Slaidburn Village Hall
Lancashire BB7 3ES
t: 01200 446555
e: Jackie Howard
Chapel to New Village Hall
1821-1999 Chapel Era
The building was a Chapel from 1821 to 1999
Slaidburn Wesleyan Methodist Chapel was built in 1821 by public subscription and held its final service in 1999 when lack of support led to its closure and sale.
The Chapel was originally built at the instigation of Isabella (Bella) Spencer, who with the support of her family, encouraged others to give of their time, money, goods and labour to create a place of worship.
One person gave the stone for the building, another promised to cart the stone for nothing, another would bring lime and sand without charge.
The Methodist Sunday School banner proudly paraded outside the Church.
Personal sacrifice and individual fund-raising was recorded. One woman gathered wool and knitted 3 pairs of stockings for her share, another gave her rhubarb crop for a year. A farmer gave a weeks supply of butter, another a sheep, someone a calf and a boy dedicated his hatched chickens to the fund.
The Chapel was completed and the day of opening fixed in 1821. It was registered as a meeting place in 1822.
The entire cost of construction was £182-5s-3d and the facades that have been retained in the new village hall show that it was properly built unlike the adjoining house which was found to be unsafe and had to be demolished when the hall was built.
In 1889 the Chapel was enlarged and renovated, a two storey schoolroom, accommodation and a gallery behind the pulpit were added. Modern pews replaced the old box pews.
The Chapel continued to be an important part of the religious life of the village for over 170 years until 1999 when it closed as a place of worship. A dwindling number of worshippers, the economics of maintaining the Chapel and a visiting Minister, led to a centralised decision by the Methodist Church to close the Chapel and sell the building. This action was taken against the wishes of the residual congregation and the Chapel Stewards, who did all they could to retain a Wesleyan place of worship in the village.
The original trustees were cloggers, labourers, farmers and a grocer, some with surnames that are still familiar, eg. Bleazard, Slinger, Walker and Brown. By 1965 the trustees were; Tom Cowking, W J Harrison, Ted Raw, Peggy Starkie, Hartley Kinder, John Hodgson, J Robinson, Robert Wooff and John Sanderson. Later trustees included: William Winder, Lily Hodgson, Peggy Starkie, F Mason, George Kinder, J Sanderson, Ernest Harrison, Jenny Mason, Eric Whitfield and G Sanderson.
Membership of well over 30 was not unusual until support started to dwindle after the 1960’s until at one stage in 1995 there were no members at all.
Over the years several attempts were made to get the Chapel listed but the Department of Culture Media and Sport together with its predecessors consistently ruled that the building was not of listable quality even though it was a much loved integral part of the gateway to a conservation village.
With the author’s kind permission, many of the historical facts and the silhouette of Isabella Spencer have been reproduced from a book written by Chris Spencer, a direct descendant of Isabella, entitled “A history of Methodism in Slaidburn and the WESLEYAN Methodist Chapel”.
Further information is available from the book, at Slaidburn Heritage Centre, Church Street, Slaidburn (phone 01200 446161).
1999-2007 Chapel to Hall
The Illingworth memorial is shown in front of the pulpit
and it is now on the gallery of the hall.
The building between 1999 to 2007
The Methodist Church took the decision to sell the Chapel and Chapel House without any restrictive covenants and the following chain of events ensued:
- North West Trust bought the site and buildings in 1999.
- Minor modifications were made to the Chapel so that it could be used as an extension to the existing village hall.
- The last residents of Chapel House, the Wood family, moved to the Poor’sland House which they acquired in 2000 and Chapel House was then used as a youth club.
- In April 2003 the Chapel site including Chapel House was valued by an independent valuer at £265,000 and was sold to the Slaidburn Property Trust (SPT) with financial assistance from North West Trust and a Northwest Regional Development grant of £132,500 from the Enterprising Rural Communities fund.
- Extensive consultation within the community showed the accommodation that was required for a replacement village hall as the old one was inadequate and could not be made to comply with disability legislation
Various plans were drawn up for a new village hall on the site with the following results:
- David Lea, a well known Welsh architect from the practice of Lea & Borer, produced plans for a modern, energy efficient building which some in the community felt was out of keeping with the village. David Lea’s plans were withdrawn partly because of the reaction and partly because the architect had not been given clear enough direction on land boundaries.
- A series of community meetings Chaired by the former village policeman Mr John Barber agreed a brief for the new hall and looked at ideas produced by four architects. The community finally agreed that Messrs Wales, Wales & Rawson of Skipton be invited to produce new plans based on total demolition of the Methodist buildings and a new pastiche hall. On further reflection, there was concern that these plans increased the risk of flooding to the cottages on the opposite side of the Green. The planning officers were also unhappy as they considered the plans lacked architectural merit through no fault of the architect who, as instructed, had designed a pastiche which was contrary to planning Ribble Valley's policy. In consequence these plans were also withdrawn.
- The national firm of Austin:Smith-Lord (ASL) was asked to produce further plans in conjunction with Wales, Wales and Rawson as ASL had both connections with English Heritage and negotiating skills. Their joint contemporary design was also withdrawn it required access to the building across Slaidburn Estate land.
- ASL produced yet another set of plans keeping two original facades of the Chapel and the volume of the original building. These plans, the fourth set, were approved by the planning committee in May 2005 after considerable controversy. Work started in January 2006 and was completed in May 2007.