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’


1885-1985“With our own ears we have heard about it, 0 God, our ancestors have told us about it, about the great things you did in their time, in the days of long ago”.
Psalm 44v1.

It is a humbling experience to write this preface to the brochure when I consider the long succession of worthy ministers who have served this church over a period of one hundred years.

It is also inspiring to read the history of this church which began with the vision of those early Methodists and had its humble origin in a room in Pot Green.

When we were planning the centenary celebrations a number of members asked me why the inscription above the front entrance refers to the ‘Free Methodist Church’, so perhaps the major part of the space allotted to me could be used answering this question.

After the death of John Wesley in 1791 the question of giving more power to the local churches and establishing a more democratic procedure in making decisions affecting whole denomination was a burning issue throughout the whole Connexion. The Conference of 1795 formulated a ‘Plan of Pacification’ with the object of correcting some defects in the constitution and conferring important privileges upon the local churches. In 1797 it extended this plan with what are known as the ‘Leeds Concessions’, one of which stated that no regulations will be finally confirmed till after a year’s consideration by the whole denomination.

At the Conference of 1834 it was proposed to establish a theological institute and this was put into effect without giving it the required year in which the local churches could consider the matter. Those who dissented from this action assembled at Conference the following year and after all hope of reconciliation was abandoned the Wesleyan Association was established as a separate and distinct Methodist organisation. Other reformers amalgamated with the Association to form in 1857, the United Methodist Free Churches.

Free Methodism was introduced into Bury and Methodism at Holcombe Brook was formed from that denomination.

In 1932 various branches of Methodism united to create our present Methodist Church.

This brochure contains only part of what God has done through our forbears in the extension of His Kingdom, much sacrificial service will never be published in this life as many saintly people will have gone to their reward with their work recorded only in heaven.

I would be failing in my duty if I did not record thanks to Mrs. Kitty Hoyle for the many hours of unstinted service she gave compiling this brochure, and to the other members of the centenary committee who gave general oversight to its production.

We give thanks for the past, but live in the present and must plan for the future. Today we have a church with strong lay leadership, spiritual perception, and a vision for the future. We have spent nearly £12,000 this year refurbishing the sanctuary, £5,000 of which was raised at one gift day, so we go forward into the next century of witness and service with confidence not only in God who guides and strengthens, but also in a people who arc willing to be led and equipped by Him.

God bless you all,

Alan Skipsey.


In brilliant sunshine, on the 25th July, 1885, a joyfully anticipated ceremony took place in Holcombe Brook – the laying of the Corner Stone of the United Methodist Free Church. However, for the actual foundation of this enterprise we must look back some eleven years to a date in 1874 when a few Methodists met together to plan the setting up of a Sunday School and place of Worship in a stable in Pot Green.

Sleep Hollow Football

Before then, Methodist people living in Holcombe Brook walked every Sunday to attend services in the Patmos (Ramsbottom) Methodist Free Church, for there was no day or Sunday School or Church of any denomination in Holcombe Brook. But there was a Temperance organisation, the Band of Hope, meeting in Pot Green, and so it was resolved at the Quarterly Circuit Meeting of September 12th, 1874, that a deputation of three should approach the Band of Hope Committee to reach an agreement that their meeting room, rented from Mr. Dearden, should be used for “preaching services”. A satisfactory arrangement was made and on October 18th, 1874, the first committee meeting took place when it was resolved “that there be a Sunday School at Holcombe Brook”.

The Sunday School started on 15th November, 1874, with six classes each for males and females; three of those classes were taught the alphabet and spelling. The holding of Sunday Evening Services began in June 1875, with a membership of thirteen. Thus, Holcombe Brook United Methodist Free Church came into being.

In order to provide adequate accommodation for the congregation for the Anniversary Services, or “Sermons”, the Church officials had to find premises other than the room (or stable) in which normal services were held. Mr. James Warburton, one of the founders of the Church, solved this problem by allowing these services to be held in the warehouse of his mill situated behind the “Hare and Hounds” in the centre of Holcombe Brook. (This mill later became Holden’s Towel Mill). Machinery had to be removed and props put underneath the floor to carry the weight of the congregation. After the evening service everything had to be restored to normal, so that the building would be ready for work as usual on the Monday morning.


Some older members of our present church recall how their fathers used to tell them that the boys went early to the Sunday School in Pot Green to have spare time in which to entertain themselves and each other by throwing pieces of coal to the farmer’s pigs – probably the farmer’s own coal! All the same, those boys had respect for authority and showed gratitude for the teaching and guidance of Mr. Thomas Warburton who, when addressing the Sunday School, often warned them: “Now lads, I can do with lads and I can do with ‘fellies’, but I won’t have ‘fellylads’”

During those early years Holcombe Brook shared ministerial services with Hawkshaw Lane Methodist Church, with Patmos (Ramsbottom) as the Mother Church.

It can be seen that the Church had a very humble beginning, but it was felt by many that it created an influence for good and served a valuable need in the area. The foundation was obviously built on faith, wisdom, an understanding of human nature, and great deal of hard work.

After a very short time it became obvious that a “New Chapel” would have to be built, for the little room in Pot Green had become quite inadequate for the progress that the Sunday School was making. There were now 132 scholars, 21 teachers, with 83 members of the Band of Hope. When so few people set about raising money to build a new Chapel they did, indeed, form a band of hope in many ways.

clifford hutchinsonThe first contribution was raised in 1879 by carol singers going out on Christmas Eve when they collected £7.6s.8d. The final cost of the building, including the land, was £1,212 – a formidable sum to be raised by so few people in the latter part of the 19th century. Money-raising efforts continued, and in the summer of 1885 the building of the present Church commenced. Mrs. Isaac Hoyle of Prestwich and Miss Florence Rumney of Stubbins laid the Corner Stones. This ceremony was preceded by a procession comprised of scholars, teachers and friends who walked from the old school to the site of the new building. The procession was headed by the Walshaw Lane Temperance Brass Band. During the ceremony a bottle containing copies of The Christian World, The Christian Age, The Bury Times, The Manchester Examiner and Times, and several coins of the realm was placed in the cavity. The builders were Messrs. T. & J. Foster of Ramsbottom.

As the work progressed it was found that economies would have to be made. One such economy was the leaving out of one beam in the ceiling. The remaining beams were then placed so that none would rest over a window. That was the reason for the irregular spaces between the beams.

The New Chapel was opened for Public Worship on Thursday, 17th December, 1885, with an afternoon and evening service, and the following Sunday marked the commencement of regular Worship there.

Inside there was a permanent platform about 2’6″ high in front of the pews. On this platform were placed forms on which the Choir sat. At each side steps led up to the platform and at the rear sides were fancy rails which could be taken out when concerts were held. In the front, facing the pews, stood the pulpit, which was on castors so that it could be wheeled away on such occasions and for the Harvest Festival when tiers of tables were erected to hold fruit, flowers and vegetables. This pulpit is the upper part of the present-day pulpit.

The small organ, worked by a hand blower, was situated at the side where the pulpit now stands. The pews had doors and were numbered. Lighting was by gas. If it became necessary during the service somebody, usually a tall young man who could reach the height of the lamps, had to leave his place in the pew to go round and light up!

When the Anniversary services were held four or five tiers of joiner-made bench seats were erected between the platform (now the end of the organ) and the side door which was locked. These seats were to accommodate the Sunday School scholars.

This new building was intended to provide another service for the community – that of a day school, for none existed in Holcombe Brook in 1885. A blackboard and easel and long bench-type desks with inkwells were bought for this purpose and probably were used as Hazlehurst School did not open until about 1901. Those desks remained in existence until recent years. The toilets were at the bottom of the yard which was divided by a wall to create two playgrounds.

After the Chapel was completed there remained the burden of a huge debt. A Connexional Loan was made, the annual interest on which absorbed the whole of the “Sermons” collections. The year 1890 brought a trade depression, unemployment, and families leaving the area to seek work elsewhere, all of which added to the problem of reducing the debt. However, great efforts were made: personal sacrifices took place, the young men acted as caretakers and, on receiving their allowance, immediately paid the money into the Debt Reduction Fund, and in 1895 a Bazaar was held when the money raised was sufficient to repay the outstanding debt.


Around the turn of the century a Mutual Improvement Class was formed for the purpose of helping each other to practice speaking and self-expression. Teachers received training, some men became local Councillors, and some became local preachers.

One of our members, now dead for many years, used to tell of her 21st birthday at the beginning of this century; she was given as a present a golden sovereign – a large amount of money in those days – and her mother made her put not one tenth, but the whole of it into the “Sermons” collection. Sacrifice indeed!

Group Image

Before the First World War, and afterwards until 1921, two Sunday afternoon classes were held in the Chapel basement which was divided by a wall into two rooms. All the scholars met in the Chapel for the opening, hymn and prayers; the Young Ladies’ Class then left by one side door to walk outside down to their classroom in the basement; young children went out by the other side door to the other basement classroom; the Young Men’s Class went into the middle vestry, and the remaining scholars held their lessons in groups along the sides of the Chapel.

A similar arrangement carried on until after the Second World War, when the Minister’s Vestry was also used as a classroom.

Older members like to recall how, as young lads, they enjoyed the preaching of a certain Minister who was at Holcombe Brook just before the First World War. He became very enthusiastic in the pulpit, waving his arms about to such an extent that his stiffly starched loose cuffs (then the normal form of dress) flew to his finger tips and had to be captured and replaced on his wrists. The boys in the congregation eagerly awaited this point in the service, knowing perfectly well what would happen. Apart from this, that Minister was a greatly respected and popular man, and regarded by all as an excellent preacher.

During the First World War special collections were made once a year to donate money to local hospitals. Prior to the War a Christmas Watch Night service was held every year, but in 1916 this was cancelled owing to lighting restrictions. The following year it was decided that these services should be discontinued for the duration of the War and Carol singing abandoned. In 1919 the Watch Night services were resumed. Every Sunday a Prayer Meeting was held in the Minister’s Vestry at 5.30 p.m. before the evening service. Members of the Chapel and Congregation organised concerts, the main purpose being the raising of money to send parcels to members of the Forces. One Christmas all such members were sent Bibles. A young man, Mr. Holt, was one of those recipients. Eventually he moved away from Holcombe Brook and subsequently formed a Concert Party in the area of his new home. Many years later they came to give a concert in the Chapel and, after the usual vote of thanks; Mr. Holt brought out the Bible and said “That is why we came – to repay Holcombe Brook for what it did”.

It was about 1916 when Mr. R. Schofield, the Sunday School Secretary, died at home, not as a casualty of the War. The present Christening Font was given in his memory by Mr. E. Schofield and his family.

After the War there were, sadly, those who did not return, a tragedy common to all towns and villages. The men from our membership whose lives were taken from them were:

Fred Livsey
John H. Booth
Fred Cuthbertson
William Forshaw
James Greenhalgh
Arthur Greenhalgh
James Holden
William Reed

Group Image

An important entry, dated April 28th, 1921, in the Church Minute Book reads: “Consideration was given to the formation of a Primary Department to our School.The number of scholars in the Infants was increasing every week and the work was becoming ever more difficult for one teacher to carry out the duties successfully’:

The wall dividing the basement into two classrooms was pulled down to make a room large enough to accommodate the newly established Primary Department. During the next year an envelope system of regular giving was introduced, as that was thought to be the only way to raise the money needed by the Church to carry out its duties and responsibilities properly.

In this same year, 1922, “The Married Ladies” (now the “Ladies Fellowship”) passed a resolution at their meeting that money should be raised to install a new organ as a memorial to those killed in the 1914/18 War, for, it was decided, the old organ was no longer of service. The money was raised by members of the Church, a great part of it by the Ladies’ Meeting and also by voluntary subscription and loans. The final decision to purchase the organ was taken in October, 1923.

A Communion Rail was also bought and, at the same time, the platform was altered so that it should be collapsible. The pulpit was moved to the side and the organ placed in the centre, its present position.

Celebrations were held in November, 1924, to mark 50 years of Methodism in Holcombe Brook. A Reunion of old scholars, teachers and Officers took place on Saturday, 15th November. Special Jubilee Services were held the following day with Rev. W. C. Jackson, B.A., as preacher, and also on November 23rd, when the preacher was Rev. W. J. Hopper.

Group ImageOver this period of 50 years social activities were developing for, at that time, most entertainment, particularly for young people, was provided by Sunday Schools. At Holcombe Brook scholars were performing little plays in the early part of this century. A date around 1925 saw the first dramatic production, “Colleen Baun”, when the members made and painted new scenery. At the same time extensions for each side of the platform and an apron for the front were also made, forming a good, big stage. These activities attracted outsiders who then became members of the Church. For concerts and pantomimes, footlights and overhead lighting consisted of long pipes with holes into which were screwed gas mantles with metal cups. One young man had the responsibility of inspecting these gas mantles during the interval and replacing any which had burnt out. After a Saturday evening concert all the scenery and stage extensions had to be taken down, put away, the Chapel swept and tidied, and left spick and span to be ready for the Sunday morning service. The parts making that same stage were still used long after the Second World War.

A group came together going, after the evening services, to sing in various houses. One particular host would never allow them to have supper until they had sung the “Hallelujah Chorus” – without music – hence their name – “The Hallelujah Gang”.


PerformanceAnother group was known as “The Gilt Edge Six” who, with helpers, gave concerts in their own and other Sunday Schools. On one occasion they took over the evening service in the Church; Mr. George Cave (Comedian) conducted the service and preached the sermon; Eva Mills (Elocutionist) read the lesson; Winifred Ashton, Alice Redfern, Wesley Baldwin and Jack Schofield sang an introit, two anthems, a vesper, and led the hymns. Albert Schofield played the organ.

Amidst all these social interests serious responsibilities were not neglected: even though the Chapel had been cleaned during the week, the teenage lads and young men had to dust all the pews on Sunday morning before the Sunday School opened at 9.30 a.m.

The order of the day then was:-
9.30 – 10.15 Sunday School
10.30 a.m. Church Service
1.45 p.m. Sunday School
6.00 p.m. Evening Service
This continued for many years.

Sometime around 1930 House Fellowship meetings were started and kept up for some years. Groups met in various members’ homes to debate topics of importance to young people. Christmas Carol singing was also resumed.

In the meantime changes were also taking place in the Chapel itself: in 1926 the gas was replaced by electricity, and in 1929 the original windows were removed and stained glass ones installed at a cost of £96.4s.Od. (In 1949 they had to be repaired – cost £136).

Group PerformanceThe year 1932 brought a change that was not wholly welcome; Methodist Union came about and the Church lost its name of United Methodist Free Church to become Holcombe Brook Methodist Church. Many older members felt sad that their “freedom” had gone.

Shortly before the Second World War the Trustees could foresee the necessity for extension. The plot of land behind the Chapel was awkwardly shaped as it narrowed towards the bottom. Enquiries were made regarding the purchase of a triangular plot which would make the piece of land square. The price asked was considered excessive and beyond the Chapel’s means and so the plan had to be shelved.

In 1935 the Communion Table was presented to the Church by Mr. J. Brooks in memory of his son, John, who had died in January of that year, aged 14 years. The Communion chairs were given by Mr. W. Holden in memory of two aunts.

Choir pews were installed and dedicated on 27th March, 1938. They were the bequest of the Misses A. and S. A. lsherwood to be a memorial to their two sisters who had been the first and second wives respectively of Mr. Samual Holden.

Unfortunately, war came again in 1939. As in the previous war the main concern of the members was the raising of money to provide “comforts for the troops”. During those war years the class of girls aged 13-15 were taught by Mrs. Lily Pilling. Every Wednesday evening the class and the Minister, Rev. E. Robinson, were welcomed by Mrs. Pilling into her home. After a short service and serious type of talk given by Mr. Robinson, the meeting closed with the benediction. Supper was provided by Mrs. Pilling or the girls in the class and was accompanied by informal chat about social activities outside the Church. The girls in the class numbered about 15.

Performance GroupAfter the War the social activities of earlier and happier years were resumed: concerts and pantomimes were held, a choir was once more gathered together, giving “Choir Concerts”, holding “Choir Sermons” and enjoying “Choir Trips”. Each year the pantomime was given first on our own premises and then in other Sunday Schools, helping to raise money for our own Church and also for the hosting Sunday Schools. There was a thriving Table Tennis Team which reached very high positions in the Sunday School Table Tennis League. When the town held a pageant the Sunday School took part by presenting tableaux. As part of the Christmas celebrations in 1948 a lengthy Nativity Play was presented, mostly by the Primary and young children. The older scholars formed a choir singing carols, “off stage”, during the play. The atmosphere created by the children was very moving and gave rise to some rather moist eyes in the audience. At the end of the performance the then Minister requested that the stage and scenery be left in position and the Nativity Play repeated during the Sunday evening service. The first performance was on Saturday evening. In the Minutes for the next Sunday School Teachers’ meeting in April there is a resolution that Mrs. Robinson and her co-producer “be thanked for services rendered, in particular for the Nativity Play.”

Performance GroupEvery year a procession of witness took place on Whit Friday, when Sunday Scholars and adults met at the Chapel at 9.00a.m. for one hymn and prayers. The procession was formed and banners brought out – a small, lightweight one for Primary children to carry, and a large one the poles of which were carried by the men, whilst scholars held ropes and ribbons attached to the banners. All were “dressed for Whitsuntide” and the children carried baskets or sprays of flowers. At various points on the route the procession stopped so that hymns could be sung; a visit to Aitken Sanatorium (now a school for Moslem boys) was always included. On the return to Church a final hymn was sung and then refreshments were served to everybody. Many, many years ago coffee and raspberry buns were given, with mustard and cress sandwiches for payment. In later years the whole of the refreshments were given and in the early ’50s a simple meal such as meat, pickles, bread and butter and jam was provided. In the afternoon games and races were held in a field nearby, the men carrying forms from the Church to provide seating accommodation; in the early years an annual cricket match took place – married men v. single men. If any food remained from lunch time, tea- was served on the field.

In 1949, the year in which the stained glass windows had to be repaired, dry rot was discovered in one of the ceiling beams, which meant repairs and re-decoration of the inside of the Church.

PerformanceAnother expense occurred in 1956: it was imperative that the outside toilets should be replaced within three months at a cost of £400, a very large sum of money when the average weekly wage was around £5. Everybody worked hard: every Sunday School scholar was given a shilling from which to make more money. Some girls baked and sold cakes or sewed little articles for sale; some boys chopped firewood and sold it in bundles. Adults made money by organising socials in the vestries: a charge was made which was all clear profit because the suppers were given by various people. Donations were made and more than the required amount of money was raised within three months. Pews each side of the porch were removed, the spaces partitioned off and toilets installed.

This task of raising money quickly for a particular project reflected a united effort that had been made around 1930: The Whitsuntide banner had to be replaced as the old one was torn, in parts beyond repair. The good parts were cut into strips to be sold as book-marks. A plan of the new banner was drawn and marked into squares; when one person had raised 6s.8d. e.g. by knitting and selling dish cloths, that money was handed in to cover the cost of one square.







PerformanceIn 1960 the games and races on the field, following the Whit Friday procession, were dropped and a trip to Southport was made instead. By this time new housing estates had been built, Holcombe Brook could hardly be called a village any longer, and so the congregation of the Church was expected to increase, along with a rise in the number of Sunday School scholars. In order to provide more accommodation a pre-fabricated type of building was erected during 1961/1962 at the rear of the Church at a cost of £1000. This was named “The Wesley Hall”, being used for Sunday School classes, meetings and social events.

A new clock was installed in the Church in 1963, presented by David Landamore in memory of his wife, Ellen, who died on April 25th of that year. About this time the pulpit light was also donated by a member in memory of parents. The heating system was boosted in 1965 by the installation of electrical tubular heaters underneath the pews.

At the same time discussions started, continuing for three years, on the future of the Church building – should rooms be added to the existing premises or an entirely new Church be built?

At last, in March 1968, it was decided that extensions should be built and a Building Fund established. Annual Christmas Fairs were held, lasting all day, in the Ramsbottom Youth Centre. Members, particularly those of the Ladies’ Fellowship, worked hard throughout each year in order to have goods ready for sale when the time came. A grant of £6,500 was promised from the Joseph Rank Trust, £1,500 from the Methodist Department of Property, and £4,400 from the Circuit Advance Fund. The remaining £10,600 had to be raised by members of the Church and congregation.

lumbcarrwhitwalk1950The Wesley Hall was demolished. A large room with a small room at the side was built onto the rear of the Church. The Minister’s Vestry remained in its original position. The other two vestries were replaced by passages leading to a new kitchen and a new lounge with a staircase between these passages to give access to the rooms below. Extra toilets were also installed as part of the new building. In the lower part of the extension there is access to the old cellar, now used as storage space. This new part was officially opened at 3.30 p.m. on Saturday, 25th January, 1975, having cost over £24,000. A short service was held for which the Rev. Ronald Jobling, Chairman of the Bolton and Rochdale District, was invited to preach the sermon. Mr. Rowland Fitton, the Senior Trustee, was invited to perform the ceremony of opening the doors of the new extension. A tea followed and an opportunity was given for everybody to look around the new premises.

Whilst the alterations were being carried out there was a period of time when the Church could not be used satisfactorily and some of the Sunday School met in the Pavilion of Holcombe Brook Sports Club.

In the midst of all this activity the week by week running of the Church was not neglected: in 1969 it was agreed that the morning service of the first Sunday in each month should be a Family Service.

ladies christmas party1949In 1972 the fact had to be faced that the organ could no longer be kept in tune and in repair and a replacement must be sought. Two of our then members, Mr. and Mrs. Parker, had come from Mill Street Independent Methodist Church, Bradford, Manchester, a Church which was closing. Holcombe Brook Methodist Church obtained the organ from Mill Street, paying only for the removal and re-installation which cost £1,000.

The Centenary of Methodism in Holcombe Brook was marked in 1974 by special services on 24th November at 11.00 a.m. and 6.00 p.m. These were conducted by Rev. Alan J. Washbrook, B.A., a missionary from Nigeria and there was special singing by the choir.

By that time the Church members numbered 124, there were 180 adherents, and the Sunday School had 150 scholars.

During the later part of 1973 a Church Fellowship was established meeting once a quarter. However, it was soon felt that a monthly meeting would be more beneficial for continuity. Passages from the Bible or topics with reference to Scripture were discussed. One meeting considered “Freedom”, another time “What is a Miracle?” was debated.

On Boxing Day or the following day in the mid and late ’70s, Christmas parties were given for a large number of Senior Citizens of the Church and surrounding districts. A turkey lunch was served, carols were sung and informal chatting was enjoyed. To enable people to attend, members of the Church used their cars to run a “taxi” service. Any disabled were carried down the steps and into the hall on chairs, being taken out again to cars by the same means.

In recent years members have, from time to time, enjoyed fellowship with each other over a meal served in the lounge after morning service. Sometimes the meal has been given, a charge or collection made, and the money given to a particular fund or charity.

Since 1981 some of our young people have taken part in the Greenbelt enterprise, camping for the August Bank Holiday weekend along with 25,000 – 30,000 people. They have all firmly declared their enjoyment despite returning home with colds and upset tummies!

Greenbelt is a Christian Arts and Music Festival held each year since 1974, usually in the grounds of a Stately Home. Its special emphasis has been on rock music but continues to develop all forms of artistic expression. It is concerned with both expression and communication of the Gospel with the Arts, and with the fostering of excellence in all artistic activity undertaken by Christians. In addition to this it aims to explore the meaning of God’s Kingship through seminars, discussions and worship.

whit walk 1951At various times other changes had been taking place: during 1970, after it had been decided to retain the Church on its original site, the heating was changed from the coke-fired boiler to an oil-fired central heating system; the Whitsuntide activities had been varied, not only by an outing replacing the games and races in the field, but also the Walk being moved from Whit Friday to Whit Sunday.

In 1969 an Open Air Service was held instead of a procession; in 1970 the scholars and members met others at St. Andrew’s Church and walked back in procession to their own Church. However, it was decided in 1971 to abandon altogether the Procession of Witness.
whit walk 1951At the end of March 1984, a Lay Witness Weekend was held. A team, made up of people from widely-spread parts of the Country, arrived on Friday teatime. A meal was served to them and to members of the Church and congregation, after which the visitors spoke individually of the experiences which had brought them closer to God and strengthened their Faith. Small groups were then formed to discuss questions relevant to the life of a Church, each group being led by one of the visiting team. Every body then came together to hear reports from the groups on the conclusions that had been reached during the discussions. A similar programme was followed on Saturday evening. Coffee mornings with more discussions were held in various homes on Saturday. The Sunday morning service was led by members of the team; they were then given lunch, which concluded the Weekend. The visitors were accommodated in Church members’ homes. After the Sunday Evening service a discussion took place in the Church on what was felt to have been the greatest benefit of the Weekend.


panto 1952By now it was obvious that a great deal of money would have to be spent on repairs and re-decoration to the interior of the Church. A Gift Day was held on March 2nd, 1985, with a very encouraging result.

The Minister, Rev. A. Skipsey, received gifts in the Vestry between 10 and 12 o’clock. Coffee was served in the lounge, performances were given by the young people and there was an organ recital by Mr. John Edwards. A short service closed the morning.

The money received was £4,406.50; £3,225 of this was covenanted, yielding £346 tax refund.. One family promised £50 per month for the remainder of the Year, giving £450. Therefore, the total for the Gift Day amounted to £5,202.50p.

Following the alterations and renovations the Church was re-opened for services on Sunday 23rd June. Our Minister, Rev. Alan Skipsey led the first service during which an act of re-dedication took place. The lessons were read by Mr. Ted Holt (Property Secretary) and Mr. Chris Hampson (Finance Secretary), both of whom are local preachers. The hymns chosen were 979, 707, 983, 610 and 701; the lessons were I Kings 8v27-43 and Hebrews 10 v. 19-25 and the sermon based on Matthew 13 v45-46.

giftday 1961Many people willing to give long and faithful service have passed through the Church. As examples we think of those who have been organists. Mr. William Bridgehouse carried out those duties from 1901-1935, assisted by Mr. Samual Holden. He was followed by Mr. Albert Schofield who played the organ for morning and evening services every Sunday throughout the year until 1954, taking only one Sunday off for his annual holiday. Before then, in 1914, Mr. Schofield had been appointed, at the age of 11, Sunday school pianist. After becoming organist he also took up the duties of Choirmaster for some years. Thus, his services covering music in the Church spanned 40 years.

Mr. Ronald Bowker assisted from 1937-1940 but then entered the Forces. However, when home on leave he asked to be allowed to take his place on the organ stool. In 1952 Mr. lan Shepherd began to sit on the stool beside Mr. Schofield and took over as sole organist, in which capacity he served until his marriage in 1961. For several years now that position has been filled by various organists playing on a rota basis. The people forming a rota, differing over the years, have included Mrs. Parsons, Mrs. H. Whitehall, Mrs. S. Jones, Mr. B. Parker, Mr. J. Harrison, Mr. M. Pittam, Mrs. E. Pittam, Mr. J. Edwards, Mrs. J. Moilliet.

Intermittently throughout the years, the Church has enjoyed the singing rendered by choirs of high standard. They have been conducted by some able and competent choirmasters who have built up good and sizeable groups of singers. But choirs flourish and dwindle: older members die or feel that they have “passed their best” and younger ones leave the district because of marriage or occupation. A time must then lapse before members can be brought together to form a new choir. Included in the names of long-serving Choirmasters are Mr. William Holden, Mr. J. Kirkbright, Mr. J . W. Booth, Mr. A. Goddard, Mr. A. Schofield, Mr. J. Schofield, Mr. J. Hoyle, Mr. J. Harrison.

Whilst remembering those who have served the church over long periods of time it is interesting to recall the visit of Rev. J. Jeffries who preached the Anniversary Services for 21 consecutive years, when the Church was packed to capacity.

whit 1964The Sunday School has also reaped the benefit of the dedication of many of its officials, Mr. Ernest Schofield was the Superintendent for a long number of years, being assisted towards the end of that time by Mr. R. Bowker and Mr. C. Ashworth. Mr. R. Bowker afterwards became the sole Superintendent, resigning when he left the district. Other Sunday School Superintendents have included Mr. R. Mather, Mr. Sutcliffe, Miss J. Clarkson, Miss V. Ellis (now Mrs. Haigh) Mr. S. Isherwood, Miss N. Longfield (now Mrs. Ashworth), Mr. C. Ashworth, Miss M. Hutchinson, Mr. R. Fitton, Mr. M. Kay, Mrs. E. Pittam, Mrs. J. Davies.

The Primary Department was divided into Primary and Beginners Departments in 1967 and recombined to form the Discoverers Department in 1980. Leaders have included Miss N. Holden (later Mrs. Scholes), Miss M. Ellis (now Mrs. Metcalfe), Miss M. Brooks (now Mrs. Cuthbertson), Miss M. Hutchinson, Mrs. Robinson, Miss J. Longworth (now Mrs. Bowker), Mrs. Collier, Mrs. N. Ashworth, Mrs. B. Ashburn, Miss J . Whitehall (also later Mrs. Firth), Miss K. Jones, Mrs. S. Holt, Mrs. S. Hutchinson, Mrs. M. Sutcliffe, Mrs. L. Colam, Mrs. G. Atkin, Mrs. J. Davies, Mrs. I. Rowel and Miss J. Horrocks.

whit walk 1961Mr. D. Landamore filled the position of Sunday School Secretary for well over 10 years. He resigned in 1948; Mr. C. Ashworth took over this work and carried on until 1969, except for a two year break in 1951/53 when he was away in Teacher Training College. During those two years Mrs. N. Ashworth (then Miss N. Longfield) filled the position. Other Secretaries have been Mr. S. O. Shore, Miss M. Hutchinson, Mr. R. Rostron, Mr. A. Eyre, Mrs. A. Haire, Mrs. B. Atkin and Mrs. E. Harrison.

The Sunday School Treasurer, for more than 20 years, was Mr. A. Nuttall. He was succeeded in 1958 by Mr. I. Hutchinson who carried on for some years. Since then Treasurers have included Mr. R. Harrison and Mrs. A. Haire. Many of those officials have, whilst holding office, also been Sunday School Teachers.

In 1964 the afternoon Sunday School was dropped. The children then started coming into the morning service at 10.45 for combined Worship, leaving after about 20 minutes to go to their own classes.

garden party at hill end 1968In the early ’60s the Sunday School scholars had a Christmas outing to an Ice Palace to do ice-skating themselves. The regular activities taking place at present are varied in nature, but the “Ladies’ Fellowship” does deserve special mention. This group has been known as “The Married Ladies”, “The Mothers”, “The Ladies Bright Hour”, “Women’s Work”, “The Ladies’ Fellowship”. Whatever the name has been they have always stood ready to be called on in an emergency. They have, naturally, been in charge of the catering for social occasions; they have provided money at short notice, either from their own funds or by means of money-raising efforts such as Jumble Sales or Sales of Work. Every year, in May, they hold an American Tea which is always successful financially. Strangely, the weather is usually good on that day! For some years members of the Ladies’ Fellowship undertook the Spring cleaning of the Church before the Anniversary Services. They scrubbed the floor and polished the pews and other woodwork. There was a time when the hot water pipes were polished with black lead.


Other meetings take place, each on its appointed day.

Front 1970sSunday: Services at 10.30 a.m. and 6.30 p.m. Sunday School is incorporated into the first part of the morning service after which the Scholars leave for lessons in their separate departments – Discoverers (young children), Juniors and Focus (older children). All remain in church for the whole of the Family Service on the first Sunday of each month. The Youth Fellowship meets at 7.45 p.m.

Monday: Care and Share Group (originally called House Fellowship Group) meets fortnightly, hosted in members’ homes, studying the application of Christ’s teaching in our everyday lives.
Meetings for Brownies and Guides in Sunday School. In addition to attending normal meetings the Brownies have made little gifts to sell to raise money for charities, e.g. a cheque was sent to the Royal National Institute for the Deaf.

Tuesday: Pushchair Club 9.30a.m. – 12 noon attended by very young children who play on a climbing frame and other such equipment. Mums stay for coffee and chat with each other. Orange juice is provided for the children. The Club is open to anybody, not only families of the Church and is regularly attended by upwards of 24. A second Care and Share Group meets fortnightly in the afternoon. In the evening the Ladies’ Fellowship meets fortnightly for a brief service, with a guest speaker, and a social hour.

back 1970sWednesday: Pushchair Club in the morning.
A third Care and Share Group meets in the evening, fortnightly.
Meeting Point is held in the afternoon, fortnightly. This consists of a group of Christian women, irrespective of age or family circumstances, coming together to offer friendship, to learn from each other and from outside sources and to become involved in the locality beyond the Church. The meeting opens with devotions, followed by a talk by a guest speaker-, or carrying out practical work such as mending chairs and hymn books. Blankets have been made for Oxfam and, through Tear Fund, help given to the “Feed a Child” programme.

Thursday: A fourth Care and Share Group meets fortnightly in the evening.

Friday: A Club for the 11 plus age group is held in the Sunday School.

Monday – Friday: Morning Playgroup for children of pre-school age established in 1976, as a Christian outreach by the Church into the Community. All pre-school children from the age of 2 years 9 months are welcome and the Playgroup has about 70 children attending during a week. It aims to help children to develop socially, physically and mentally in a happy, caring environment, and act as a stepping-stone between home and school.

Monthly: A House Fellowship meets for Bible Study, Prayers and Fellowship.

Monthly: A Communion Gift is made to charities nominated by members of the Church and congregation.

organThe following events have been planned for this year in celebration of the Centenary.

September 6th, 7th, 8th. Flower Festival

September 15th. Service – Preacher Rev. John A. Palmer

September 20th & 22nd. Holiday weekend at Saltburn.

October 5th and 6th. Craft Exhibition.

October 6th. Harvest Festival – Mr. Chris Taylor.

October 12th. British and Foreign Bible Society Conference.

October 13th. Rev. Dr. Donald English

October 20th. Overseas Missions.

October 27th. Service – Preacher Rev. M. J. Prowting.

November 3rd. Mrs. Janet Owens.

November 23rd. Concert Evening.

November 24th. Service – Preacher Rev. N. W. Wright

November 30th. Church Dance in Civic Hall.

December 1st. Church Anniversary- Rev. Fred Turner (Chairman of the District) with Centenary Lunch after the service.

Throughout the years there have been re-alignments of the Circuits, often made with a view to economy in the deployment of Ministers. In the beginning, Hawkshaw Lane and Holcombe Brook were linked to Patmos (Ramsbottom). 1932 brought the change of name to “Methodist Church” when Holcombe Brook was included in the old Primitive Methodist Bury and Ramsbottom Circuit, with Walmersley Road, Ramsbottom Patmos, Elton Wellington Street, lrwell Vale, Edenfield Rochdale Road and Summerseat Railway Street. We next became part of the Bury Union Street Circuit, when the Ministers were Rev. H. W. Stephenson, Rev. T. Laverick Wilson, Rev. S. Hills and Rev. C. Welch, who was our first Minister in the new Circuit.


A much wider Circuit was formed in 1949; Bury Union Street, Brunswick and Ramsbottom all joined the Bury Circuit. At that time the officials at Holcombe Brook were;

Circuit Stewards
Mr. G. Schofield
Mr. G. Taylor

Society Stewards
Mr. L. Walsh
Mr. J. Holden

Mr. A. Schofield Church

Trust Treasurer & Secretary
Mr. J. Schofield

Mr. A. Schofield

Mr. J. Schofield

Sunday School Superintendents
Mr. E. Schofield
Mr. R. Bowker

Primary Superintendents
Miss N. Holden
Miss M. Hutchinson

Sunday School Secretary
Mr. C. Ashworth

Women’s Work president
Mrs. L. Pilling

Women’s Work secretary
Mrs. N. Nuttall

Overseas Missions Secretary
Miss V. Ellis

Mr. T. Pilling

Membership then stood at 55. At the time of the last return, November 1984, members totaled 111, Adherents numbered 320, and there were 89 Sunday School scholars under 13 years of age, and 33 between the ages of 13 and 20. Ministers who have served the Church, guiding it through its ups and downs have been:

Rev. T. Baskerville
Rev. F. G. Clements
Rev. J. E. Shepherd
Rev. W. J. Hopper
Rev. J. Collinge
Rev. J. A. Harris
Rev. J. G. Hartley
Rev. Earl Gray
Rev. T. Webber
Rev. J . H. Allchurch
Rev. J. T. Hodge
Rev. J. Foulger
Rev. E. Cook
Rev. J. H. Phillipson
Rev. W. S. Micklethwaite
Rev. J . H. Baron
Rev. W. D. Lister
Rev. Renshaw
Rev. Barlow
Rev. Savage
Rev. Baker
Rev. E. Robinson
Rev. Simmonds
Rev. Hagarth
Rev. W. A. E. Hall
Rev. W. R. Reed
Rev. J. Lowe
Rev. C. Pitt
Rev. C. Welch
Rev. B. Binnington
Rev. F. Thomas
Rev. N. W. Wright
Rev. J. D. Pawson
Rev. D. Nicholls
Rev. E. Hardwicke
Rev. G. Pullen
Rev. J . A. Palmer
Rev. M. J. Prowting
Rev. A. Skipsey, the present Minister.

We celebrate the Centenary with thanksgiving in our hearts and pray to God for the strength and guidance to go forward into a second century saying, with Joseph Hart,:

“We’ll praise Him for all that is past,
And trust Him for all that’s to come’:

Present Church Officials. February 1985

Rev. A. Skipsey

Church Secretary
Mr. J. C. Ashworth

Church Treasurer
Mr. J. Atkin

Church Stewards 
Mrs. N. Ashworth
Miss D. Mould
Mrs. J. Holden
Mr. I. Hutchinson

Communion Stewards
Mrs. M. Towers
Mrs. D. Whalley
Mrs. M. Bryan

Property Secretary
Mr. W. E. Holt

Property Steward
Mr. R. Crichton

Pastoral Committee Secretary
Mrs. S. Hutchinson

Family Committee Secretary
Mrs. M. Sampson

Neighborhood Committee Secretary
Mrs. M. Bell

World Service Secretary
Mr. M. H. Kay

Home Missions Secretary
Mrs. E. Radcliff

Finance Committee Secretary
Mr. C. Hampson

Mr. J. M. Edwards

Womens Work Secretary
Miss G. Cox

Sunday School Secretary
Mrs. E. Harrison

Sunday School Superintendent
Mrs. J. Davies

Ladies Fellowship Secretary
Mrs. E. Rowland

Church and Prayer Fellowship Secretary
Mr. M. Pittam

Share and Care Groups Co-ordinator
Mr. P. Booth

Brownie Leader
Mrs. K. Redgrave

Guide Leader
Mrs. S. Howard

Youth Fellowship Leaders
Mrs. S. Holt
Mr. P. Booth
Mr. J. Moilliet

Youth Club Co-ordinator
Mr. W. Davies

Play Group Leaders
Mrs. G. Atkin
Mrs. C. Spencer

Push Chair Club
Mrs E. Booth

Meeting Point
Mrs. B. Atkin

Flower Secretaries
Mrs. G. Atkin
Mrs. L. Taylor