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New Row Methodist, Livesey
in the County of
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New Row Methodist Church
New Row Methodist Church

History of the Church

Dedicated to the Church at New Row with gratitude for all the friendship and Christian Love experienced over many years.
Ernest Ford
May 1968

From then, Until now - 1968

Some historical facts of the Christian witness of New Row Methodist Church Little is known about the early beginnings of the Methodist cause at New Row there being no early records to refer to. What is know, however, is that in the year 1805, the Tockholes and New Row societies joined. Originally this band of Christians held their services in a cottage at the 'Peak' (commonly know as 'Owd Moggies'). This is the highest spot for miles around, having commanding views of the surrounding districts of Darwen and Blackburn, with Tockholes and the Fylde coast on the opposite sides. The formation of these two societies it is thought was the outcome of John Wesley's visit to Darwen some years earlier. The meeting place was changed later to a house in 'Farmers Row' now called 'Ashleigh Road'. The 'Charity Sermons' we learn were held each year in a field at the top of the road in a sort of open air meeting.

It is obvious that the cause grew for in the year 1828, the accommodation it seems was inadequate and it was decided to build a chapel. Differences of opinion seem to have arisen as to where the new chapel should be built (no planning permission being required) and it was only by a majority of one that the site of the present building was decided upon in preference to one in Heys Lane. The outer walls of the building are a yard in thickness and were erected and roofed in six weeks time. We are told that occupation took place within forty-two days from the cutting of the first sod. The site upon which the chapel was built together with land for burial purposes, were the gift of a Mr. G. W. Turner, who was a prosperous calico printer with a business in Stakes Hall, Mill Hill. He was also Member of Parliament for the Borough of Blackburn, and an inscription over the door of the chapel shows his initials. G. W. T. 1828. Outwardly the chapel had a barnlike appearance as can be seen from the old photograph now on the wall of the chapel vestry. Every year prior to the Sunday School anniversary a coat of whitewash was applied to the outside walls. Inside the building was colour washed and the cheerlessness somewhat relieved by a big coal stove in the centre. Seating arrangements comprised backless forms arranged in winter as near to the stove as possible and the lighting was by means of tallow candles arranged round the room at convenient places by the congregation.

The Date Stone at New Row Methodist Church
The Date Stone at New Row Methodist Church

As the service proceeded flickering candles were replaced by new ones. A few years later a gallery across the back of the building was erected to seat the growing congregation. Again in 1845 the place became too small for the numbers attending and the gallery was enlarged by extending it down each side. About 1879 a new pulpit, organ and choir stalls were put in at an outlay of £200, and the graveyard extended at the same time. The year 1883 saw gas lighting substituted for candles and although this early type of illumination was by means of a flat gas burner it was much better than the candles. However a little later with the idea of the incandescent mantle being used the lighting became much improved. It did bring its problems for quite often afterwards when the more excitable preacher occupied the pulpit and he proceeded to emphasize his point with a sharp blow on the bookrest, a shower of broken gas mantle would fall down, much to the discomfort of the choir members sitting below, as the same time putting the pulpit into semi-darkness. In 1884 a fund was started for renovation of the chapel and for a more modern type of heating apparatus. The backless seats were dispensed with and the building re-roofed, a vestry added to the side of the chapel and another half an acre of land added to the burial ground at a cost of £400. At the beginning of this century a new floor was put in and the interior thoroughly renovated. 1905 brought the centenary and to commemorate this event two stained glass windows were placed in the north end of the chapel. In the year 1913 the chapel was again decorated and a large plot of land purchased for extensions to the burial ground estimated to last for seventy years. Events over the past fifty years have proved just how wrong this estimation was. Up to the first world war improvements and additions were made costing over £2,500. The coming of the war brought most activities of chapel and school to a standstill and the emphasis was mainly on 'Keeping the home fires burning until the boys came home'. After the first world war ended it was decided to erect an institute as a ware memorial and to provide suitable amenities for the menfolk to spend their leisure hours in healthy and sociable surroundings. An ex-army hut was purchased and erected on land near to the bottom of Heys Lane. The room was furnished with chairs and a billiard table and was heated by a coke stove. The total cost including furnishing was £500, an in addition there was a debt on the trust account of £1,100, incurred through the purchase of land for the extension of the burial ground.

In the year 1920 a two-day bazaar was held in the schoolroom which raised over £500 and during the next few years sufficient funds were raised to clear these debts, a creditable achievement, but in those days the number of scholars and members belonging to New Row was over 130 people. About 1933 electricity was made available to the chapel and so the changes from tallow candles and gas to more up-to-date lighting and heating was completed. An electric organ blower was installed, and the church again renovated and another plot of land added to the burial ground. Throughout all these years the spiritual witness of the church continued whilst the Sunday School was an influence in the lives and homes of many families in the district. In between times New Row church along with Ewood and Griffin Street, was transferred from the Darwen circuit to which it had been attached since the beginning, to the Blackburn circuit. Many old associations and contacts were thus severed, yet there are names that are still remembered, Townsend, Marsden, Raine, Kershaw, Walsh, Rowley, to mention only a few. New fellowship and friendliness were found among the Methodist people of Blackburn. 1939 say the beginning of World War 11, and those years brought their problems, service in the forces, civil defence, war work, blackout, etc. As could only be expected the work of the school and church was very much curtailed, but there were also moments of cheer and encouragement. The billiard tables in the institute were dismantled and the building was used for all social activities. One remembers with a great deal of pleasure the concerts and socials which brought much happiness and cheer to countless numbers of people during those dark years. The war ended but things had changes, no longer was there any demand for the institute as a focal point for men only, as a result it remained as the centre of most of the social activities of the church. In the years since the war, like most other churches New Row has found the going hard. Caught up in the changes of political, economic and social life, the people of today seem to have little time for religion or churches, consequently the burden of keeping the work alive has fallen on fewer shoulders. A great deal has been done however, for in 1957 the church was decorated and new windows installed, and a few years later the trustees decided that the institute which had fallen in disrepair should be replaced by a new building. Thanks to the efforts of our people who had been working for some time to raise sufficient funds, a new cedarwood building was erected in 1962. It was opened free from debt at a cost of £2,500, and the land upon which it stands was given to the trustees by the late Mr. W. Mellor. This new church hall is now the centre of all our meetings and social activities. Not long ago the old method of using coal and coke for heating the chapel was dispensed with and automatic oil-firing installed thereby removing a very tiring and irksome job especially during the winter months.

In the last year the old chapel has taken on a new look. The outside walls have been pebble dashed and the surrounds and windows painted, whilst the inside has been renovated carpets have been laid along the front and centre aisles. The latter were a gift to the chapel from the Sunday School. While the chapel has never perhaps looked as smart the graveyard as was foreseen by some, becomes more and more a problem. Graves become neglected as relatives and families move away or become extinct and as more people use cremation as the means of disposal internments in the graveyard become less frequent with a subsequent loss of income. A substantial amount has been spent re-surfacing the paths and cleaning up the front of the yard, but more remains to be done. Recently the Sunday morning services have incorporated the major part of the Sunday School which now takes the form of family worship, another sign of the changes taking place around us. These changes remind us of so many things which years ago were the highlights of the church and school life. The Sunday School anniversary when the children 'sat up' in white, and overflow services were held in the chapel yard. The field day and procession round the district led by the brass band. IF the weather was bad, coffee and buns were served in the chapel while the band played selections sat in the galley upstairs. On Christmas Day there was the annual tea party which was usually a meat tea with fruit and sweet. Three long tables were erected in the school with seating along each side and it was usually necessary to have three sittings to cater for everybody present. The tea was followed by the prize distribution and a concert given by the scholars. Also on Christmas morning coffee and buns were served in the school to scholars who cared to have them. We remember the choir sermons held each year which often took the form of a service of song, the preacher reading the story from the book and music from the choir at selected intervals completing the service. Once each year the choir were given a picnic as a thank you for the services throughout the year. This in later years took the form of a trip by coach to some seaside resort or beauty spot, mostly on Whit Monday. This story of New Row Church is by no means a complete one, nor is it only descriptive of the growth and development of land and buildings. It is also a record of the witness of loyal and faithful servants of God who with love and devotion served their Master in this Methodist cause established here on the loft and breezy heights of Livesey, then a small handloom weaving hamlet, more than 160 years ago. Who served the cause at New Row previous to 1870 is not recorded, but in this year the names of John Neville and John Heatley are mentioned as superintendents and Henry Foulds as secretary. A little later the names of Robert Ainsworth and Rev. J. E. Gray also appear, along with Robert Worswick, who was succeeded by E. C. Coulthurst, a loyal worker for over thirty years. A treasurer to the trustees was John Riding, eventually followed by A. Standing and J. J. Barlow. Other names are recorded as holding office, among these are John Kellet, Henry Hunt, John Cooper, Edmund Hunt, Edward Johnston, and Richard Walsh who held a number of offices for many years, and who died as recently as 1966 aged 90 years. There were others too, both men and women, who served the church and school with loyalty and devotion. These pioneers were men and women of deep religious convictions who laboured for the faith they held. For this we thank God, for the future we trust Him.

A prayer of thanks for the past
Praise God for the names we know
And they whose names have perished
Lost in the haze of long ago
In silent love be cherished
In peace their sacred ashes rest
Fulfilled their days endeavour
They blest the earth and they are blest
Of God and men for ever.

A prayer for the future
Oh King of Kings; Oh Lord of hosts
Our fathers God and ours
Be with us in the future years and if
The tempest lowers
Look through the cloud with light of love
And smile our tears away
And Lead us through the brightening years
To Heaves eternal day
E. F.

These names are recorded of Ministers who have served New Row Church:-

John Rhodes
Joseph Stinger
Francis Hewitt
J. Haughton
J. H. Pawlin
J. E. Gray
G. M. C. Fish
G. W. Polkinghorne
John Hunt
W. B. Milward
C. H. Pitt
A. W. Wardle
C. Wildeblood
George Brown
A. J. Cull
J. W. Uttley
W. H. Stevens
J. E. Sheppard
F. R. Stopard
C. Brown
K. Bounds

The present minister is the Rev. G. W. S. Knowles, M.A.
The present Trustees Secretary is Mr. E. Ford, and the present Trust Treasurer is Mr. H. Pilling.

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