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History
Page Manager:
Alan Bannister

Revised: 06-Nov-2017
Review Date: 1-Jan-2004

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Although Methodism did not come to the village in a formal sense until the second half of the 19th Century, Abbots Langley's connection with Christianity has been long and distinguished. The village of 'Langelei' was given to the Abbot and monks of St. Albans Abbey in AD 1045 whence it became known as Abbots Langley. Some 60 years later the only Englishman to ever become Pope was born in the hamlet of Bedmond, which lies within the Abbots Langley Parish. He became Pontiff in 1154 and took the name Adrian IV. In the same year the Parish Church of St. Lawrence the Martyr was dedicated and this remained the sole place of formal worship in the village for more than 700 years.

The side of the current church and prior to its renovation in 1962

The church building as it was just before rebuilding work commenced in 1962 and as it appears today.

The church layout was reversed during the renovation and and a new entrance created at the side of the building. The old Sunday School building (not shown) was demolished and a larger hall and meeting rooms were built.
The current church building and the frontage prior to rebuilding in 1962.
 

There are no records of the very first gathering of the Methodist Society in Abbots Langley, but we do know that by August 1878 Wesleyans in the village were meeting together regularly to share in worship. With no church building to make use of, these fellowship meetings had to be held in various members' houses. In fact so popular were these meetings that soon numbers were too large for this arrangement to continue, clearly another venue was needed.

Some of the subsequent gatherings were held on Kitters Green, in fact that part of the green which lies directly in front of the present church building. Here in the open air, invited leaders would conduct evangelical meetings with readings, hymns, prayers and testimonies. Later the owner of the Bricklayers' Arms (one of the Public Houses in the village) gave the growing band of Wesleyans permission to hold Sunday services on his premises.

One man who stood before the society and preached on Kitters Green was Matthew Timberlake. Born in 1845, Matthew had spent most of his life in the nearby community of Nash Mills and had been a regular member of the small Wesleyan Chapel there. A bricklayer by trade, he moved into the village in 1872 setting up home with his wife Mary, and young daughter Annie in Adrian Road. Some of the early meetings were held in his home. His faith was strong and his outlook a cheerful one, so much so that he had the ability to instill these qualities into those who knew and worked with him. These people knew him to be a modest man and a 'fine example of perpetual motion'. He was well known in the village with his flowing red beard and frequently riding on a tricycle! Matthew is regarded as the father of the church in Abbots Langley because he nurtured it from its infancy and saw that it grew upon the firm spiritual foundation that serves us today.

On the 7th August 1878 there was a meeting at the home of Matthew Timberlake with twenty-seven members of the society present. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss the possibility of securing a site for a new Wesleyan Chapel in the St. Albans circuit. An offer had been made on a piece of land owned by a local builder, Mr. Chalk. A building fund was started with nine of the members present promising to donate between them eleven pounds, others also agreed to help by taking collecting books. Subsequently, after talks with Mr. Chalk, a meeting of the building committee agreed on September 11th, 1878 that a plot of land 180 ft. x 40 ft. including storage sheds and stables that overlooked that part of the green where the society held its open air meetings, should be purchased at a cost of £130, and that one hundred pounds should be borrowed at an interest rate of five percent.

Despite being heavily in debt there was now a place for the Wesleyans to meet in Abbots Langley. Although support for the venture came from other chapels in the circuit the bulk of the debt was paid off by the sheer hard work of the members. Minute books record a succession of bazaars, fairs, lectures, concerts, magic lantern shows and recitals, all organised to boost funds and to purchase essential items to make the life and work of the church more comfortable. Worship now took place on Sundays in the builders' shed and the construction of a raised platform at one end helped create a more formal setting for a chapel. Having their own premises meant that in 1879 a Sunday School was opened which met in the afternoon. Matthew Timberlake remained its superintendent for fifty years.

During 1879 a Trust was formed to take over the property and from that date the cause never looked back. By March 1880 most of the debt on the land had been paid and the trustees were now able to think about building a chapel. Tenders were invited for the erection of a new Chapel and work commenced soon afterwards in the Spring of 1881 by Mr. C. Monk builders of Two Waters at a cost of £398. In the June of 1881 the trustees paid the first instalment of £125 to the builders and the new premises were dedicated at the opening ceremony which took place on August 25th 1881.

By April 1882 £629 16s 10d had been raised in total and of this sum £597 1s 0d had been paid out by the trustees for the construction and furnishing of the chapel. The balance was carried forward towards the 'next effort'. Between 1883 and 1887 other improvements were made to the premises. A toilet was added, substantial alterations were made to the original builders shed and stables which were retained for use as a school hall and a kitchen. With the work completed on both the and school hall the total cost came to £674 16s 6d. Of this sum £634 16s 6d was raised in collections, donations, gifts and loans: In January 1888 the trustees declared the property to be free of debt.

You entered the church through its main door which led in from Kitters Green, picking up a and then left or right to walk down one of the side aisles before taking your seat in one of the long pews which stretched across the width of the interior. As you sat facing what today the back of the church, you saw in the centre of the mock arch the pulpit, and above it a round window. In front of and below the stood the communion table and rail. To your left was the door leading to the vestry and to the right stood the old harmonium. The old gas lamps, later replaced with electric lights supplemented the natural light that came through the many narrowly arched windows. Heating was provided by a coke-fired boiler housed adjacent to the vestry which heated water that circulated by gravity through large pipes that ran around the inside of the church.

Matthew Timberlake died in 1933 and the Timberlake Memorial Fund was inaugurated in 1934 to rebuild the school room at a proposed cost of £3,250. Unfortunately World War II intervened before any work could begin on a revised plan which involved not only building a new hall but totally renovating the church. Building eventually began in 1962 and the buildings as you see them today were opened by Matthew Timberlake's granddaughter - Mrs. Marion Flint in January 1963. The total cost of the work was £17,000 and some £3,500 was raised by local efforts and the remainder came from central Methodist funds.

It is fitting to conclude brief account of the days of Methodism in Abbots Langley with some words spoken by Matthew Timberlake on the 42nd Anniversary of the Church, he said: "There was a band of men and women who were inspired by the love of God and their neighbours, who like those of old dug the wells and laboured, so that others might drink of the well of salvation, who built the house of God, sang with heart and voice, who enjoyed religion, whose experience was 'I know', who had with one another and to whom religion was the greatest bargain".