Whitworth Tong Lane Primitive Methodist chapel

Rawstron Street, OL12 8BA

A Festival Parade in Whitworth c. 1910. The Tong Lane Primitive Methodist chapel can be seen in the right background.
With grateful acknowledgement to Brian Furness, Whitworth Historical Society and Whitworth Heritage Museum.
Whitworth Tong Lane Primitive Methodist chapel

John Manus Wilson’s Imperial Gazetteer of England and Wales (in ‘A Vision of Britain’) described Whitworth like this:

‘WHITWORTH, a village, a chapelry, and a sub-district, in Rochdale parish and district, Lancashire.  The village stands 3¼ miles N by W of Rochdale r. station. … Recent pop. , 4,324. … The church was rebuilt in 1775; and is cruciform, with a steeple.  There is an endowed school …’  [no mention of a dissenting chapel]

Readers may wish to refer to the Rochdale Holebottom Primitive Methodist chapel 1851 Census Return page on this website where they will find the results of my researches.  I believe that the Tong Lane chapel had previously been known as Holebottom Chapel and as Bridge Mill or Mills chapel.

There are numerous articles in the Rochdale Observer under these various names (Holebottom: 1859-71; Bridge Mill(s): 1863-1917; Tong Lane: 1869, 1912-26; Whitworth: 1885-1918) – mainly reporting on weddings, special sermons, Anniversary services and Sunday School events.

1850:  According to the 1851 Census Return for Holebottom PM chapel, it was founded in 1850.

It can be seen on the 1891 25” OS map; it lay at the junction between Tong Lane and Rawstrom Street and scales at 36’ x 33’ (a fairly tight squeeze for 300 people!).  There is no sign of a separate school so it was probably on the ground floor with the chapel upstairs.  The chapel appears again on the 1909 and 1928 maps, and also on the 1938 6” OS map labelled just ‘Ch.’

1859:  According to the Rochdale Observer of 19 February 1859 (the first reference I have found to Holebottom PM chapel):

‘WHITWORTH.  A lecture was delivered last Saturday night in the Primitive Methodist Sunday School, Holebottom, by Mr. John Holden(?), master of Crawford-street Day School, to a very respectable audience, the subject being “Dr. Livingston, his travels in South Africa”, the same being illustrated with diagrams.  A collection was made to defray expenses.’

1860:  According to the Rochdale Observer of 2 June 1860:


‘WHITSUNTIDE. – Up here we have been marred by unfavourable weather, but not so as to prevent the usual promenade of the scholars of the various local Sunday schools, still less has it prevented the customary indoor regalements on buns and coffee.  The scholars from Whitworth Church School (Establishment), from Hallford school (Independent), from Smoker-hall (Free Church), from Holebottom (Primitive Methodist), and from Facit (Wesleyan Methodist), aggregately amounting to 1,600 or thereabouts, left their respective schools in the forenoon, and at intervals passed through the villages to their respective destination, in part accompanied by music and the usual accessories in the form of flags, and other scriptural devices.  Those from the Dissenting schools met together in the road for singing purposes; those from the Church school promenading apart [important traditions separated the two groups!].  The weather was too precarious to allow any distant tour on the hills, so they made up the deficiency by extra conviviality in their school-rooms.’

1867:  The chapel, named as Holebottom, is listed in the 1867 List of Places for Public Religious Worship, Lancashire No. 65

According to the Rochdale Observer of 28 December 1867:

On Christmas Day a tea meeting was held in connection with the Primitive Methodist Sunday School, Bridge Mills, at which about 200 persons sat down.  A meeting was afterwards held in the chapel  … the report … showed the number of scholars to be 228, being an increase of 29 for the year.’

1868:  The Rochdale Observer of 6 June 1868 gave an account of the Whitsuntide Sunday School event (similar to that reported above for 1860):

‘PRIMITIVE METHODISTS, BRIDGE MILL. The scholars, numbering 197 (84 males and 113 females), with the teachers numbering 27 (10 males and 17 females), received their usual treat on Whit-Friday.  They assembled in the chapel at about nine o’clock, and a procession was formed, which proceeded along Tong Lane and Bridge-Street, joining the scholars from Hallfold [400 yards west of Whitworth station] and the United Methodist Free Church [near the station and almost opposite the Police Station], at Horsecroft, and afterwards retraced their steps through Bridge Hill and Facit, to Leavengreave [north part of Facit]. Returning thence to the school they were regaled with buns and coffee, and the remainder of the day was pleasantly spent in a variety of innocent games on the moor.’

1869:  The 1869 Slater’s Trade Directory for Rochdale lists thirteen PM Places of Worship including Whitworth (see ‘Rochdale and Area PM Societies and Chapels’ on this website).

1912-18:  The County Coroner held inquests in the PM chapel.

1940:  The chapel was not listed in the 1940 Methodist Church Buildings Report Districts ‘B’; if it had been still functioning, it would have been listed under Circuit 221 Rochdale (North).

1940s:  The Chairman of Whitworth Historical Society has told me that after the chapel closed, the building was used some time in the 1940s by Craft Electrical as an assembly plant for electric irons.  Later still, the building was known locally as ‘the rope works’ where they made ropes possibly for the line-shaft-driven textile processing machines still widely used at the time.

1947-57:  The chapel is shown on the 1947/57 1” OS map marked with a plus sign but the 1949/58 map of the same scale shows buildings over the site.

The site is currently occupied by 49 Rawstrom Street, OL12 8BA.

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