Echoes of the past: Church’s 141 years of history

editorial image

It is now 141 years since the Clifton Methodist church opened its doors for the first time.

The church was built when it was realised that the growing numbers meant that an old brick school in Highmoor Lane had outgrown its use.

Representatives from the village approached Sir George Armytage about the possibility of buying some land to build the new church on.

Sir George agreed and the land where the church now stands was purchased freehold for £340. The church was opened on Easter Monday, March 29 1875 by Thomas Ormerod.

Looking through an old scrap book of newspaper cuttings I have found the recollections of Jack Illingworth who left Clifton to make his way in the world by travelling to Clark Mills in USA.

Jack was living in Clifton when the new church was opened and he was a member of the choir. He recalled that the new organ was bought from a Thomas Furness and whilst the organ had a number of pipes they were only dummies which helped to make the organ look more impressive.

Thomas Furness for many years had a music shop in Bethel Street and retired to Southport. His son John Furness, a professional musician, was lost at sea when the ship SS Empress of Ireland was lost on March 29 1914.

The first organist was James Clayton who lived in Clifton Common - some of the original choir members with Jack were Jonathan Beevers and Nathan Rayner.

When it was time for the organist to retire his son Saville took over for a number of years but he moved into Brighouse. He found the walk up the hill twice a day too much and handed the job over to Clement Fawcett.

Jack recalled that in 1890 the church took delivery of its new organ and he described it as a ‘real humdinger’. It was found that an extension had to be added to the church to house the organ, which for quite a while had a problem with leakage through the roof.

The situation got so bad that the pipes had to be dismantled by the organ builders who said even when dried out it would probably never be the same again.

When the new extension was added a new pulpit was also built for the minister. Jack describes it as being large enough to fit 20 people but still the choir had to make do with a very small corner position. The choir members at that time included: Betsy Crossley, Elizabeth Ann Crossley, Jane Rayner, Hannah Auty, Mary E Crossley, Adelaide Auty, Sarah Rayner, Nathan Rayner, Jack Illingworth, John Beevers (choirmaster), Ellis Barrett, Jim Beevers, Jonathan Beevers and James Beevers.

The choir decided to take some action with regards to where they had to sing from because of so many seats in the new pulpit not being used even when the minister was speaking.

The following Sunday the choir decided to go and sit in the pulpit but the minister was disgusted at their audacity to venture into his pulpit without permission. That was the only time the choir did it and the following week they were back in corner.

Jack was at the laying of the foundation stone by Benjamin Howe and writes that if it was possible to lift the stone up just for a minute you would find copies of the Brighouse News and the Brighouse and Rastrick Gazette and some coins.

He went on to write that he considered it silly to put money under the stone when so many people were short of money - but may be one day a collector would come across it and it would be worth much more than it was in 1874 when Benjamin Howe laid the stone.