The contents on this page remain on our website for informational purposes only.
Content on this page will not be reviewed or updated.


Tale of three churches.... Bletchley
Places of worship: The Methodist Church Queensway
44 Church Street, formerly the Catholic Church

In our multicultural age, Bletchley now accommodates several religious faiths, but in this issue local historian John Taylor investigates the story of three of the more established churches, both past and present.

St Margaret's Mission Church

At the instigation of the Reverend Alfred Barrow, vicar of St Martin's Church from 1883 to 1891, Saint Martin's Mission Room, as it was then known, was built by Henry Walsh of Fenny Stratford, with the iron cross on the building having formerly graced Woolstone church.

Originally in the possession of the Holdom family, the land for the site had been sold by Rowland Bros., and, with the railway company donating £45, the costs of the building amounted to £458 5s 8d. This included £88 2s 9d for the land, £28 for the wooden block floor, £7 10s for glazing with 'cathedral glass', £5 for the bellcote and £3 3s for the new bell, which was first rung by George Campbell at the opening of the premises by the Bishop of Oxford, on 1st March 1886.

George would long be associated with St Martin's Church. Whilst on Army service in India in 1893, he was one day incredulous to see a church notice proclaiming that the Reverend Barry, formerly of Fenny Stratford, would be present on Sunday. However, before he could renew this acquaintance George was posted to the North West Frontier!

The addition of a chancel was made in 1888, and St Margaret's Mission Church became licensed in 1890, the year in which a porch was built. With a wooden hut built to connect with the main building, in 1907, further land was then acquired.

During 1945, because of the increasing dilapidation, discussions took place about replacing the building. However, it would not be until Low Sunday, April 29 1962, that the centre finally closed for worship, with the site being auctioned at the Conservative Club at the end of May.

For £31,000, purchase was made by the estate agents Marcus Leaver and Co of London - 'almost certainly for a supermarket-type shop, with flats and accommodation above'.

Yet despite the demolition of the church, the name would still be recalled by St Margaret's Court. This was built on the site of the old vicarage in Fenny Stratford, and in 1965 offered two-bedroom maisonettes with central heating on a 99-year lease, available from £3,810 plus £10pa ground rent.

As for the proceeds from the sale of the site, a third of the amount was expended on providing St Martin's Church with a new vestry and sacristy, which were blessed by the Bishop of Buckingham on the first weekend of October in 1965.

The Methodist Church, Queensway

The complete refurbishment of the Methodist chapel in the High Street (Watling Street) had taken place in 1882 at a cost of £155, but nevertheless the Methodist trustees set up a committee for a new building in 1908, with the land in Bletchley Road having been purchased the previous year from a Mr Lee and the trustees of the Duncombe Estate.

Eventually it was decided to build a church at a cost not exceeding £1,800. With plans prepared by Mr E Harper, an architect from Birmingham, the lowest of the 13 tenders received, of £1,851 10s, was accepted.

The following year, 250 circulars were sent out to solicit subscriptions, and on July 10 1909, the stone-laying ceremony took place to a musical accompaniment by the Luton Town Band. Also included was singing by the Wolverton and Woburn Sands choirs, and this was again a feature at the official opening by the Reverend William Perkins in November 1909, with Mr Turney using a silver key inscribed with his name and the date.

Interestingly, in 1966 the key was discovered among his effects by his daughter, Miss E Turney, when she came to Woburn Sands from London, and was subsequently kept in the church safe.

From 1934, a wooden hut in the grounds was used by the Methodist Girl Guides. The large vestry room of the church, being set aside as a social amenity, would see use in the early months of the World War II to cope with the influx of evacuees into the town. For the most part the evacuees were afforded a genuine welcome by the townspeople but, when the hut began use as the 'Bletchley Refugee Reception Centre', the notices proclaiming this purpose were mysteriously ripped down.

After the war, in 1955 the wooden hut was destroyed by fire, and one Saturday afternoon in July 1961 four foundation stones were laid for the new Sunday school hall, built alongside the Methodist chapel by Tranfields, at a cost of £5,500.

44 Church Street, formerly the Catholic Church

During World War I, the building had provided accommodation for Belgian refugees, and for a while afterwards found a military use until, in April 1919, it was offered for sale by the trustees of the late Samuel Bragg, who had given the adjoining plot as a site for the Salvation Army barracks.

Hedley Clarke, the local fire agent, purchased the property for £220 and, being possessed of a noted business acumen, duly agreed to sell the house for £350 to the local branch of the National Federation of Discharged and Demobilised soldiers and Sailors - the forerunner of the British Legion.

They intended to use the building as a social centre but, when the deal fell through, the Roman Catholics purchased the house, which was subsequently opened for religious use on Trinity Sunday 1920, by the Reverend Walker, rector of the church at Wolverton.

In the earlier century, the Catholics had held their services at Hey Tor, 115 Bletchley Road, the home of Mr JW (Bibby) Watson, who eventually retired to Worthing, but a site in Victoria Road had been acquired in 1905 for a permanent facility. Since this was never built, and having celebrated Mass in five or six different locations in the town, (including an Army hut at the Staple Hall military camp), the local Catholics then decided to purchase the Church Street property.

A room on the first floor was solemnised for marriages in 1941 and until his move to Cromer in 1946, the Reverend Father Tomlinson would be the priest in charge. With the building only able to accommodate a congregation of 90, in the years after the war a decision was taken to provide an alternative venue - especially since otherwise three services had to be conducted to cater for the average Sunday attendance of 300!

Thus, to the design of Mr J Comper, FRIBA, work was scheduled to begin on a new, centre in April 1955, at the corner of Manor Road and Sycamore Avenue. But during the initial stages, work was delayed by an intervention from on high, when a blackbird decided to nest on top of the electrical switchboard!

Under the direction of the aptly named Father Carey, the five chicks were allowed to hatch, and during the interim the workmen put up a notice reading: 'Supply when they fly'!