Primitive Methodist Camp Meetings
The first recorded activity of Methodism reaching Hoole and Newton appears to be in 1866 when the National Conference of Primitive Methodists was held in Chester and its outdoor “camp meeting” was held on the Folly Field, which was adjacent to Folly House in Flookersbrook. This annual event was repeated over the next ten years. Newspaper reports suggest that thousands of people attended these rallies when three or four hay carts were placed in various parts of the Field to act as pulpits, in which as many as a dozen ministers were seated and they addressed the crowds in turn.
Wesleyan Methodist Bishopsfield Mission Room and Chapel in School Street
It was however the Wesleyan Methodists who had by 1876 formed a Society in Hoole and rented from August 1888 a shop in which to practice, who provided the first local place for Methodist worship. At a local preachers’ meeting held on the 21st November 1888 it was reported that the shop was too small, and it was resolved to rent a site opposite All Saints Church’s new school (School Street). The site, measuring 300 sq. yds, was rented at £5 per year for 3 years with the option of purchasing it at 6s per sq. yd at the end of the lease. The vendor was J.P. Court of Liverpool who was developing the estate of the late John Lightfoot which stretched from Lightfoot Street to Faulkner Street.A week later another meeting confirmed that the offer of Messrs. Wright of Kelsall to build a chapel of wood and iron on the site (similar to one at Oakmere) was accepted, the cost including fittings not to exceed £80. The Chapel was opened on the 9th January 1889 by Rev. A.H. Vine of Leeds with services at 3pm. and 7pm. 11,000 hand bills, 25 half sheets and 150 cards announcing the opening were printed. Mr. Dickinson (the chemist in Faulkner Street) was requested to act as the Society’s steward and appoint a chapel keeper.
In June 1889, a harmonium was purchased for £12, paid in four instalments. The bill written on the pharmacy paper of David Dickinson states that the money was raised by subscriptions, collections, concerts and magic lantern entertainment.
Bill for purchase of harmonium
In April 1890 Dr. Butt, Medical Officer of Health for Hoole, was asked to be involved. The guardians at that point were J.D. Bowers, J.S. Moss, W.J. Davies, R. Lamb and Jas. Walker. The chairman was Richard Peart. In October 1891 David Dickinson, having resigned his position moved that the mission be given up. In May 1895 it was recommended that a sum be sought from the Home and Foreign Missionary Collection, and that is the last entry in the minute book. The Chapel was presumably at some time demolished and it has been suggested that the erection of a more substantial chapel in Hamilton Street by the Primitive Methodists led to its closure.
Primitive Methodists in Faulkner Street and the Hamilton Street School Room
The first record entitled 'Primitive Methodist Chapel, Hoole' begins with the opening on Sunday evening 2nd November 1902 of a Mission Room in Faulkner Street, the preacher being Mr. B. Adams (likely to have been Beresford Adams). The record, which is a payments and receipt book, shows weekly collections from 2nd November of between 8s and 12s per week, and outgoings of 5s a week for rent, 1s for caretaking and 6d for the use of a lamp. The balance was sent to Mr. Kennerley who was the Treasurer.
Another account book entitled 'Hamilton Street 1901 to 1917' subtitled 'A branch of George Street' starts in July 1901, income being a loan from Rev. J. Travis of £725 and rent from a house in Hamilton Street of £24 per annum, this offset with expenditure on the purchase of a house and land for £648. Rev. James Travis was Superintendent of the first Chester Methodist circuit and became a national figure as President of the National Free Church Council.
It is not clear which house was bought but the land next to "Sunnyside" was to be the site of the future School Room and eventually the main Church. In 1903 Lockwood & Sons were paid £10 for plans submitted. British History On-line states that the School Room was designed by Henry Harper of Nottingham to be built of brick with stone dressings in a free gothic style. Henry Harper was the architect of many chapels built at this time.
In April 1903 income is shown from subscriptions, including some received at the stone laying, and expenditure at the School Room's opening in September includes £1 2s 6d for a gold-plated key presented to the opener, £4 10s for an American organ and money for publicity leaflets. The contractor was paid £1,200.
A Sunday School Minute Book shows that in July 1903 Mr. R. Pinnnigton was the Superintendent, W.J.L. Moore was Secretary and J.E. Jones was Treasurer.
On 26th July 1903 services commenced in the new infants' classroom at Hamilton Street. They were held as follows:
11.00 am. Prayer Meeting conducted by M.J. Williams
2.30 pm. Sunday School conducted by R. Pinnington; scripture reader J.E. Jones; address J. Nixon; closing prayer J. Randles
6.30 pm. Evening Service. Preachers B. Adams and J. Partington
Collections at each ranged between 12s and £1An official opening service took place on 27th September 1903 conducted by the aforesaid Rev. James Travis. The collection was £8 16s ½d.
All the above was confirmed in a souvenir booklet story of the Church's history so far, produced for a fund-raising bazaar in April 1924. The stone laying ceremony of the School Room took place on Easter Monday 1903, the first services were held in July and the official opening ceremony was held in September of the same year.
The payments and receipt book show on 5th March 1904 income of £1 from the 'Band of Hope' (Mr. Dawson, Newsagent) and on March 6th £1 2s from a Bible Centenary collection. Also in 1904 the first record of Sunday School class monies (£4 2s 7d) appears. On 26th February 1913 a tenth anniversary service raised £5 14s 6d.
Building the main Church in Hamilton Street
In 1914 a new building fund was set up, Mr. Kennerley still being the Treasurer. Two letters to him from Edith Randles who lived at The Oaklands are in the Cheshire Record Office files; one dated 4th October 1917 enclosed £5 from Sunday School collections towards the new building, the second undated enquires on progress, since Miss Randles had provided income every month since 1901. Her father, Joseph Randles, long associated with Methodism died in July 1917 and his funeral service was held in the Chapel, which was often referred to as the School Room. A foundation stone of the new Church was laid in his name.
The building fund grew very slowly during the First World War years. In 1920 a donation from Councillor Dawson was acknowledged and in April 1924 a bazaar was held in George Street Methodist Church school room, seeking to raise £1,100, £100 for the installation of electric light, and the redecoration of the school room, the remainder to swell the building fund.
In December 1925, an Olde English Fayre was held at Hamilton Street, which raised £50 towards the £2,000 the trustees hoped would be raised to allow the foundation stones to be laid on Easter Monday 1926. This did not take place until September 1927 when a newspaper article gave an account of the cost (between £5,500 and £6,000) and a description of the proposed building.
The Church was opened on the 4th July 1928, when the door was unlocked by Mrs. Henry Speed. A service of dedication followed led by Rev. H. J. Pickett, Principal of Hartley College, Manchester. The Church's Minster at the time was the Rev. Albert Cole. Following tea in the school room and community singing of Methodist hymns, a public meeting was held presided over by the Mayor of Chester, Mr. Edwin Green. A description of the finished church appears in the following newspaper article. Interestingly the rostrum came from the Wesleyan Church in John Street. Apparently, the roof construction was of a rather unusual character, composed of steel principals encased to represent woodwork.
After 25 years of planning Primitive Methodists had a place of worship which reflected the enormous amount of work done by this non-conformist organisation in Hoole. In 1932 the various branches of Methodism were to be reconciled, Primitive and Wesleyan Methodists coming together.
List of Ministers
Records show the turnover of ministers, the following list, not fully researched, gives some indication of the changes over the years:
1923 Rev. Albert Cole
1934 Rev. Frank C. Corp
1942 Rev. H.G. Kelley
1945 Rev. H.H. Evans
1950 Rev. J.E. Twining
1958 Rev. E.W. Lloyd
1965 Rev. Geoffrey Todd
1970 Rev. V. Sharples
1977 Rev. A. Shannahan
A Place of Worship
Morning and evening services and Sunday School in the afternoon on Sundays followed the established pattern for worship with extra celebrations at Easter, Christmas, and Harvest time etc. Frequently services were devoted to themes such as business, sport, civil defence, and railway workers. Whilst having a strong basis in prayer, both the Ladies Circle and the Men's Fellowship provided the stimulus and the means for the Church to be an active and outgoing organisation, participating in many local and national events.
A minute book of the Sunday School 1934 to 1978 records monthly teachers' meetings and reports that the Hamilton Guild of Youth was formed in September 1934, girls meeting on Mondays and boys on Fridays.
In 1957 there were 151 scholars (primary 30, junior 75, senior 29, young people 17 plus 41 on the cradle roll). There were 30 teachers. In 1963 minutes of the Chapel Committee note that 203 young people were involved in youth activities attached to the Church.
Members of the Church took an active part in Circuit based activities. In c1937 the children of the congregation presented a "Dickens' Pageant" at George Street Chapel.
For many years, a team of Sunday School scholars entered a Bible Quiz at the Baptist Church in Westminster Road. In July 1958, the team won the School Union Bible Quiz and the District Shield.
Every year the Church took part in the Lord Mayor's Parade in Chester. A lorry was used as a float and on Friday night the children and their parents would gather at the Church and decorate the float with paper flowers. On the Saturday they would be driven through Chester as part of the procession and end the journey at the Roodee where they had a picnic and joined in games.
The Church was very active in the Girl Guides and Brownies movement being the 7th Chester (Hamilton Street) Guide Company with several girls receiving Queen's Guides Awards.
In the 1970s the Church was home to the 44th Chester Scouts and Cub Group and boys were involved in many activities; photographs survive of their football team. The Church's football team played regularly throughout the years and there was also an annual cricket match against the Wesley Methodists.
A Parish outing was arranged each year. In 1904, Mr. Woollam loaned a field and horse drawn carts for the outing. In 1935 the trip was to Llangollen and Ruthin by coach. Older Church members remember going to Gronant and Prestatyn on these trips. By 1974 it was felt that there was no need to hire transport for the outing to Thurstaston as members could use their own transport and offer lifts to those who had no car.
A Rose Queen was selected annually together with her retinue. They were taken to the local playing field on decorated lorries and the crowning of the Queen was the centre of a great Parish celebration. The Rose Queen was expected to play a part in the life of the Church, she was required to attend the Christmas Fair and sometimes read the lesson at Sunday School meetings. The practice of having a Rose Queen was discontinued in 1974.
In the 1920s and 1930s members of the Church staged a mock auction and a mock wedding as entertainment. There was a production of Dick Whittington in 1979 closely followed by an epidemic of chicken pox amongst the cast. In 1985, Church members presented an Old Time Musical.
Hamilton Street Methodist Church had a flourishing dramatic society called "The Hamilton Players". They were founded in 1933, performing in that year a humorous play entitled "His Wife" followed by a farce "The Three Half Crowns". At Easter 1937, a drama of Christ's Life and Passion called "The Light of the World" was enacted. The players performed at other venues e.g. in 1944 "Glass Houses" for the patients and staff of the City Hospital and also at Chester Town Hall. They had their own theatrical equipment and their own set of rules which can be seen in the Cheshire Record Office. In 1947 The Hamilton Players won the Armitage Owen Silver Challenge Cup and first prize of £20 at the Rhyl Annual Drama Festival for their production of "Rebecca". Records of their activity ceased in 1961.
Home to other organisations
Before it took over a building on the site of the cricket pavilion on the playing field as its headquarters, Hoole & Newton British Legion held its meetings in the School Room, from its foundation in 1944. Every Friday evening from March 1946 ex-servicemen and women could seek advice on pensions, benevolence, employment etc. In 1947 a Tenants' Association for Hoole Urban District Council council house residents was formed there.
In addition to being a place of worship the building of Hamilton Street Methodist Church provided a venue which was to enhance the cultural life of Hoole. Over the years it has provided organ recitals, choir festivals, drama productions and has been the meeting place for local organisations.
In the 120 years since the first prayers were said, Hamilton Street Church has provided for both the spirit and soul of the people of Hoole and Newton.
In 2019 discussions on the possibility of a merger with The United Reform Church on Hoole Road began with a view to forming a Hoole Community Church; the process was largely put on hold due to the coronavirus pandemic, but some joint activity in the form of online worship and a printed service has taken place.
- Documents reproduced courtesy of the Cheshire Record Office
- Sections which follow are based on material found in and reproduced courtesy of the Cheshire Record Office
- Much of the following is compiled from information gathered for the Church's Centenary Celebrations which took place in 2003.