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LANEBOTTOM WESLEYAN CHAPEL
AND SUNDAY SCHOOL WALSDEN

 

1743 saw John Wesley preaching in Todmorden and Susan Scholfield, who lived at Lodge Hall Farm, Walsden, was the first member of the Wesleyan Society in Todmorden. She entered the first class led by Mr. Lacy, with meetings at several different venues. Her influence is notorious in this area, but more so within her own family. Following the rise of Wesleyanism in the district, meetings and classes were set up around the district and through the efforts of several notable folk of Walsden, many of who were the sons and grandsons of Susan, a Sunday School was started in cottages at Deanroyd and Bottomley Farms. The first anniversary was held at Deanroyd in 1810. The collection amounted to £10, and the people wondered how such a large sum could be spent. 

 

The old school at Bottomley Lane Foot 1818-1876. Photo by kind permission of Roger Birch

It was decided a new school should be erected and in the year 1818 a school was built, originally known as Bottomley Lane Foot. John Fielden of Bottomley donated the land on condition he could send one scholar free of charge to the day school. It was situated on the Bottomley side of the canal, just over the bridge at the bottom of the lane.

A stone was placed above the door with the inscription:

The School was built by public subscription for instructing the children of all denominations

This lead to considerable bickering and civil war between the trustees and the school superintendents over the following years.

   

The new school was opened in the December of 1818 and one Sunday a month was set aside for Church of England use, but the Wesleyans provided the pulpit with preachers the rest of the time. These people were the first Trustees in 1818:

   

John Fielden of Bottomley

John Fielden jnr of Bottomley

James Scholfield of Calflee

Thomas Baron of Allescholes

Samuel Fielden of Higher Scout

Robert Dawson of Stonehouse

John Scholfield of Calflee

John Shackleton of Lanebottom

Abraham Scholfield of Knowltop

John Stevenson of Bottomley

John Scholfield the younger of Calflee

 

The school continued to flourish and in 1848 it was enlarged, John Stevenson of Quarry Cottage laying the memorial stone. He was the only surviving trustee from the original group of 1818. In 1851 there were 47 pupils on the roll with one master, Edmund Suthers. There were 23 boys and 14 girls in attendance on the day of the census, 9 under 5years, 22 between the ages of 5 and 10 years, and 6 between 10 and 15 years. The fees at that time were 4d. a week for which the children received tuition in reading, writing, geography and maths, with music as a voluntary extra. Mrs. Suthers also helped out by teaching knitting and sewing. The school room measured 24 feet by 10 feet and was underneath the chapel. Mr. and Mrs Suthers received wages "dependent upon their own exertions", and no house was provided for them.

Trouble abounded for the next 20 years over the fact that the school had originally been built for all denominations, resulting in an "us and them" situation between the Trustees and the School Committee as to whether the school should admit children who were not methodists, and whether the established church should be allowed to use the chapel for services. Eventually it was arranged that the school should pay rent of £5 a year to the trustees, and that went on for some time. Then there were further difficulties and the outcome in 1861 was that two 50th anniversary celebrations were arranged on different days, one for the school and one for the chapel. Internal politics continued to flourish along with the school, and such was the annomosity that the whole matter had to be referred to the Charity Commission and a letter was dispatched to the Commission signed by the following people:

 

F. Talbot O'Donaghue, vicar of Rochdale

R.F.W. Molesworth, vicar of Todmorden

Mr. Thomas Ed. Hammerton, Todmorden

Mr. Peter Ormerod, Pexhouse, Todmorden

Mr. Robert Fielden, Inchfield, Walsden

Mr. Reuben Haigh, Pastureside, Walsden

Mr. Samuel Fielden, Clough Mill, Walsden

Mr. J. Crabtree, Steanor Bottom, Walsden

Fresh trustees were appointed, consisting of two Church of England men, two Wesleyans, two Primitive Methodists and two Free Church Methodists. This went on for some time and the trustees carried on with the running of the school until they could no longer handle matters and the school was handed over to the National School Board.

 

Notwithstanding the internal disputes, the school continued to be well attended, and the building became too small to accommodate the classrooms. The seats in the chapel for public worship were desperately insufficient, people having to wait years before they could be accommodated. At a meeting on December 10th. 1872 a resolution was moved by John Scholfield, seconded by Robert Sutcliffe, "That we have a new Chapel built". In May 1874 a resolution was passed, moved by James Scholfield and seconded by William Crowther, "that ground be secured for the site of a new Chapel and School from Messrs. Robert Fielden and sons, with 26 yards of frontage at 2d. a square yard."

John Scholfield of Calflee was so respected by his fellow Wesleyans that on Christmas Day 1874, when he was 88 years old, he was asked to cut the first sod of the new ground on which the new Wesleyan Chapel and School at Lanebottom was to be erected. Just before midday a procession of teachers, scholars and friends met at the old school room where they enjoyed their usual Christmas morning treat of Christmas cake and coffee. They marched to the proposed new site near Throstle Hall, just a field then, singing the hymn "Before Jehovah's Awful Throne". They formed a circle round the place where the sod was to be cut. A Wesley hymn was sung with gusto, followed by prayers offered by Edmund Woodhead. A spade was presented to John Scholfield and he had to be assisted to put his foot on the spade by two friends. He was the oldest surviving Wesleyan in the district, having been a member of the Wesleyan Methodist Society for 66 years, and the grandson of Susan Scholfield the first Wesleyan in Todmorden. People remembering the occasion 50 years later had all been struck by the sight of this old hill farmer proudly cutting the first sod of a new chapel at the age of 88 on a frosty Christmas Day.

A collection was taken consisting of one five pound note, one sovereign, 27 half sovereigns, 12 half crowns, 15 florins, 35 shillings, 26 sixpences, 8 groats, 24 threepenny pieces, 61 pennies and 27 halfpennies. The total was £25 12s.10d (plus a halfpenny). Further hymns and prayers followed before the assembly dispersed for tea. More than 230 people sat down to do justice to the festive meal, and later there were speeches delivered by several people, including Mr. Scholfield.

The corner stones were laid on Good Friday, March 26th. 1875. An account of the ceremony appeared in the District News April 2nd. 1875:

 

"On Good Friday, the memorial stones of a new Wesleyan Chapel were laid at Lanebottom, Walsden..... Prior to the ceremony, the Sunday scholars and others formed in procession, and headed by a banner and Todmorden Brass Band, marched to Walsden and back again to the site of the chapel. The site is on the left hand side of the turnpike road from Todmorden, near the entrance of Summit Tunnel, and in sight of the old place.......The first foundation stone was laid by Miss H. Lacy of Underbank Hall; an elegant trowel was presented to her on behalf of the trustees by Mr. A. Fairbourne, and a mallet by the Rev. J. Hornby, on behalf of the architect. Miss Lacy, having gone through the formality of laying the stone, declared it "Well and truly laid". The other stones were laid in the same manner, a trowel and mallet being presented in each instance. The ladies who laid the stones were: Miss Martha Howarth of Park House Burnley, (niece to Miss Howarth of Spring Bank, Burnley, who had been advertised to lay it, but was prevented by indisposition; Mrs. J. Warburton of Haslingden; and Mrs. Abraham Dawson of Knowltop.

 

Bottles were deposited under two of the stones containing various documents, coins, newspapers, etc. including a manuscript setting forth the number of scholars (177), teachers (54), members (69), names of trustees of new chapel, and other details in relation to the new church at Lanebottom."
   

The chapel opened its doors at Lanebottom

on 27th. September 1876.

   

In 1899 the chapel became licensed for marriages. The first wedding was celebrated on 3rd October 1899 between Abraham Greenwood of Rochdale and Miss Hannah Crossley of Lanebottom. Both families were connected with the chapel. The following year, on 17th April, the marriage was celebrated between William Clegg, a greengrocer of 200 Rochdale Road, Shade, and Miss Mary Hannah Law of Birks Hall, Walsden.

In 1909 the chapel celebrated its centenary at the home of Mr. and Mrs. Richard Scholfield of Summit.

   

Mr. and Mrs. Scholfield

The Rev. John Greenwood of Todmorden opened the proceedings, and tea was served from 4.30pm at reasonable charges. "Grand Miscellaneous Entertainment" was offered from 7pm including:

 Soprano - Miss Ethel Clark of Halifax

Bass- Mr. H.M. Hird of Todmorden

Elocutionist- Mr. A.H. Farrer of Todmorden

      The prices for admission were adults 6d each and children under 13, 3d each.

   

The new Chapel and school at Lanebottom,

   

John Scholfield

John Chadwick

Robert Sutcliffe

James Scholfield

Robert Scholfield

John Law

Names of the School Superintendents

1809 to 1909

John Scholfield

J.A. Webster

John Cryer  

John Smith

John Craven

Ellen Stansfield

James Stevenson

William Parker

John Chadwick

John Crossley

Robert Sutcliffe snr.

Thomas Hirst

James Scholfield

Greenwood Sutcliffe

Robert Scholfield

William Moore

John Law

John W. Chadwick

Henry Whitworth

Robert Sutcliffe

J.J. Sadler

James Greenwood

   
This photograph shows a group of teachers and officials in 1909.
   

A class of mixed ages at the school in 1918. Included amongst

the children are Kathleen Fielden and her brother Leslie, and brothers

Jack and Clifford Chadwick

 

The Chapel Choir about 1920

The photograph is published with the kind permission of members of

the current Trinity Methodist Church and the Rev. Robbie Bowen

 

Front row left to right:

F. Sutcliffe, Walter Redman, Mrs. Blackledge, Florence Firth, Rachel Halstead, Mrs. Amy Greenwood, Doris, Clifford Chadwick, Mrs. Arthur Shackleton

Middle row left to right:

Ernest Taylor, Ruth Law, Mary Crowther, Mr. Blackledge (choirmaster), Frank Jackson (organist), Mary Law, Edith Cryer.

Back row left to right:

Mrs. Ruth Law, Arthur Greenwood, Willie Starkie, Rowland Law, Frank Crossley, Arthur Taylor, Ernest Booth, Mrs. Smith.

*

1926 saw a Golden Jubilee of the opening of the new chapel. The celebrations commenced with a successful tea in the schoolroom; when 200 people sat down to partake in the tea. The party continued in to the evening and again the following day.

 

John Dawson was Chairman for the occasion. He was well placed to be made chairman on such an auspicious occasion. At the age of 70, and with a whole life spent around the school and chapel, he could remember more than most what the old days were like. He was a direct descendant of Susan Scholfield, the first Wesleyan in the Todmorden circuit, his grandfather was John Scholfield, the man who cut the first sod for the new chapel over 50 years previously, and his mother, Margaret, laid the first corner stones along with 3 other ladies.

 

Mr. Dawson said that he could remember the old chapel across the canal and how the ladies who worshipped there wore big crinolines, bustles and chignons, whilst the men folk wore big beards and lots of whiskers. He said:

" For about 2 years the new chapel was lit with oil lamps, and they had a wheezy old harmonium, but they soon got tired of that and got a new one, which was still in use and one of the best. From that they went on to a borrowed organ, but that wasn't satisfactory; it was always breaking down and eventually the trustees appointed a body of young people to collect money for a new organ, and the result was they got the organ they have today."

 

   

William Scholfield

Mr. William Scholfield also spoke at the event, and quipped that he could go even further back than the Chairman as he could remember when they had candles in the old place. William Scholfield had been appointed assistant secretary of the Chapel in 1867 under his uncle, John Stevenson, and had spent his whole life as a member of the chapel. He said the influence of Lanebottom Chapel had spread worldwide.
   
Many who had gone to Canada, America and New Zealand had been influenced by Lanebottom School. There was Abraham Heyworth who went to Canada and entered the Ministry, Charles Howarth his brother-in-law who also went to Canada and entered the Ministry but didn't follow it up. He had died in 1925 aged 86. Another was Rev. John Law who later passed through college and went to New Zealand.

Rev. John Law, Missionary

   

More recent memories are just as fondly remembered.

Janet Rooks remembers the Chapel from her childhood days. She says:

" The main thing that I remember from my first visit was the contrast between the outside and inside. I didn't want to go in, but mum held my hand and said, come on, it's OK. The front entrance seemed dark and foreboding but inside, it was light and airy. The atmosphere was that of joy and happiness, as if everyone was really glad to be there.  Was there a large organ? I seem to remember some huge organ pipes, or could this be a distorted childhood recollection?

Mother used to take me to the anniversary every year...The occasion demanded new clothes from top to toe and it always seemed to be on a lovely fine day. The Chapel would be packed, sparkle and shine and smell of the polish and floral arrangements."

 

Alan Walton also remembers the chapel from his childhood. He says -

"We have a great interest in Lanebottom Methodist Chapel ......I recall being present at the Sunday School back in the '50's for a double Golden Wedding celebration, together with around 100 other guests . The two couples were related and were (I think) Fieldens and possibly Greenwoods.

The original corner stones of the Chapel were laid (so tradition has it) by the eldest daughters of 4 of the founding families of the Chapel. Each daughter was presented with a commemorative trowel and mallet in a presentation case. The instructions were that each set was to be passed down to the eldest daughter of the respective families. One of the sets is still in our family but getting ever more distant! I have been able to keep track of it and had it in my possession for a short time a couple of years ago. We would be interested to know if any of the other sets are still in existence and their whereabouts."

The church remained a much loved feature of Lanebottom until it closed and was demolished in the 1960's. The site is now housing.

 

And a saucy tale.......

The Choirmaster at Lanebottom was having a "fling" with one of the sopranos and would "visit" her at lunch times. He was also a mill manager. His wife knew all about this and decided to pay a social call on the soprano one lunch time. Sadly for the choir master, the house was a back to back and was situated on a dead end street. There was no escape route, so he took refuge in the coal cellar.   His wife's social visit lasted until 4 o'clock.  Poor choirmaster......his boss at the mill was none too pleased either.

The West Yorkshire Archives at Halifax have the following:

The baptism register from 1855 to 1967

The marriage register from 1900 to 1964

http://www.archives.wyjs.org.uk/index.htm

There is no burial ground

 

Acknowledgement to Sam A. Crossley and Ernest Law, compilers of the History of Lanebottom Wesleyan Sunday School 1809-1909, Centenery Souvenir, from where some of the photographs and much of the information was taken.

 

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