Tockholes Independent Chapel boasts an eventful history

PUBLISHED: 17:40 01 May 2012 | UPDATED: 16:04 21 December 2017

Tockholes Independent Chapel boasts an eventful history

Tockholes Independent Chapel boasts an eventful history

John Lenehan charts, in words and pictures, the eventful history of a tiny chapel on the West Pennine Moors

Harry and Sonia WoolfordHarry and Sonia Woolford

It’s a small church but this is expected to be a big year in the eventful life of Tockholes Independent Chapel – special enough to bring one man all the way from California.

He came for a service which marked the 350th anniversary of the formation of the chapel congregation in the village near Darwen. This happy event wouldn’t have happened but for a controversial law dating back to 1662 following the restoration of the monarchy.

The late 1600s and early 1700s was a time of religious flux in Lancashire. Congregations were split by the 1662 Act of Uniformity, which forced clergymen to follow the principals of the New Reformed Book of Common Prayer.

Its opponents were called Non-conformists and around 2,000 ministers either left or were expelled from the Church of England. Ten years later it was repealed but by then fragmentation and, in some cases, persecution had set in.

Sarah Weal at the 1866 organSarah Weal at the 1866 organ

But in Tockholes both sides seemed to get on and continued to worship together. until the Bishop of Chester found out. Non-conformists were shown the door.

In 1710 they built their own chapel on the site of the present building. From accounts of the time it appears that it was a community effort. According to a contemporary report: ‘Without calling in the hand of any extra labourer, they all set themselves to work, minister and men, women, and children, some using the barrow, some the spade, some the trowel, some the hammer, till in a very short time the building was erected, free from any debt.’

Two of the larger square pews in the centre of the chapel were owned by the Hoghton family of Hoghton Tower who were strong patrons of Non-conformity in Tockholes. The door panels of these pews bore the shield and monogram of Lady Mary Hoghton, widow of Sir Charles, who died in 1710.

The congregation grew and by 1777 alterations were needed to accommodate them. Almost 50 years later repairs were needed to the windows, floor and pews. All the work was carried out at the grand cost of £100 - the equivalent of £50,000 today.

Sarah Weal at the 1866 organSarah Weal at the 1866 organ

It proved futile as just ten years later the roof was deemed unsafe. Work began to remove it and it was then the walls were also declared a danger. There must have been a sad realisation that the chapel their forefathers had built with their hands must be demolished.

But these Tockholes types don’t give in. Within three months two memorial stones of the new Chapel were laid and even the weather played its part. It was said to be a fine day and many people attended including well-wishers from neighbouring towns and villages.

A mallet made from a piece of wood from the old chapel was used to lay the first stone to great applause.

It seems incredible by any standard the speed the new Chapel rose from the ruins of the old. The Non-conformists of Tockholes once roused were certainly people who got a job done, for on a Thursday afternoon in September of the same year the new Chapel was open for worship.

The chapel was damaged by fireThe chapel was damaged by fire

The building was described at the time of being of mixed gothic style with four large windows on each side. Inside the congregation got a new pulpit, a magnificent affair made of fine pitch pine and resting on ornamental walnut columns. As in 1710, it was local people and tradesmen who supplied the labour. Among them was Thomas Hargreaves, the painter and decorator. Remarkably, the man who now paints the chapel is a parishioner called Steve Hargreaves. Sadly, he is no relation.

The whole building when finished cost £926 3s 5d. This based on the average earnings calculation would be £ 389,000 today.

This left the congregation with a debt of £486 (£205,000 today) but vigorous fundraising and donations meant that by late 1886 the Chapel was debt free.

That would seem that the end of the story of Tockholes Independent Chapel but there was one more twist. On the December 9, 1945 there was a major fire with the vestry, organ loft, and the organ destroyed. The roof was also damaged and the Chapel closed it was 1952 before it reopened for services. A new organ was installed – well, nearly new as it came from Bacup and was made in 1866!

The chapel was damaged by fireThe chapel was damaged by fire

This same organ was played by Sarah Weal in the 2012 celebration service and it is still in tune. More beautiful music played on the harp by Lucy Nolan, a local lass who is studying music at Oxford.

David Jump, who was born in the village, went one better by travelling from his new home in San Jose in California to attend the service. Civic dignitaries and local politicians attended the service, which was led by Rev Terry Young.

It was a terrific day for the villagers and it was moving to see the pride in their faces.

John Lenehan regularly writes and takes pictures for Lancashire Life. He’s also a resident of Tockholes. If you have a story to tell about your home area, drop a line to the editor at roger.borrell@lancashirelife.co.uk

Rev Terry Young leads the serviceRev Terry Young leads the service

John Lenehan regularly writes and takes pictures for Lancashire Life. He’s also a resident of Tockholes. If you have a story to tell about your home area, drop a line to the editor at roger.borrell@lancashirelife.co.uk



 



 



Rev Terry Young leads the serviceRev Terry Young leads the service

The print version of this article appeared in the May 2012  issue of Lancashire Life 

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