IN the early days of their campaign
the group received 300 signatures to their petition and said they had
the backing of the National Arts Council, the Rotary Club of Nantwich, Nantwich Historical Society,
Hospital Street Association, Nantwich Civic Society, Nantwich Choral
Society - and Roger Fisher who used to be the organist at Chester Cathedral.
The church building, complete
with seating (the pews) and a gallery, would be ideal for a concert
venue without too much alteration. The organ, useful for many concerts,
was later removed.
I was told - wrongly as it happened -
that the pews had a covenant on them and they could not be removed,
which would make an arts centre use a little tricky, to say the least.
How could you hang the paintings on the walls, making the viewers wander
up and down the pews?
Welsh Row Methodist Church was sold soon
after the last service held there in 2001 and was partly converted into
private housing - the part furthest from the road, in Chapel Row. The
rest was on the market with planning permission for offices. Today the
windows are boarded over.
From church to cinema to nightclub. This
is now called The Studio - and was formerly Gregory's Nightclub
However, having spoken to the
Minister of the Church at the time, the Rev Bryan Tolhurst, I now know that the pews
could be removed. The
church authorities would not be allowed to
remove the pews - but once the building was sold and it was no longer a
church, it would be up to Nantwich Town Council and English Heritage to
decide what could be removed and what had to stay.
I asked the Minister what
he thought about a fine church building becoming apartments - if that
was to be its fate. "We have no problem with that," he said. "It happens to
Methodist churches all the time. But the people are the Church -
not the building!"
In fact, he told me that
Methodist churches are built in a housing style so that if and when they
ceased to be a church they would easily convert to homes, although Mr Tolhurst thought the Hospital Street church was more of a town
in 2004, when Nantwich Town Council started to look around for a town centre venue to
replace their edge-of-the-town offices, the Hospital Street church was
considered. But they changed their mind when they considered the cost
and the size of the building.
The council offices are now in the
Civic Hall after that building was taken over from Cheshire East
Council. But council meetings are still held at Brookfield Hall - a
single-storey building in Brookfield Park.
THE church people went ahead
with their plans for an all-in-one building by converting the
schoolrooms as they stood.
Back in 2000, the church
announced plans to demolish the schoolrooms and construct a new
all-in-one building which would house a chapel, meeting rooms and a
kitchen. But the Hospital Street Association - an organisation fighting
the use of the street by heavy vehicles among other battles - opposed
this on the grounds that, while the building wasn't listed, the frontage
was Edwardian and shouldn't be tampered with. It was, they said,
a significant part of the street's character.
Two years after the protest by the
Hospital Street Association there were hopes that work
Broad Lane Methodist Church
Still in use as a church - and the District
would begin. Now the frontage remains,
complete with a new entrance.
THE reason for the
misnomer of the Broad Lane Methodist Church - which stands in Audlem
- is that the road boundary between Audlem Road and Broad Lane changed.
The road currently changes its
name just around a
sharp bend further along from the church, making an obvious demarcation.
Two local historians gave me suggestions for the name change. Church
stalwart, the late Joe Pennell said the Nantwich-Wybunbury parish boundary is on
the bend in Audlem Road (at the junction with Peter de Stapleigh Way).
Perhaps that was the original boundary between Broad Lane and Audlem
Road. But that would mean that Audlem
Road would have been very short. An L-shaped road up to the junction
with Park Road where it becomes Wellington Road.
But . . . Andrew Lamberton tells me that Wellington Road was not so named until after the
Duke of Wellington's victory over Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo in
As well as
holding services, the Broad Lane church is also a District Centre for
the Chester and Stoke-on-Trent District of the Methodist Church. That
meetings are held there and they have an office.
The church is properly known as the
Primitive Methodist Centenary Chapel, as it was opened in 1907 - the
100th anniversary of a Camp Meeting held on May 31, 1807, at Mow Cop,
the location of the famous folly on a hill top on the Cheshire-Staffordshire border.
This brought about a religious revival known as Primitive Methodism, led
by Hugh Bourne and William Clowes.
THE 200-year-old Nantwich Methodist Church
building would be converted into apartments, according to a report in the
Nantwich Chronicle (January 21). The change was being "backed by council
leaders", it said.
Regenesis, a Nantwich
firm, would construct eight apartments and add a three-storey townhouse
With the rear of the site hard up against the Gullet car
park, and no space at the side, presumably the town house would be built
in front of the church building. It
would be a pity to lose the view of the
front of the church. Some people had hoped that the old
church could have become a concert venue. Nantwich Town
Council was said to have looked at it as a new venue,
but the costs of converting it apparently proved prohibitive.
l The final service at the Methodist church
Annual Covenant Service on Sunday, January 4. The congregation
left the church towards
the end of the service and crossed the road to the new church (in the
former schoolroom) as a symbol of moving to the building.
The schoolroom conversion (at a
cost of £1.2million) was made possible by the sale of the
old church plus the Welsh Row
The building was officially
Saturday, January 17, but because of the size of the premises, and the number of people who would have
liked to attend, the event was by invitation only.
Nantwich Choral Society gave the last concert in
the old church - singing Handel's
"Messiah" on Saturday, January 3.
by Regenesis had been withdrawn it was reported at the
March 5 meeting of Crewe and Nantwich Borough Council Development