Netherthong Wesleyan Church Part 2 -1921 to closure

The first report in the Examiner for 1921 was in February, when a concert was given in the school on behalf of the Young Leaguers’ Union of the National Childrens Home and Orphanage. It was very well attended and £10 10s was raised. They organised a similar social for the same charity  two years later in February 1923, and called it a ‘hospital social’ with songs, music and recitations which raised £10.

Sadly, during the month, the death occurred of Joseph Armitage, aged 77 years. He had been closely associated with the Wesleyan Methodists and had been one of the first Sunday School teachers. He was interested in the Working Men’s Club and was formerly its caretaker. For over 50 years he was a member of the Gardener’s Friendly Society and, in 1897, was one of the founders of the juvenile branch. His trade was as an oat-bread baker

At the end of the month, a concert was held in the school by the Hinchliffe Mill Wesleyan Prize Choir under the leadership of Joe Bottomley with Miss F. Green as accompanist.

A social gathering was held in the Chapel in March 1923 to raise funds for the renovation of the chapel and improvements to the organ. There was a supper and games were played and £3 was raised.

After having been closed for some time for renovation, the Chapel, which had been re-decorated at a total cost of £120,  was re-opened in July when a devotional service was conducted by the circuit ministers, Rev. E. Harland and Rev .J. Crawford, with music on the organ by Mr. Cousens. The organ had been overhauled and two new stops added. A large number of people partook of tea. The following month was time for the annual outing for the choir ; they went to Wharfedale and Airedale and travelled in Mr. Middleton’s well-known charabanc ” Holme Valley “. For their outing in 1924 they once again travelled in the ” Holme Valley ” and visited the Dukeries.

The Chapel members had all agreed to the adoption of the electric lighting scheme and, in January 1925, held a tea and concert which realised £8 6s 6d  for the fund.

April of that year was the occasion when the men associated with the Chapel promoted a tea and concert in the schoolroom. A goodly number sat down to a capital tea which was provided by the men who not only presided and served at tables but also did the washing-up. An excellent concert concluded with the burlesque ” Ventriloquism or how not to do it ” which was given by J. Green, N. Haigh and T. Littlewood. £7 10s was raised for the electric lighting fund.

In September the Chapel extended a hearty welcome to the Rev. Wm. Salisbury and the Rev. Joseph Birbeck, newly appointed ministers of the Holmfirth circuit of Wesleyan Methodism. The financial statements of the Sunday School were submitted and approved and members were told that electric lighting was shortly to be installed with the supplier being Honley Council. December saw the much awaited Electric Light Installation Ceremony, when the switching on , performed  by one of the oldest scholars, Mr. J.Woodhead, JP., was greeted with hearty applause. A public tea followed by a concert was provided.

In January 1926 the death occurred of Mr. John Albert Armitage of Chapel House , Deanhouse. He was well known and highly respected and a close adherent to the Wesleyan Cause. For 20 years he had been chapel-keeper, a trustee, a steward and an active worker for the chapel renovation and for several years he generously provided an annual treat for the primary department children. He had his 59th. birthday on Christmas Day . He worked as a dyer’s labourer for J .Davies & Co. Ribbleden Dyeworks at Holmfirth and had died immediately on reaching the dye-house on his return to work after the holiday. Another workman said the deceased had reached the dye-house about 6.45 and had just put his dinner on a bench, when he fell to the ground. The post-mortem showed evidence of chronic bronchitis and Bright’s disease and the coroner ruled the death was due to natural causes.

The same month Mr. Edward Finch, the well-known Huddersfield elocutionist, paid a visit to the chapel and delivered recitals to the well – attended afternoon and evening services.

In June through the kindness of Mr.& Mrs. Walter Wagstaff and friends, the young children of the primary and other junior departments of the school spent an enjoyable time at Rob Roy. The Foreign Missionary anniversary, in conjunction with the Chapel , was held in November with  morning and afternoon services on the Sunday. A public tea was given on the Tuesday and Mrs. Death of Meltham presided over a meeting which was addressed by Mrs. W.Rhodes on British Guiana.

The first event in 1927 was in January when a concert , promoted by the organist J W.Green, was held in aid of funds for painting the exterior of the Chapel. The same month the Young Leaguers organised the annual effort by the Sunday School on behalf of the National Children’s Home and Orphanage. It was presided over by J. Green.

 The New Year’s gathering and price distribution took place in the Sunday school. W. Wagstaff presided and Mrs. Salisbury presented the prizes as well as giving a bible to Arthur Shaw in honour of his connection to the Sunday school up to 20 years of age.

Thomas Dyson gave one of his popular lantern lectures in the schoolroom. This one was all about Yorkshire seaside resorts and the lanternists were C. Dutton and W. Boothroyd.

In February the Rev. Joseph West, a former missionary, who had laboured in India, gave a lecture  on missionary life and experiences in Ceylon which he illuminated with slides. One of the last visits of the year was a visit by Friends from Hall Sunday School to the Wesleyan school and they gave a concert. The chair was occupied by Mr. Thomas Littlewood.

The annual choir outing, for the Sunday School for 1928, visited Cawthorne and 60 scholars, teachers and friends travelled in three conveyances. The members of the Choir had their annual outing in September when they visited York. In January 1929 the Young Leaguers Union gave a concert in the school room and presented two children’s operettas.

In the late twenties, gramophone recitals were becoming very popular and attracted good attendances and Mr. Harold Hirst of Holmfirth presented a number of excellent records in the school in February 1929. Later that year in September the quarterly meeting in connection with the Holmfirth Circuit of Wesleyan Methodism was held in the Chapel. Rev. J. Hisbrown, the circuit minister, presided and a unique feature was the presence of representatives from the United Methodist and Primitive Methodist Circuits. The final event of the year was a visit in December by a number of married ladies associated with the Wesleyans at Underbank. They gave a concert full of miscellaneous items in aid of Chapel funds. The young people from the Honley Wesleyan Sunday school paid a visit in January 1930 to the Wesleyan school in connection with the Netherthong branch of the Young Leaguers Union and presented a pleasing programme of glees, songs , dances and sketches. The next event was an Orange Grove Fair at the school in April which was opened by Arthur Fieldhouse , well known in Wesleyan circles. After all the thanks had been made, the fair opened with many stalls. The ladies provided the tea and the entertainment in the evening. £140 was raised before expenses.

A party from Leeds South Circuit United Methodist Church visited at the end of November 1930 to give a concert. There was a good attendance, presided over by T. Dyson, and W. Wagstaff gave the vote of thanks.

A lantern service was held in the schoolroom on a Sunday afternoon in January 1931. “Timothy Crab ” was the subject of a temperance ballad illustrated by views which had been made from life models by Bamforths of Holmfirth and the slides were presented by T. Dyson assisted by’ lanternists’, T. Dufton and B. Coldwell. Mr. W.Wagstaff presided with Miss Ruth Dufton on piano. The Rev. Harry Buckley was the speaker at the special services in the evening. The choir’s annual outing that year was in July when members and friends visited Grassington and Burnsall. The Rev. Walter T.Rose, the newly-appointed circuit minister, was the preacher at the Chapel anniversary in September 1931. The same month J .Hadfield of Huddersfield gave a lantern lecture at the school titled ‘Pictures of North Wales’. There were two events in November, the first was the Annual missionary meeting when the Rev. C. Chapman of Halifax, who had served 15 years in Burma, delivered a powerful appeal. He said that the Chapel had raised £13 during the year. The second event later in the month was a successful tea and concert promoted by the men of the congregation. It was presided over by H. Wagstaff. The first reported event in 1932 was in January when the Rev. J .Bisbrown, the superintendent minister of the Holmfirth Circuit of Wesleyan Methodism, visited the chapel and gave a lantern lecture on ‘Glimpses of the Continent’. In March the Ladies of the Chapel gave their ‘first’ effort consisting of a tea and entertainment. It was a big success and raised £13 1s. At the annual missionary meeting at the Chapel in November 1933, the Rev. H. Bishop, principal of the Training College, Porto Novo, Dahomey who had 30 years missionary experience in South Africa, Portuguese East Africa, Portugal and French West Africa gave the main address. A presentation was made in November 1935  to Mr.& Mrs. Thomas Dyson of Croft House on the occasion of their wedding. Mr. Walter Wagstaff presented them with a barometer from their friends at the Chapel and an alarm clock from the Sunday School children and teachers. At the Sunday school anniversary meeting in May 1936 presentations were made for long and faithful service. Miss Brigg and Miss Cousen were each presented with a cake district ( no idea ) and Mr. J. Green , who had been the voluntary organist for 25 years, was presented with a grandmother clock. Mrs. W. Wagstaff presided. The following August, 60 teachers, scholars and friends of the Sunday school went on their annual outing, on this occasion to Knaresborough. The same month the Chapel hosted the quarterly meeting of Methodists from all parts of the Holmfirth circuit and all newly appointed ministers were given a very warm welcome.

In March  1938, the Chapel held its re-opening services as it had been closed for the purpose of decorating both the chapel and the school and installing a new heating apparatus. Special services were held. A few months later in May the bi-centenary of John Wesley’s conversion was celebrated throughout Methodism and the Netherthong chapel played an honoured part for it was twice visited by John Wesley and was the 6th. Methodist Chapel to be built in the whole of England. The first chapel was at Bristol followed by Birstall, Newcastle, Hipperholme and Haworth. On his first visit on July 6 1772, he wrote in his diary for that day … ” I went to Halifax. Preached in the Cow Market to a huge multitude. Our house was filled at 5 in the morning. At 10, I preached in the New House at Thong and at 2 in the afternoon in the Market Place in Huddersfield. Such another we had at Dewsbury in the evening and my strength was my duty.” He preached in the village again in 1788 and records in his diary that he visited Honley at 11am on April 30 1788.

The following letter from Mr. J. H. Hoyle was received by the Chapel in February 1939 and dealt with some of his memories of the chapel and school as a lad from three years of age to twenty years. He said he had the two-fold privilege of attending service in the chapel as it stood when Wesley preached in it, and was also one of the ten scholars present at the opening of the Sunday School. As a young lad I was taken to chapel regularly to the services. How many thousands of Methodist worshippers have descended the almost precipitous slope of the hill from the village, down the gentler slope beneath the trees, across the large stone flags that spanned the brook, and then by an arduous climb up the long flight of “catsteps” to reach the body of the chapel ( now the Sunday School ) and up yet another flight of stone steps to the former gallery ( now the chapel ). What fun and valuable exercise for lung and limb those steps gave to us boys! The older people did not seem to regard them with half our friendliness ; but what could they expect ? They never ran races down them, or even up!

New Year’s Day was the annual meeting , which began with a tea, beautifully served in true West Riding style. This was followed by a meeting, enlivened by speeches from teachers and others, of whom some at least were not born orators, but the breakdown of a speaker did not damp, but rather intensified the enjoyment of the audience. Whit Monday was the day of the school feast. Led by a brass band, teachers and scholars walked in procession round the neighbourhood, stopping at various points to sing their special hymns, and occasionally they received an orange or some sweets. Tea and buns were served in the schoolroom, and each scholar was presented  with a specially large and rich bun – the ” School Feast cake ” – to take home. Then , when the room was being cleared and re-arranged, there was a short interval for games, but little room to play. After this a meeting was held with speeches and selections by the brass band that easily filled the comparatively small room chock full of music. Later in the summer, the anniversary was almost like a second Whit Sunday. The music was carefully rehearsed for weeks beforehand and often included new tunes by local musicians.  Some of Methodism’s finest men visited at times. Thomas Champness was no stranger and to hear him at his best speaking from the text ” The people had a mind to work ” was a privilege. A service of a kind rarely witnessed in a Methodist chapel was held one Sunday morning. The announcement was made, ” The Sacrament of Baptism will now be administered “. Everyone was expecting to see a baby but instead one of the leaders, closely followed by his wife, came down the aisle. He had searched the records  but no record of his baptism could be found and he wanted to remedy the omission. Although it is more than seventy years since the writer witnessed it, he has never seen a similar ceremony. It was his own father he saw baptised.

The scholars, teachers and friends all enjoyed an outing in June to Buxton and Matlock.

The 1939 annual outing in May for the Chapel consisted of 60 teachers and scholars who travelled in two of Messrs. Castle’s motors. They visited Brimham Rocks and Knaresborough.. May was also the occasion of the Sunday School Anniversary when all involved partook in songs, recitations and hymns.

In February 1940, the annual ladies tea and entertainment took place in the Chapel.  March 16th. was observed as ladies’ day and Miss Mabel Wagstaff of Gateshead was the preacher. The annual outing for the Sunday School saw 60  teachers, scholars and friends go to Knaresborough again as they had done the previous year.

The next newspaper report was  February 1941  when Mr. Norman Powell’s party of the Boy Scouts of Honley and District visited the Sunday School and gave a mixed entertainment which included lessons on first-aid. Mr. T. Dyson visited the Chapel in  November  to give one of his illustrated lantern lectures and  presented views of Yorkshire scenery , there was a good attendance and a collection was taken for overseas mission. The same month it was the turn of the ladies to give their annual entertainment of songs and sketches and the Chapel was crowded with an appreciative audience.

The  Sunbeams Concert Party gave a very successful variety show in the Sunday School in February 1942. To start off the show, all the  girls sang ” Save a little Sunshine ” which was followed by an amusing duet by  Maurice Froggatt and Colin Gledhill. Mary Bowden sang ” Land of Hope and Glory”, Colin Gledhill entertained with his song, ” Nobody loves a fairy when she’s forty”. Eileen Roebuck sang ” Danny Boy “, Relton Bradley performed a monologue. Susie McLean, Mary Bowden and Eileen Roebuck starred in ‘Mr. Brown of London Town’ and Edith Walker gave a dance.  Philip Roebuck and Relton Bradley appeared in many of the sketches and the pianists were Marion Bowden and Maurice Froggatt. The sketches were written by Mr. N.Powell who also acted as compere and ran the show. The proceeds came to £5 15s.

An important name change occurred at the start of the 1949s when it stopped being called Deanhouse Wesleyan Methodist Church and became Netherthong Wesley’s Methodist Church.

In December, the overseas missionary anniversary services were held in the Chapel. Rev. Thorpe spoke about missionary work in Ceylon and the Rev. Roberts gave an illustrated lecture on his work in West Africa. Also in December, the combined choirs of the Parish Church, Zion Methodist and Wesley Methodist gave carol services in the Parish Church.

 At the end of 1942 there was a Christmas wedding at the Church on Boxing Day between Bombardier Albert Cartwright of Denegarth, Deanhouse and Miss Phyllis Wagstaff of Rob Roy, Netherthong. The bride was a Sunday school teacher, a member of the choir at the Chapel and a lieutenant in the Netherthong Girl Guide Company.

February 1943 was the occasion of ladies’ Day at the Chapel and Miss H. Battye was the preacher at the services. In December, the combined choirs of the Parish Church, Zion Methodist and Wesley Methodist gave carol services in the Parish Church.

The Rev. J.Almond, newly appointed minister in the Holmfirth Methodist circuit, gave the sermon at the anniversary services in September 1944.

The 1947 annual outing of the scholars and friends involved a group of 70 travelling to Knotts End and Fleetwood. A presentation was made in September to Herbert Fisher who had resigned his post of choirmaster after 40 years. He was a well known vocalist, had been conductor of the Netherthong Music Festival and was a member of the Holme Valley Male Voice Choir. In January 1948, the Chapel had a distinguished visitor, Rev. J.H.Garland the Methodist minister at Mallon, Cumberland. He was the secretary and organiser of the International Centenary Commemoration of the Rev. Henry Francis Lyte, author of Abide with Me, and he lectured on the famous hymn and its author.

Memorial Services were held in the Chapel in May 1949 for Walter Wagstaff, a former worker for the chapel, who died in Rhyl on April 26th. He had been president of The Male Voice Choir. On the 22nd. of the same month, Mr.& Mrs. John Edward Smith, who had been caretakers for over 23 years, attained their golden anniversary. Mr. Smith ,who was 78 years, came to Netherthong in 1917 and worked in the local mills before being appointed chapel – keeper. He was an Hon. member of The Male Voice Choir. Before her marriage, Mrs. Smith was Miss Edna Roebuck, one of a family of eight sons and four daughters. She was 71 years.

September was the occasion of the Annual Services and the preacher was Rev.A. Vincent Woodhill who was one of the newly appointed ministers on the circuit. Mrs. R.Singleton was the organist. The Holme Valley Guides, Scouts and Cubs paid their 20th. Annual visit to the Chapel in October when Rover leader, W. Allen, presided. The address was given by Scoutmaster, Pat Hellawell and the children’s address by Cubmistress, D. Whitehead. The lesson was read by Scout Lawrence Liles and Cub Mark Lancaster contributed a poem.

The annual outing in May 1950 was to Bridlington when 58 adults and children left in two coaches. The same month, the Sunday School Anniversary services were held with the Rev. Woodhall of Meltham as preacher. He was also the preacher in November when Temperance Film strips were shown at the chapel.  The Rev. J. Christian of Holmfirth was the preacher at the Church anniversary services in August.

1951 started off with the Annual distribution of prizes in January for the Sunday School scholars. Miss S.J.Brigg presided  and Mrs.R.Singleton was the organist.The scholars plus friends of the Sunday School held their annual outing in June. They were conveyed in two of Messr. Bradley Bros. coaches to Southport.

The Rev. James Sollitt, newly appointed superintendent minister of the Holmfirth Methodist circuit, was the preacher at the anniversary services in September 1951. They celebrated the Harvest Festival in October with a parade by the Boy Scouts and Girl Guides. Scoutmaster Stuart Bedford presided and the lessons were read by cub Geoffrey Burley and scout Pat Beardsell.

There was a full chapel to celebrate the Harvest Festival in 1954. The local scouts and guides paraded for the festival and Mr.T.Brooks, scoutmaster, stated that it was the 25th. annual visit by the Guides and Scouts. The Sunday School Anniversary services took place in May 1956 and the organist at both services was Mrs.R.Singleton. The Rev. J.Crawford of Honley was the preacher.

The Rev. F. Garnett of Meltham , one of the newly appointed ministers of the Holmfirth Methodist Circuit, was the preacher at the chapel anniversary services in September 1956. The following month they celebrated the Harvest Festival with the annual parade of the boy scouts and girl guides and the Scout leader, Mr.Sanderson of Meltham, presided. Lessons were read by Scouts Derek Marsh and Gerald Buck and the young peoples address was given by Cub leader Maureen Sykes of Honley. The speaker was Scoutmaster L. Farrar of Halifax.

Owing to the damage sustained  at Wesley’ Chapel in June all their services were held in the Zion Church. A united campaign  for both the  churches was organised by a band of local preachers in the Holmfirth Circuit who had previously held campaigns in Wooldale, Scholes and Crowedge. The opening phase had been an intensive visiting of the whole area, house by house, armed with leaflets. In July the Trustees discussed the question of the condition of the roof and the cost of repairs and decided to make a decision at the quarterly meeting. The main ceiling collapsed in September and the  congregation formally joined the Zion Methodist Church. The following year the Chapel was officially closed and later was converted into a house. The following information has been supplied ( July 2018 ) by a ‘family member’.

The Wesleyan Chapel was bought by my Grandfather George England with a view to converting it into living accommodation but the project was never begun. We were visiting the family soon after he had acquired it and he took us to see it. I can tell you, that  inside the chapel, there was a mahogany chair with arms and a plaque fixed to the back, which said something to the effect that ” John Wesley used this chair when he preached in this chapel in 1772? My grandfather’s intention was to give the chair to a local  Chapel and, so far as I know, that is what he did. It could possibly have been Gatehead. 

With the closing of the Chapel, the Express in July gave a detailed account of the early history of the Chapel. Much of it is similar to the information I have given in this chapter but the paper had access to the original minute book of the records of the Sunday School. They make for very interesting reading and I have  listed them below. 

The very first meeting was held on April 29 1861 and it was resolved to purchase two dozen Bibles, two dozen Testaments and spelling books. On May 14 arrangements were made for the school feast and it was resolved that two stones of flour would be used for plain bread and one and a half stones for currant bread. At a committee meeting on December 16, Messrs. J.Woodhead and J.Rogers were appointed to attend on Saturday evenings in the school to give instructions on writing etc.

On July 15 1862  eight rules for the teachers were adopted and they were as follows. 1. The school shall be opened with singing and prayer and this rule also gave the various attendance times.  2. They shall take such a position in their class as will enable them to observe every child. They shall restrain the children from improper conduct.  3. In case of unavoidable absence they shall provide a proper substitute.  4. They shall be persons of good moral character, approved by the teacher’s meeting.  5. No teacher shall mention the faults of a brother teacher.  6. Every teacher leaving the school is requested to give a month’s notice.   7. A committee shall be chosen annually to manage the affairs of the school.  8. A meeting shall be held quarterly.

There were also eight rules to be enforced by the scholars. 1. They shall be present at the opening of the school and shall be clean in person and dress.  2. If any scholar be absent from school for four successive Sundays without a sufficient excuse he shall be dismissed.  3. No scholar shall attend when affected by any infectious disease.  4. The scholars at the time of singing or prayer shall not gaze about, read or play.  5. No scholar may leave his class without the consent of the teacher. 6 No scholar shall bring anything to play with or eat during school hours.  7 They shall abstain from lying, swearing, sabbath breaking and every other manifest immorality and be submissive, obedient and respectful to their teachers.  8 Scholars not attending to the above rules shall be punished.

At a meeting on October 4 1864, it was decided to join the Sunday School Union, about to be formed in the Holmfirth Circuit, and on December 5 of the same year it was resolved ” that one dozen of Wesleyan Scripture Lessons be purchased monthly at the expense of the School Funds.” It was resolved on August 13 1869 that the teachers and scholars have a trip to Harden Moss ( it unfortunately didn’t record how this would be achieved ).

And finally a minute of April 1893 regarding the school feast states ” that we walk with the Reformers as usual if they are willing “. The following year ” it was decide not to walk with the Reformers“.

The following pamphlet was published for the Dedication of the Organ, Pulpit and Choir Stalls on May 30th. and 31st. 1959.


May 1959 Dedication programme.
May 1959 Dedication programme.

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