This is an article written by Miss Ethel Dodd for the August/September 1957 edition of the Irby Methodist Church newsletter, to celebrate the 21st Anniversary of the 1936 church building. Ethel, born in 1900 in Irby, was the daughter of James Dodd and his wife Annie, née Cooke, the 7th child of George and Harriett Cooke. James is shown in the 1911 Census as head of the household at Irby Hill Farm. Ethel was the organist at the new church (perhaps continuing her role from the Tin Chapel) from its opening until she died in 1983.
Miss Ethel V. Dodd, of Irby Hill Farm, as representative of the Pioneer Chapel, laid one of the foundation stones of the present church building on 4th April 1936.
About 90 years ago the cause of Methodism in Irby began. It was at Irby Hill Farm – a few pioneers met Sunday by Sunday linked themselves with the Primitive Methodists in Birkenhead. This arrangement enabled them to plan for suitable preachers. The services were held in the farm kitchen. Irby at that time was a sparsely populated isolated agricultural area with no regular passenger transport facilities.
It was quite customary for the preacher to walk from Birkenhead to Woodchurch where he would be met with a horse and trap to bring him to Irby Hill. [This arrangement can be explained: it saved the horse having to attempt the steep hill between Woodchurch and Birkenhead!]
For some twelve years the little congregation grew and prospered by which time it had won formal and favourable recognition, and it was decided to build an appropriate place of worship which would also serve as a Sunday School.
In 1881 the Irby Chapel, as many of us still remember it, was completed and it was incorporated with Mount Tabor Primitive Methodist Circuit in Birkenhead.
It was a pleasing, well-constructed chapel building (seating 100 persons) within the boundaries of Irby Hill Farm and adjoining Irby Heath – now National Trust property, adjacent to Thurstaston Common.
The pulpit was willingly served by ministers and lay preachers of various denominations and both Sunday services and Sunday School was well attended.
There was nothing exclusive about the atmosphere of Irby Hill Chapel. In a small way it was a pointer for the movement which brought together the three main bodies of Methodism and which at length enabled the Irby congregation to be incorporated in the Heswall Church Circuit and led on to the building of the present modern church and school premises to serve the needs of the fast-increasing urban population which now dominates the old-time countryside of Irby.
The little Pioneer Chapel was never in debt and, as well as meeting its financial obligations to the Circuit, regular substantial contributions were made both to Home and Foreign Missionary Services.
For more about Irby Hill chapel see here.