IT was a time to take a trip down memory lane as Stalybridge Congregational Church celebrated the 20th anniversary of the move to its present home on Baker Street.
A special weekend of events took place on November 23 and 24. including a lunch when members were able to view a history of the church on a screen when they dined.
It had been compiled by Jennifer Lisle, church leader and deacon, while there were other photographs and memorabilia to peruse.
“We are a small congregation, but it was a lovely weekend,” explained Jennifer.
Congregationalism came to Stalybridge in the 1820s when the town, as a result of the cotton industry, underwent a process of incredibly rapid expansion.
In 1823 and 1824 a number of ‘Independents’ met for worship in Myles Schofield’s garret in Old Street.
This continued until October 1830 when the worshippers moved into a chapel in King Street, formerly used by the ‘Particular Baptists’.
The new church flourished and it was necessary to move to larger premises. A new building was erected on Melbourne Street, with a school underneath capable of accommodating 600 children, at a cost of £1,500. The site also had a large burial plot. This was demolished in 1860 to allow construction for a Gothic style church.
John Cheetham, one of the best-known local cotton masters, gave money for the new building and offered personal assistance from himself and many family members.
In 1905, a new Sunday School was erected across from the church and in 1940 it was used as a reception centre for evacuated children from London and the south of England. Dances were also held here during the Second World War.
In the 1950s and 60s, the downstairs of the building was used as a post office during the Christmas period to sort mail.
In the 1970s, the school was used as the costume department during the production of the film ‘Yanks’. The school was additionally used for needlework lessons for the girls of Central Secondary School and as a day centre for the elderly.
In November 1990, the buildings were found to be structurally unsafe and was forced to close. An application to demolish the building was made to Tameside.
However, an emergency preservation order was placed on both buildings, making them Grade II listed so they are legally protected from demolition, extensions or altered without special permission from the local authority.
They now faced finding more than £1 million for renovation work.
They arranged with Tameside Community Services to worship temporarily in the Community Centre – which became their home for nine years.
This time was also spent fundraising for a new building. They suffered many traumas but thanks to a small dedicated group of worshippers they achieved their dream of erecting a new multi-purpose building on Baker Street, off Acres Lane, which was officially opened on December 18, 1999.
Services are held every Sunday, led by different speakers and they also hold social events.
“We’re very proud of the fact that we’ve got there,” said Jennifer.
The church is more than a place of worship, offering afternoon teas and they have a Thursday group that meet once a month. They also have children’s stay and play every week during term time.