Newchurch Methodist Church

In the heart of the Rossendale Valley

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The Formation of a Sunday School 1801

Written and Researched by Joe Teasdale

The Society went on from year to year in an unruffled course; but its vitality remained unimpaired, for about the end of the eighteenth century the leaders began to consider what should be done to instruct the children who were neglected and running wild about the lanes and fields on a Sunday. It was decided to try the novel experiment of gathering them in the Chapel on Sundays, and teaching reading, writing, and the Scriptures, by such men and women as could be selected from the Church and congregation. It should be remembered that the Sunday School system inaugurated by Robert Raikes in 1780 had by then been in operation a few years, so that the leaders were fully alive to every scheme which held the promise of improving the morals and cultivating the minds of the young people.

The Sunday school was accordingly established, and became a success. There were few children or adults who could read, and still fewer who had learned to write.

“Those who could write set copies and superintended the writing; those who could read assisted in teaching the others; and those who were willing to help, and yet could themselves neither read nor write, repaired quills, or made new ones, steel pens not yet having been heard of’. (Jessop)

The Factories Act regulating the hours of labour for children was passed in Parliament in 1803, but it was years before it was in regular use in this area. Early and late, six days out of seven, children not much older than infants could be sent to work and kept at it until 7 o’clock each night (no Saturday half day then), nor were there any organised football or cricket matches or any other forms of entertainment as we know today.

A pamphlet was published, dated 13th September, 1802, under the heading of:

REPORT OF MILLEND SUNDAY SCHOOL.

It states:- ‘Nearly 300 children are taught to read and write, every Sunday, by masters who give their labours gratis. Some who were taught at this school became teachers themselves, many who did not know their letters can read well, others are making steady advances both in reading and writing, and a great reformation has already taken place in the morals of the children. Much more, however, may be done to forward this charitable design by the benevolent subscriptions of a generous public. The committee have expended in books, forms, etc., Li. 19s. 5d., and have received only 11s Od, leaving a debt of £1. 8s. 5d. They likewise want first books, bibles etc. To promote this generous design, the committee rely on the well known benevolence of the inhabitants of Millend and its vicinity for their liberal assistance in doing good to hundreds of poor children. A sermon will be preached at Millend for this charity by Mr. Percival on Sunday, the 26th September, 1802, commencing at 1 o’clock’.

In 1796 there were four classes at Newchurch, the names of the leaders being John Cunliffe, John Pickup, Samuel Howarth and James Pilling.

Mainly due to the success of this school, the Chapel at Millend again became too small to accommodate all the scholars and the worshippers. The Trustees decided to look for more suitable premises, and on the 9th of May, 1805, purchased the land where the present chapel now stands.