Newchurch Methodist Church

In the heart of the Rossendale Valley

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History of the Church - The New Chapel 1806

Written and Researched by Joe Teasdale

A new Trust was formed and a Chapel built with a seating capacity for 450 persons.

The trustees who signed the deeds were:

  Wm. Sutcliffe Hugh Taylor
James Dawson James Wardleworth James Wild
Sam Whittaker John Ashworth James Law
John Whitehead John Heap James Livesey
James Nuttall Sam Haworth Henry Cunliffe

The Chapel was opened on Whit Sunday, 1806, by the Rev. John Gaulter, who took for his text (Haggai ii -9). “The glory of this latter house shall be greater than the former, saith the Lord of Hosts and in this place I give peace, saith the Lord of Hosts.” The Collection that day came to £15.00 and even though the chapel could seat 450 persons, it was not sufficient; for the Preacher had to stand on a gravestone in the Chapel yard, whilst a member held an umbrella over his head - to save him from the hot sun. In this building both preaching services and Sunday School were held, and both continued to prosper.

Prominent in the society at the time were: William Sagar of Southfield; William Sutcliffe of Heptonstall; Judith Tattersall, Jenny Ashworth, Peggy Haworth; Hugh Taylor and John Whitehead of Yate, near Shawclough Road, and George Hargreaves, who lived at Kiln Farm, near Bacup, and who answered to the name of “George o’Bill’s o’th’Kiln.”

A modern day estate agent would have described this area as a “Prime Site”. In 1805, it was on the main road out of Newchurch going towards Burnley, via Bridleway and Shawclough Road. Towards Bacup (and Yorkshire), via Turnpike and Booth Road, and through Cowpe to Rochdale, via Booth Road and Miller Barn Lane.

Across Bridleway was the principal seat of learning for the whole district, (this building was the forerunner of the Grammar School). The modern main roads from Rawtenstall to Bacup, and Waterfoot to Burnley, were not constructed until 1826. The railway to Waterfoot was opened in 1848 and thence to Bacup in 1852.

Newchurch was the centre of the commercial life of Rossendale, as through its narrow streets long trains of packhorses were often to be seen, making their way from the manufacturing districts of Yorkshire to Blackburn and towns beyond, and vice-versa. It was a good centre for the accommodation of both man and beast. Hand loom weaving of wool was carried out in the top rooms of many of the houses. The woollen materials were stored in two warehouses (on Dark Lane), ready for onward delivery. People came from far and near to do their shopping, for in the village were the largest shops for miles around, also a fair was held annually, to which were brought many of the articles necessary for the comfort of a home.

In 1806, Rossendale Methodism was included in the Rochdale Circuit, and the Circuit Minister was Rev. . Joseph Cooke. Mr. Cooke’s teaching was regarded as unorthodox, and he was expelled from the Wesleyan ministry, but this expulsion also meant that 30 members left this Church with him, and began to hold services in a cottage at Millend, calling themselves Methodist Unitarians. Thus began the Unitarian denomination in this district.

In order to increase efficiency, Rossendale was formed into a having Bacup as its head. (See lists for 1813 & 1817). In 1812 there were 391 members in the Circuit:

178 were at Bacup
98 at Newchurch
54 at Rawtenstall
33 at Rakefoot
and 19 at Shawforth.


About the year 1822, there was a dispute amongst the members as to whether it was now right to teach handwriting in the Sunday School on a Sunday. After much discussion, it was eventually forbidden. Consequently, those who wished to continue the practice took a room over the house of Dr. Law in Old Street, next door to Kirk Church. These people were to form the nucleus of the local United Methodist body. In 1828 they removed to the top floor room in Higher Limes on Turnpike, entering through a doorway which is now walled up, but which can still be seen from the present Chapel gates. Walking up to there, via the outside stairway, would certainly give you a head for heights. They stayed there for 8 years before moving to the site of the present Catholic Church, where they built Mount Tabor Chapel, and there they stayed until 1878, when they moved to Bridge Street, to Bethesda Chapel.

During the 80 years from 1795, the development and extension of the Society at Newchurch, helped to encourage the building of the following Churches in the Rawtenstall District:

Longholme, Rawtenstall
Rakefoot, Crawshawbooth
Whitewell Bottom
Haslingden Road Chapel was a split from Longholme
  UNITED METHODISTS from Mount Tabor
Lord Street, Rawtenstall
Springside ~Developed from a Temperance Mission}
  Also the PRIMITIVE METHODISTS built the following Churches
Lord Street, Crawshawbooth
Jubilee ( Lord Street) Rawtenstall
Townsendfold, Rawtenstall
Hareholme Waterfoot
  The UNITED METHODISTS also built
Providence Church, Loveclough
Eden, Water

 About the year 1823, a new school was erected behind the chapel. It was three storeys high, the higher room being open at one end on the chapel side, and used by the scholars during service. However it had not been built on firm foundations, and was partially pulled down and rebuilt in a more substantial manner.

In 1864 a gas lamp was erected near to the front gate.

In 1 866, Joseph Whitehead was appointed to play the harmonium in the Chapel.

A full church organ was installed in 1872, and the harmonium was finally sold in 1902. Before this time, the choir had always had the help of individual musicians, playing string and wind instruments,. In the centenary celebrations in 1902, one of the older members who was thanking the choir and the organist for their performance on that day, then gave special thanks to all the musicians who had played for the services in his younger days, including a Richard Pickup who played a bassoon.

When travelling Preachers came to the Valley, well-to-do members of the congregation provided accommodation for them. Mr. Sugden Senior was one of these, and when a member of John Wesley’s team came on a visit, and preached an inspirational sermon, both Mr. & Mrs. Sugden agreed that if the child which they were expecting was a boy, they would name it after the preacher. Unfortunately they couldn’t remember his name, so the boy was christened - Missionary - and became Mr. Ebenezer Missionary Sugden.

The Society and School continued to make progress till the year 1867, when it was decided to modernise the whole of the property. The school was the first to be demolished, and on April 20th Mr. E. M. Sugden laid the corner stone of the new one, which was built behind the old chapel, costing a little over Li 000.0.0.

The last service was held in the old chapel in 1871, and, on the following day, workmen started to demolish the building, and, partly using the old foundations, the new chapel was erected. (See 1871 print opposite).

This new building used “patent hydro-carbon gas lights” for illumination. In 1950, when dry rot finally claimed this building, a glass jar was recovered from under a corner stone. Rev. Robert Teasdale provided the list of its contents (see next page).

The drains in the chapel yard have been a constant problem over the years, (even in this last few years) as quite a lot of surface water collects in and around the graveyard.

In 1872 a proposal was made, that ALE CARTS should be stopped from coming up the Chapel Yard!!! It would seem that the builders were a thirsty lot. In the May of that year, pew rents were advertised, and the New Chapel opened in July.

In 1878 Samuel Whitehead was appointed Chapel Organist, and in 1880 the Chapel sermons were moved from February to October.

Our Trustees in 1898, were a well travelled lot:
Mr. J. J. Ashcroft lived in Southport,
Mr. C. W. Trickett lived in Lytham,
Mr. P H. Haworth, and Mr. J. E. Martin lived in Leeds,
Mr. R. Pickup lived in Salford,
and Mr. S. West lived in Whitley Bay, Northumberland.

In both 1900 and 1915 the Trustees asked the Sunday School Teachers to use their influence over the scholars to stop them using the Chapel Yard as a playground. Things don’t change!!

In 1902 a ‘Grand Reunion Service’ was held on Good Friday, to celebrate the CENTENARY of the Sunday School. The Rossendale Express, of Wednesday, April 2nd 1902 devoted a full page to the reporting of the various meetings held on that day. Between 800 and 1000 people attended, so all the catering was arranged to be done at either the Unitarian school or in the Grammar school.

Mr. Jephthah Priestley gave a historical sketch and report. His original notebook is available, but it is written in his own style of copperplate handwriting, and I am thankful for the newspaper reports of that day, to help me read it.

In 1906, Hawthorn House was purchased for use as a Manse, but it stayed empty until 1913, when the Rev. J. H. Verney was appointed as Minister. In this year, an electric light was installed over the organ keyboard, but the rest of the building had to wait until 1920 for the old gas lights to be removed, and electric lighting installed.