MACCLESFIELD No. 8

Nonconformist Chapels

10 Feb, 3, 4 & 7 March & 23 May 2005 & 24 Aug 2011

 

New Connexion spacer Lord Street
Methodist New Connexion, Park Street   Methodist New Connexion, Lord Street Sunday School
Baptist Chapel   Chapel Street
Baptist Chapel, St. George's Street, 1873   Wesleyan Methodist Chapel in Chapel Street

 

Macclesfield has a collection of substantial Nonconformist Chapels, dating from 17th, 18th and 19th centuries. Starting at the top left, the following chapels are shown:

The New Connexion Chapel was built in 1836, where Park Street becomes Park Road. The first service was on 12 March 1837. The New Connexion Society was formed in 1797. It had split from the Wesleyans over the role to be played by the laity. They wanted more control by the congregation and less by the ministers. A Sunday School was originally held in the vestry of Parsonage Chapel in 1820 by David Oldham, a silk throwster. The school outgrew its accommodation and in 1822 a building was acquired in Lord Street which was used for silk thowing during the week and as a Sunday School. This building was demolished and replaced by the present building in 1869. It has been converted in the late 20th century for use by the Macclesfield Amateur Dramatic Society (MADS) and is now known as The Little Theatre.

St. George's Street Baptist Chapel was built in 1873-4. The baptists had formerly had a chapel in Calamine Street, off Windmill Street.

The Brunswick Methodist Church in Chapel Street, built in 1823-4 and enlarged in 1850 has five bays, two tiers of arched windows, segmental porch on Tuscan columns and a three bay pediment.

Sunderland Street spacer Roe Street
Sunderland Street Chapel, built 1779, enlarged 1799   Roe Street, Kid's Chapel of 1829, now the Salvation Army
Primitive Methodist   St. George's Independent
Primitive Methodist Chapel, South Park Road, 1873   Built in 1822 as St. George's Independent Chapel

 

Wesley's Chapel, is on Sunderland Street. This street was a lane through fields alongside the River Bollin in the mid-18th century. The area was known as the Heyes and the chapel built there in 1779 was known as the chapel in the Heyes. John Wesley preached in Macclesfield in 1747 near Waters Green, in front of the house owned by Mr. George Pearson, believed to be where the Queen's Hotel now stands. George Pearson built Sunderland Street Mills. The chapel was built on a piece of land given by Mr. John Ryle, a banker. In 1798 there were three three Methodist ministers in the town, all of whom went on to become Presidents of the Methodist Conference viz. Edward Reece in 1816, George Marsden in 1821 and James Townley in 1829. The chapel was the scene of a disaster in 1798 when a panic broke out following a rumour that the roof was unsafe. People rushed for the door and six people were killed in the crush with many others injured. A new chapel was built on the site in 1799 and Mr. John Ryle donated £1,000 towards it.  Note the large entrance to the right which was to allow horses to be taken to stabling at the back.  The chapel is now a pool hall.

In early 2010 I was contacted by Ruth Bradley in Australia. She is looking into the life of the Reverend William Wilson. He was born in Scotland in 1828, went to Liverpool where he attended Wavertree Wesleyan Chapel. He entered Richmond Wesleyan Theological College in 1850 and became a Wesleyan Minister for foreign missionary service.  He married in 1853 and he and his wife went to the Fiji Islands. At that time there was great trouble there with wars and cannibalism.  They had three sons born in the Fiji Islands but when his wife died the Rev Wilson returned to England with his three infant sons.  He served in various chapels including Sunderland Street and Brunswick Chapel in Macclesfield from 1888-1891.

Roe Street Chapel also known as Kidd's Chapel, was built in 1829 by a breakaway group from St. George's Independent Chapel for Protestant Dissenters, which had been erected in 1822. This group of the congregation wanted a Congregational or Independent Chapel while the others wished to become part of the Established Church. As a result St. George's, in High Street, see below, was consecrated by the Bishop of Chester. Those Dissenters who had contributed to the original building as shareholders got their money back! The break-away group worshipped initially at Brunswick Methodist Church but then built Roe Street Chapel. In 1926 the congregation united with that of Frost's Chapel at Park Green to form Macclefield Congregational Church. The building was used for a time as a parish hall by the Roman Catholic St. Alban's church.  It was used as a dance hall in the middle of the 20th century.  It is now the Salvation Army Citadel; the former site of the citadel was in Mill Street just below the Majestic cinema.

St. George's in High Street was built as St. George's Independent Chapel for Protestant Dissenters in 1822-3. It is three bays by seven with two tiers of windows. The facade has a porch of four Tuscan columns. with a Venetian window. It had three galleries inside. St. George's was converted to offices known as St. George's Chambers in 2004.

 

United Reform spacer Townley Street
United Reformed Church at Park Green, 1873 Townley Street School
King Edward Street   King Edward Street
King Edward Street Chapel   King Edward Street Chapel
Beech Lane   Heritage Centre
Beech Lane Primitive Methodist Chapel   The Heritage Centre

 

The United Reform Church at Park Green has its origins in the late 18th century. A Calvinist Chapel was built in Townley Street, just behind the present church in 1788. It was built by a group that had split from the King Edward Street Chapel when it switched from being Presbyterian to Unitarian (see below). Those who left the chapel at this point met for a time in a barn in Mill Street then in an old factory. Eventually they erected the Townley Street Chapel which was enlarged in the early 19th century. It was known as the Ebenezer or Townley Street Chapel. There were at this time 600 members of the adjoining Sunday School. The United Reform Church is the sandstone building facing Park Green and was built in 1877 at a cost of £10,000 by C. O. Ellison. Later the Townley Street Chapel was turned into a day school. This area is hard to photograph as it is surrounded by buildings but my picture shows part of the Townley Street School.

King Edward Street Chapel is hidden from view and faces north to the backs of buildings whose frontage in on the south side of King Edward Street. Access is gained through a narrow passage between two buildings. The design is very similar to that of Brook Street Chapel in Knutsford and Dean Row in Wilmslow. The chapel is the oldest in the town; it was built in 1689 and opened on 24 August 1690. It arose from the Act of Toleration of 1689 which ended some of the persecution of Dissenters from the laws passed in the Cavalier Parliament after the Restoration of the Monarchy. James II, a Catholic, had fled and his son-in-law, William of Orange and his daughter, Mary, came to the throne in the so called Glorious Revolution. The Act exempted Dissenters from attending services at Anglican Churches and allowed them to build their own chapels. William Stonehewer and Humphry Higginbotham were the two men behind the building. The chapel was Presbyterian until 1764 when the Rev. John Palmer, a Unitarian trained at Warrington Academy, was appointed minister. Among those who signed his recommendation was Joseph Priestley, the discoverer of oxygen, who was at that time a tutor at Warrington. The chapel was supported by the Brocklehurst family in the 19th century but when Charles Brocklehurst moved to London the chapel fell into disrepair and the organ was damaged. It was restored in 1890 and in 1929 further alterations were made with new pews and a wooden floor.

Beech Lane Primitive Methodist Chapel has a plaque indicating construction in 1830. Next to it is a building that was a Sunday School with the plaque indicating construction in 1835.

The Macclesfield Sunday School is now the Silk Heritage Centre, with a museum section, the large auditorium used for concerts and films, a shop and and cafe. The school dates from 1814. The Rev. David Simpson at Christ Church had introduced a charity school into the town in 1788, giving lessons to children in the evening. At that time there were no factory acts regulating children's working hours. John Whitaker (1772-1820) started a Sunday School in 1796. He was a Methodist and at the time was only 24. However, he believed in the importance of education in giving people access to the bible. He started with a single room in Pickford Street and then used an old factory in Duke Street. In 1812 he was using five buildings for a total of 2267 scholars. A new building was then required and the Roe Street site selected. The building commenced on 21 April 1813 and was opened on 10 April 1814. The cost was £5,600 of which £1,500 was raised by the pupils. Whitaker was the school superintendent until his death in 1820. It is perhaps surprising to today's visitors that education at the school was not intended to improve the social position of the working people; children had to accept their place in society, be good citizens and respect their "betters". The school was non-denominational and took pupils from the age of 6. It was an independent school with no ties to either the Anglicans or Methodists. As the school had the largest hall in the town, it was used for social activities from the middle of the 19th century.

A three page pamphlet, from which this information is drawn, is available from the Heritage Centre Shop.

Sources

The Buildings of England, Cheshire, by Nikolaus Pevsner and Edward Hubbard, Yale University Press, 2003, First edition by Penguin in 1971
Pamphlet available at King Edward Street Unitarian Chapel
108 Steps Around Macclesfield by Andrew Wild, Sigma Press, 1994, ISBN: 1-85058-436-2

 

Macclesfield Page 1: Town Centre
Macclesfield Page 2: Town Centre
Macclesfield Page 3: Halls
Macclesfield Page 4: The Canal
Macclesfield Page 5: Christ Church
Macclesfield Page 6: St. Michael's, the Exterior & Nave
Macclesfield Page 7: St. Michael's the Savage Chapel
Macclesfield Page 8: Nonconformist Chapels
Macclesfield Page 9: Some Macclesfield Mills

 

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Cheshire Antiquities
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