BARDON PARK was one of the ancient deer parks of Leicestershire. There is documentary evidence that the Park existed as early as 1270. It was part of the extensive manor of Whitwick, and in the early days it was known as Whitwick Park.
There would have been an earth bank around the boundary topped with a wooden paling (fence).
Within the Park, in the shallow valley to the south of Bardon Hill, stood the old BARDON HALL, a moated house. For about 300 years, from the time of Henry VIII, the Hood family occupied the old Bardon Hall.
NOTE: A sub-page gives details of the ownership of the Park.
1662 - a failed attempt to impose one single form of Chrstian worship and order in England
A revised edition of the prayer book was published in 1662 and this was enforced by Parliament through the 1662 Act of Uniformity. The bishops (who had been abolished) were also reinstated. Worship that did not follow the 1662 version of the prayer book laid down by Parliament became unlawful, and ordinations that had not been carried out by a bishop were no longer recognised.
Over 2000 vicars and rectors in England lost their jobs in 1662 because they would not agree to use the new prayer book and rules. However, many of them carried on preaching and teaching even though it was against the law.
Several vicars and rectors in western Leicestershire lost their jobs. Some of them suffered fines and imprisonment. The deposed vicar of Whitwck for example was cast into Leicester jail for "nonconformity".
There grew up an "underground" network of people meeting in secret and worshipping God according to their consciences and in the way they believed the Bible taught, rather then following what the King and Parliament were trying to impose, and led by ministers who had been deposed in 1662.
After a few years the persecution eased-off. Eventually, in 1689, an "Act of Toleration" passed through Parliament opening the way for "Free Church" worship to be put on a more open and permanant footing.
Over a period of time, the gatherings of "nonconformists" (i.e. of Free Church people) in western Leicestershire coalesced into a number of settled congregations, for example at Ashby-de-la-Zouch, at Temple Hall (Wellesborough) and at Bardon Park.
We do not know when worship was first held at Bardon Park. It is almost certain that the worship would initially have been held in the moated Bardon Hall. The remoteness of the location, the fact that the house was moated, and the patronage of the Hood family may all have contributed to this being a relatively safe place for meeting.
After the 1689 Act of Toleration, John Hood of Bardon Hall built the meetinghouse at the gate of his estate, and he registered his home (Bardon Hall) and also the meetinghouse as places of worship.
The meetinghouse was probably built about 1694. But, as we can see, the origins of the meeting go back to the events of 1662 when the Presbyterians and Independents lost control of the parish churches of England, and were forced to operate "underground".
The Bardon Meetinghouse thrived during the 18th century, and was strongly supported by local squirarchy and gentry.
A SABBATH SCHOOL AND A DAY SCHOOL
A Sabbath school operated at Bardon Park from 1820 onwards.
From about 1846, there was also a day-school under the auspices of the British and Foreign School Society. The painted alphabet board high on the wall of the old schoolroom reminds us that this was a place where children learned their letters. The Bardon Park day-school (a so-called "British" school, as distinct form the "National" schools -- the latter being Church of England schools) is thought to have operated for around thirty years. After the 1870 Elementary Education Act, most of the old "British" schools closed down.
ALTERATIONS IN 1877
The external appearance of the chapel building was substantially altered in 1877. A gabled roof was out on, replacing the original hipped roofs. A double-opening central front door was installed, replacng two earlier doors which had been in line with the internal aisles (the gangways between the pews). The two pre-1877 doorways were made into windows.
COFFIN WINDOW - 1926
One consequence of the 1877 alterations was that coffins entering the chapel had to be negotiated round two right-angle bends. This rather awkward situation was alleviated in 1926 when one of the windows was made into an opening casement window, allowing coffins to enter and exit more easily.