Newchurch Methodist Church

In the heart of the Rossendale Valley

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History of Newchurch Methodist Church from 1744 to 2001

Written and Researched by Joe Teasdale

The history of the Newchurch Wesleyan Methodist Society is very much connected to the beginnings of Methodism in the Rossendale Valley.

In 1744 a friend persuaded young John Maden to go to hear one of the “New Sort of Preachers” (the term “Methodist” had not yet been applied), preach in a barn at Gauksholme near Todmorden. The preacher, William Darney, made such a deep and lasting impression On the mind of Mr. Maden that the latter joined a small group of people in Todmorden, who were followers of John Wesley. Although his home was five or six miles away from the meeting place, he was never absent from any of the meetings. He was anxious to form a Society in Rossendale, and with this in mind he invited Mr. Darney to come and preach in the district. That first meeting was at HEAP BARN, situated near to the old SHARNEYFORD Church, on Todmorden Road. Mr. Maden who lived at Miller Barn Fold, near Boothfold, Waterfoot, opened his house for the occasional visit of Preachers. William Darney, came to live at Miller Barn, and so was formed the first ‘Society Class’ in Rossendale, John Maden was appointed leader.

The hamlet of Miller Barn, in 1744, consisted of 4 or 5 houses just below where Woodlea Mission now stands:  Boothfold consisted of 6 or 7 houses and was the area on Booth Road just below the Jolly Sailor Pub. Newchurch, which was the chief place in the valley, (from Haslingden to Bacup), must have had about 20 dwellings, all clustered round the Church. Bacup consisted of a few straggling houses, and Rawtenstall was then almost unknown.

For several years after the introduction of Methodism into the valley, William Darney made his home in Miller Barn, where he carried on the business of clogger, returning from his preaching rounds to his trade, to eke out his livelihood.

John Wesley’s first recorded visit to the Valley was in 1747. In his journal he writes, “At his earnest request, I began examining those that are called William Darney Societies”. On Thursday 7th March, 1747, Wesley records “We left the mountains and came down to the fruitful valley of Rossendale. Here I preached to a large congregation of wild men; but it pleased God to hold them in chains, so that even when I had done, none offered any rudeness but all went quietly away”.

On Saturday 27th August, 1748, he wrote, “At five, I preached at Miller Barn in Rossendale. There were a few rude people but they kept at a distance and it was just as well they did, or the awakened hearers would have been apt to handle them roughly, I observed there what I had not then seen but at one single place in England. When I had finished my discourse and even pronounced the blessing, not one present offered to go away, but every man, woman and child stayed just where they were, till I myself went first”. Charles Wesley also preached here, and Whitefield came in 1749 and 1750, preaching to crowds of people in the open air.