Middleton Bowlee Primitive Methodist chapel

Heywood Old Road, Middleton M24 4TH

Members and friends at Bowlee Primitive Methodist chapel in Middleton
from the booklet ‘Primitive Methodist Church, Bowlee, Jubilee Souvenir and Historical Sketch 1914’
The last rally at Bowlee Primitive Methodist chapel in Middleton
from the booklet ‘Primitive Methodist Church, Bowlee, Jubilee Souvenir and Historical Sketch 1914’
Bowlee Primitive Methodist chapel

“the riches of their liberality abounded in the midst of their deep poverty,”

The Primitive Methodist society in Bowlee met in a cottage prior to 1864 and there’s an article in the 1865 Primitive Methodist magazine about the opening of a school room building.  It then adds that, by the way, the building will also be used as the chapel.

I’m not sure of the date it was converted to residential use. It is still labelled as a Methodist church on the 1968 Ordnance Survey map. The larger building to the rear at right angles to the building that fronts the road is labelled as Sunday School.

The building still exists on the A6045 – and still carries the date stone AD 1864.

Here’s the account:

“Manchester First Circuit.— Bowlee is a hamlet, situate partly in the parish of Middleton and partly in that of Prestwich, Lancashire. It has a population of about 400 souls, and the nearest place of religious worship was, until recently, above a mile distant from it. It was opened as a home mission place by this station in the spring of 1863. The people listened attentively to the word of life, and many believed and were saved.

A cottage was taken and fitted up for their accommodation, a society formed, and a Sabbath-school opened. “The word of the Lord had free course, and was glorified ;” the cottage became too strait to accommodate the people ; and in the spring of the present year the place was canvassed, when some £30 were promised by the inhabitants themselves towards the erection of a school-room in the place ; and measures were immediately taken to accomplish this object. The entire structure is 50 feet by 32 outside, the school-room itself being 38 by 32 feet, with a vestry at one end, and a class-room over it, both of which are 12 feet by 32.

The building is therefore very convenient for the twofold purpose of a school and chapel, and is fitted up inside accordingly. Beside the money willingly given by the poor villagers, who are principally silk weavers—and of not a few of them it may be said, that “the riches of their liberality abounded in the midst of their deep poverty,”—the effort has evoked a remarkable spirit of liberality from members of the Church of England, as well as from those of Dissenting and Methodist churches. Donations in amounts of £5 and £10, reached the sum of £80.

The stone was laid by Mr. Robert Naylor in May, and the school-room was opened October 2nd, 9th, and 15th, 1864. The Rev. W. Inman, of Rochdale, preached October 2nd, and the collections amounted to £23 4s. 2d. Mr. John Read, of Salford, preached October 9th, when the collections were £17 2s. 6d. The tea on Saturday, October 15th, was well attended, and yielded a good profit. H. Briggs, Esq., of Blakeley, a member of the Church of England, presided over the public meeting, which brought the opening services to a successful close.

The premises are settled on the connexional trust, according to the provisions of the model deed. The entire cost of the property will be about £320. The whole amount of money raised is £220.

In less than two years our gracious God has honoured us in this place by enabling us to raise a Sabbath-school of 140 children, to found a church of 40 members, with a corresponding congregation of some 200 hearers, and to provide them all a home in the easy and pleasing circumstances which have been herein described. ” Blessed be the Lord God of Israel from everlasting to everlasting ; and let all the people say, Amen. Praise ye the Lord.” Psalm cvi. 48. Edward Bishop.”

Chris Wells has researched the story, available  here and in a little more detail in the download below.

This chapel lies 1½ miles west of Middleton, on Heywood Old Road about ¾ mile north of its junction with Manchester Old Road.

1863: From the Centenary Souvenir pamphlet, 1834-1934, of the Chapel Street Methodist Church, Rhodes, near Middleton, Lancashire (Middleton Library):
In the Spring of 1863 a number of enthusiastic souls connected with the Primitive Methodist Church at Rhodes conceived the idea of a mission to the villagers living on the high lands of Bowlee. [They] commenced their work, first in the open air, and subsequently in a cottage which was converted into a meeting room.’

This society first appears on the Preaching Plan for Manchester 1st Circuit in 1863 Q4. The Sunday services were at 2.30pm and 6pm and were led by a local preacher. The two ministers took turns at leading services on alternate Wednesdays at 7.30pm.

1864: (the Centenary Souvenir pamphlet continues) ‘The following year these courageous evangelists found that they had established a cause, and this they consolidated by building a chapel.’ On Whit Thursday the foundation stone of the chapel was laid.

The chapel building has a date-stone ‘A.D. 1864’ but it does not appear on old photos so is probably not original.

1867: The Bowlee chapel appears on the 1867 List of Places for Public Religious Worship, Lancashire No. 15 (Oldham Registration District).

1876: The Elementary Day School opened on 1 May.

1886: According to the Heywood Advertiser of 19 March, the society had recently joined the Middleton Band of Hope Union.

The Heywood Advertiser of 15 October reported under news of MIDDLETON:
‘MISSION WORK AT BIRCH. – The Primitive Methodists of Bowlee have established a mission room at Birch [about 3/4 mile to the north-east] to increase religious work amongst the accumulating population in that neighbourhood. On Sunday, services were held on behalf of the object; in the afternoon at the Mission Room, and in the evening at Bowlee Chapel, which had been lent for the purpose.’

1891: From the Middleton Guardian of 16 May:
‘Primitive Methodist, Bowlee. – Founded 1864. Minister, Rev. W. Goodman … Scholars – male 58, female 50, total 108; teachers – male 14, female 8, total, 22; books in library 120; Band of Hope, 59. Friday, trip to Scarboro’ with Sunday-school Union; procession through the village for sports on June 13th.’

1901: An infant room was added to the Elementary School.

1940: The chapel was listed in the 1940 Methodist Church Buildings Report Districts ‘M’, Circuit 825 Middleton. The following information was provided:
Bowlee: made of brick; seating 168; pews; one hall and two other rooms.

1967: According to the Manchester Archives (GB127.M80/14), this is when the chapel closed (Genuki gives a closure date of 1969).

2023: The chapel and schoolroom buildings still exist, having been converted into a private residence, No. 246, Heywood Old Road, M24 4GQ.


Primitive Methodist magazine 1865 pages 176-177


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