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Bistre Methodist Chapel"

Bistre Methodist Church, Spon Green, Buckley


The Centenary Story of the Bistre 'Providence' Methodist Chapel, Lane End, Buckley, Clwyd.


We celebrate in May 1979 the Centenary of the opening of our present Chapel - The Foundation Stones were laid on August 3rd, 1878, and it was officially opened on May 10th 1879, and at the time it was a member Chapel of the Methodist New Connexion denomination. In 1953 we celebrated the 'Centenary of the Cause at Bistre' and at the time I compiled a short history, which was published in a 24 page booklet. It was quite a difficult task, because unfortunately all kinds of papers, books, documents etc., connected with the Cause had been either destroyed or lost. I had to look for outside sources of information - the most useful source proved to be the files of the Chester Chronicle which was first published in the year 1775, plus the recollections of the older members who were alive at the time.


In the course of my researches into the History of Non-conformity in Buckley and the surrounding district (after I retired in 1968) I found many new and additional facts which actually altered the story of Bistre Chapel, and for that matter other chapels in the area, especially with regard to the 'dating' of many events. I found that our sister Chapel Pentrobin was much older than was accepted, and had in fact been a Wesleyan Methodist Cause in the Chester St. John's Methodist Circuit towards the end of 18th Century and beginning of the 19th Century. It was a member Chapel in the circuit as far back as 1788 - this fact I discovered in a schedule book of the circuit at the Chester City Record Office covering the years 1788 to 1835. The Pentrobin people left the Wesleyan denomination and joined the first breakaway group from the Wesleyans after the death of John Wesley (1791) and they joined the Methodist New Connexion which was formed by Alexander Kilham in 1797. This denomination grew very quickly in the North West and our Pentrobin friends must have joined in 1835 or soon after - 1835 being the last date on which their chapel appeared in the schedule book. With regard to Bistre I found no evidence of any connection with the Wesleyans like Pentrobin. However, my research to date reveals that it started before 1853 as a Cause. I am certain it started as a Methodist New Connexion Chapel, and some very old friends in the 1920's told me that Pentrobin was largely responsible for the Bistre Cause starting. When it actually started I cannot say as I have found no definite evidence. The earliest reference to Bistre I found in the 'Chronicle' files, in a report not about Bistre, but of an event which took place at Hawarden Chapel (which like Pentrobin had been a Wesleyan Cause). The report appeared in 1896 and gave details of a Memorial Service held at Hawarden Chapel, and it quoted in detail an appreciation of one John Lee who was a member at Hawarden and died in June 1896 - the date of the service was August 22nd and I will quote the relevant information from the report as follows:


'Hawarden - Funeral Sermon.' 'On Sunday evening last the Rev. E. L. Perry, resident minister conducted a service of Remembrance to a large congregation following the death of Mr. John Lee on June 12th last at the age of 72, whose early days had been spent at Hawarden. Mr. Lee always displayed a thirst for knowledge, and devoted much time to Bible study. He first joined the Methodist New Connexion at Lane End, Buckley in 1842 and became a Sunday School teacher. This report tells he joined the Methodist New Connexion at Lane End in 1842 - this established fact that the Bistre Cause was in being in that year. How many years before that date it had been established we don't know - it could have been 10, 20 or more years before he joined, bringing its beginnings to the early 19th century. This means that our 1953 Centenary Celebrations were belated and mistaken, but to pursue this subject is not the object of this exercise but to tell the story of the events we are actually celebrating - the Centenary of our present Chapel.


I would like to quote from the Chronicle report dated August 3rd 1878 giving details of the laying of the foundation stones of the present chapel - I am quoting part of the report as follows:- 'It is but a little over twenty years since the Methodist New Connexion friends first made a move towards the building of a place of worship in the populous and neglected district of Bistre. The person whose name stands out amongst the rest is the late William Hughes, and he built the first House. That building was subsequently enlarged and now is the present Chapel, and this has become too small to afford the necessary conveniences to the Congregation worshipping therein.'


On February 6th 1862 William Hughes made his will (this will was contested by his family unsuccessfully) and it contained the following passage. 'I do and bequeath the Chapel which I have erected near my large house to the use of the Methodist New Connexion, free of incumbrances for ever, and pray God that it may be a blessing to the neighbourhood.' It seems as though William Hughes built the small Chapel as part of his house, before he died, for his Methodist New Connexion to worship in and willed it to them after his death. A Chronicle report of 1872 tells how a Rev. John Williams (a Methodist New Connexion Minister, who had been brought up in his younger days at Bistre Chapel) when speaking at a meeting in the old Chapel stated that he remembered an 'old barn being used in the early days as a place of worship.' This must have been before William Hughes stepped in and provided better accommodation - he died in 1864, two years after making his will - he was a local Timber Merchant with a yard at Lane End.


After he died members continued to use the chapel he provided but it was not until the year 1872 that we find the members setting up their first board of Trustees to control their new building and its worshippers. They appointed eight trustees - names as follows:- John Williams - Builder and Contractor - Lane End - Buckley. Thomas Williams - Grocer etc. Lane End, Buckley. William Peters - Collier - Meg's Lane, Buckley. Hugh Hodge - Farmer - Mostyn. Henry Luke Estob - Gentleman - Aston - Hawarden. Edward Roberts - Cordwainer (Shoemaker and repairer) Wepre. Joseph Hall - Painter - Castle Cottage - Flint. Joseph Grime - Cordwainer - Flint. Several interesting facts are revealed regarding this Board of Trustees. First - all these original trustees with the exception of Thomas Williams and Henry Luke Estob were active local preachers. Second - all the trustees with the exception of William Peters were in business on their own account, or of independent means. Third - only three members were Buckley men - the remainder were outsiders, from other chapels in the Connexion around the area (similar to all the other Non-conformist denominations which started in the area) they had trustees from outside the district. The reason seems to be that these people were people of means, well able to help and support the local causes in the early difficult days when they first began.


The first thing this new body of Trustees did was to take stock of their Cause - they found they had 160 Sunday school scholars and 13 teachers on their register, with accommodation for 140, which was a very unsatisfactory position, and the second step was the decision to remedy the situation by providing themselves with new and more commodious premises for their fast growing congregation and Sunday School. Before building their new Chapel they enlarged their original Chapel in 1872 - this is revealed by the plaque on the Spon Green side of the Sunday School. In the mid 1870s they soon realised the inadequacy of their property, and in 1875 decided to build a new and larger chapel. On December 9th 1876 the decision was finally taken, and from a document in the Circuit safe, signed by William Peters, Thomas Wainwright and Thomas Williams they purchased a parcel of land from Elizabeth Ratcliffe of Hawarden including cottages and other buildings on the site - they paid £140 for the lot. The cottages consisted of the Caretaker's Cottage, the Vestry, and the other two cottages sited where the organ and communion area now stands. They decided to pull down two of the cottages which were side by side with the original chapel (now the Sunday school) leaving the vestry and caretaker's cottage still standing on the Brickfield side.


The new chapel was erected with its rear in line with the side of the old chapel. Behind the pulpit was a stained or painted window, set in a three section folding screen which opened up the Sunday school and when they were removed the entire pulpit and communion area - which was fitted with wheels on a short track, which enabled it to be pushed back into the Sunday School by about a yard - thus making it possible on special occasions, i.e. Sunday School Anniversaries, for the enlarged congregation to be in front of and behind the preacher. The year 1878/9 saw the beginning of the final development when the Foundation Stones were laid on August 3rd 1878 and it was planned for same to be opened in February 1879 or, at latest, early March but the opening did not take place until May 10th 1879.


The reason for this delay was described by a Chronicle reporter as the 'Worst Winter in living memory.' The weather was so cold and frosty that brickworks, potteries and even local collieries were closed down for several weeks. In these days of work, with no compensation of any kind, and consequently the poorer people were hard up, short of food and heat, with the result there was much sickness and death in the area. The amazing thing about this time was the fact that workers from Buckley's Industries who were members, were very frustrated atnot being able to contribute as they would have wished because of their poverty. Nevertheless, through great sacrifice and voluntary service they succeeded despite the weather and the economic vicissitudes of the times.


The chapel opening was reported by the Chronicle which have details of speakers, preachers etc. and mentioned that when the stones were laid they had receipts of £260-2-9. The cost of the project was £820 and the builder was John Williams - who was an original trustee and later became one of Buckley's first County Councillors in the 1890s. Bistre Chapel was a chapel with a great musical tradition revealed by its splendid choirs down the years - led most of the time by members of the Wainwright family. I found in the Chronicle that a member of the Wainwright family organised an orchestra to accompany the singing at services, and Thomas Wainwright organised a 'Drum and Fife' Band. In 1913 they decided to install a Pipe Organ - it was happening in chapels all over the country about this time. In some chapels members did everything they could to prevent this innovation, but Bistre was not opposed to the idea. They ordered it from Peter Conacher & Company at a cost of £550 and part of this amount was covered by a gift from the new Carnegie endowment fund. The organ was officially opened and used for the first time by a rising young Welsh Musician on Saturday May 24th 1913. Doctor Caradoc Roberts (Mus.Doc.Oxon) who gave an organ recital and played for the weekend services. The late Tom Cropper in his book on Buckley and District described Bistre organ in the following words. 'It had a balanced sweetness of tone and is one of the most soothing instruments in the district'.


The new 'Providence' Chapel was built in 1878-1879 but under great difficulty and with great sacrifices on the part of its members, and is still functioning today with regular services in the Chapel and a successful Sunday School. Its congregations today are, as elsewhere, ageing ones and tragically young people are not found as the majority of congregations, but Bistre is fortunate in having a good team of young people who are giving their time and talents in both Church and Sunday school, especially in the latter sphere which is the most important area of activity. We are all very pleased that for this Historic occasion we have been able to re-design and re-build our Sunday school during the last three years and to have the Chapel itself re-decorated so that we now have a very attractive place of worship. Whilst Bistre is not one of the oldest Causes in the town it has been a very vital and progressive one and I feel we have a big responsibility and must re-capture the spirit of our pioneers who made it this type of Cause.


They set us a standard of conduct and pattern of living - they lived simple, kindly lives and one hundred years later it is up to us to re-capture this spirit and emulate them by revealing to our fellow citizens that there is a better way - the Christian way of life which can be an exciting way of life. This attitude and spirit of adventure seems to be lacking in the Churches of all denominations and consequently they are less attractive to the young - who want to live creative and adventuresome lives to the full, whereas everything in the churches seems to young people to be so cold and documented and formalised. The big question for the churches to break what it would describe as the 'Red Tape' of organised religion and substitute a religion of worship which expresses itself in servicing, caring, loving, reconciling, kindness, sharing together life's joys and troubles , bearing one another's burdens. This could greatly enrich life for all - for both the giver and receiver. It could awake in many receivers a great desire to return to share etc. and this would make the Churches more attractive to young people who would desire to be part of a vital and living organisation - working and sharing in its work.


In conclusion, I would like to quote from a well-known poem used by most churches today as a hymn - written by the well-known American Quaker poet, John Greenleaf Whittier, because they express most beautifully the spirit and reality of the active and true Christian Church, the membership of which are devoted without stint to the work of Jesus of Nazareth - the example supreme for mankind:


'O Brother man, fold to thy heart thy brother! Where pity dwells, the Peace of God is there;

'To worship rightly is to love each other, Each smile a hymn, each kindly deed a prayer'

'Follow with reverent steps the great example of Him whose holy work was doing good;

'So shall the wide earth seem our Father's Temple, Each life a Psalm of gratitude. 'Then shall all shackles fall; the stormy clangour of wild war-music o'er the earth shall cease;

'Love shall tread out the baleful fire of anger, and in its place plant the Tree of Peace.


Author: Duckworth, Charles


Year = 2002

Building = Religious

Extra = Architecture

Extra = 2000s

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