The first Ellerdine Methodists met in their cottages on the common as early as 1795. Many were “common squatters” who had come from the surrounding districts and erected their rough dwellings on a piece of the common land in the local area. Some were artisans whose trade was diminishing or no longer needed, and they came to set up their homes on the common land which they could till, supply their meagre wants and, most importantly, could feel independent. It was to folk such as these that Methodism made its appeal. To these people the opening of the Emmanuel Chapel at Ellerdine Heath must have been the event of their lives after so many years of toil and saving.
The Chapel opened on the 28th March 1813, 22 years after the death of John Wesley, on a piece of land bought from William Cliff for £30. This would have been a great achievement when wages were less than 50 pence a week. The original trustees were T Brocas, J Thomas, T Harris, R Whitewell, J Harris, Wm Harper, Wm Wellings and John Gollins.
In 1816, more building work was underway and a gallery was installed supported by “two iron pillars”. The cost was in the region of £60 and Benjamin Nicklin was paid £3/10/4d for 26 days labour – 17p per hour!
In the 1840s the size of the congregation fell after the visit of William Clowes to Ellerdine. William was one of the founders of Primitive Methodism – often irreverently called Ranterism – and some of the congregation left to become Primitive Methodists. A Primitive Methodist Church – Bethel – further along the lane was eventually built in 1847. It was not until 1855 that the collections at Emmanuel Chapel were back at the level they were before 1840.
There are some fascinating entries in the early accounts. In 1826 they bought the cleaner, Elizabeth Edwards a new broom for 3/6d (18p). A new kettle cost 2/4d (12p) and the charge for cleaning the clock was 2/6d (13p). In the 1840s the chapel keeper was William Bonell and William Wellings was the “clock repairer”. In the 1850s the candles (no oil lamps yet!) cost 4/2d (21p). In 1864 Mr Vaughan was paid 1/- (5p) for grooming the preacher’s horses. A harmonium was bought in 1869 for £4/10/-, and three years later the Bible for pulpit cost 13/-. The railway was opened in 1868 and soon we read that the expenses for the Rev G Smith to come by train were 8 1/2d. New technology arrived in 1875 when oils cans, snuffers and paraffin were first purchased for the oil lamps; but they continued to buy candles for another 5 years. In 1876 Ellein Peplow was paid 5/- for the “extra trouble” she had to put up with during the Revival Services. From 1889 we find that the Sunday School was giving the chapel £1 a year and the sum of 16/- a year was set aside for hiring horses, we assume, to fetch the local preachers to their services. In 1891 the Chapel was registered for weddings and the chapel clock cost 15/8d to buy.
When the Centenary of the Chapel was celebrated the Wellington Journal reported that in about 1887 “a comprehensive scheme of renovation was taken in hand, the original gallery being removed, the building repaired and reseated with the addition of a new school room”. Still more recently, in 1900, extensive repairs, and additions to the caretaker’s house, additional classrooms for the Sunday school staff. The roof was in need of repairs and the premises required renovation. The estimated cost of the work amounted to £140.
The weather for the Centenary celebrations was favourable and friends from near and far filled the sanctuary. Afternoon worship was led by Rev H Gregory from Birmingham Mission – he preached “an able sermon”. At 5.15 the congregation went to the Primitive Methodist Schoolroom for tea – “the assembly more than twice filled the building”. A contingent of ladies – “experts in their craft” – was kept busy for some time. In a nearby field belonging to George Wilkes, the Sunday School scholars were catered for by their teachers and friends. Rev A Lloyd unmasked his camera and took photographs of juveniles and adults. Mr T Gregory from Roden chaired the evening meeting. He was supported by the Revs W J Maund, A Lloyd, H Gregory and Mr Mills (from Southport – formerly Headmaster at Ellerdine Day Schools and “always a welcome presence”). At the end of the day Mr E E Bray announced the collections for the day amounted to nearly £15. Rev A Lloyd of Hadley conducted Sunday services.
In 1938 when the 125th Anniversary was celebrated the officials included Mr J Gollins and Mr J Cliff (class leader), descendants of two of the original trustees. Others were Percy Taylor (Society Steward), Mr A Pearce ( Trust Steward and treasurer), Miss Taylor (organist), Mr John Tudor and Mr S Corbett (senior trustees) and Mr Wm Jones (secretary to the trust). Celebrations began on Sunday with morning and evening services led by Mr W J Dutton of Nantwich. On Wednesday there was a full day of activity, beginning with worship led by Mr A Gregory of Wolverhampton (recent president of Local Preachers Mutual Aid Associations) and Mr G A Nicholas of London and representatives of other local Methodist Churches. Tea was served in the Primitive Methodist schoolroom; Mrs Taylor was helped by many friends in making the arrangements admirable. A mass meeting in the evening looked at the history of the church taken from the records dating back to 1825 and from the reminiscences compiled by the late Mr C H Gollins. The address was give by Mr Gregory and the Rev Williamson of Prees Green Circuit expressed greetings from his churches Other speakers included Rev Grant Tyler and Mr J Cliff. The church had recently been redecorated and proposals for installing a new heating apparatus were outlined. The singing of the choir were very much appreciated and the collections were “very satisfactory”.
The 150th anniversary was celebrated in 1968. For the past 20 years, the congregations of the Wesleyan and Primitive Churches, had held united services in each other’s church on a weekly basis. The Sunday services were conducted by a former minister if the Wellington circuit, Rev Sidney J Bampton of Wigan Mission. On Wednesday, the Rev Leonard Tudor, head of the Home Mission Department, London, preached in the afternoon. Tea was served by the ladies from both congregations in the Bethel Schoolroom. Mr Harold Griffiths presided over the evening meeting when the chapel was packed. In September, the congregations joined to form one society. The Rev Leonard Tudor was the preacher. The Rev De Visne, superintendent minister, brought greetings from the Wellington Circuit and read a letter from Rev Colin Roberts who was the speaker at the 1913 celebrations. Mr W B Jones thanked all who had helped make the anniversary such a success. Miss H Taylor was the organist at all services.
Although small in number, the present congregation is devoted to “their Emmanuel Chapel”. Over the last 30 years much has been done to maintain and improve the premises. The sanctuary had a new heating system and false ceiling; the buildings have been rewired and redecorated. The area around the pulpit has been raised up and a much improved communion rail fitted. Double-glazing has been fitted throughout the house and Chapel and last year, a new fitted kitchen and oil fired central heating were installed in the house. Car parking was much improved when the railings and wall were removed. During this time, the congregation has made its presence felt in the village in roles such as being members of the village hall committee and W.I., organising the local Flower Show and helping run the Forget-me-not Club. The Millennium was celebrated by the congregation visiting every house in the area and presenting the occupiers with a copy of a New Testament Gospel. As members of Ellerdine Methodist Chapel we also maintain an active presence in Circuit events ranging from attending meetings to raising money for underpriviledged children at the Easter Market. There are good relations with the local Anglican Church at Rowton and each year the congregations combine for their Good Friday and Easter Sunday services.
Our 190th Anniversary is a stepping stone in the continuing Christian witness at Ellerdine Chapel. Why not join us as we travel towards out 200th Anniversary!