The chapel buildings
Methodism was very much a part of village life in Heyford for almost 130 years. It ﬂourished from the 1830s until the 1960s. The ﬁrst chapel was built in 1838. This was the small red brick building which still stands at the top of Church Street, immediately to the left of the Heyford Stores. It has a barn style roof with a single beam across the middle, and there was originally no ﬂoor upstairs. It has a blank plaque on the front wall and it still has signs of the tall chapel windows. It was converted to a private house in the 1870s.
According to the religious census of 1851 there was a general congregation of 50 in the afternoon and 50 in the evening. lt is hard to see how this number of people would have fitted into such a small building. It must have been standing room only.
In 1879 the existing building in Church Street was erected. lt was built by Alfred Marsh on land donated by Thomas Faulkner, and services continued to take place there until the early 1960s.
The founding family
There is a typescript in the Northamptonshire Record Office, unsigned and undated, which gives some details of one of the families involved in much of the chapel’s history. This typescript refers to Mrs J.S. Gammage who as a young girl around the turn of century was of the fourth generation of village Methodism. It records how, ‘in 1835 when the early pioneers of primitive Methodism missioned the village of Heyford from Northampton, Mrs Gammage’s great-grandmother gave them a welcome and shelter. She also helped in 1838 to secure the first Methodist Chapel in Heyford, owned by the Northamptonshire circuit, at a cost of £65, furniture included.’
Mrs Gammage’s mother ‘was given to hospitality. The saints of god found shelter and refreshment beneath her roof.’ Her father, Thomas Faulkner piloted the chapel for over 50 years until his death in 1917. ‘No man was more typical of the staunch Methodist and radical stock of the Victorian age than Thomas Faulkner. The oppressed looked to him for succour, and the poor found in him a friend. The earliest impressions that the writer of this document had of Mrs Gammage (which must have been around the 1880s) was ‘of a little girl dressed all in white, asking the local preacher for the hymns in the new chapel, then after the service taking him home to her fathers house to tea and introducing him to the missionary box, and pleading the cause of the little black boys and girls in a far-off land.’ The musical service at Heyford also owed much to Mrs Gammage. ‘At the age of twelve she took charge of the organ and became secretary of the Sunday School, and later became choirmaster.’
Mrs Gammage’s mother, Mrs T.G. Faulkner.
The chapel interior
At the rear of the chapel was a gallery in which there was a large pump organ with two keyboards and a series of pipes. For almost fifty years from the early 1900’s this organ was played by Mrs Evelyn Clarke, a daughter of Wesley Faulkner and grand-daughter of Thomas Faulkner. Her two sons Keith and Dennis both remember operating the hand pump. Keith remembers how he had to watch a gauge which showed how much air was in the organ. When the gauge reached a certain level you had to pump air in by hand. It was tempting to allow the gauge to run low and risk silence in the middle of one of the hymns as the organ ran out of air. Dennis remembers as a youngster how the services seemed to be long and boring. Either side of the organ in the gallery was seating for the congregation. Downstairs, just inside the door there was a pulpit and there were wooden pews stretching to the back of the church. The carpets and upholstery were supplied and maintained by Pearce’s of Northampton and were rich blue in colour. The windows at the front of the church were stained glass and included the images of Mr and Mrs Thomas Faulkner.
The chapel business
Also in the Northampton Record Office is a the ‘minute book of the Heyford Trustees and Chapel Committee’ which has periodical entries between 1925 and 1960. Below are some details from this book which give a ﬂavour of life in the chapel during that period.
May 1925 — it was agreed ‘that we install electric light at the Heyford Church and school’
June 1929 – an envelope system was established to enable members to ‘promise to contribute the sum of … per week towards the amount required for carrying on the work above church.’
Mrs Ralph Clarke 6d / W Faulkner 3d / Miss Furniss 6d / Mr and Mrs Furniss 1s Od’ / Mrs Thompson 3d / Alice Eales 3d
Feb 1937 – the general chapel committee acting on behalf of the Methodist Conference paid a grant of £10 ‘to aid the extinction of the debt of the Lower Heyford Methodist Chapel’ and also ‘that the trust should be renewed before long as the number (of trustees) living is now only ﬁve.’
]an 1938 – ‘we record that Miss Furniss be reappointed secretary, that Mrs Humphrey be the treasurer, that Mrs Clarke be reappointed organist, that the assistants be Miss Furniss and Miss Faulkner, that Mrs King be reappointed caretaker with remuneration as before, that the property stewards be Mr Warwick and Mr Faulkner’
Jan 1939 – ‘that Mr Arthur Humphrey be asked to procure a new ash bin’
Nov 1940 – ‘we record with sincere regret the death cy‘ one of our members brother Wesley N T Faulkner who passed away on Oct 19th 1940 and was buried in the Lower Heyford cemetery. Mr Faulkner had an almost lifelong association with the church… he was a local preacher, a class leader and a society steward’
Feb 1941 – the minutes refer to ‘Heyford Methodist Chapel (formerly Primitive Methodist)’
July 1941 — ‘that we receive with pleasure the gift of land adjoining the chapel from Mrs Wesley W Faulkner’
July 1942 — ‘that the repairs done by Mr W ] Denny to thefront boundary wall of the chapel have been satisfactorily completed and that the bill of £22.7s.4d has been paid’
Dec 1949 – ‘the meeting received with joy the inspiring and generous offer of Messrs Pearce regarding the renovations of the interior of the church… it was agreed that Mr Pearce ’s suggestion that the organ be brought down into the body of the church and the gallery be partitioned off be adopted’ .
Feb 1953 – ‘as the pipe organ had not been brought down into the church as agreed because of its need of repair, the minister offered to enquire whether it had been disposed of as being beyond repair. No deﬁnite information had reached the trustees as to its condition and whereabouts. It was noted that it had been in working order when removed. ’
Feb 1959 – ‘new heating arrangements were discussed and it was decided to have electric convector heaters installed, these to be obtained through the kindness of Messrs Pearce and Co at wholesale prices’
Feb 1960 — ‘we record with sincere regret the passing of our dear friend and brother Mr Luther Furniss u/ho served the church in so many ways’
The Methodist chapel in the late 1930s
Photo lent by ]udy Armitage.
The end of an era
The last people to be married in the chapel were Keith and Brenda Clarke in 1953. The last christenings were of their children Elaine and Trevor. The congregation by this time was very small, certainly smaller than that of the Baptist chapel.
Keith & Brenda Clarke Wedding 1953
Photo from Trev Clarke, 2019
“The last wedding to be held there, my mum and dad Brenda and Keith Clarke”
By 1962 the chapel had virtually ceased to function. All the original trustees had died, and some of the few remaining members transferred to the Baptist chapel. In 1963 some of the pews, together with the stained glass windows which depicted members of the Faulkner family, were also moved from the Methodist to the Baptist chapel.
Between 1962 and 1965 there was considerable legal correspondence to establish ownership of the chapel, and of the land adjacent to it that had been donated. In 1965 it was ﬁnally sold to the Northamptonshire Association of Youth Clubs, and the Youth Club was formally opened in the Autumn of that year. After 130 years, Methodism in Heyford had come to an end.
Extract from The Story of Heyford – Volume 1 of 4 – Pages 6,7 & 8