Chester George Street Primitive Methodist chapel 1862/3

George Street, Chester CH1 3EQ

Chester George Street 1862/3 chapel: Chapel building with schoolroom beneath. Entrance to the right and manse to the left
Christopher Wells September 2020
Chester George Street 1862/3 chapel: View of chapel from the west showing proximity to the Shropshire Union Canal and the City Walls
Christopher Wells September 2020
Chester George Street 1862/3 chapel: View of chapel from the south-west taken from the City Walls
Christopher Wells September 2020
Primitive Methodist Manse for Chester George Street chapel
Tim Macquibban 2020
Chester George Street Primitive Methodist chapels

In 1861 some of the workers from the Steam Mill Street chapel  decided it was time to leave, perhaps because the chapel was located in ‘a discouragingly violent neighbourhood’; they looked for a site in Newtown [1] and found one at the junction of George Street and Gorse Stacks.  The foundation stone of a new building – a chapel with schoolroom beneath, of brick with Gothic details – was laid on 12 August 1862 and the chapel was opened on 8 March 1863 (see reports from the Primitive Methodist Magazine 1863 below).  The chapel is clearly marked on an 1875 map [2] which shows that it had seating for 284.  The adjoining building to the east is the manse.  The chapel is listed in the 1867 Register of Places of Worship and appears in the Chester First Circuit Preaching Plan of 1882, Q4, as head of a circuit of twelve places of worship lying in the sector between north-west and north-east of Chester, the furthest being Little Neston, 10 miles north-west.

From its earliest days the building was found to be too small for the growing congregation and in 1864, after a camp meeting in Chester, its society was split into two. One remained at George Street and the other worshipped initially in a rented room in Pepper Street, and then in Cuppin Street before acquiring the Mount Zion Chapel [3].

In 1874 the Chester circuit was divided between First and Second circuits headed by George Street and Commonhall Street respectively. [3]

In 1885 a new site was purchased a short distance from the first George Street Chapel on the north side of George Street at the junction with Victoria Road.  The foundation stone of the new chapel  was laid on 8 April 1878 and opening services were held on 26 February 1888; it could seat 780.

The first George Street Chapel then became a Temperance Hall, for which the Cheshire Observer reported on 3 December 1887 that funds were being raised under the auspices of the Chester Christian Temperance Society.  Both the 1888 chapel and ‘new’ Temperance Hall are clearly labelled on a 1911 map [4].  Reference 1 states that it was in commercial use in 1995.  In 2007 the Hall was adapted as a new home for the Chester City Mission, and in 2015 it became the new International Centre for the University of Chester.

The Primitive Methodist magazine of 1863 includes two accounts of the establishment of the Primitive Methodist chapel in George Street Chester.

“The foundation stone: The ancient city of Chester was first visited by our missionaries in the year 1820 ; and although persecution was their lot for some time, they pursued their course with undaunted courage, and were successful in the conversion of souls : and in 1824 Chester became the head of a circuit, which is now one of the largest in the Manchester district, having three travelling preachers, eighty local preachers, fifteen connexional chapels, twenty-seven other preaching places, twelve Sabbath schools, and 750 members of society. But for want of better accommodation in the city our efforts to promote the interests of the cause have been greatly hindered, the chapel we occupy being a rented one, and the situation very disagreeable.

We therefore resolved about two years ago to raise a fund, and look out for a suitable site of land on which to erect a chapel and school room ; and, fortunately, a site was offered for sale on the south side of George-street, which seems to meet with the approbation of the public in general ; and the deeds having been made, also plans and specifications of the intended structure, the foundation stone was formally laid on Tuesday, August 12th, 1862, by T. F. Maddock Esq., to whom the trustees presented a beautiful silver trowel, and a neat wooden mallet, as a token of gratitude for the assistance he has rendered in enabling us to raise funds for the chapel. A sermon was preached on the occasion by the Rev. J. W. Howell, of Ashby-de-la Zouch to about 2000 people.

At the close of the foundation service a tea meeting was held in the Independent lecture room, Queen street, (kindly lent for the occasion.) Upwards of 800 took tea, and when the tables were cleared a public meeting was held in the Independent chapel, at which the Rev. J. W. Howell delivered an excellent lecture on the following subject,—” Young men, what society demands of them.” The mayor of the city occupied the chair, and several ministers connected with other denominations kindly assisted us, amongst whom was the Rev. C. Chapman, M.A., minister of the above chapel, who has shown us much kindness.

The proceeds of the day towards the new chapel fund (including the collection and profits from the tea meeting) are about £50, as the trays were furnished gratuitously by our own people. The trustees tender their sincere thanks to all who have thus far assisted in the undertaking, and pray that the intended edifice, when reared, may be a great blessing in the city. John Eastwood.”

“The chapel opening: … … The opening services took place on Sunday, March 8th, when the Revs. W. Rowe, C. Chapman, M.A., (Independent), and J. Pritchard, held forth the Word of life to crowded and delighted audiences. The Rev. J. F. Moody ( Wesleyan), preached a most interesting sermon on Monday evening, March 9th ; and on Sunday, March 15th, the Revs. W. Sanderson and J. Gibson proclaimed the unsearchable riches of Christ with good effect. Penitent sinners cried for mercy both on the 8th and 15th, and we believe not in vain. The collections amounted to the noble sum of £101 Ids. 6d.

On Monday, March 16th, a tea meeting was held in the school-room ; a hundred trays were furnished gratuitously, and 900 persons partook of the refreshing cup. After tea a public meeting was held in the Music Hall ; T. F. Maddock, Esq.— who has given us £20 towards the building of the chapel, and furnished the pulpit with a beautiful Bible, hymn-book and cushion—occupied the chair, and addresses were delivered by Messrs. Gibson, Sanderson, Eastwood, Brining and others, to 1,500 people.  The cost of the erection will be upwards of £2,000, including the purchase of land and making deeds, towards which we have raised by tea meeting, subscriptions, and collections, &c, nearly £700 ; and we feel truly grateful to the many friends who have liberally and cheerfully helped us, but the list of subscribers is far too long for publication in the Magazine.

The buildings, as they stand upon the site, consist of a minister’s house, the chapel and vestries, with a school-room underneath, equal in size to the chapel (the latter being supported on iron columns), and a handsome entrance porch. The style adopted is Gothic, of an early character, having both segmental and circular arches. The materials are patent pressed brick, with dressings and ornamental detail, in white and blue brick, and red and white stone. The school-room windows have semi-circular arches, of chamfered red brick, springing from massive piers, and set in deep reveal; above them are panels with brick ornament, supporting stone sills. A row of double circular arched windows set in double reveal, lights the chapel, the centre reveal having a bath stone column, base, and capital, richly carved.

The entrance porch is built entirely of white brick, having columns and caps in bath stone, the latter handsomely carved with foliage, supporting the arch with moulded stone hood, resting upon carved corbels ; the spandrels are filled up with stone, having sculptured ribands, upon which is in scribed, in Gothic letters, “Primitive Methodist Chapel, A.D., 1862.” A broad flight of stone steps leads into the porch, which is paved with ornamental encaustic tiles, from which there are two entrances into the chapel. The roof is of the description termed ” waggon-headed,” the principals and the curved ribs only being left visible ; the latter rest upon carved brackets of stone, built into the wall. The whole of the pews are open, made of pine, stained and varnished ; the pulpit and communion are in character, but of pitch pine, also stained and varnished, ventilation is amply provided for ; in the ceiling are outlets for the vitiated air, whilst the fresh is admitted through gratings in the floor, regulated at plea sure.

The roof is covered with coloured slates, and has pointed steep gables as ventilators, three on each side. The windows are glazed in quarries with cathedral green glass, except a circular one over the pulpit, which is stained glass, shedding a golden light over the interior. The size of the chapel and school-room is 51 feet by 36 feet inside ; vestries, 18 feet by 15 feet ; and the porch, 15 feet by 10 feet. The chapel and school-room, &C, are fitted up with gas ; the chandeliers and pendants of a suitable design for the style of architecture.

The plans and specifications of the whole were made by Mr. T. A. Richardson, and the general appearance of the structure is much admired by the public, and speaks well for his taste and ability. May peace and prosperity be vouchsafed to the society, and when the last day shall come, may it be found that thousands have been saved in this house of prayer. J. Eastwood”

The Cheshire Observer of 26 March 1864 reported:

“PRIMITIVE METHODIST ANNIVERSARY.  Anniversary sermons [morning, afternoon and evening] of the opening of the Primitive Methodist Chapel, George-street, were preached in the Music Hall, Chester … on Monday a tea meeting was held in the School-room of the Chapel … In the evening a public meeting was held in the Music Hall … the audience numbered from 400 to 500 persons.

The Rev. W. Rowe  … said that during the past year 82 additional members had been added to their church.  Their present debt … was £1400 … £63 a year interest … £10 for the chapel-keeper and something for wear and tear, … £74 required to meet the annual expenditure.  … income … would more than cover the outlay.  They intended to reduce the debt by at least £100 a year – (hear, hear) …

A bazaar had been proposed, for which he thought they now saw a clear £300 worth of goods promised.  The first day of June had been appointed as the date of opening the bazaar [it ran for three days], and he trusted they would then all come as purchasers.  There were to be all sorts of things there, from wheelbarrows to ships, and from needles, bodkins, and pins, to quills.  There was to be one splendid quilt, consisting of no less than 22,000 silk pieces.  He had lately had two guineas worth of pretty dolls given to him for the event (Laughter).  He was astonished at the gift, as he had never had so many dolls given to him in his life.  (Renewed laughter.)”


1.      ‘Bicentennial History: Wesley Methodist Church, Chester’ by Brian C. Heald 2012 page 21 accessed online Jan 2021

3.      Search British History Online; then Browse catalogue>Victoria County History – Chester>A History of the County of Chester: Volume 5 Part 2, the City of Chester: Culture, Buildings, Institutions>Churches and religious bodies: Protestant Nonconformity>Methodists>Primitive Methodists


Primitive Methodist magazine  1863 page 111

Primitive Methodist magazine  1863 page 371-372

See also:

Chester and Primitive Methodism’ 

Chester: The Introduction of Primitive Methodism
The coming of Primitive Methodism to Chester and Saughall

Comments about this page

  • Have you see the Rev Rowe obituary here Kathryn? If it’s not that one, there are several other obituaries of ministers with the name Rowe on this site!

    By Christopher Hill (21/08/2021)
  • Thank you for the information. I have been researching my family history and discovered that my great, great Grandfather, Rev, William Rowe was the minister at George Street Chapel as detailed in the 1881 census, although he gives his address as 18, The Groves, not 22 as in the photo. It was particularly interesting to me as I attended George Street Chapel as a child, without realising that my relative had been there before me! I remember the chapel well and was sad when it was torn down to make way for the bus station. Any further information on the Rev Rowe would be very interesting. Thank you

    By Kathryn Evans (20/08/2021)
  • Thanks to Chris Wells for confirming the story above from Ordnance Survey maps – that the chapel opened in 1862 became the Temperance Hall and a new chapel was opened across the road in 1887. The Temperance Hall is now used by the University of Chester and can be seen here.

    Chris Wells explains his links to the George Street society: My interest in the earlier chapel is that my wife’s great grandfather Rev John Hill (1843-1878) was stationed in Chester in 1865 (possibly for his second probationary station) and was therefore presumably based at the George Street Chapel. While there, he probably visited the PM chapel in Saughall where his future father-in-law John Williams was a Lay Preacher. He married John’s daughter Elizabeth in about November 1868. Sadly he died less than 10 years later aged only 34. Both his father-in-law and he are buried in the same grave in the grounds of the Saughall chapel (gravestone still existing and clearly legible).

    By Christopher Hill (04/09/2020)

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