The Opening of the New Chapel & Sunday School
The new Chapel in Princess Street was opened on 11th May, 1865 – at a total cost of £2,680. It was designed by a Knutsford architect, Thomas Read Clements, and built by Mr. Isaac Massey, contractor from Alderley Edge. As originally built the tower carried a 70ft. spire. Friends came from a wide area for the opening ceremony, and the railway company assisted by reducing fares. The opening sermon, which made a great impression on a crowded Chapel, was preached by Rev. Dr. George Osborn, President of the Conference.
The new Sunday School had already opened some two months previously (on 14th March). It had by this time more than 120 pupils on the books, with a good staff of teachers, most of whom were members of the Methodist Society. The Sunday School premises were used, from their opening, as a Day School at a rent of £10 a year to the Chapel Trust. This arrangement continued for twenty two years, until 1887, when the Day School closed.
It had long been the tradition for the Sunday School to be held on each Sunday afternoon but in the mid-1960s this arrangement changed. The timing was altered so as to be concurrent with the Sunday morning Services. This meant that parents and children came together in the morning to church, spending the first part of the service as a family, the children then going on to their separate ‘Junior Church’ (as it became called).
The Disposal of the Old Chapel
The ‘old’ chapel, described as ‘the Chapel and School in Well Garden, Nether Knutsford’, was sold at a public auction, held in the Royal George Hotel on Wednesday, 16 August, 1865. Currently, no information is to hand regarding the name of the purchaser.It is known, however, that the sale did not proceed as straightforwardly as expected, which caused the Trustees a cash-flow problem in clearing the new chapel’s debts. In fact it was not until ten years after its opening that these were finally paid off, completed by a gift of £100 from Rev. and Mrs. Church on behalf of the latter’s late sister, Miss Jane Borrows (once proprietor of the Cross Keys Inn).
Another ‘New’ Chapel?
In 1894, when the second chapel was barely 29 years old, there was evidently very serious concern about the safety of the building. So much so that at a Special Trustees Meeting held in the April of that year it was agreed, “in view of the present unsafe condition of the chapel and schools it is expedient that a scheme should be formulated for the erection of a new chapel and schools.”
At a further meeting of the Trustees two years later the promises of two gifts, each of £1000, were confirmed, together with an offer of £1,250 for the existing chapel. Furthermore, a proposed location for the new building was approved. This was the site of an existing dwelling house on the other side of Princess Street, more or less opposite to the ‘unsafe’ chapel. However, following the death of one of the main benefactors before his promise was secured, the Trustees concluded that the project was no longer a practicable one.
The concern must have been a serious one at the time and yet the fact is that the building has continued to stand safely for more than a century (so far) since that oddly unresolved position was concluded in 1896. Significant structural alterations and strengthening have occurred over the years since, and it is possible that other remedial works might have been carried out (more successfully than expected) at the time.