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.
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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".