cost of £360. Weddings, baptisms and burials had then to take place in, and were recorded at, St. Mary's Church, as the chapel was not solemnised. After the opening of the present chapel, the old building was used as a Sunday School and for various chapel functions and clubs, until its demolition in the 1960s.

The present church was opened on Wednesday May 29th 1907. It was designed by George Baines architects, of The Strand in London and cost £1100 The style of architecture is Art Nouveau which is particularly reflected in the stained glass. The foundation stone was laid in October, 1906 and this photograph was taken soon after the building was opened. The first people to be married in the chapel were John Goldsmith and Mary Baines; the first child to be baptised in the chapel was Richard George Trussell, son of Albert Edward and Elizabeth, born 5th December 1907 and baptised 8th March 1908

The interior showing the original oil lamps. The subscription to pay for the installation of electric lights in 1935 was £84-18s-9d. The communion table shown here was subsequently replaced by one in memory of Fred Weedon. The original organ came from St Ninian's, Golders Green, and was erected in 1921 at a cost of £260. It had a tracker action with one manual, nine draw stops, and a straight pedal board. Ivy Taylor was the organist. Her lessons were paid for by the Methodists (c1923-4) and she subsequently played for all the evening services.