Paying the Debt, 1865-97.

'THE first minister, Rev. Elijah Gladwell, lived long enough to see the Chapel built, but twelve months afterwards, in 1866, he resigned. For a little over eighteen months the Church was without a Pastor, and then Rev. J. Stapleton from Sutton Bonington, settled in October 1867. Mr. Stapleton must have been a bold man, for after four years as minister, the building was extended to give a greater seating capacity, the alterations costing £327 on top of the existing debt. For nearly 30 years that debt was to remain.

In the early years of the new Chapel, the name of Ashworth occurs frequently. A Mrs. Ashworth was the first person to be baptised in the new Chapel. Prior to the building of the baptistery, the usual place for baptisms was Jack Lodge Shawclough, and there is ample evidence of ice and snow being the accompaniments of the perform­ance of this ordinance. Folk then must have been made of sterner stuff than we are. It is interesting to note, that when a new baptistery was put in almost forty years later, Mrs. Ashworth's son's wife, Mrs. J. W. Ashworth, was the first candidate to be baptised in it.

Extracts from the early minutes, show how hard was the struggle against debt, and how rigidly the little flock had to economise ! Even in those days people had to be reminded of their duty to subscribe towards the funds of the Church, for in October 1867, it was resolved:

"That it be announced what those boxes are for at the top of the gallery steps."

The chapel cleaning, like the preaching, had to be done on the lowest possible terms, for in January 1870 it was resolved " to secure a chapel cleaner on the most reasonable terms." Later comes the entry, " That we give the chapel cleaner a collection once a year." The treasures of the place were carefully guarded, as this extract shows : " That John Sutcliffe be requested to see the tune books are locked away after each service." This seems to be the first mention of that name, but from this time on, Edgeside has never been without a Sutcliffe. There was Tom Sutcliffe, renowned as a writer of verse, and John was the leader of the music. Concerning the latter, an entry of 1879 says:

"That we have no recognised singers, but that we have one leading singer, John Sutcliffe, all the congregation to come to the practices."

The last item would be a piece of good advice on occasions ! But whether the experiment was a success we do not know, but we do know that from a short time after this to the present day, the choir has played an important part in the life of the Church. John Sutcliffe was Choir­master for many years, and it can safely be said that no-one has done so much for the musical side of the Church either before or since, as he did. The story of the Choir, its succession of devoted leaders, its musical contribution to the worship of the Church, its picnics, etc. would make a story of its own.

In January 1869, the chapel was licensed for the solemnization of marriages. A Bible was purchased for ten shillings to present to the first couple to be married there. They were Mr. and Mrs. Christopher Hitchen. The bridegroom was a Sunday School teacher who was renowned for his gentle handling of even the roughest lads, and many were won for Christ through his kindness.

The work progressed well during Mr. Stapleton's ministry. The heavy debt was tackled and £520 paid off in two years. He died in 1874, and was buried at Cloughfold. His death was a great grief to all.

The Rev. Joseph Watmough accepted the invitation to the pastorate in 1875. His five years' ministry was marked by strenuous efforts to wipe off the debt. By November 1875 the original building debt was cleared off, but the accumulated expenses of the enlargement of the premises, and running costs, still remained and totalled £400 when Rev. Richard Heyworth settled in 1882.

The fifteen years' pastorate of Mr. Heyworth was the longest in the Church's history. It had a far from encouraging start. He had come from Canada, and was minister of churches at Bury, Bolton and Hopwood before coming to Edgeside. He was invited several times to preach before being called to the pastorate, and he left this story in his own words of what happened on his first visit :"

When I went the first Sunday, I remember sitting in the vestry by myself. First one deacon then another came along, opened the door, looked at me and went off again, till I said to myself, 'Is this a cage?' My blood tingled, and I was not in a state of entire coolness when I entered the pulpit."

Nevertheless, the curious deacons must have been satisfied, and Mr. Heyworth got over his first impressions, for they invited him as their minister and he accepted. His was a notable ministry. He won the respect and affection not of his own people only, but of the neighbour­hood. By the time his ministry closed, the membership had increased substantially, and the whole debt had been wiped off.

During this period one outstanding feature was the strong sense of discipline over the members of the Church. Many times the minutes record that some brother or sister had done something out of keeping with the Christian profession, and they were interviewed by deacons appointed for the purpose, who called them to account for their conduct. Failing to give satisfaction, they would be suspended from membership, until such time as they reformed their ways, and gave some sign of repentance in the Church meeting. In those days it was a real social stigma to be on the " suspended list". Things are vastly different to-day of course. The stigma does not apply when the majority of people are outside the Church and see nothing very odd in the fact ; while it would be a bold deacon who to-day would venture to sit in judgment upon his fellow-members' conduct ! But probably the Church has lost something of real value here. Church membership was at least taken very seriously.

An interesting item from this period is the sinking of a well in 1886 to improve the water supply. The minutes of the Men's Class show that they took the work in hand, appointing a committee who not only apportioned out the labour and nominated the foreman, but put somebody on to " brew up" for the workers. They planned a tea-party at the " Well-opening", and one item in the minute book says :

"Resolved that the 7/6 (donation) be thrown into the tea-party and the giver be allowed free tickets for the tea."

The tea itself casts an interesting light on the catering of that time. Quoting the minutes again : ' That we cater for 80 and have the following provided: 25 Ibs. flour, 10 Ibs. biscuits, 5 quarts milk, 3 Ibs. marmalade, 15 loaves ordinary bread, 6 Ibs. seed bread, 6 Ibs. currant bread, 7 doz. plain tea-cakes and 3 doz. currant tea-cakes. That the charge be 6d. for adults and 4d. for children." We leave the reader to work out how much each person ate!

Similar lists of "victuals" take up a large amount of space in the old minute books, especially in the minutes of the Sunday School. Here the teachers were continually arranging field days, picnics, Sunday School concerts and Christmas parties, and the minutes bear a resemblance to a grocer's order book. In 1876 a Christmas Tea party catered for 700, and 180 Ibs. of flour and 40 Ibs. of butter were part of the gigantic order. The minute book stated : " Any person purchasing at the Co-op, pay 2/6 in the £ and have all the dividend. In case the dividend fails, the committee shall consider it." The Sunday School party was always on Christmas Day, and on this occasion the Sunday School Secretary always presented his report. If the scholars approached this meeting with any light-hearted festive spirit, the report would quickly dispel it. Although the School varied from 250 scholars upwards, the Secretary usually deplored the fact that there were not more. A hint that the School's deportment was not entirely satisfactory came next, then the death of any scholars during the year was the opportunity for a pointed and forceful lecture to be given on the shortness of life, the terrors of approaching doom for the unrepentant, and the nearness of eternity, the report concluding with a strong appeal to the scholars to repent while there was still time.

As early as January 9th, 1872, the Sunday School took steps to combat the widespread illiteracy of the district. A Night School was begun, with Mr. C. Hitchen to teach mathematics and Mr. N. Hartley to teach writing. It was held on Tuesdays and Fridays, 7-30 p.m. to 9 p.m. and payment was 9d. per quarter. This attempt to teach the 44 three Rs" became known as the Mutual Improvement Class, and precise rules were laid down so that the School might be run " decently and in order."

This attempt to teach the people of Edgeside could not have been an unqualified success, for in 1889, the title " Mutual Improvement Class" was appellated to another organisation. Social activities came under the watchful eyes of vigilant deacons, and a minute in the Deacons' Meeting of January 13th, 1889, resolves:

" That the name of Dramatic Society be quenched in connection with this place, and that it exist as a Mutual Improvement Class, the pieces for performing to be submitted to the deacons."

Mr. Heyworth retired at the age of 65 in 1897, and went to live at Accrington. An illuminated address presented to him at his retirement referred to the 44 increased spiritual and financial prosperity in the church" and the flourishing Band of Hope (which had 400 members at that time) and Mutual Improvement Class. With the illuminated address went a purse of gold, and the signatures to the address included that of Arthur Pickup, church secretary, still with us as Senior Life Deacon. There is no doubt, when we look back on the story, that Mr. Heyworth had a very great influence in establishing the work on strong foundations.