Christopher Wells has researched Primitive Methodism in Willaston. To read a fuller account of the first chapel, download the attached pdf document.
The beginning of the ‘cause’ in Willaston dates from a camp meeting in 1831 that established a class of about five women. The following year, preachers from Chester held ‘cottage meetings’ (we would now call them house fellowships) in the kitchen of a widow, Mrs Huntington.
The first chapel in Willaston was built in 1838. The chapel lay about 100m south of the village green, near Corner House Farm (now the Pollard’s Inn), on the site now occupied by Weint Cottage (built in the 1990s). The chapel’s south wall was aligned with the stone wall that now runs across the front of Weint Cottage.
We learn from the following newspaper report in the Cheshire Observer of Saturday 7 December 1878 that chapel life had its challenges:
“NESTON PETTY SESSIONS
‘DISTURBING A CONGREGATION BY “MURMURING CHRISTMAS CAROLS.”
James Tushingham and Wm. Blackburne were summoned that they, on the 17th of November, did disturb a certain meeting and congregation of Protestant Dissenters at Willaston.
Mr. J. Carter, farmer, a trustee of the Willaston Primitive Methodist Chapel, said on the Sunday evening in question he was in the chapel, and the congregation was very much disturbed by a noise outside of singing and the rattling of the shutters of the building. The noise went on for about a quarter of an hour, and it nearly stopped the service, and the minister discontinued preaching. These disturbances were of frequent occurrence.
P.C. Costello said he caught the defendants outside the chapel. They had a book of comic songs, and they were singing out of it. He told them if they wished to sing hymns they should go inside the chapel, but if they wished to sing comic songs they should go elsewhere.
The defendant Tushingham, who appeared, said they went to the building with the intention of going inside, but when they got there they found them at prayers. They waited outside and “murmured Christmas carols,” and some other young man shouted out “pom-pom.” (Laughter.)
The Chairman said it was a most disgraceful offence, and they were determined to put a stop to that kind of annoyance. They were each fined 20s. [about 3 days’ wages for a skilled tradesman] and costs.”
Was the existence of protective shutters a reflection of an aggressive attitude of some local people toward the Primitive Methodists?
The chapel was replaced by a larger chapel in 1889. You can follow the story here.