Independent Methodist Chapel
Mealhouse Lane, Atherton
The chapel is on the north side of Mealhouse Lane just west of the intersection with Flapper Fold Lane, and on the corner of Fletcher Street, a small side street leading towards the old Howe Bridge Cotton Mills. The church in Atherton was founded in 1876, and celebrated its 123rd anniversary on 28 November 1999 (Lancashire Evening Telegraph, 3 Dec1999). The chapel on Mealhouse Lane dates originally from 1885 and was rebuilt in 1907.
Independent Methodism is an evangelical movement founded in South Lancashire in the early 19th century, and remains an essentially Northern English religious denomination. Its churches were usually located in industrial areas amongst the poorest of the population, and its members were very active in education, temperance work and the relief of poverty.
The baptism register of the Mealhouse Lane Chapel starts in 1883, and clearly shows the working class nature of the membership. 94% of the first 100 baptisms are the children of coal miners. Many of these men had come to Atherton from other coalfields, particularly in the Black Country and Forest of Dean. The modern church stresses an absence of any distinction between clergy and laity, as was obviously the case in the 19th century, for among the lay ministers who performed the baptisms were local colliers and labourers, some of whom signed their names with an X.
Resources for the Independent Methodist Chapel
Wigan History Shop holds microfilms of marriages 1933-1979, and baptisms 1883-1946, from which the data presented here were extracted.