Two more local Methodist chapels have closed for the last time.
On Sunday morning, July 7, West End, Queensbury, held its last service, while in the afternoon of the same day the chapel at Lindwell, Greetland, held its final service, at first in the church and then at the nearby well that gave the hamlet its name.
Not surprisingly, perhaps, both churches were packed for their final services, as former regulars returned for old time’s sake. As with other, similar events, trustees, clergy and congregations alike must have reflected that if their churches were that full every week none of them would have to close.
The demise of West End and Lindwell are just the latest in a series that has seen the closure of Methodist chapels at Walsden, Southowram, Luddenden, Bailiff Bridge and Ebenzer, Halifax in recent years.
Usually the cause is a combination of an ageing congregation – with precious few youngsters coming through the doors – and the burden of raising enough money, year by year, to pay for a minister and to maintain an often deteriorating building.
But the stories of the latest two closures are very different from each other. At West End, founded in 1888, it really was the end after exactly 125 years, with an ageing congregation facing a £40,000 bill to repair a roof that lets in water when it rains.
On a baking hot Sunday the church laid on juices in case anyone felt they couldn’t cope with the heat. There were sadness and tears as the final hymns were sung. The Rev Christine Perry, conducting the final communion at the chapel, seemed as affected as her lay audience and called on West End’s regular worshippers to receive the bread and wine first, before the visitors in the 100-strong congregation.
Although founded in 1888 West End had its origins in 1800 in worship in cottages at Blackmires, West End, which gave this first Methodist society in Queensbury the name, Blackmires Chapel. But the present chapel site was built on land said to belong to Swamp Farm, Northowram, Halifax, and the church came to be known locally as Swamp Chapel.
The story is different in Greetland, where the closure of Lindwell is also a new beginning. For some years now Lindwell – originally a Primitive Methodist chapel, built in 1837 – has been merged with Greetland Methodist – originally Wesleyan – not much more than a stone’s throw away in an unprepossessing building at Cross Hill, on the main Rochdale Road.
The merged societies have alternately used the Greetland and Lindwell buildings but now the united churches are to build a new chapel, with a new name, on the site of the Greetland building in Cross Hill.
The existing, now dilapidated chapel was constructed in 1976 to replace a historic, but sadly dry rot-riddled building, built in 1778. Methodism’s co-founder, John Wesley, preached there several times in the 1780s.
The last service at the Greetland Methodist building took place last Sunday, July 14. The united congrega-tion of what is now known as Cross Hills Methodist Church will worship at St Thomas’s Anglican church, just up Rochdale Road, until the new chapel is built.
So while West End’s closure brought an end to more than 200 years of Methodism in Queensbury, the good fight will still be fought in Greetland.
These are by no means the end of the closures, however. Methodism in Calderdale, perhaps in common with other nonfonformist churches, is in crisis. Old Town Methodist Church will hold its last service next month and historic Lumbutts, in its delightful setting above Todmorden, almost in the shadow of Stoodley Pike, is due to close before the year’s end. It is said to have a regular congregation of as few as... four.