Click on any photo to see the full-size original.
The Early Years, building a "School Chapel"
It was on May 31st 1897 that a committee first met to build a new church in Hale. They issued a brochure which stated -
"The rapid growth of the residential district lying between the Hale Road and the Ashley Road, Altrincham, and the great increase of the population during the last few years have obliged the officers and other members and friends of the Bowdon Downs Congregational Church to consider the question of providing for formation of a New Church there. ...An eligible plot of ground has been secured on the right-hand side of Ashley Road, near to Park Road. It is proposed to erect at once a School-Church; leaving ample space in front for the main building which is to follow."
Messrs. W. Lambert & Son were employed for "the erection of a School-Church, consisting of a Large Hall, with four classrooms, which be easily made part of the auditorium when it is needed, and an Infants' room which may also be used as a Church Parlour."

The total cost was £3,700, of which £780 was for purchase of the Chief Rent of the land to avoid an annual financial burden. The committee ensured that the brochure included the names of donors and amounts of money already given, no doubt to encourage support.

The new School Chapel, as it was called, opened on May 4th 1899

The Plan

The achievment

Pepper Street Chapel.

The church records show that at this time the minister at Hale had oversight of "Pepper Street Chapel" in Mobberley. We know little about this - apart from the fact that the minister would sometimes take services there in the afternoon after morning service at Hale. What transport he used is not known, but it is a fair walk between the chapels.

In WW1 the members of Pepper Street who served in the military were recorded along with those from Hale, and appear on our memorial.

The chapel is described in here as "Knolls Green, United Reformed Church (Independent/Congregational), Pepper Street. Built in 1783 as a Methodist Chapel (Wesleyan), taken over by Independents in 1803, closed in 1961. Mobberley- Knolls (also spelt Knowles) Green" The dates are confusing, claiming it was closed before the Union in 1972. However, Ringheye Morris dancers practised there after their formation in 1983 "until the chapel hall closed". (The nearby Chapel House Inn was very convenient after dancing.)
It just shows one that official histories can be wrong! In fact Pepper Street closed in 1967, then re-opened later as an independant Congregtional chapel until closure mid 1980s.

The chapel, as it is now, a desirable residence.

Time of Expansion, building the New Schools

In 1880 education became compulsory for all children aged 5-10. When the Hale School Chapel opened the age range had been extended to 12, and was eventually extended to 14 in 1918. At the time, church schools provided about half the available schooling.

In 1902 the Balfour Act was passed by parliament putting education under local education authorities, it allowed for the funding of sectarian schools, notably Anglican and Catholic. Non-conformists opposed the change, arguing that (1) the rate aid was being used to support the teaching of religious views to which some rate-payers were opposed; (2) sectarian schools, supported by public funds, were not under public control; (3) teachers in sectarian schools were subject to religious tests. However, the legislation passed, but It cost the government the election.

But were the Hale Congregationalists down hearted? Well maybe, but at that time attendance at Sunday schools (which often met mid-week as well) was actually higher than at day schools. The building committee reformed in 1909 as the extensions committee and set about building an annex called the New Schools, putting building of the new church in abeyance. As the local paper reported:
"The work for the present is, therefore, limited to the building of an annexe to the school chapel which will contain three departments, each with accommodation for from eighty to one hundred children. The primary department on the ground floor will be used by the very youngest children. Others whose years are more will be taught in the junior department. while still older children will be housed in the intermediate department. Each school has its own means of access with separate class rooms, and the work of each will be entirely independent, No structural change would be made in the school chapel, but the additions to be made will make it available for large meetings and for the purposes of the senior Sunday school and institute and various forms of social work which may be determined upon in the future."

It opened in April 1911 and cost £3700.

The School Rooms extension, 1974

Photos courtesy of David Stratton
Completion of the New Church
There seemed to be a surplus of cash left over from building the schools and the extensions committee moved onto constructing the new church which opened in October 1913. The local paper reported that of the cost £5500, £200 remained outstanding, but this was liquidated during the opening ceremonies. The old chapel was demoted to the status of lecture hall.

There were adjustments to be made. An American organ was installed in the chapel during building, whilst the pipe organ was moved to the new church and upgraded from a two to a three manual. It was provided with an electric pump which proved to be unnecessarily noisy. The man who had been paid to pump the organ was now paid to run the cloak-room on Sundays. The ladies busied themselves with putting a carpet around the new communion table; it took four months to decide the colour. It was grey.

The extensions committee remained in place to sort out turning the chapel into a lecture hall. They were still trying to give away the old pulpit and font in 1914 when war broke out and they ceased meeting and we have no further record of what happened.

We do know what happened to the communion table. This had been given to the chapel when it opened in 1899 by a member of the parent church, Bowdon Downs. In 1914 it was returned there. When the Downs church closed it was given to Trinity Presbyterian church in Bowdon for use by the Women's Guild -this was a couple of years before the union. When the Bowdon church joined with Hale, it came back to stay in the Round Room at Hale. In 2014 it returned to the Hall when it was used for services during the main church refurbishment, becoming once again the centre of worship, where it began.

The table has one peculiarity, it may seem a nice uniform oval, but it actually has no axis of symmetry at all. This is because the carvings show thirteen faces evenly spaced around the table. Thirteen is a prime number.

And then came World War One... NEXT PAGE

SITE MAP for Altrincham United Reformed Church HISTORY PAGES
Historical Archives
Typical work for Charity and the Community:
Christie Hospital .....Tikwere, Malawi
Members Contributions to Exhibitions and Presentations.

WWII- Christmas 1940 - the blitz on Altrincham.
Extract of a talk given to Stamford Park Junior School