Cross Street Chapel in Manchester is of interest not only because of its own history and place in the history of Unitarianism, but also because of the people who attended it and made such an impact on the industrial and intellectual life of the town during the first phase of the industrial revolution. I intend to include on this site brief biographies of some of these leading Unitarians.

Some Presidents of Cross Street Chapel Period
Thomas Percival, MD, FRS, Manchester 1793-1800
Samuel Shore, Junior, Derbyshire 1808-1813
Samuel Shore, Meersbrook, Derbyshire 1813-1815
Benjamin Gaskell, Thornes House, Yorkshire 1815-1817
Joseph Strutt, Derby 1817-1826
Samuel Shore, Junior, Norton Hall, Derbyshire 1826-1829
Daniel Gaskell, Lupset Hall, Wakefield, Yorkshire 1829-1834
G. B. Strutt, Derbyshire 1837-1840
Sir Benjamin Heywood, FRS, Claremont, Manchester 1840-1842


Until 1788, Unitarianism was based at the Cross Street Chapel but some members were unhappy with the opinions expressed by the ministers of this period, the Rev. Ralph Harrison and Dr. Barnes. They purchased land in Mosely Street and in 1789 the new chapel was opened with the Rev. W. Hawkes as minister. Its congregation included three men who become MPs: G. W. Wood for the county, E. Potter for Carlisle and R. H. Gregg for Manchester. Other members were Dr. Henry, John Kennedy of Ardwick Hall, and Henry McConnell. In 1834 the chapel and school were sold for £10,000 to John McConnell and the congregation moved to a new chapel in Upper Brook Street, designed by Sir Charles Barry.

The Rev. Ralph Harrison was minister at Cross Street Chapel for many years and died in 1810. He was known as both a linguist and a musician. He composed several hymn tunes including "Warrington". Harrison began a school in a building behind the chapel, erected for the purpose. This building was also user for the Literary Society. Ralph Harrison's daughter married Thomas Ainsworth a local solicitor, and their son William Harrison Ainsworth became the historical novelist, who wrote, among other novels, "The Lancashire Witches".

In 1757 the Warrington Academy was formed but was dissolved after about 25 years. A number of Mancunian gentlemen decided to set up an academy in Manchester on similar lines. Land was purchased on the west side of Mosley Street and the Academy was built. The first principal was Dr. Barnes, the minister of Cross Street Chapel and in 1793, Dr. Dalton was appointed Professor of Mathematics and Natural Philosophy. There were no religious tests for entry. In 1803, the academy was moved to York and became the Manchester College. After several other changes it finally settled in Oxford as Manchester New College.

Sources at Manchester Central Library and the Portico Library

Cross Street Chapel Manchester, and its College, by Lester Burney.
Cross Street Chapel Manchester and its College, by Lester Burney, published by Lester Burney, Didsbury, 1983.
Manchester Streets and Manchester Men, first series, illustrated by T. Swindells
Memorials of a Dissenting Chapel, its Foundation and Worthies by Sir Thomas Baker, published in Manchester in 1884.


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