Methodism in Holcombe Brook

Reproduced from a booklet produced in 1974


1874 to 1974

Methodism in Holcombe Brook 1874-1974On 18th October, 1874, four men of faith and vision met together and resolved ‘that there be a Sunday School at Holcombe Brook’. The Band of Hope, a temperance organisation, held its meetings in a small room at Pot Green,and successful negotiations took place for the use of this room. The Sunday School met for the first time on 15th November, 1874. Sunday evening services were started in June, 1875, with 13 full members and 10 on trial.

The initial enthusiasm flourished, and in 1879 it was realised that a ‘New Chapel’ would have to be built. Like the Jews of old, the early pioneers ‘had builded the altar’, but they had the temple before them all the time. There were now 132 scholars in the Sunday School with 21 teachers.

The first money for the New Chapel was raised by the choir by carol singing on Christmas Eve when £7.6s.8d. was contributed.

The Ceremony of Laying the Corner Stone of the New Chapel took place on 25th July, 1885. The building was constructed of Holcombe stone dressings with Yorkshire parpoints by Messers. T. & J. Foster of Ramsbottom, and the total cost, including land, was £1,212. It was opened for Public Worship in December, 1885.

There was a considerable financial debt hanging over the Chapel Officials, and the trade depression of 1890 made the work of continuation very difficult. Two local mills closed down and a number of families were forced to leave the district. However, it was realised that ‘He who had prompted their fathers to erect the altar would not fail them in the work of the Temple’. Little by little the debt was reduced. The young men acted as caretakers of the Church, and upon receiving the annual allowance for the work, promptly paid it into the debt reduction fund. Many ‘sacred sacrifices’ were made and the debt was finally cleared from the proceeds of a Bazaar in 1895.

A special Re-union Week-end was held in November, 1899, to celebrate 25 years of Methodism in Holcombe Brook. It is recorded in the Minutes of the Church Meeting of September, 1899, that Hymn 400 should be sung at the Sunday Service:

‘Take my life, and let it be
Consecrated, Lord to Thee.
Take my moments and my days;
Let them flow in ceaseless praise.’

In March, 1913, the Church Meeting unanimously resolved to hold Society Class Meetings every fortnight in order to improve both the financial and spiritual aspects of the Church.

The envelope system of free-will giving was introduced in 1922 ‘as being the one and only way in which to raise sufficient money for carrying on the affairs of the Church and School without detriment to the Christian cause and the uplifting of our children to higher things’.

The Jubilee Anniversary of the Church (50 years) was celebrated in November, 1924. There was a Re-Union of Old Scholars, Teachers and Officers on Saturday, 15th November, with special Jubilee Services on Sundays, 16th and 23rd November. A special souvenir booklet was printed to commemorate the occasion and it commences with these verses:

A little seed set in the yielding soil
By stalwart souls, now lying ‘neath the sod –
Long years of effort, sacrifice and toil
And then the fruit, – A worthy House of God.

A golden garden, full of ripening grain –
A Church triumphant, strong, unfettered, free
A people striving still ‘mid joy and pain’
To win the world for Christianity.

During the year 1929 major alterations and repairs were carried out to the organ.

In the year 1932 came the Methodist Union and the church rather reluctantly became Holcombe Brook Methodist Church instead of United Methodist Church. There were initially local difficulties in accepting the Union and some years elapsed before the scheme was fully implemented.

The new Methodist Hymn Book was issued in 1933 and the recommendation for its use was made by the Quarterly Church Meeting in August, 1934. The Hymn Book was used for the first time at the Diamond Jubilee Services in November, 1934.

An interesting item from the Minutes of the Leaders’ Meeting held in September, 1934, records that the Secretary, the Minister, the Secretary of the Unemployed Committee and the manager of the Labour Exchange should arrange for the distribution of the groceries and vegetables from the Harvest, preference being given to residents in the Holcombe Brook district.

In 1936 the Trustees wished to buy some land adjacent to the Church, but it was considered that the price of four shillings per sq. yd. was too expensive!

Painting of the outside of the Church was done during 1940 at a cost of £19.10s.Od and after dry rot had been discovered in one of the ceiling beams during 1949, repairs and redecoration of the inside of the building were carried out at considerable expense.

During 1956 the outside toilets became unusable, and it was decided to install new ones at each side of the entrance to the Church at a cost of nearly £400.

By 1960 considerable housing development had taken place in the area and Ramsbottom Urban District Council’s plans showed that this would be further increased in the future. A major decision, therefore, was taken to extend the facilities by the erection of a new building at the rear of the Church. This was accomplished during 1961/2 at a fully inclusive cost of £1,000, and named the ‘Wesley Hall’.

Improvements to the heating system of the Church were made at the end of 1965 by the installation of electrical tubular heaters. It was at this time that the question of the future of the Church was first raised. Discussion on this topic continued for three years and it was eventually decided in March, 1968, that the Church should be further developed on its present site. A little later a Building Fund was established to this end.

The interior decoration of the Church was accomplished by the members during 1969, and about this time the wall at the front of the Church was removed leaving a more open access to the premises.

A switch from the coke-fired boiler to an oil-fired central heating system was carried out during 1970. After many years of coaxing a tune from the old organ, one was obtained from Mill Hill Independent Methodist Church and installed during 1972 at a cost in the region of £1,000.

It was during this year that it was realised that because of inflation definite plans must be produced regarding the extension of the Church. Approaches were made regarding financial help and it became obvious that this would be forthcoming. The Budget for the extension was costed at £23,000, and grants were promised from the Joseph Rank Trust (£6,500), Methodist Department of Property (£l,500) and the Circuit Advance Fund (£4,400) The balance of £10,600 will be provided by our Church and approximately £8,000 is already in hand. Members of the Church have worked very hard to make this vital extension possible.

It is a most fitting coincidence that the builders will have completed their task in the very month that the Centenary of Methodism in Holcombe Brook is celebrated. The extension will provide much needed additional facilities where the work of God may be effectively continued.

The potential for the spreading of the Gospel in this area is tremendous. The numbers involved in the work of the Church have reached the highest ever recorded-124 Church members, 180 Adherents and 150 Sunday School Children. It would seem that the concluding paragraph of the Jubilee Souvenir booklet (November, 1924) is remarkably relevant and up to date. It reads as follows:-

‘It is a great heritage that has been bequeathed to us,-and we are indeed proud of it, yet we realise that we should not be justified in allowing the past to do service for the present. Great as the achievements of the past have been, we believe yet greater triumphs await us, and as we face with confidence the future, our prayer is that the faith, the vision and the spirit of our fathers may be ours in the coming days, so that Holcombe Brook Church may continue to be instrumental of God in bringing joy, and happiness and peace to the ever increasing number of homes that surround our beloved House of God.’

Recognising the opportunity and challenge which are still with us in November, 1974 we would identify ourselves with the words of a resolution passed unanimously at a meeting of the Trustees in February, 1973, ‘We recognise our utter dependence upon the gifts and guidance of the Holy Spirit for the true success of all we undertake in Christ’s name’