Our Beginnings

Our beginnings are lost in the past. We know that on the 7th day of July 1839 two sermons were preached by a Rev. William Booth in the Baptist Chapel at Lumb and collections were taken in aid of the Wesleyan Methodist Sunday School. At some stage later this early Methodist society became part of the United Methodist Church. The United Methodist Church at Lumb met at the Liberal Club very close to the present site of our Eden Methodist Church.

Perhaps a letter sent by Mr. Wilson Bridge to apologise for not being able to attend the Jubilee Celebrations at Eden in 1925 reminds us of all the scholars who met 'up the steps' of the Liberal club before our Eden Chapel was built:

Dear Friend,

I was very glad to receive your kind invitation to the celebrations at Eden, but I am afraid that I shall not be able to be with you. I remember quite distinctly going to school 'up the steps' with my grandfather, George Bridge, somewhere about 1850. There were very few scholars. No electric light in those days, candles and snuffers were the order and forms without backs. The singing at the services was accompanied by a good company of musicians. John Sowerbutts was the leader and played the violin cello, Mannassah, his son, played the serpent, Joseph, another son played the ophilaide, also John Whittles and James Burton violins on special occasions. Even in those days there was a system adopted for encouraging scholars to attend school, small text cards being given to scholars who were in time. When a certain number were obtained these were exchanged for a large card, and a specified number of large cards entitled the scholar to a prize at Christmas. I think I should be about twelve years of age when we left Water and went to live at Bury, but I can truly say that now at the age of 79 some of my happiest memories are connected with Water and the school 'up the steps', and I think I may be pardoned for feeling some satisfaction in the knowa≠ledge that my grandfather was the founder of Eden U.M. Sunday School. ....

The letter continues but adds no more information about the Sunday School. The letter was published in the Waterfoot Times on Saturday 30th May 1925. In the same paper, at the same date an account is given of a speech by Mr. John Ashworth, of Rawtenstall. (the oldest Trustee). This tells us about the beginnings of Eden Chapel.

'... in a speech that was interlaced with humorous sallies and amusing anecdotes, (he) gave an outline of the events which led to the decision to build Eden Chapel. There had, he said, "been talk of "building a chapel, but the final decision was the out­come of a sermon preached in the 'room up the steps', by the Rev. Samuel Sellars, whose text was 'All things are possible to him that believeth'.

The time came when they commenced to have meetings about the building of the new chapel, and they gave themselves a great deal of work in order to get it. The mason's work in the building of the chapel was let to Messrs. John and Henry Maden (both Baptists), Henry being superintendent in the Sunday School and John a teacher - both good men and true - and the joiners work was let to Mr. John Whittaker, and was carried out by him and his sons - James, Robert and Whittaker Whittaker - who did their work.

The front of the chapel was of Yorkshire parpoints and came from Brighouse. The sides and back were local stone, which came from Scout Quarries. Francis Firth, who was a shoemaker, acted as a kind of clerk of works and spent weeks in looking after the building of Eden Chapel and who had been paid at the rate of sixpence per hour, would have a large sum to draw. The plumbers work was done by Robert Clegg snr., of Bacup, who was one of the noblest gentlemen that the Bacup Circuit ever produced, who became a trustee and gave them a donation of £10. Mr. Francis Firth and Mr. Thomas Hargreaves also gave a like sum each. Mr. James Henry Hargreaves and he (Mr. Ashworth.) gave £5 each. They were men of faith, and he was glad that so many that had been connected with Eden were distributed over so wide an area. The foundation stones were laid by Mr. John Ed. Haworth and his sister Mary Jane, and their father gave them £100 towards the cost of the chapel, which was opened in 1875. The foundation stones were laid on Whit Saturday 1874.

Our Much Changing Property

Trustees meeting held October 19th 1873 when the following resolutions were passed:

1st that the proposed new chapel shall accommodate not less than three hundred persons.
2nd that the costs do not exceed six hundred pounds.
3rd that the material for the outside wall be Yorkshire parpoints and inside common bricks.
4th that Messrs. Russell and Whittaker be architects.

These were the minutes that brought our chapel into being.

The congregation was informed that they would be waited upon for their subscription and a thousand envelopes were obtained. Promissory Notes were taken out to the value of £420. The contractors were paid after each stage of their work was completed. On 27th October 1874 it was arranged that a Mr. Barnes and a Mr. Hargreaves 'go to Newchurch a begging on Saturday next'. Each meeting of the trustees was chaired by a new chairman and there seems to have been much rescinding of previous minutes. However, the corner stones were laid on Whit-Saturday 1874, and the first services were held on 27th June 1875 when Mr, I. Mather was booked to preach in the afternoon.

Pew rents were charged starting at one shilling at the front and they were to rise by a penny row by row until they got to the back except those closest to the vestibule which were to be one shilling and seven pence and the three pews on the flat were to be one and six pence. All these prices were per sitting.

The original building consisted of a plain chapel with a large worship area a small vestibule and an elevated choir and pulpit at the front of the chapel. Underneath the elevated choir stalls were two vestries both heated by small coal fires. There was a heating apparatus for the main chapel but it is not clear what this could have been. A small organ was given to the chapel and the front pipes were renewed.

Prior to 1911 there were many great thoughts about building an additional Sunday School at the back of the present premises but fortunately there was a disagreement between the Landlord and the tenant of the land which the chapel needed and this prevented it being acquired for the chapel. This meant that any additional land had to be acquired on the original site so the building was altered by taking out a side wall and extending it as far as possible towards the boundary wall. This had the advantage that there would be no greater ground rent to be paid. The church and Sunday School were then divided by partition. The vestries were also changed in some way to make them larger and less stuffy and a new heating system was put in. The cost of all this was only £800, £500 of which was raised by the time of the opening in 1911.

The main object of this major reconstruction was not to accommodate a larger number of people but it was to make the building more convenient. The church itself could now be kept free from entertainment and the vestries were now more comfortable. Shortly afterwards the new chapel was fitted out with a new organ. As on the occasion of the new opening of the new chapel there was a spirit of co-operation between the churches in the valley. At the opening ceremony the Vicar of Lumb church had been there to welcome the improvements and to remind the people that some were already thinking in terms of church unity even though he could only think in terms of spiritual unity. The Rev. P.F. Chambers from the Baptists was also there and it was this gentleman who had special knowledge of organs and was able to help in the selection of this new organ for our Eden chapel.

In the 1950's there was more talk about the modernisation of our buildings but it was all talk until one of the menbers began ripping out the choir stalls and forced the issue. This time the choir stalls and vestries were taken out and the choir was rearranged at the side. A new pulpit was acquired from the now closed Bethesda church and a wooden rail was brought from Bethesda to act as the communion rail at Eden.

Various gift days and efforts have enabled us just to keep the building heated and in sufficient repair to keep the place going but with the de-population of the area and the decline in church going generally the building has suffered and deteriorated to some degree. This is particularly true of its state of decoration. Last year a Gift Day raised a little over £150 and a legacy has helped to keep us well into the black for the present on the trust account. But some of this money has gone on essential repairs, a small amount of re-wiring and the purchase of new water heaters.

Our Sabbath or Sunday School

People have been talking of the 'old days' since 1897 with regard to the work of our Sunday School. It was in that year that there was a Sunday School Reunion. Two hundred and twenty sat down to tea and the chapel was about full at the time of the evening meeting. Mr, James Patchett of Bacup who was a former scholar presided and the written account of the occasion states that, 'Mr. Patchett, who appeared to be labouring under deep emotion, spoke of his connection with our school 37 years ago, when the school was in the upper room where the Liberal Club now stands'.

In 1911 a separate Sunday School was made by building on a boundary wall and enclosing part of the chapel. In the years leading up to 1925 the numbers in the Sunday School 'varied between 120 and 150'. Some of our older members tell of the ministers taking a more active part in the life of the Sunday School than is currently possible. It appears that the minister would preach in the Sunday School for conversions. One of the class-meetings also met outside the chapel buildings in one of the cellar-houses at Graver Weir but these meetings were different from those taken by the minister in that they were 'more down to earth' as one of our number put it. They were more simply devotional and less evangelical in impact but they are well remembered and treasured by those who attended them. There are memories of fear, not of the earlier hell-fire preaching, but of those who taught in the Sunday School. The teachers in earlier times had none of our modern inhibitions about discipline and the cold sweat that broke out on the forehead in a Sunday School class many years ago has a place in the memory of some of our members.

Today in much freer times when the children sometimes try to rule and the teachers have to struggle to maintain a reasonable discipline much is gained in freedom and something is lost. Somehow it is difficult for the child to become aware of the absolute seriousness of his or her need to follow Jesus. This is in no way the fault of the teachers it is the atmosphere of the times in which we live. But as our teaching methods have progressed there is more thought put in to helping the child to really understand by finding points of contact with the childs own experience. Gone are the days when the adult would pontificate and the child would have no option but to accept. Our School is much smaller now numbering no more than thirty or so scholars but the smaller numbers allow for more individual attention. The great failing is, however, that the parents do not come and a precious setting of example is lost and this often defeats the Sunday School teacher. The area has also been seriously de-populated.