Memories at Sunday school

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WE have just completed 14 weeks looking at life in Brighouse through the 125 year history of the Brighouse Echo - 125 years is certainly a rare milestone.

But it almost pales into insignificance next to an even longer history. It is the 175th anniversary of the New Road Sunday School at Rastrick.

Tucked away in New Hey Road, the Sunday school has been taking care of the congregation’s spiritual and social needs for generations.

To mark this very special event the Sunday school held a celebratory weekend over June 30 and July 1.

Over 100 people attended a special Saturday tea, with an evening of entertainment also held, giving many families and friends the opportunity to come together and share their memories of life with the school.

On the Sunday a special service was held led by Major Eddie and Major Elaine Arnold from the Brighouse Salvation Army Citadel, who both had previous connections with New Road.

Retired local police officer, Andrew Eccles, took the plunge to write the history of the Sunday school.

Following months of hard work and painstaking research, his book was launched at the Saturday celebrations. It is 160 pages, with many photographs and it illustrates both the life of the Sunday school and those of countless families connected with the Sunday school through that long history.

In Rastrick in 1778, non-conformist meetings were held in cottages at Bridge End and such were the numbers attending that the local people began to build their own chapel which was completed in October 1779.

There were various issues with the first ministers and the congregation began to leave and set up their own meetings at Oakes Green, Rastrick and also at Slead Syke, Brighouse. When the Reverend Joseph Hemus Crisp took over in 1812, the scattered congregation re-grouped at Bridge End and over the next 150 years, they went on to form the most influential and successful Congregationalist Chapel that Brighouse and Rastrick would ever see.

Not to be outdone, the Wesleyan Methodists erected their first chapel in Brighouse Park in 1791 but a split in the Methodist movement saw the Methodist New Connexion build another chapel nearby on Bethel Street in 1811. The Wesleyans also built a chapel at Southowram in 1806 and the Independents established themselves at Bramley Lane, Hipperholme.

In the 1830’s, the population at the ‘top end’ of Rastrick saw the need to form chapels at Netheroyd Hill, Elland Upper Edge, Elland Lower Edge and at New Road. All four buildings were of a similar design and started life on an undenominational basis, which were known as Union Schools.

Three of the four eventually surrendered their status to join a denomination such as the Baptists at Upper Edge but New Road Sunday School, as it is now known, remains totally independent of any other church body to this day.

The new building of 1837 was vastly different to the New Road Sunday School we know today but if you take time to look around, there are clues as to how the various extensions were added to the original structure over the ensuing years. By the 1890s the Sunday school was going from strength to strength with an ever increasing congregation meant that further additions to the property were necessary.

The social side of the Sunday school has played an important role and with a great emphasis in sporting activities. There was a tennis club, a football team, the cricket club and there was even a Youngman’s Institute.

The book displays many photographs showing the various teams over the years, as well as the many children who took part in the annual pantomimes and the Band of Hope.

Pride of place in the Sunday school is its own war memorial to the young men from the Sunday school who joined in the First World War. As a young boy Andrew would look up at the war memorial across the main hall and reflect on the 34 names. When he was older Andrew was told that the 34 names mentioned all survived the war, but the 35th name Ernest Redfearn did not and he has a special place on the memorial.

Whilst the world has changed since New Road first opened its doors it is still the spiritual home of many local people who can trace their own families back to some of the earliest years and members of its long history.

Andrew’s book is for sale and is £10 – the book is a limited print of 100 copies. Having self financed the book printing further copies will be a decision for later.

Please e-mail: enquiries@chrishelme-brighouse.org.uk or 01422-205763 and I will be pleased to pass your details on to Andrew.