A Short History of South Chadderton Methodist Church
Oldham & Saddleworth Circuit
The present church in the Oldham and Saddleworth Circuit, part of the Manchester and Stockport District, came into existence in January 1966.
The church was formed by the amalgamation of 4 churches, (Cowhill, Eaves Lane, Washbrook and Turf Lane) with members from Edward Street joining following the closure of their church in 1967.
The amalgamation came about primarily because of ageing and declining congregations, lack of finance and poor maintenance of the buildings.
In September 1951 Rev Roy Dew, was appointed to the then Oldham West Circuit, to work among four churches (Eaves Lane, Washbrook, Turf Lane and New Moston) he remained until August 1954. During that period these churches experienced a spiritual revival when a number of young and older people from both inside and outside the church, came into a conversion experience. Not enough emphasis can be laid on the work that evolved during the ministry of Roy Dew. A number of young men (6) went into the Methodist ministry, others became Local Preachers and still others took up important positions within their local church and circuit. It was through these people in positions of authority, who were to influence the amalgamation.
The churches that formed the new South Chadderton Methodist church (New Moston became part of the North Manchester Circuit) from January 1966 to December 1969, held their meetings in the premises that had been the Washbrook church.
Over the period from Roy Dew leaving to the opening of the new church 1954 – 1970 a number of ministers played a vital role in shaping the future church.
Following Roy Dew, came Rev Reginald Cole, 1954 – 1956, an ageing man with failing eyesight.
Rev Stanley T Struthers, 1956 – 1963 who was instrumental in bringing the various churches together for conversations and became influential in smoothing out some of the dissenting voices.
He was succeeded by the Rev David Watkinson 1963 – 1967. David brought with him some valuable experience in amalgamating societies and together with the Superintendent Minister of the Circuit, the Rev Wilfred McKee, oversaw the necessary negotiations with Chadderton Urban District Council, to secure the sale of the buildings, the purchase of the present church site and together with other members of the church, liaised with the architects. In respect for the work that David did his name is commemorated on the foundation stone.
Prior to the completion of the building project came the Rev Geoffrey Jones 1967 – 1982, who did invaluable work in establishing South Chadderton Methodist Church.
All of the churches involved in the amalgamation had at some time in their history been active in evangelising their respective areas. They in turn, came into existence as a result of the various branches of the then Methodist church i.e. Wesleyan, Primitive Methodist, New Connexion/United Methodist, reaching out into Oldham and the surrounding environs.
In this brief history I want to link the individual churches with their parent church and hopefully give an insight into how the churches evangelised and eventually coming down to the present church.
Washbrook Methodist Church
This church came into being in the autumn and winter of 1861-62 as a result of the outreach by evangelists from the Primitive Methodist church in Bourne Street, Hollinwood.
A deep spiritual impression was made upon the neighbourhood and a society was formed in 1862.
Accommodation in the form of the Loom House, situated adjacent to the railway bridge on Washbrook, was acquired. This building became too small for the increasing congregation and Sunday School.
A site was acquired at the junction of Washbrook, Coalshaw Green Road and Butler Green and by 1869 a chapel and schoolroom were erected.
The Washbrook church that many people would recognise, complete with clock tower, was opened on the 11th March 1893. The history of Washbrook was a strong evangelical witness to the surrounding community.
It was due to the resilience of the people of the Primitive Methodist stock that the establishing of a society and the building of the ‘Old School’ took place during the Cotton Famine, the church was built during the Cotton Strike and the ‘Institute’ built during the Coal Strike of 1912!
Cowhill Methodist Church
The Wesleyan Methodist movement established a church on the corner of Manchester Street and St Domingo Street (now Rochdale Road) at which John Wesley himself preached on the 2nd April 1790. From that church two workers where sent to establish a “Society Class” in the ‘village of Cowhill on the outskirts of Oldham’. For a while the society flourished often meeting in houses or the ‘National School’, but with the departure of the two key workers and the national controversy agitating the Wesleyan Methodist cause the society dwindled until it ceased to exist.
The work was re-established in 1847. The Methodists held open air services and cottage prayer meetings in premises at Old Lane, Bank Mill and Denton Lane. The visits to these outlying spots became dangerous with ropes tied across the dark lanes to trip up the worshippers who were then pelted with sods and stones. The antagonism increased with the village bell man going around the area urging the people to yell and shout whenever they met.
An unsettled period began. First a temporary home was found at the top of Cowhill and then a room over what became Duckworth’s shop, but the number of converts outgrew the meeting room. Eventually in 1849 the top room in a disused spinning mill in Alder Root became the venue for the first meeting of the Cowhill Wesleyan Methodist Sunday School attended by a Superintendent, 2 teachers and five scholars. This was in the days of primitive education which was dependent on Sunday Schools teaching children the 3Rs. For whatever reason, permission to teach writing was refused by the Methodist District, but by the following Sunday the matter had been resolved and nine teachers and some fifty children were in attendance.
The society enjoyed a settled period and began to flourish. Many of those who had opposed the work were themselves converted and in regular fellowship.
On the 5th July 1854 a request was made to “friends” and every home in the village, to subscribe to a new school. In April 1855 the foundations of the Cowhill School were laid and the church opened on the 29th July 1855.
In nearby Freehold district the population was increasing and the need to build a new chapel was important. A decision was made to build one in Rutland Street, Werneth, half a mile away and in 1861 the foundations where laid for one of the largest churches in Oldham, Brunswick Wesleyan Methodist church, which opened in 1862. (This later contributed to the founding of Eaves Lane Methodist Church). Because of the prevailing economic climate at the time, the Lancashire cotton famine, the church opened with a debt of £1500.
Cowhill became prolific at building churches. Two more building projects a new school for Brunswick, on Oxford Street, opened in January 1890 and two or three years later the building of what became known at Cowhill as the “Extension Room”.
The final building at which Cowhill society was involved came towards the end of 1912 with the removal of out-dated rooms and toilets to be replaced with an entrance hall, cloakrooms and classrooms; these were opened on the weekend 8th & 9th March 1913.
In its 119 years existence Cowhill like so many other churches, started as a pioneering venture in evangelism, seeing the need to reach out to the community it served with the Gospel of redeeming love. From humble beginnings in the borrowed room of a disused spinning mill these men and women burned with a passion to reach out to their neighbours with the good news to be found in Christ Jesus their Saviour and Lord, built some impressive monuments to the glory of God, both in stone but most of all, in the hearts of men and women, boys and girls.
Eaves Lane Methodist Church
The concept of a church in the Eaves Lane area is attributed to a Mr John J Norcross of Brunswick Methodist church who had a vision for the Wesleyan Methodist cause to be extended to this part of Chadderton.
The year is 1899 and the records of Brunswick church tell us that the matter was discussed and eventually on the 30th March 1900 a scheme was approved by the trustees for members to pioneer the work. It took until November 1903, when a cottage was acquired at No: 73 Thompson Lane for use as a meeting house, that the work became established.
[Some will question why a Methodist church had to be built in Eaves Lane when not far away Washbrook Methodist church had been in existence for over 40 years?
It has to be understood that following the death of the founder of Methodism, John Wesley, in 1791 the church became fragmented with factions emphasising their particular persuasion to a brand of Methodism – Wesleyan Methodists, Bible Christians, United Methodists, Welsh Calvinistic Methodists, Wesleyan Protestant Methodists, Wesleyan Reformers, Unitarian Methodists, and later after the Mow Cop revival 31st May 1807, Primitive Methodists, to name but a few!
This situation remained more or less until 1932 when the Wesleyan Methodists, United Methodists and the Primitive Methodists came together to form the Model Deed of the Methodist Church of Great Britain which we now call the Methodist church.]
The first preaching service to be held in the cottage took place on the 22nd November 1903; and by the 13th December a Sunday school had been established. Apparently there must have been some dysfunctional children in the Sunday school and a “Bad Boy’s Class” was formed!
Now that a society was established, planning was in hand to build a school in Eaves Lane and the stone laying ceremonies took place on the 16th and 30th July 1904; followed by the opening ceremony on Saturday 8th April 1905. The friends at Brunswick Street Methodist church had managed to raise £1,150 leaving a deficit of £850 towards the building cost of £2000.
In May 1906 the building developed a problem due to subsidence and some strengthening work had to be done. (Note the buttresses on the picture)
A decision was made in February 1909 to acquire the freehold of the land leaving a further debt of £1009. 10s. 2d; (approximately £1009.51p). Despite the debt on the building (which was still outstanding in 1918) plans were in hand to build classrooms, these were completed in May 1910.
The spiritual life of the church prospered with regular prayer meetings on Sunday evenings, Love Feasts and Testimony meetings taking place. Like most churches the effects of the two world wars together with the death of some of the key workers and others moving out of the district, was to take its toll.
Eaves Lane continued to faithfully serve the community and by the time Roy Dew arrived was, like the other three churches, to undergo something of a revival. Eaves Lane was numerically the largest contingent in the amalgamation.
Turf Lane Methodist Church
The foundation stone for the building that became Turf Lane Methodist Church was laid on a ‘wet and windy’ day in August 1889, and was opened in November of that year. Before that, the Circuit Meeting of the Wesleyan Methodist Church gave the members at Failsworth Wesleyan Methodist Church permission to establish a society in the rapidly expanding area of Turf Lane and Coalshaw Green. On the 19th November 1887 a meeting was held at number 50 Turf Lane, from that gathering a house, number 24 Glebe Street just off Turf Lane, was quickly acquired for use as a Sunday School. The Sunday School met at 10.00am and 2.00pm with the church service at 6.00pm. The first meeting took place on 27th November 1887. Plans were already in hand to build a larger structure and a plot of land was purchased on Turf Lane to which the Wesleyan circuit and the Failsworth church contributed to the cost. Like most societies Turf Lane endeavoured to care for their immediate community with both spiritual and social concern. In order to meet the needs of the returning men and women who served in the armed forces in the 1st World War, land to the rear of the church, which had been a bowling green, was converted into a tennis court and opened on 2nd July 1927, later an institute was added. Turf Lane continued to faithfully serve the community for 89 years.
Edward Street Methodist Church
The rural development of the Coppice and Freehold areas in the 1850s prompted the friends at Union Street New Connexion church to commence a work in the Werneth area. Three houses were being built on a site in Windsor Road, and in 1850 two of those houses were rented for use as a church and Sunday school.
The premises became too small for the growing congregation and a piece of land at the junction of Manchester Road and Edward Street owned by a church member, Thomas Norton J.P was made available to the friends for the purpose of building a church. Despite wrangling over whether the building would be used as a church or Sunday School, a compromise was reached for a two storey building that looked like a one storey structure, with the ground floor for the Sunday school and the upper floor as a church. The foundation stone was laid on the 29th March 1861 and the church opened for worship on the 13th November 1861.
In 1872 a separate building was erected on Oxford Street (to the rear of the church) for use as a Sunday school. Work was then undertaken to remove the floor to make a single storey structure. Problems with the fittings were not resolved until 1892 when fabric and furnishings were eventually harmonized.
In 1907 the New Connexion merged with the Bible Christians and United Free Methodist churches to form the United Methodist church.
In December 1954, Brunswick church, which was less than 500 metres from Edward Street, closed and the members joined with Edward Street.
The church became a strong witness serving the communities of Werneth, Freehold and Coppice for 117 years, but with the changing face of the area and the state of the fabric, the church closed and last service was held in August 1967.
Acknowledgements: Any errors or omissions in this compilation are due entirely to my inattention to detail and not the fault of the compilers who have so meticulously researched the material they have produced.
I am indebted to the following sources for the material used to compile this history:
- Cowhill Methodist School 1849 – 1949 compiled by John Fletcher.
- The Story of Primitive Methodism in Washbrook 1862 – 1915 attributed to a number of contributors.
- Washbrook Methodist Church Centenary, 1862 – 1962, author/s unknown.
- Eaves Lane Methodist Church and School 50th Jubilee Celebrations, author/s unknown.
- South Chadderton Methodist Church, compiled by Mr T Wilde
- Picture of Brunswick Methodist Church by courtesy of the Oldham Local Interest Centre.
- Picture of Turf Lane Methodist Church © by courtesy of the Oldham Evening Chronicle, and used with their permission.
- Chadderton Chapters, by Michael Lawson.
- A History of Oldham Churches, author John Beever.
- A History of Oldham, author Hartley Bateson.
- Old Hollinwood in Pictures, authors John Fidler and David W Joynes.
- Failsworth Place and People, author Sheila Taylor.
- Chadderton author Michael Lawson and Mark Jones.