17 November 2022

An Old Rectory and a former
Congregational chapel on
Great Linford’s High Street

The Old Rectory in Great Linford dates from the late 16th or early 17th century (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2022)

Patrick Comerford

Following a photo-shoot in Great Linford Park last Saturday, Charlotte and I took a morning stroll through the village.

We have been in Great Linford frequently this year, visiting the park and its sculptures, Saint Andrew’s Church and its churchyard, the arts centre and the almshouses which have been earmarked for renovation and restoration, for walks along the canal banks, and for lunch or dinner in the Black Horse.

However, this was the first time I had strolled through the village and its High Street. It was a sleepy Saturday morning as we strolled through along Great Linford’s High Street, which has pretty cottages, many dating back to the late 16th or early 17th century, a pub, the Nag’s Head, a former Congregational Chapel and a school, but no shops.

Two buildings with church links in the past attracted my attention that morning: the Old Rectory and the former Congregational Chapel.

The Old Rectory is close to the gates of Great Linford Park, near the old manor house and to the south-east of Saint Andrew’s Church. This is a stone building, built mainly at the close of the 16th century and in the early 17th century, although there seems to be work from a century earlier in the south-east wing and much of the building was altered in the late 19th century.

This is a U-shaped two-storey house built of stone, with an old tile roof, four ornamental brick chimney stacks, and two hipped three-light dormer windows dating from the 17th century.

The centre part of the east front has three bays, with casement windows. that have leaded glazing. The central six-panel oak door is in an older moulded frame in an arched stone porch, all within a 19th century gabled timber porch. There is a late 16th-century four-light window beside the porch.

The north projecting gabled wing has a three-light leaded attic casement over a 19th century two-storey canted bay window. The south wing was rebuilt in the 19th century in the Tudor manner.

Inside, the house has chamfered beams, some panelling dating from ca 1600, and an altered early l8th century oak staircase with turned balusters and a moulded handrail.

The house was extensively and sympathetically renovated, extended and rebuilt in the Arts and Crafts style in 1876-1878 by the Stony Stratford architect Edward Swinfen Harris (1841-1924), whose works, mainly in the Arts and Crafts style, can be seen throughout the area. Further extensions were carried out in the Edwardian era.

The house now has four reception rooms and six bedrooms and stands on two acres of mature grounds, including a former orchard. It has been on the market twice in recent years, with asking prices of £1.6 million and £1.75 million.

The former Congregational Chapel on Great Linford’s High Street is now a private house (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2022)

Further south, on the west side of Great Linford’s High Street, the former Congregational Chapel dates from 1833.

By the early 19th century, there were several dissenting meetings in the parish, usually hosted in family homes.

Congregational services were held in a cottage in Great Linford until George Osborne offered a site and financed building the Independent or Congregational Chapel in 1833.

The date stone ‘Chapel 1833’ on the former Congregational Chapel in Great Linford (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2022)

George Osbourn (1776-1857) was a ‘woolstapler’ who lived in Newport Pagnell and owned property and land in several locations in Great Linford. His will was witnessed by WR Bull, a leading Congregationalist in Newport Pagnell.

The Revd Henry Hughes was the curate in Great Linford when the Congregational Chapel was built in 1833. A year later, in 1834, he wrote a pastoral letter to the residents of Great Linford, warning them against attending the new chapel, pleading with them not ‘to forsake the communion of a church in whose privileges your forefathers rejoiced.’ He said this would ‘be a grievous sin and one for which you will have to answer to God.’

By 1851, out of a parish population of 486, 81 people were attending the Independent or Congregational Chapel in Great Linford on Sunday evenings. The chapel also ran a Sunday School catering for up to 60 children, and a short-lived day school. It was also a venue for a variety of meetings and activities, including meetings of the temperance movement.

The chapel was renovated in 1906, with interior alterations, new seating and lighting, reglazed and windows, and reopened on 25 August 1906.

I am not sure when the Congregational Chapel closed for worship. Today, it is a private house, but the exterior fabric of the building retains its original character and its prominent date stone, inscribed ‘Chapel 1833’, can still be seen from the High Street.

A pretty cottage on the High Street in Great Linford (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2022)

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