NOTES ON THE ORIGINS OF
LUDDINGTON METHODIST CHAPEL
OPENED 10th AUGUST 1932
In the 1920's, a Mr. Tom Sankey and his wife lived at The Manor Farm, Luddington. He was a Circuit Steward
of the Stratford-upon-Avon Wesleyan Methodist Circuit, and also a Church Warden of the local Parish Church,
All Saints. (Because he lived at the Manor, he would have been automatically a Church Warden in those days.)
Little Luddington Farm on the Stratford side of the village was owned by Thomas Higginson, a Methodist Local
Preacher. The Higginsons used to hold Methodist Garden Party meetings at their farm. These were attended
not only by the local Methodists, but by people from around the Circuit.
Sandfields Farm was owned by another Methodist, Fred Whitehead, and his brother Harry (who was Church of
England, not Methodist) bought Boddington Farm (which was next to the village green) about 1930. Edna
Hopkins (who lived at Wellesbourne and was a Methodist), a niece of Harry Whitehead, for a while attracted the
interest of one of the Higginson boys.
Sandfields Farm was just outside the village, but within the Parish, on the Evesham side. Boddington had
previously been farmed by Mr. Badger and his wife. They were Christians (Baptists), and remembered by my
father as being lovely people. The farm was sold when Mr. Badger died. He was buried in the cemetery at
Stratford-upon-Avon, and it happen that Thomas Higginson was buried in a neighbouring grave.
Farming in those days had some machinery but was more labour intensive than it is today. And so it would
have been more affected by the weather. But Methodist farmers would not have dreamt of ever doing such
work as hay-making on a Sunday, no matter what the weather. This was a part of their devotion to God and
witness to the people. Sunday was a day of rest for both farmer and labourer, apart from essentials like milking
cows. Nothing was allowed to get in the way of attending services at the Chapel. For Thomas Higginson, this
would have been not only his local place of worship, but also his preaching in other Chapels around the Circuit.
At that time, with the help of Miss Neen, Mrs. Sankey's "lady companion", the Sankeys used to hold a Sunday
School in a room at the back of their farm house. They also used to hold non-conformist services on a Sunday
evening, having attended services at Stratford Methodist Church (Birmingham Road) in the morning, and the
village Parish Church in the afternoon. The "Fellowship Hymn Book" was used at these meetings.
About 1931, Mr. Tom Sankey retired, sold his farm, and went to live in Stratford upon Avon. The new owner
of Manor Farm, a Mr. Gwynne, was not a churchman. The non-conformist services in the village ceased.
There was a building in the village belonging to the Higginsons' farm. So Tom Higginson said, "We'll turn the
implement shed into a Methodist Chapel." The building was brick built, and more substantial than a barn. His
suggestion did not find universal support. For example, Fred Whitehead continued to travel to the Methodist
services in Stratford and did not attend the Chapel in Luddington.
Another Methodist in the village was Herbert Ashworth. He was a retired schoolmaster, who had taught
chemistry at Accrington Grammar School (Lancashire). Mr and Mrs. Ashworth, and a daughter, lived in a
bungalow near Little Luddington Farm. Tom Higginson offered transport to services at Stratford, which is how
the Ashworths (who had belonged to another Church in Lancashire) joined the Methodist cause. They were
good friends of the Higginsons. Herbert was handy with a saw, and helped in the work by doing much of the
Thomas Higginson died suddenly of a heart attack on 29 June 1932, just as the work on the new Chapel was
nearing completion. His passing was lamented by many in the Circuit. Not only had he served as a Local
Preacher, but Methodist Garden Parties were regularly held at his farm, and were a blessing to many.
Mr. Higginson's widow, Martha, said, "The work must go on."
The Chapel was opened on 10 th August 1932. It was the scene of Methodist witness in the village for about 40
The history of Luddington village continued. A Mr. George Witts later bought Manor Farm. He had several
farms, and lived near Evesham. He was a market gardener, and also had a fine herd of pedigree Hereford
cattle. The Herdsman at his farm was Eric Holtom who was also a Methodist. His father-in-law, Mr/
Hancock, was organist at a Methodist Church in West Bromwich. The Holtom family became good friends of
the Higginsons. When Mr. Witts sold Manor Farm, it was bought by the Ministry of Agriculture and used as a
Horticultural Research Station.
About 1930, Thomas Higginson had supplied some land to a builder who was just starting in business. He built
two houses at the Stratford end of the farm, of which one was named "Heathville" by Mrs. Higginson after her
grandparents, and the other "Southville". (Heathville was retained by the Higginsons as payment for the land,
and Southville was sold by the builder.) In the early 1930's, a family named Beckett came from Thetford to live
at Southville. Tom Beckett (who had two daughters, Mary and Jean) bought the saddler's shop in Stratford.
Tom was a Methodist local Preacher, and became the Class leader at Luddington. He also attended morning
services at Stratford, and Luddington in the afternoon or the evening.
In the early 1940's, another Methodist family came to live on the Luddington Road. Tom Nicholas was also a
Methodist Local Preacher. He was a schoolteacher in Birmingham, and moved because of the war. He
travelled by train to his job in Birmingham.
The Class at Luddington met on a Monday evening. (It really did meet!) A Class of 10 or 11 Members, it had
two Local Preachers in its original membership. But out of that Class came two Chapel Organists (the first and
third Higginson boys, Jim and Ted, their mother being organist at the Chapel). Ted Higginson began playing
the organ at Luddington Chapel at age 14. And out of that Class came three Local preachers, Mary Beckett,
John and Robert Higginson, of whom Robert went on to become a Minister.
Luddington Methodist Chapel made its contribution to the Stratford-upon-Avon Circuit through its Local
Preachers and organists. Even today (2001), Ted Higginson still plays the organ at some village services. But
Luddington also benefited the other non-conformist village Chapels in Warwickshire. While the Baptist and
Congregational Churches had pastors in Stratford, the neighbouring villages were supplied by various preachers,
and there were preaching plans similar to the Methodist plans. The Baptists had village chapels at Temple
Grafton, Tiddington and Preston-on-Stour. The Congregationalists had village chapels at Binton, Shottery,
Aston Cantlow and Wilmcote. Thus these seven village chapels, as well as the Methodist Circuit, were blessed
by the work of grace which God undertook at Luddington.
While my father was telling me about this history, I wondered to what extent this happened because it was a
small and local village chapel, rather than the larger and more remote town chapel.
The Chapel Anniversaries were usually held in August. The usual pattern during the 1930's was to hold on a
week-day an afternoon service, followed by a tea, and then an evening rally with a chairman. The nearest
Sunday would be designated Chapel Anniversary Sunday. During the Second World War, it was not possible
to continue this scale of anniversary.
In 1949, Ted Higginson said to his brother, Bob, "I'd like to start the Chapel Anniversary Weekday Meeting
again. But I need some help. Can you find a speaker, and I'll do the rest." (At that time, Bob had just
finished his Ministerial training at Handsworth College and been ordained, but was also studying for a BA
degree at Birmingham.) While at the Methodist Conference, in Liverpool, Bob went to Rev. Dr. W. F.
Lofthouse, who had been Principal at Handsworth in the 1930's, and was then in retirement and living at
Woodstock. When Bob Higginson explained the situation at Luddington, Dr. Lofthouse replied, "With
pleasure. I'd love to come."
The standard pattern was to preach a sermon in the afternoon, and to give a lecture at night. The text Dr.
Lofthouse chose for the afternoon was, "But there is forgiveness with Thee that Thou mayest be feared."
(Psalm 130 v.4 ).
For the evening, he had noticed that the walk along the river bank from Stratford to Luddington was about three
miles. Rev. Lofthouse's Lecture was, "A conversation between William Shakespeare and John Wesley as they
walk along the River Avon to Luddington." It was both fascinating and instructive.
A guest of the Higginsons, Dr. Lofthouse stayed that night at Heathville. Bob Higginson had a lot of work to
finish for the University before travelling the next day to Sussex to visit Eric Holtom, who had moved from
Luddington. As he went to bed, he saw that Dr. Lofthouse's light was on. Apologising the next morning in
case the sound of the typewriter had kept their visitor awake, he received the gracious reply, "No, that's quite all
right. I often work late at night myself." He had been reading late at night, his long established custom.
R J Higginson © March 2001