Maidenhead, Berks

John Higgs (1800-1867), a native of Maidenhead, opened a chemist's shop in High Street in 1823. In 1828 he was converted at Windsor through the influence of his Methodist wife and played a leading part in establishing the first Maidenhead society. The first Methodist service was conducted in the town hall on 2 July 1829 and rooms were registered for Methodist worship during that autumn. Bridge Street chapel was opened on 16 August 1833 and was renovated and enlarged in 1849 to accommodate a growing congregation and the gift of an organ. In the face of a challenge from Wesleyan Reform, a schoolroom was added in 1854 and side galleries added to the chapel in 1856. In spite of this, in 1858 the WM society took over the Countess of Huntingdon's Chapel at the junction of High Street and King Street (then 'Braywick Road') and made improvements to it and added a schoolroom in 1877. A day school, begun in 1863 ran until 1907.

In 1865 there was a resident minister in Madenhead for the first time. Leading members of the society in those years were John Higgs' brother-in-law, Robert Walker (died 1886), his son John Wesley Walker and William Woodbridge (1818-1891), a local builder. Another builder, William Archer (1861-1955), moved to Maidenhead from his native Andover in 1888 and left PM for WM 1906. Many members of the High Street society took an active part in the life of the town and several were elected to the office of Mayor. Maidenhead was in the Windsor Circuit, renamed 'Windsor and Maidenhead' in 1904.

Growing WM respectabilty provided an opportunity for the PMs, especially among the working classes. Their first preaching in the town was launched from Reading in 1838 and by 1839 a society had ben established at Boyne Hill. Despite a slow start, the Windsor Branch became the Maidenhead Branch in 1845, which became a separate circuit in 1848. Camp meetings were held annually. In 1859 Bridge Street chapel was bought from the Wesleyans. Despite continuing debt, a new chapel, Queen Street, was opened in September 1882; Bridge Street was sold and came into the use of the Salvation Army and later the Jehovah's Witnesses. There was also a small PM society at Cox Green with a chapel opened in 1875 and sold in 1911. Other societies begun in and around Maidenhead by both the Primitive and the Wesleyan Methodists at various times did not become established.

Following Methodist Union in 1932, the Windsor, Slough and Maidenhead Circuit was formed, but the two churches in Madenhead did not amalgamate until 1955. Other societies were founded at Woodlands Park (1934) and at St. Mark's Crescent (1953, but with roots going back to Burberry Hall in 1934, which is now a Gospel Hall). In 1973 the Victorian hall and meeting rooms behind the High Street church were demolished to make way for the town ring road and were replaced by a new suite of rooms. At the same time the interior of the church was remodelled.

  • Peter Hardiment, Methodism in Maidenhead 1829-1979 (Buckingham, 1979)
  • Norman P. Nickless, The Introduction of Primitive Methodism into Windsor, Maidenhead and Slough