Ley Hill

Ley Hill is a village about 2 miles from Chesham. It is a Chiltern hilltop village on the Bucks border with west Herts, and neighbours Chesham, Bovingdon, Latimer and Flaunden. Local industries are recalled in the local place names. Tylers Hill was where tiles were once made and Kiln Lane used to have the old brick kilns on it. The Common is used for golf and cricket. The first school was built in 1847 and the village hall dates back to 1921. Today Ley Hill has an active village community and a popular village school.

Ley Hill Baptist

For centuries Ley Hill did not have its own church, so the locals went to Chesham or Latimer for their baptisms, weddings and funerals. From 1786 Baptists started to meet locally and in 1833 they built a chapel in Ley Hill, on the corner of Kiln Lane and the Common.

Primitive Methodists

Meanwhile in the early 1800s, a new Christian movement was growing called the Primitive Methodists. This was a branch of the main Methodist Church but were more down-to-earth and appealed to the working classes. In those days the word “primitive” had more the meaning of original. In this sense their use of the term Primitive Methodist, referred to the early or original form of Methodism of John Wesley, who preached outdoors to great crowds, encouraged ordinary people to preach, including women, as well as men.

Berkshire Mission

In the 1830s they spread throughout Berkshire in what was called the Berkshire Mission, and then they sent preachers into the surrounding counties, coming to High Wycombe in 1838. In 1840 a mission was set up at Rickmansworth, which sent people to preach in Watford, and on the commons and greens of the villages along the West Herts and Bucks border. So it was that in 1840 a man came to Ley Hill Common. He found people interested in the Christian message and wanting to hear more. A premises was registered for regular meetings on February 17, 1841 at the property of Joseph Scott. This was the start of Ley Hill Methodist church, and not long afterwards a Sunday School was started. They met for over four decades at various cottages around Ley Hill. They tried to build their own place of worship but struggled to get anyone to sell them any land to build a chapel on.

The Chapel

Eventually in 1887 Lord Chesham gave them a piece of land on the Green in Ley Hill as a site for a chapel. It was built by Mr Job Wright of Chesham. The foundation stone was laid on June 13, 1887 and the chapel opened on August 28, 1887. It was a plain and functional chapel, and was a fairly typical design for a non-conformist chapel of that period, built with local bricks. Originally it had box pews and a large pulpit, typical of a tradition which emphasised Bible preaching. The first wedding took place there in 1919. The chapel is now modernised for modern life and worship, with comfortable seats, heating, projection facilities, connection to the Internet, with a kitchen and toilets.

Baptists and Methodists

In the early 1900s the Baptists and Methodists worked together a lot, with a joint Band of Hope and summer outdoor services on the Common. As the condition of the Baptist chapel started to deteriorate, the Baptists started to meet with the Methodists more. By 1908 they had also combined the Sunday Schools, and the Baptist chapel stood disused, and in 1921 was demolished.


During the war, the nearby Bovingdon Airfield was an American airbase. Many Americans came over by bicycle and Jeep and enjoyed the local area. They went to the pubs, went out with local girls, and some of the Americans who were active Christians attended local churches. Ley Hill Methodist church welcomed a group from Bovingdon, known as the American Gospel Team, who used the church as their base, and took weekly youth services. One of them married a girl from the church, and in October 1945 they led a mission in Chesham, out of Broadway Baptist church.

Inter-church relations

The church has good relations with St George’s Anglican Church at Tylers Hill and is part of the West Herts and Borders Methodist Circuit, and the Churches Together for Chesham network of churches. Chesham has many churches which are diverse in style of worship and the way they do things, but are essentially united in mission and aim. One of their most successful joint ventures is the summer holiday club called Backpackers, and there are local Christian-run charities like the Foodbank.

The Church Today

The church has always been involved in the community and caters for all ages. It holds groups like the Baby and Toddlers group, Youth Express meetings and the Well Seasoned group for retired folk, and used to have its own football team. The congregation is mainly drawn from Ley Hill, with some from Chesham and Bovingdon. Services, which include Sunday School, are held every Sunday at 11 a.m., usually at the chapel.

History Book

Now 180 years after the congregation was registered in 1841, there is a new history book which tells the story of the Baptists and Methodists in the village, explained in its local context. It is called “The Chapel on the Green” and published by Hawkes Design in Chesham. It has 64 colour pages packed with over 200 years of local village and church history drawn from people’s memories, and information from newspaper articles and the archives. It includes maps, lists and over 100 beautiful historic and modern photographs to bring it alive. It is a valuable resource for anyone with links to the church, those interested in Ley Hill local history, or anyone doing family history with ancestors from Ley Hill. The book is available priced £12 from shops, or £10 if bought direct from the church. Copies can also be ordered from www.hawkesdesign.co.uk.