History Of Methodism in Walkden & a History of our Churches.
‘Missionaries Came to Walkden’ by Glen (an escaped Methodist)
As a result of efforts in January 2011 Walkden Methodist Church celebrated 200 years a building belonging to The Methodist Church has stood where the Church stands today.
Back in the early 1800’s Methodism was a DIY religion, relying heavily on small groups forming study classes in homes under the direction of a Class Leader. Services were led by a Minister travelling round a circuit of groups.
Such a group had formed in Worsley and has opening their own Chapel (Barton Road) in 1801. These Wesleyan Methodists had evangelical outlook and sent missionaries throughout the District, particular Walkden Moor, the next most popularous area after Worsley Village. A nucleus of people at Walkden Moor formed a Class and commenced to hold preaching meetings in 1803, usually in the home of Mr Pugh, a colliery official who lived in “Tupp Row” cottages were Barclays Bank now stands on Bolton Road. This state of affairs continued for some years whilst continuity and finance allowed the completion of their own Chapel land leased from the Duke of Bridgewater. Opening in January 1811 the building on the south side of Manchester Road , near Tynes Bank was a rather square, barn like building originally used as both Chapel and School.
A Secular Sunday School has been run for years under the patronage of one of the Stewards of the Duke with Classes meeting in the workshop building on whose site Walkden Monument was eventually to be built. On the death of the Schoolmaster in 1804 the School was taken under the wing of the newly formed Walkden Wesleyan Methodist Society, rooms in the Bulls Head Inn being used until their premises were built. A school room wing between the chapel and the New Inn had been added by 1840. In later years the Chapel building became too small and dilapidated so funds were raised and a new imposing Church with a gallery was built at the opposite side of Manchester Road and opened in 1864. This allowed demolition of the old Chapel and a new School extension to be built, opening in May 1873.
Firmly established, this society became too stressful, even the new, huge Chapel suffered overcrowding. Many members came from the eastern side of Walkden at Whittlebrook and Linnyshaw and led to pressure groups splitting off to form a Weslyan Society at Whittlebrook, opening their own Church in 1885.
Methodism then had two major divisions. The original version developed by John Wesley and known as Wesleyan Methodists and a breakaway group known at the Primitive Methodists. These groups faced each other in competition almost as sectarian as Catholic/Protestant divisions. The Primitive Methodists missionaries poached members of the Walkden Wesleyan Society on starting their first classes in 1821. By 1827 the group now known as Walkden Primitive Methodists, has purchased the old cock fighting pit in Little Hulton, and had opening a new building there. After many extensions the site reached capacity and new land was obtained. The old building is now the Shamrock Tavern! The new site on the west of Hilton Lane had a Chapel by 1852, Schools by 1864 and a replacement Chapel in 1876.
The Primitives also extended their presence into east Walkden, opening Whittlebrook Primitive Methodist Chapel in 1872. Their last expansion came with a desire to have premises as central as possible in Walkden. in 1902 land containing old cottages at Ruston Hillock, off Memorial Road was obtained and a dual purpose building opening in 1904, it was not until 1929 that the new Chapel was to open.
Throughout their active lives these societies maintained a spiritual function and a social life that reflected the period. Initially tea parties and social gatherings developed into concerts, musical events and often traditional pantomime. The annual Sermon Days developed into a cult and competition as to its fund raising possibilities. The older four Churches had cricket fields with teams in local leagues. Rivalries at every level between the two branches took a long time to heal after the official union if the Wesleyan and Primitive societies in 1933. In the Walkden Societies some re-naming had to take place. The oldest became Walkden Moor Methodist, Walkden Primitives became simply Walkden Methodist and the eastern front of the ex-Wesleyan society became Trinity Methodist to differentiate it for Whittlebrook Methodist and the ex-Primitive Chapel. Memorial Road simply dropped the term “Primitive” from its name.
Often even more traumatic for members than the union of faiths, were the several mergers during the late 1950’s and early 1960’s caused by falling rolls and dilapidation. Walkden Moor Methodist (ex Wesleyan) closed their Church and amalgamated into their neighbour Walkden Methodist building (ex Primitive) re-naming their union St Andrews Methodist Church. Both Churches retaining their day schools run by the Local Authority. Trinity (ex Whittlebrook Wesleyan) and Whittlebrook (ex Primitive) closed and merged with Memorial Road, extensions being needed to accomodate the influx.
Completion of the new Walkden Methodist Primary School (called St Andrews Methodist Primary School) in Prescott Street allowed clearance if the site adjacent to the New Inn and a multi purpose building with a central worship facility to be created exactly where Walkden’s first Methodist Chapel had been sited. This continued the name St Andrews Methodist Church until the closure of Memorial Road Church brought back the name Walkden Methodist Church, now the only Methodist site in central Walkden.
Over the years Methodist Churches have amalgamated to form our current day church. The past members and congregations remain at our hearts and grateful for their sharing of faith and spreading God’s word through generations in Walkden. The churches and members we continue to remember and follow in their footsteps are:
- Trinity Methodist Church (Whittlebrook Weslyan Methodist Church)
- Whittlebrook Methodist Church (Whittlebrook Primative Methodist Church)
- Walkden Moor Methodist Church (Wesleyan)
- Walkden Methodist Church (Primitive) –
- Memorial Road Methodist Church – until 2002 as amalgamation with St Andrews on current church site
- St Andrews Methodist Church – Amalgamation of Walkden Moor & Walkden in 1960’s in the Primitive Church Building until 2002 as Walkden Methodist Church through amalgamation with Memorial Road Methodist Church in the current Church building