Because of this dilapidated condition it wasn’t long before the Wesleyans started to collect money to build themselves a chapel. In this last third of the century there were about 1700 inhabitants in Stockton Heath and Walton Inferior with at least two thirds of these being poorer people. It was not the desirable place to live in as it is now. The people, therefore, did not have reserves of money to fund a new building and they had to scrape it together as best they could. One of their methods to get money was to go house to house collecting round the village and further afield with a horse and cart. The driving forces (no pun intended!) in getting the new church built were John and Richard Miller.
The chapel they built was called Ebenezer, taking the name from the First book of Samuel, chapter 7 and verse 12 where Samuel put down a stone saying ‘The Lord has helped us up to here’ and Ebenezer means a stone of help. The chapel, a one-roomed building which seated about 150 people, was erected on the site of the present church in 1886. The foundation stone was laid on 11 September 1886.
For two years though the chapel was not affiliated to any one denomination but let’s go back to Richard Miller: “To build a chapel and to maintain it year after year…. is a very risky thing to do…..and wishing to put this chapel on a permanent basis we entertained the suggestions of our Wesleyan friends to turn it over to them, and this I think was a wise course.” So in March 1887 the Wesleyan Circuit quarterly meeting decided to give it 12 months trial and in 1888 the Warrington Wesleyan Circuit received it officially into its care. The conveyance from Richard Miller to the trustees was for £200.
The first Wesleyan services as noted on the plan were on 22 July 1888 at 2.30 pm and 6.30 pm and were led by Mr S B Stringer but from October onwards the afternoon service was replaced by one at 10.30 am.
The indenture of 1888 and the first list of trustees show mainly Warrington businessmen. The deed was registered in 1889 and a form from the Wesleyan Chapel Committee shows that the cost to the Circuit of taking over the building was £414 including all expenses. The Chapel Returns of 1891 make interesting reading as they show how much room was allocated to each person per pew, how many free seats there were and how many were for children in the Sunday School – Stockton Heath only had 19″ per person compared to Bold Street’s and Lymm’s 21″; 75 seats were for letting, 30 were free and 40 were for the Sunday School. There was no resident minister at Stockton Heath for very many years but in these early days the Revd William Brookes who was at Bewsey Road from 1887 – 9 took a great interest in the chapel.
In February 1888 the congregation removed all the pews from the chapel (I wonder where they put them!) and held a 3 day sale of work which raised just over £50.
Continued – “The New Church“
(c) Kit Heald