Building the Chapel, I853 - 1865.

The little village of Edgeside was no easy place in which to establish a new Cause without any capital. Edgeside village was known as " The City," and had a very bad name. The people were a rough lot. The usual Sabbath occupations were bull-baiting, pigeon-flying, cock-fighting and dog-racing, all of them helped along by as much liquor as wages would allow. The drink was one of the major curses of the country. A historian writes : " The Church of England tried to form a church and failed ; the Methodists tried and retired. A few illiterate and poor Baptists took possession in the name of the Lord of Hosts." The few members were all working folk, desperately poor and often hungry. Every new venture for the little church meant real sacrifice. The pastor, Mr. Gladwell, was rewarded for his services with the princely sum of one shilling a week, and even this, with the rent, was hard to maintain at first !

Early activities by this little Baptist flock were aimed at improving the social conditions. The work was wisely concentrated on the rising generation, for the children could be gathered in big numbers to Sunday School, provided it had some colour about it. The " colour" was introduced by means of the famous Drum and Fife Band, which was linked on to the work of the Band of Hope. Thus music and abstinence went together. William Green­wood and Ormerod Ashworth—known as O'rmy Dean—are the two names best remembered for this work. The Band of Hope has been rather crowded out in this more temperate age, but there is no doubt that it did a wonderful work in those bad old days, and reclaimed many a home for decent Christian virtues. Begun in 1858, the Band of Hope was the first one of its kind in the Newchurch valley.

Gradually during Mr. Gladwell's ministry the work expanded. We can judge this by his own remuneration. At first they paid him 1 - per week. Then it rose to 2 6, then 76; and in 1887 the church passed a resolution that all supplies for the pulpit should be given 1 - foi preaching ! The fame of the Drum and Fife Band grew to the ends of Rossendale.

Folk who live on Edgeside to-day will be interested to know that oftentimes these workers of the past were instrumental in bringing modern facilities to the people. In October, 1864, it was decided that Messrs. Thomas Sutcliffe, James Greenwood and Mr. Gladwell canvass Edgeside to see how many houses will have gas, and a few weeks later it was decided by these public-spirited people " to get a copy of the Gas Act." Later it was decided to canvass the village to see how many houses would have water put in.

The meeting-place moved from Mr. Munn's cottage to a house at " th' top o' Bob Loine," as they called it. This was a house at the top end of Ashworth Lane, as it is now known. Both names came from the same man, for the house where the Chapel folk now began to meet had been the property of Mr. Robert Ashworth, first of a long line of Ashworths who contributed much to the work. Even to-day, older residents use the old, " Bob Lane." The church moved into this house en a Good Friday, accompanied by much whitewashing and scrubbing. When settled, they had a full day's services to mark the occasion, the minister at Cloughfold being the preacher, and the collections amounting to £ i ! This seems to be the earliest record of a Sunday School Anniversary, and it is interesting to compare the collections with those of the present day!

The work was still desperately hard and discouraging. There is a story of three deacons named Greenwood, Proctor and Nuttall, walking over Fearns one day, debating whether they could carry on. They decided that they would keep on as long as they could pay the rent and had 25 scholars in the School. The next move was from " th' top o' th' laine" to " th' bottom o' th' rake"—another house which had an upstairs room reached by an outside staircase going up from the roadway. This house was at the back of one fronting the present Edgeside Road, and must have been. somewhere near the Co-operative Store. They called it the " old up-steps school," and most of those who clattered up the steps to Sunday School were shod in clogs, though a few are said to have been too poor even for that, and came barefooted.

An attempt to put an organ into this " upper room" is worth recording. John Hanson, a member of the choir, bought an old organ off a. fellow-member who had come into possession of it and could not make it work. Mr. Hanson bought it in exchange for an old watch, and proceeded to take it to the " up-steps school." There he tried to do what his friend had failed to accomplish. Alas, he may have bought it for a watch but he certainly hadn't got it for a song !—not a note would come out!

I bought a pound of candles," he says, " and sat up all night with the thing. I burnt all the candles, but had to give up." One difficulty was that to get the pipes in would have meant a hole in floor or ceiling. They had no idea as to whether the pipes could be cut or bent!

Another story, showing the spirit of the people—and with rather a pathetic note about it—concerns the attempts to get a chapel built. They started a Building Fund and raised £5. Then they had a visit from a man who had pretensions to be an architect. He seems to have had neither skill nor scruple. He charged them the whole £5 for his fee—and they paid it over quite unsuspecting—but when they came to look at the plans he had prepared, one of the deacons noticed that according to the copy, the people in the back pew of the gallery would have their heads touching the ceiling!

A little later, a local architect who had actually built a church in Rawtenstall, invited the deacons to go and look at his work. They did so, and were treated with great respect as potential customers. They sat in various pews and examined every detail, but they did not dare tell the architect that they hadn't a penny piece in the bank towards putting the building up ! It would be a long time before they could start to build.

However, the spirit was there. One evening two small boys came to a place on the top side of Edgeside Road and started digging. When asked by the deacons why, they answered that sometime foundations would have to be dug, and they might as well start in good time ! The piece of land did eventually become available, though they were unable to buy the freehold, and the fund for building was begun. They knew, of course, that most of the building would have to be done on borrowed money, and that this would need to be paid back. Many of them would not be alive when it was finally paid off, but they pressed on in faith. Eventually the chapel building was planned. The advertisement went in the papers:

"To be let by ticket. The erection of a General Baptist Chapel at Edgeside, near Newchurch. Plans to be seen in the Schoolroom at Edgeside on 7th to 10th March, 1864."

Tenders from builders, masons, etc., were to be sent to Jas. Greenwood, Newsagent, Hollin Bank. The tenders must have been dealt with speedily, for the foundation stones were laid on Whit Saturday, May 21st, 1864, by R. Ashworth, Esq., whose land it was. A bottle was cemented in the wall, containing records, manuscripts and newspapers, which would have been of great help in compiling this History, if only we could have got at it! Speakers at the tea meeting which followed, at Oddfellows Hall, Newchurch, were Rev. J. Howe, Waterbarn ; Rev. J. Gill, Shore, and the contractors were Messrs. J. and J. Maden. I he Chapel was opened for worship on March 26th, 1865. It cost £1.100 to build, with a further £220 to equip.

While the building was actually going up and the builders pressing for payment, two incidents occurred which have become legends in the church to this day. They show the spirit of self-sacrifice and devotion of those early folk. One young deacon who had been saving up to get married, postponed his wedding for two years and handed the savings over to the trustees. Some of his descendants still worship in the place his self-denial helped to build. Then, because the money the builders wanted was still not available, a large loan was obtained from a local gentleman, who insisted on having a bill of sale on the furniture of the trustees as part of his security ! The total of £1,320 was an enormous amount of money for working folk to raise, especially when wt remember that this same little company 15 years before could not even pay the 26 rent for the room. 1 he Chapel was built on borrowed money. How it was paid, and how long it took, is another story.