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SHORE BAPTIST CHAPEL

TODMORDEN

   

"How rugged are thy paths, O Shore!

And yet we climb them more and more

Up to the sacred hill.

Thousands have gained that rocky height,

And gazed around them with delight

But we are pilgrims still."

These lines, from a hymn written by the Rev. J. Maden, Minister of Shore from 1868 to 1875, reflect the enormous pride and sense of community that was the hallmark of this Church.

Shore was founded in 1777, at a time when the hilltop communities flourished with handloom weaving and farming, and its position on the rugged hilltop just inside the Yorkshire boundary above the Burnley Road was ideal for serving the people engaged in this upland life. It was formed by a tiny group of only 7 people, inspired by the missionary teaching of the celebrated Dan Taylor from Birchcliffe in Hebden Bridge ...

"a very small structure on a plot of land measuring only twenty nine yards by sixteen yards."

The original Trustees were Dan Taylor, William Nicholson, Abraham Greenwood, Jonathan Scott and John Parker.

The plot of land is perched on top of a cliff, reached by a steep path containing hundreds of rugged steps.

 
Most people attended the chapel on foot - an arduous task for the majority. They would climb the steep path and many steps from Vale through Whittonstall Clough and up to the church.
   

The chapel and the steep climb of steps leading up to it

Photo kindly sent by Karen Greenwood of Toronto

 
The church about 1886

Perhaps its isolated position was responsible for the independent spirit and community feeling for which the Church at Shore always stood.

"A wild, uncultivated and obscure place ... this extremity of the desert."

   

The early years were very hard. Local people gave loans but this money, plus interest, had to be repaid. Special collections were organised, and the minute books mention appeals were made for money for sweeping the chapel, to pay for a "necessary", for a new time-piece, and for whitewashing the chapel. Despite the financial struggles, the members also had regular charitable collections.

The church was used to punish wrong-doers who had to appear at the church services to profess penitence and ask for forgiveness. Those who showed no remorse were excluded.

All baptisms were conducted in the open air in the stream at Whittonstall Bridge, which lies at the bottom of the long, steep path leading up to the church. These open air baptisms were held in the morning when the candidates walked in procession, starting at 8.30a.m. then afterwards back to the schoolroom for a meal. This was followed by services lasting all day. In 1850 one such ceremony was held on Christmas Day. It must have been very cold in that stream! It was not until 1871 that an indoor baptistry was installed beneath the pulpit underneath the communion table.

 
Whittonstall Bridge at the approach to the long flight of steps, taken about 1920. The lady in the photo is Mrs. Gertrude Banks. Her daughter Peggy kindly sent the photo.
 

Church membership grew during the time of the church's longest serving minister, Rev. J. Midgley, who was pastor from 1819 to 1844. This was at a time when the population of Todmorden increased rapidly. He started a Sunday School as soon as he commenced his ministry, and after 1825 this became an annual event. The minute books reveal that the children attending the Sunday School were separated during the church service, the boys attended chapel in the mornings and the girls in the afternoons. In 1864 it was recorded that it was dangerous to teach the girls around the stove because of the crinolines they wore.

In 1864, the church was solemnised for marriages, the first one being between Aaron Greenwood and Mary Ann Suthers.

The buildings were extended in 1853 and 1871, at which time the original plot that measured twenty nine yards by sixteen yards had grown to 8 or 9 acres,

 

"now contained the sanctuary, a farm, cottages for sexton and chapel keeper, manse, schoolroom, lecture room, five classrooms, drinking fountain, and a cemetery where 1500 have already been interred."

   

Photo by courtesy of Roger Birch

The three storey Sunday School was built on to the chapel wall. The minister lived in the left-hand portion until a separate Manse was built in 1911.
 

By 1877, the 7 members had become 265 with the usual large Sunday School attached where there were 275 scholars and 49 teachers. The annual anniversary celebration became a centenary party when 320 people sat down to tea and several more went to the evening meetings.

100 years after this small beginning Shore had become a huge influence on local life. There had been a "Young Men's Mutual Improvement Society" since 1868, formed to improve both heart and mind, and to train young men in public speaking. Many members eventually became local preachers.

 
Shore Mutual Improvement Society 1937. The parson in the middle of the front row is the Rev. Gregory, and the Mayor next to him is James Edward Webster JP. Photo kindly sent by Cliff Marshall.
   
The women formed their own group, known as "The Married Ladies", later the Ladies' Guild. They were always an active group of workers, raising money and giving support to the church.
   
Shore "Married Ladies", taken outside the Manse soon after it was built in 1911. The young lady on the left of the front row is Edith Banks. The photo was kindly sent by her niece, Peggy Marshall (nee Banks).
   
The alter and pulpit, taken July 1951 and kindly sent to us by Cliff Marshall. Note the gas lighting. Electricity arrived in Shore in 1951 and was installed in the church and school. The big switch-on took place on 19th October 1952 when the choir sang the appropriate anthem "Send Out Thy Light".
Every year there was a Church Walking Day, whereby the various churches and Sunday Schools organised floats and fancy dress. Below are two photos of the Shore Chapel Sunday School floats, about 1938, kindly sent by Cliff Marshall.
   
   

One highlight in the history of the church must be the Mayoral Service on 15th November 1936. The newly elected Mayor of Todmorden that year was James E. Webster. He was a member of Shore Chapel and president of the Mutual Improvement Society. (He can be seen on the front row of the photo of the Mutual Society of 1937 above.) The Mayoral procession climbed the steep hill following the bandsmen, who played and puffed all the way to the top. Every seat was filled with extra seating in the aisles, and facilities outside for those unable to get through the doors. There were 900 people present. The following poem commemorates the event:

 

(printed in a Cornholme British Legion Annual and kindly sent by Cliff Marshall)

   
   
   
Anniversaries were always great occasions, attracting people from as far away as Canada. Past and present students of the Sunday School reunited and the donations and collections raised hundreds of pounds. There was normally standing room only, none more so than at the 1977 Anniversary, the 200th year of the church.
 
   
Sadly, the Church suffered as did others from dry rot and ceased to function in the 1960s. Services continued in one room and a small group of members kept the church alive for several more years until it finally closed its doors.
   
The rugged situation and the large cemetery remain very impressive and it is not too difficult to stand there and imagine the influence this place had on the community around for over two hundred years. Only the shell of the building with the Sunday School remains.
   
A portion of the Church is inhabited as private dwellings but most is now derelict and the chapel roof has gone.
 
 

(kindly sent by Karen Greenwood of Toronto)

 
 
BURIAL GROUND
   
   
The burial ground is large and mostly un-maintained. Only the newer part is accessible as this area is still used today. A small selection is shown below:
 

The War Memorial facing towards

the long flight of steps

Photo kindly sent by Cliff Marshall

 
   

In Loving Memory of Michael HIGGINS

who died Oct 29, 1953 aged 78 years

also of Elizabeth his beloved wife

who died July 8th 1945 aged 72 years

also of Ernest their beloved son

who died July 18th 1923 aged 17 years

(kindly sent by Karen Greenwood)

   

In memory of Henry CARTER of Hawkstones

who died Sept 9th 1867 aged 68 years

Also of Susan his daughter who died Oct 17th 1842 aged 8 years

Also of Mary his daughter who died Oct 20th 1844 aged 24 years

Also of Sarah his wife who died Dec 17th 1871 aged 75 years

Thy Will be Done
   

In memory of Mary Ann daughter of William and Betty CLEGG

of Robinwood Bridge End who died Oct 19th 1859 aged 5 months

Also of Joseph their son who died Nov 18th 1865 aged 15 months

Also of Martha their daughter

who died Aug 26th 1866 aged 5 years and 4 months

Also of John their son who died June 26th 1868 aged 14 months

Also of the above named Betty CLEGG

who died June 22nd 1882 aged 52 years

Also of the above named William CLEGG

who died Nov 1st 1916 aged ...

   

Sacred to the memory of John son of James CROWTHER

of Commons

who died April 24th 1838 aged 25 years

Also of Mary Ann CROWTHER daughter of the above

who died April 23rd 1848 aged 10 years

   

Sacred to the memory of William son of James CROWTHER of Commons who died Dec 29th 1838 aged 26 years

Also of Martha his wife who died April 23rd 1884

and is buried at Haggate Chapel near Burnley,

in the 69th year of her age.

   

In memory of John CROWTHER of Pexwood

who departed this life July 17th 1863 aged 67 years

Also of Betty his wife who died Nov 6th 1864 aged 66 years

   
 
 
MINISTERS
   

1777

 

1819-1844

1844-1847

1852-1861

1862-1867

1868-1875

1876-1886

W. Nicholson

J. Stansfield

J. Spencer

J. Midgley

W. Robertshaw

J. Horsfall

T. Gill

J. Maden

J.K. Chappell

1888-1892

1894-1903

1906-1918

1920-1929

1934-1938

1939-1945

1948-1952

1953-1959

1963-1966

1970-

J. Haslam Jones

J.F. Archer

R.A. Boothman

H. Cooper

C.W. Gregory

W.S. Davies

E. Moorhouse

G.M. Williams

A.F. Baker

R. Whitehead

 

with grateful thanks to Ken Sutcliffe, Karen Greenwood and Cliff and Peggy Marshall for their contributions

 

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