Padgate Methodist Church - Our History
John Smith, an ancestor of the Andrews family who are still members of the Church, planted Wesleyan Methodism in the hamlet of Padgate. Mr. Smith was the man featured in the silhouette in Bold street vestry, helping John Wesley up the chapel steps on his last visit to Warrington in 1790, as a youth he vowed to found a Methodist society as soon as he had found a home of his own, he actually conducted worship in three cottage rooms, all close to Padgate Lane, described by William Beamont as one of the most picturesque roads in England. The three cottages appear to have been 5 Sankey's Cottages (demolished in 1970); an unnamed cottage, half way between the old and the new chapels, on the Padgate side of St. Oswald's car park, and a room behind the present Grange Mount, on the estate of William Bennett. A small Sunday school, also met in these early years under the superintendence of Mr. William Ford.
The Old Chapel
The number of worshippers grew to a point where a permanent chapel became necessary. A building fund commenced in 1827. Within three years £56 had been collected, a further loan of £150 had been promised. The amount needed was £214. A plot of land was purchased on Padgate Lane, and a small chapel, seating 140, with high-backed pews, a towering red pulpit, with seats at each side for the scholars, a creaking harmonium, and a tiny vestry (added later) was built. Heating was provided by a coke stove, and lighted by candles. (Much altered the exterior of this building may still be seen). The chapel opened on Sunday 11th January, 1831 and was the ninth permanent building to open in the area covered by the Warrington Circuit (the others are: Back Dallam Lane (1755), later Bank Street, Warrington (1778); Whitley (1796); Lymm (1809) Moore (1812); Appleton (1819); Penketh (c.1825); Old Road Primitive Methodist (1826); Martinscroft (1827).
The Padgate chapel must for many years have been an isolated cause physically and spiritually from the Methodism of Warrington itself. Bank Street was faraway, and the nearby Wesleyan chapel, Martinscroft, lay across the moss, Risley (founded 1812) was by this time Independent Methodist, though once Primitive. In consequence ministerial visits were infrequent, no contributions were paid to parish funds until 1854, and a vigorous congregational self-sufficiency and self-reliance (always a feature of local Methodism) was conspicuous from the start. But life was good; the congregation enjoyed the patronage and support of the local farmers, the Bennett's of Mount Cottage and Paddington House, and the Rigby's of Bruche Hall. Anglican work in Padgate commenced later than the Methodists, and so there was little sense of spiritual inferiority or of having arrived late on the scene. The chapel was the centre of village affairs and the great annual Christmas Tea Party was as much a community as a chapel occasion. The building now seemed to be too small for the growing numbers, and a committee was formed in January 1874 to plan a new building. Mr. C. O. Ellison who had designed Methodist churches in Liverpool and elsewhere, was instructed to prepare the plans. The building contract was awarded to Gibson and Son. Mr. Samuel Rigby laid the foundation stone on 5th April 1874.
The New Chapel: The First Fifty Years
The present church opened on 5th April 1875.The President of Conference, The Rev. Luke Wiseman had just died so the preacher was the President Elect, the Rev. Gervase Smith. Services were crowded a collection of £215 was recorded and the chapel pronounced 'an architectural gem'. An organ by Richardsons of Manchester was added in 1876 at a cost of £150. Again the building was too small! The small schoolroom was enlarged and more classrooms added in 1886 costing £370 most of the money being raised at a special bazaar in Bold Street. The chapel was enlarged in 1891 at a cost of £550 and the school again extended in 1897 costing £186. The caretaker's house was built in 1902 for £250, and the ugly turret replaced by the present spire in 1906. The Wesley Hall and Guild room were added in 1911 (£1287). A circuit reorganisation in Warrington found a fourth minister being stationed in 1905, the purchase of a manse in Padgate, and the assumption of pastoral care of Padgate, Martinscroft, Antrobus, Lymm and Latchford chapels by the Rev. William Mellor, Padgate's first resident minister. Work grew rapidly through the first half of the century and was steered through the World War 1 by Revs. E Morgan and A.J. Morton. The War Memorial erected in 1921 indicated the grievous loss, which Padgate in company with other Churches suffered during the holocaust. The members with huge confidence held a bazaar in 1921 and raised £878, the amount representing the peak of the 'Bazaar Period' of Methodist history. The money was used to install electric light in 1922; the remainder was used towards the new Forward Movement in connection with the Jubilee Celebrations of 1924. The objectives now were to raise money for a new organ, and a £1000 instrument was built by Brindleys and first played in January 1926.
The New Chapel: The Past Seventy-Five Years
The inter-war years were not easy and money hard to come by, but new building in the Padgate and Bruche area plus the outstanding efforts of three ministers, the Revs. William Raby, J. T. Halstead and R. E. Parker, prevented a deficit, which had reached £600 in 1928 from becoming an intolerable burden. It was cleared by 1931 but renovation costing a mere £50 could not be carried out. Nevertheless the spiritual side flourished, the Sunday services and Sunday school were well attended and weekday meetings attracted large numbers. Rev. T. H. Barrat, the Principal of Didsbury Theological College, Manchester, conducted centenary services in 1931.
The Rev. J.H. Sanders ministered at Padgate for a record eleven years (1934-1945), combining with this appointment, his last before retirement, the Superintendency of the Circuit and the Chairmanship of the Old Chester and Warrington District. These offices would have been an impossible responsibility for one man and three young ministers who resided in the Padgate area, The Revs. Gordon Bolderson, T. Fred Costain and William Lloyd Richardson assisted Mr. Sanders during this time. During the years of peace and war two laymen Mr. H Dale and Mr. H. G. Hodgson helped sustain the ministry. The huge Air Force Camp at Padgate was constructed and once again the Church rose to the challenge; it would be difficult to say whether Methodists or Christian Brethren gave a warmer welcome to the servicemen in our midst. The Bright Hour after the Sunday evening service and the twice-weekly servicemen's canteen were notable features for these years.
Two short ministries followed. The Rev Percy Robinson welcomed a Cliff College mission in 1947. His successor, the Rev. Noel J. Chew, a retiring and scholarly bachelor, was immensely popular, but was already showing symptoms of the lingering illness, which was to terminate his career.
In 1954 when the Church was in the midst of a rapidly growing residential area, the Rev. Leslie J. Hewitt arrived. The last farms disappeared in the 1940s and slowly the numbers of airmen diminished and those of the Training College students grew. Under Mr. Hewitt the youth work was stressed, and the two pantomimes performed by the young people are still recalled with nostalgia today. By the mid-1950s, the Sunday school was about 130 strong, the music was in the hands of Mr. Cox; youth work in the Pickerings, and the sisterhood under Mrs. Dakin.
Dry rot was discovered in 1948 just in time and a total of £5000 was spent to renovate the building by J Ashall and Co.
The Rev. Gordon Trimble is remembered with affection by the Padgate society. The Young Wives group owed its origins to Trimble's energy, and it was during this ministry in 1961, that the first Stewardship Campaign was launched. Padgate remains a stewardship church.
Under the leadership Of Rev. Don Parsons the church enjoyed a pulpit and pastoral ministry of high order, the People Next Door Campaign marked the Church's first ecumenical venture, and youth work flourished. Mr. Parsons resigned in 1967 to become a Probation Officer, though remained a valued member of the society. There needed to be an interim ministry and the Rev. Arthur Mills, superintendent of the Darwin Circuit agreed to come for a short time. Mr. and Mrs. Mills found themselves at home with the Padgate folk and decided to retire to Warrington.
The Rev. Kenneth Griffin (1969-1973). An enthusiastic and very hard working man held before himself and his people very exacting ethical demands. He founded the Toddlers' Club, Girl Guides, Brownies and The Boys Brigade, a successful Deaconess Caravan Mission, the welcome given to a number of friends from Ellesmere Street Chapel closed in 1970, and the cleaning of the exterior, which enabled its architectural features to be appreciated once again.
The Rev. David Day succeeded in 1973. There were a few qualms at having a Yorkshireman (and lady) in our midst were quickly dispelled. Mr. Day's inspired and zealous preaching endeared him to the Padgate people.