In an article by J.A. Roby about Ellen Weeton, the formation of Hope Chapel is attributed to the disaffection of members of St Paul Independent Chapel in Standishgate to the extreme Calvinism of the minister, the Revd. Alexander Steill (Past Forward [Newsletter of the Wigan Heritage Service] issue 28 Summer 2001).
In December 1813 the Revd. John Ralph, the Protestant Dissenting Minister of Bethesda Chapel in Liverpool came to Wigan and became the minister to a congregation who met in the Bear’s Paw in Wallgate until the first Hope Chapel on Mesnes Lane was opened in 1818 (SD582059). The foundation document reads:-
“We the Undersigned forming Ourselves into a Christian Church on the Independent Plan professing to believe the Doctrinal Articles contained in the Westminster Assembly’s Chatechism to be Scriptural - Now Assembling for the Public Worship of Almighty God in the Bears Paw Room, Wallgate, Wigan. The commencement of our regular Organization was on the 18th November 1814.
John Ralph Minister
On another page is recorded:-
“Admitted by the Church when formed -
James Hagan [possibly Fagan]
William Brown. not objected to
Ann Greenough. to wait a little
Richard Barclay. to [wait a] little
Moss Goose Green
Thos Lowe Goose Green”
The original chapel was replaced in 1889 and that building demolished in 1973 when the Hope Chapel and St Paul’s Chapel congregations reunited.
The Chapel Registers
On the 23 January 1837, William Marshall the Minister of the Congregational or Independent Hope Chapel in the Borough of Wigan, completed a questionnaire for the ‘Commissioners for enquiring into the State, Custody and Authenticity of Non-parochial Registers’ and signed along with Edmd. Aston, and Chas. Savage (Deacons). They sent two register books to the commissioners. The baptism and birth records presented here have been extracted from an LDS film of the two registers, which are now housed in the National Archives (Public Record Office) in London. The registers originally had no page numbers, but were stamped when archived (two leaves per page).
The first register book covers the 1802-1823 period, with pages of baptisms numbered consecutively and consistently from 7 through 40 (Pages 1-3 are the questionnaire and 4-5 extra details). It is a hybrid register. When John Ralph left Bethesda Chapel in Liverpool he brought the baptism register with him (a copy was retained in Liverpool) and continued using the book for Wigan baptisms. The first 130 baptisms in the book were in Liverpool from 1802 through 27 Nov 1813. From 2 Jan 1814 through 11 Jun 1822 the next 152 baptisms were at Wigan.
John Ralph died in 1822 and was succeeded by Revd. William Marshall who soon opened a new printed-pages register. The last 13 baptisms of the first book were duplicated in the new book and only the 2nd register records are transcribed here. The stamped pages of the 2nd register (pages 2-27) have 226 baptisms from 11 Aug 1822 to 17 Aug 1837.
At the end of the entries for 1817 on page 28 the following surnames Howard, Johnson, Taylor, Layland and Lone are written as though baptisms were intended or possibly performed, but no other information was recorded. This also happened at the end of 1813 for one surname Vincen on page 20.
Signature of Parents
It was the practice after the introduction of the 2nd book for parents to sign the Hope Chapel baptism register. In many cases it appears that the handwriting for both father and mother are in the same hand; most likely the husband signed on behalf of his illiterate wife. We have indicated where this is likely but it must be stressed that this is a statement of opinion only, and should be verified if it seems important.