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Article extracted from "One Hundred Years of Worship" by kind permission, and compiled by Greville Watson 2007

Independent Wesleyan Chapel:
History to the building

The first Wesleyan Chapel to be built in Rushden in 1828 was near the Village Green, which was where the War Memorial is now situated.  This building accommodated 40–60 people.  Prior to this time the Wesleyans existed as part of the Methodist Movement but on becoming non-connexional they became independent, building their own chapel.

When the congregation outgrew this they moved to Mr. Soames’ barn in Duck Street.  This again became too small and in 1852 a larger hall was rented in Denton’s factory in George Street, which was from then known locally as Chapel Lane.  This was at a rent of £7.10s per year.

Rev. W. Griffiths, one of the ministers expelled after the break with the Methodists, opened this new meeting place and services were held here for 21 years.  In 1872, a temperance hall seating 250 people was built at a cost of £200 on the site of the present chapel in the High Street.  The opening service was lead by the Rev. Dr. Clifford.

The minutes of the church meeting held in 1887 is the first to indicate that they hoped to build a larger church on the High Street site.  Brother Claridge was charged with the purchase of 6 plots of land at a cost of 2s.6d per yard.  The vendor asked for 2s.7d but the trustees felt this was too high and refused.  After much haggling by both sides the trustees finally paid 3s.0d per yard!

A special meeting was called to make a recommendation to the church that a special effort should be made to raise the cash.  Two months later they only had £48.6s to raise.  Unfortunately a committee was formed to plan how to raise the last amount and they had much discussion before reaching the decision that they could not reach a decision!

However, it was at the Christmas morning meeting in 1886 that they decided that each member must pay 1d every week towards the cost of the new church and that this was a definite decision to build.  The population of Rushden during this time was growing quite dramatically from 2,500 in 1873 to 12,000 in 1898.

The stonelaying of the new chapel took place on September 27th 1898 in the presence of a large gathering.  Many ministers, including the President of the Wesleyan Reform Union, dignitaries of the town (then described as a village), laid stones.  Also stones were laid by members of church groups including representatives from the Ladies Sewing Meeting, the Sunday School, the Infants School, Adult Bible Class, the Young Ladies Sewing Class and the Band of Hope.

There were thirteen tenders received from builders and the company chosen were Messrs. Dickens, the architects being Preston and Wilson.  The joinery was sub-contracted to Rushden Machine Joinery Works, the plumbing to Mr. A. T. Nichols and the radiators were provided by Marriott’s.  The building is of red brick and Weldon stone.  The newspaper report of the day records that the convenience of the worshippers had been considered.  Accommodation was provided beneath the staircases for the disposal of overcoats and umbrellas to be especially appreciated on wet days.  The sides and the centre seats are raised in order that the congregation should escape draughts.  The seats are of pinewood and accommodate 750 people.

The new organ was built by Messrs. Martin and Coate of Oxford to the specification of Mr. J. Enos Smith, organist at the parish church.  It has 2 manuals and 18 stops also incorporating a perfect tubular pneumatic action invented by Mr. John Coate.

The purchase of the organ was not without problems.  When the church Trustees decided to withhold payment for some period, the builders refused to deliver the organ pipes.  They eventually arrived only a few days before the opening ceremony.  The final payment for the organ was made a year after delivery and only after the Trustees ensured they were pleased with it.

There were several gifts made to the church at this time; the architects Messrs. Preston and Wilson generously donated the pitch pine pulpit; the Young Ladies Sewing Class furnished the rostrum, the communion tables and rails; the Ladies Sewing Circle furnished the Minister’s Vestry and did all the upholstery; and members of the choir and the Bible Class undertook to furnish the choir room.

An old photograph showing the interior
An old photograph showing the interior
The opening service took place on Thursday, 22nd February, 1900.  In the afternoon the Rev. Dr. Brown is reported to have preached an eloquent sermon and the service described as “of a very hearty nature”.  Mr. J. Smith, organist for the parish church, specially wrote the second hymn.

After the service a tea was held at a cost of 1s.6d [7.5p!] per couple and was provided by the Ladies Sewing Circle.  450 people sat down to eat.  Tea was followed by an organ recital at 6.30pm and was played by Mr. J. E. Smith.  A crowded congregation listened to a varied programme.  Then came the evening meeting!  Every part of the building was filled.  The Rev. T. J. Harper from Wellingborough led, and was supported by the Rev. Dr. Brown from Bedford, the chapel’s own minister, the Rev. T. Bancroft with Rev. Harris and the Rev. Stephens.  The chair said this was the culmination of what had been for him an “arduous yet happy ministry amongst them”.  He also noted that the growth of the church was commensurate to the growth of Rushden.  This brought a round of applause from the congregation.

George Denton in the 1890s
George Denton in the 1890s
Mr. Denton then reported that the total cost of the new building was over £2,500 and that £1,238.19s had been raised already although that included £200 that had been promised but not received!  The Rev. Brown commented on the lack of a clock and suggested that this showed great faith in their minister’s timing.  This oversight has since been amended!

The opening services then continued on the Sunday led by the Rev. Wright of Runcorn.  The newspaper reported that there were very large congregations and that they were characterised by great heartiness, also that the choir gave several selections throughout the day with great style.  During this day four collections were taken for the building fund!  Following the evening service Mr. George Fairy, of the old Baptist Church, held a further organ recital.

And so the new chapel of the Rushden High Street Independent Wesleyan began its work in the town.

Wright's Directory 1884
Independent Wesleyan Harmonium - Mr. Charles Hewitt

Chapel Keeper - Mr. Clarke

Wellingborough News, 13th July 1878, transcribed by Kay Collins

WELLINGBOROUGH CIRCUIT OF INDEPENDENT WESLEYAN CHURCHESThe quarterly meeting of the above circuit was held at Rushden, on Monday, the 24th ult., under the presidency of Bro. J. Barker, of Finedon. There was a large attendance of representatives from the churches, some of whom reported the prosperity of the work of God in their midst. The statistical returns shewed an increase of 32 members during the year, with 17 on trial. A unanimous invitation was given to Mr. T. Bromage, as circuit preacher, and the majority of the churches gave the invitation for three years, which Mr. Bromage accepted. The following brethren were appointed delegates to the annual meeting of the Wesleyan Reform Union, to be held in Northampton, on the 30th inst.:—Bro. T. Bromage, Wellingborough; Bro. C. Hewitt, Rushden; Bro. G. H. Burrows, Isham. Mr. G. Denton, with his usual hospitality, provided a sumptuous dinner and tea for the brethren.
Note: Thomas Bromage founded the Bible Class. He died in 1906 and was buried in Rushden Cemetery grvae B.646.
Rushden Argus, Friday 4th April, 1890

Rushden Local Intelligence
Independent Wesleyan Band of Hope — The Succoth Band of Hope paid a visit to the above Society on Wednesday. The Rev. W. E. Palmer, presided, and a good programme was well rendered, after which a hearty vote of thanks was accorded the visitors.

The New Wesleyan Chapel — The following tenders have been received for the new Wesleyan Chapel — Adnitt and Everard (Rushden), £2,100; Dawkins (Wellingboro’), £2,045; Bayes and Son (Rushden), £1,885; Higginbottom (Northampton), £1,940, Freeman and Son (Denford), £1,936; Clayson Bros. (Cooknoe), £1,978 10s.; Henson and Son (Finedon), £1,880; Brown and Son (Wellingborough) £1,850.

Rushden Echo and Argus, 18th February 1898, transcribed by Kay Collins

A PROGRESSIVE CAUSELast (Thursday) night a meeting of the trustees and leaders of the Independent Wesleyan Mission-room, Station-road, was held to consider the question of erecting a new chapel. Of late the mission-room has become utterly inadequate for the requirements of the congregation, which has been increasing in a most gratifying manner. One of the latest developments is the holding of morning as well as evening services on Sundays. The cause is thoroughly well equipped from, every standpoint. There is a strong choir under the leadership of Mr. J. S. Clipson; the Sunday School is carried on in a vigorous manner; and, there are meetings most evenings during the week. This week, for instance, a prayer meeting was held on Monday evening; a mission service on Tuesday; a meeting of the Young People's Society of Christian Endeavour on Wednesday; and a meeting of the Band of Hope last (Thursday) night, in addition to which there have been open-air services. It would seem that the friends of the cause are acting most wisely in deciding to erect a new chapel.

Rushden Echo, Friday July 15, 1898 transcribed Sue Manton

The demolition of the old Independent Wesleyan Chapel will shortly be commenced, to prepare a site for the new chapel. Mr. Ebenezer Claridge has kindly placed one of the rooms at his factory at the disposal of the Sunday School for the accommodation of the Infants’ class which has hitherto been held in the old schoolroom forming part of the old chapel.

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