The Churches of Bedford 1835
From an article in the SDUK 'Penny Magazine' 1835
Bedford is divided into five parishes, with as many churches. Those of St. Paul, St. Peter, and St. Cuthbert are on the north side of the river, and those of St. Mary and St. John the Baptist on the south.
The living of St Pauls is a discharged vicarage, endowed with a portion of the great tithes, and valued at £10 in the king's books : patron, Lord Carteret. This church is the principal architectural ornament of the town. It is large, with a nave and south aisle divided by early English or early decorated piers and arches. The west door, and the tower and octagonal spire are of the decorated character. The windows are mostly perpendicular; all the tracery, except or one or two, had been cut-away, but has lately been in part restored. There is one tomb, if not more, with brasses, in the church : the old pulpit is of stone, ornamented with gilt tracery on a blue ground but it has been removed to the chancel, and a more convenient one of oak substituted.
The livings of St. Peter and St. Cuthbert are both rectories in the gift of the crown ; the former is rated in the king's books at £11, 13 shillings, 1 penny, and the latter at £5, 9 shillings, 4½ pence.
The church of St. Peter has a curious old Norman door, a fine antique font, and some stained glass in the windows.
The living of St. Mary, on the south side of the river, is a rectory, charged in the kings books at £11, 4 shillings, 9 pence, patron, the Bishop of Lincoln. The church is small, with a plain square tower, and with nave and aisles mostly in the perpendicular style.
The living of St John is a rectory, not in charge, of which the corporation is patron. The tower is in the perpendicular style, but the windows and the interior of the church have been modernised. It was formerly an hospital, and contained a master and 60 brethren.
It is calculated that about half the inhabitants of Bedford are dissenters. There are, accordingly, several chapels belonging to the Independents, the Methodists, the Baptists, and the United Brethren (Moravians) : there is also a small synagogue for the Jews.
The old Independent meeting-house, in Mill Lane, was established in 1650, under the ministry of John Gifford, who had been a major in the kings army. John Bunyan, the celebrated author of the Pilgrims Progress, was ordained co-pastor of this congregation with Samuel Fenn, in 1671, and continued to fill that situation till his death, in 1688. His memory is still greatly venerated by the congregation ; and the chair in which he used to sit is preserved in the vestry as a sort of relic.
The United Brethren have had an establishment here ever since 1745 ; but the chapel was not built till 1751. Adjoining to it is the house for the single sisters, who live in community. They chiefly employ themselves in embroidering muslin and cambric.
The Moravians have also a female boarding school attached to their establishment.