Digging into church history

Wymondley Chapel Sunday School anniversary celebration taken at Wymondley Hall Farm, the home of the

Wymondley Chapel Sunday School anniversary celebration taken at Wymondley Hall Farm, the home of the Foster family, in the 1940s. Rosina Foster is in the middle wearing a hat and Arthur Stanley Foster two rows behind her with grey hair - Credit: Archant

A former resident of Little Wymondley is appealing for the help of Comet readers to compile a detailed history of a church.

Nigel Billingham is one of a group of church members from Wymondley Baptist Church putting together a book documenting the chapel’s history – which goes back more than 200 years.

The group is now after outside help, asking for anyone with information about the chapel – which still remains active – to come forward.

Despite many hours of research, it is still not clear who built the chapel in Stevenage Road and no plans of the building have been found.

The researchers hope this mystery can be solved with the help of readers, and are also keen to hear stories and compile photos of those who married there or visited the chapel for different activities.

Mr Billingham, who now lives in Cardiff, began work on the chapel history last year while carrying out research on his own family history concerning the surname Berry.

The Berry’s had been heavily involved in the chapel from the 1920s onwards and he found there was virtually no written information on the history of the chapel.

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Mr Billingham said: “It has been an amazing and exciting journey of discovery with a few surprises. One of the most important was the discovery that the current chapel was not the first non-conformist chapel in the village.

“When the dissenters college was established at Wymondley House in 1799, within two years a chapel had been built in the grounds for the use of students and village people. After the college moved to London in 1834, Susannah and William Langford from Hitchin purchased the house and continued the work of the chapel until they finally retired in late 1851 and the house became a boarding school. Only then did plans begin to be made for a permanent chapel in the village which came to fruition in 1859. The ‘original’ chapel had a variety of different uses until it was demolished in the early 1990s.”

Anyone with information is asked to contact Mr Billingham via judebillingham@yahoo.co.uk