Burnley Civic Trust Heritage Image Collection



The existing chapel was built in 1887 at the junction of Canning Street with Hubie Street and appears (edged red below) on the Ordnance Survey Map of 1891. The Stoneyholme area of housing then included more terraced housing along Canning Street and to its west.

Map thanks to Lancashire County Council's Mario Maps www.mario.lancashire.gov.uk/agsmario/

The building was designed by notable regional and local architects Messrs. W. A. Waddington and Sons. The Burnley Express of 22 June 1887 reporting on the laying of the foundation stone described it as a Wesleyan School Chapel and the building as follows:

"the principal entrances will be in Hubie Street. There will be two central doors leading to the vestibule of the chapel, the internal dimensions of which will be 51ft. by 48ft. There will be two vestries. The school will be on the upper floor and will be approached by means of a staircase. The central hall of the school will be 46ft. by 29ft. and there will be numerous class-rooms, and a large room for the infants. The chapel will accommodate 400 people and the school will provide accommodation for 300 people."

1967 Chapel image

The building as it appeared in August 1967 from a BCTHIC image (Click on the picture to view the article)

Click to see two more photograph of Stoneyholme Chapel about 1890 and 1977 from the Lancashire Red Rose Collections



The roots of Methodism go back to the mid 1730's when John Wesley, an English Anglican priest, sought to inspire a renewal of Christianity within the Church of England. By the end of the eighteenth century his religious movement of Christian living according to the rule of Method laid down in the Bible became a denomination in its own rights.

Divisions within the movement gave rise to a number of separate Methodist churches - Primitive, United and Wesleyan - but since 1932 the trend has been towards reconciliation. Methodism places emphasis on scripture. The churches are usually plain and services, involving prayer, hymns and sermons, are devoid of ritual. Locally, Padiham was one of the first places in East Lancashire where Methodism found a footing and it is thought that Wesley himself visited in May 1757. Wesleyan Methodism came to Burnley later and it was not until after John Wesley's visit in 1784 that it took root, initially in rented rooms. The first Wesleyan Chapel to be built in 1788 was Keighley Green on Bank Parade.

Keighley Green Methodist Chapel from Stephen Child's 'History of the Non-Conformist Churches in Burnley. Vol.1'



According to a letter from Ernest Smith in the Burnley Express of 6th August 1932 he helped George Clayton, a town missionary, to set up a Wesleyan Methodist chapel in a cottage house in Warwick Street. That became too small and a second-storey room over stables at the corner of Railway Street and Curzon Street (perhaps 115 Curzon Street which is still standing) was obtained, and the cause prospered in spite of many inconveniences such as the braying of a donkey in the stable below and riotous noises created by people who occupied a club room above. That, in turn, became too small and a room in Canning Street was taken which had been used as a foundry (perhaps a redundant part of Bankhouse Iron Works). The opening of this new headquarters took place in January 1881 and within two years the Sunday school had a membership of 260, the average number of people attending Sunday evening services was 150 and two additional society classes were formed. In 1886 the continued expansion of the cause made leaders again consider larger premises.

In January 1887 steps were taken for the erection of a chapel to accommodate 60 members of the society, approximately 200 worshippers, and 300 Sunday school scholars. Trustees-elect were appointed and held their first meeting on Saturday, January 1st 1887, when a site was decided upon. Messrs. W. Waddington and Son, architects, were requested to prepare plans and obtain estimates and they were presented at the next meeting on January 15th and were unanimously approved.

A building fund was opened and a bazaar held in April 1887 raised £750. The foundation stones of the new building were laid on June 16th 1887 and among those who participated in the ceremony were Mr. W. Lancaster, Alderman Howarth, J.P., Mrs. Cowgill, and Mr. George Moore, all prominent Burnley Methodists. After the stone-laying ceremony a public tea and meeting were held which raised £232. 19s. 2d.

The Sunday school building was completed first and was informally opened on Christmas Day 1887. The occasion was marked by a procession of scholars from the old school to the new premises. The chapel was opened on April 12th 1888. The total cost of the chapel and school was £3,027 6s. 10d and towards this amount the circuit extension fund made a grant of £1,200. Mr. William Lancaster, J.P., was appointed treasurer to the trustees-elect and the building fund. On Wednesday April 11th 1888 the trust deed was signed by all the trustees. Mr. T. Foulds was the first secretary of the trust and Mr. A. Holgate the first treasurer. Mr. Foulds and Mr. Shackleton were the first chapel stewards. The choirmaster at the opening of the chapel was Mr. R. Howarth, who, after serving for three years, was followed by Mr. J. Sparling. Mr. J. Maden was the first caretaker.



Stalwarts and officials of Stoneyholme Methodist Church (From the Burnley Express Newspaper June 1938)

On the 4th June 1938 the Burnley Express reported that Jubilee Celebrations of the opening of the Church were to extend over three week-ends and gave a history of the church and some of its workers as follows:

Initially the chapel was supervised by Mr. H. Higgins (Town Missioner), who worked zealously for many years until the Rev. G. H. B. Brewin was appointed first resident minister in 1905. After three years' service he was followed by the Rev. F. Flint, and other ministers have been the Revs. S. E. Coley, T. Pickard, C. B. North, and J. T. Hudson. For many years now the ministerial needs at Stoneyholme have been met by the minister in charge of Manchester Road Methodist Church. At the present time the Rev. D. Taylor Clarke has charge of both churches.

Among the old workers at the chapel the names of Messrs. H. Stansfield, W. Shaw, T. Foulds, G. Moore, A. Holgate, H. Shackleton, J. J. Anderton, and W. C. Storah are very prominent, while the financial support and advice of Mr. William Lancaster, J.P., Mr. Jas. Lancaster, J.P., Alderman J. Howarth, J.P., Mr. T. G. Parkinson, and many others were invaluable.

Present officials of Stoneyholme Chapel are Messrs. J. Magwood and F. Redman, chapel stewards; Mr. George Martindale, trustees' secretary; Messrs. I. Jones, E. Gledhill, and P. Preston, society stewards; and Mrs. Anderson and Mr. C. Hooson, poor stewards.
The pulpit Bible and hymn book were presented to the chapel by Mrs. Adam Dugdale, and a Communion service was presented by Miss. Lancaster. For the gift of the font the chapel was indebted to Mr. James Lancaster, J.P.

The first organist at the chapel was Mr. W. I. Green who was appointed to the position when the organ was installed in April 1900. Mr. Green subsequently left Burnley to become organist at the Milan Cathedral. The present organist is Mr. Percy Preston, who was appointed to the position in January 1904.

A notable event in the history of the Stoneyholme Chapel was a bazaar in 1896 which yielded such a substantial sum that the whole of the debt on the new buildings was liquidated. To build a chapel and school of such large dimensions and to clear it of debt in the short space of seven years was a great achievement, and provided ample evidence of the zeal and enthusiasm of the pioneers of the cause. In addition to those workers who have previously been mentioned, others who have played a notable part in the life of both the chapel and Sunday school have been Messrs. A. Smith, James Howarth, John Halstead, C. H. Dale, A. Barnes, A. Narcross, E. Ayrey, W. Fox, J. H. Morris, Edwin Shackleton, W. Shackleton, R. Bennett, and T. A. Simms.

The Sunday school has had many faithful workers, including Messrs. H. Shackleton, E. Ayrey, J. Howarth, Co. Bowes, senr., R. Wellwood, W. Gott, C. E. Walsh, T. Evans, A. Fletcher, F. Bryan, and I. Jones. All have been superintendents and teachers for many years. Mrs. Lewis (nee Ada Evans) and Mrs. Alf Evans, together with Mrs. Coley, inaugurated the primary department.
The following teachers have received diplomas of honour from the National Sunday School Union for long service: - Messrs. W. C. Storah (25 years), A. Smith (25 years), T. A. Simms (30 years), Mrs. T. A. Simms (30 years), I Jones (30 years) and F. Bryan (30 years). The present superintendents are Messrs. Geo. Smith and E. Gledhill, Mr. J. Simpson is Sunday school secretary, and Mr. F. Redman treasurer. The primary superintendent is Mrs. J. Simpson and the secretary Miss. E. Clark.

Stoneyholme is a chapel which has suffered very greatly as a result of removals from the district, and in consequence many changes in the personnel of the chapel have taken place during its history. The good work they, along with others, accomplished cannot possibly be estimated. It is certain, however, that the wisdom and foresight of the pioneers have been justified by results. They did not labour in vain. Their love of the chapel, their loyalty and faith, and their sacrificing labours call loudly to the present age to carry on the magnificent work so successfully inaugurated by them.




Births, Marriages and Deaths

The baptism and marriage registers for the chapel, held at Lancashire Archives in Preston, record 398 baptisms from 1882 to 1941 and 104 marriages from 1911 to 1965. Baptisms may have taken place after 1941 and marriages took place at the chapel prior to 1911 as some of these are recorded in the Burnley Express, for example:-

"the marriage on Monday the 10th October 1904 between Fred J. Proctor, second son of John Proctor, cotton manufacturer and Miss A. Moore, only daughter of George Moore of 99 Albatross Terrace. The occasion was a source of great attraction, the chapel being well-filled with people. After the ceremony the parties retired to the vestry to the strains of Mendelssohn's Wedding March".

During the first and second world wars marriages of soldiers are recorded. In 1918 Alfred Burton a Private in the 3rd Canadian Machine Gun Corps, a General Engineer married Katharine Mary Stevens Cartwright who was an Inspector of Munitions.

In January 1942 Leslie Baume an officer in the R.A. F., V.R., was married to Nyn Hugill and the picture right (from the Burnley Express newspaper of the time) shows them outside the chapel main doors.


A marriage in September 1928 (shown left) between Harold Blackburn and Agnes Lancaster was also recorded in the Burnley Express with a photograph showing the bridal fashions of the day.


The last marriage in the chapel took place on the 25th September 1965 between Kenneth Holden and Vera Garrett. Unfortunately there is no record of the marriage in the local paper.

The chapel did not have a burial ground but memorial services took place at the chapel in association with burial at Burnley Cemetery or at local Methodist Churches which did have grave yards. For example in 1929 a service was held in the chapel for the funeral of Ada Lewis, a Sunday School superintendent after which the cortege proceeded to Burnley Cemetery.

A beautiful carved memorial in honour of 26 men from the Chapel who fell in the Great War was unveiled at a memorial service in the chapel on Sunday the 23rd November 1919. It is a dark marble tablet with a white central roundel engraved in ornate lettering with the names of those who lost their lives. It was fixed over the pulpit overlooking the sacramental table and was the work of Mr. J. T. Whitaker, art master, of Bath an old scholar who, in 1913, was the second person to be married in the chapel. It is now [2019] housed at Towneley Hall.


Left, the detail of the memorial and right the memorial in full view. Photographs with kind permission of Burnley in the Great War (www.burnleyinthegreatwar)


Other Events

A wide range of social, educational and charity events were also held at the Chapel which must have been a busy place with yearly, monthly, weekly, daily, and ad-hoc events taking place. The chapel was part of the Burnley Circuit of Methodist Chapels which staged performances at each-others chapels and generally supported each other.

Annual Events

The anniversaries of the opening of the school and church were celebrated with special concerts and services. Other annual events included the Harvest Festival, Flower Service, Christmas Fayre and bazaar, Spring Fayre, Field Day and Prize Giving.

A Christmas Tree and Sale of Work took place over two days in December 1928 and the photograph left (from the Burnley Express dated 19th December 1928), taken outside the chapel main doors, shows a group of lady workers who took part. Junior girls also gave a concert. Money was raised to help pay for recent decorations to the church and school.



Regular choir meetings were held and a range of concerts given. In December 1915 selections from Handel's Messiah were performed "in excellent style" according to the Burnley Express. In February 1923 the choir performed a humorous operetta entitled "A Nautical Knot" to raise funding for the 2,000 Crown Scheme inaugurated by the Chapel School. The cast of "A Nautical Knot" are shown in the photograph (right) from the Burnley Express report.


The Sisterhood

There were also separate men's and women's groups which were part of the wider Methodist Circuit. The Sisterhood met regularly at the Chapel and in 1937 a concert of songs and dances to raise funds for the group was held at Stoneyholme Chapel. It was given by the Young Temple Rescue (Good Templars) concert party from Brennand Street. The photograph (left) shows The Young Templars concert from the Burnley Express 10th April 1937.



Sporting activities took place and teams were involved in Sunday School leagues, the cricket team being particularly successful. In 1925 all three teams came top in their respective divisions. The photograph below from the Burnley Express shows, on the back row the B Division Team, on the middle row the East Division of the Second Elevens League and in the front row the East Division Junior Section.

In August 1928 Stoneyholme Wesleyan CC beat St. James's CC at Clifton in the Cowpe Shield Final. The team is photographed right from the Burnley Express.


Charitable Events

Many of the activities raised funding for the chapel and the Wesleyan Mission and International work was carried out with an annual distribution of prizes to those who had collected on behalf of the juvenile branch of the Wesleyan foreign mission. The Chapel was used by other organisations for example in 1908 the Salvation Army used the chapel as a soup kitchen for the preparation and distribution of food to the needy in the neighbourhood. Activities were held to raise funds during both world wars; in 1916 for example a concert was held in aid of the soldiers' and sailors' comforts fund and during the second world war the local members of the Women's Voluntary Services held meetings at the chapel.



The Burnley Express Jubilee report in 1938 stated that the chapel had already suffered as a result of removals from the district and the general decline in religious belief in the 20th century and an increasingly mobile population must have led to a further decrease in worshippers. Additionally in the 1960's and 70's when workers from South Asia were encouraged to migrate to the United Kingdom to fill labour shortages Stoneyholme was one of the areas which they made their home, further increasing the problem.

On the 8th August 1967 the Burnley Express reported that dry rot had been discovered in the church and the cost of remedial work of £11,000 meant that a decision had been made to close the church at the end of the month and to demolish it. The congregation of 50 people had been invited to attend the Colne Road Methodist Church.

Two days before, on Sunday the 6th August at a service in the chapel two school queens and two rose queens were crowned after which about 130 people joined in the annual walking day. Click on the picture below to see more of the walking day images from the archive and to read the story in the Burnley Express.

Walking day

The last service was on 27th August 1967 when, although average attendance had not been more than 25 to 30 people, 120 people attended the morning service and 150 people attended the evening service. At the morning service Miss Pamela Fletcher played the organ. Guides and Brownies were present, along with four queens belonging to the Sunday school. Miss Barbara Dewar (senior queen), Elaine France (senior flower mission queen), Miss Wendy Francis (primary queen) and Miss Valerie Halstead (rose mission queen). At the evening service Mrs F. Redman was organist and the choirmaster was Mr C. Hooson. The choir sang the anthem, "Te Deum" and the sermon by Mr Puckett related to the problems of buildings and churches.

The picture below from the archive was taken on the day of the last service. Click on the image to see the image in the archive.

Last Service

Although it had been reported that the building was to be demolished, a change of heart must have taken place as in April 1969 the Burnley Express carried an advertisement feature about Lefton's furniture store. The company had expanded their St. James's Street store by acquiring and renovating Stoneyholme Chapel. The article explains that a complete new floor to make a second storey had been created. This second story, roofed by large skylights enabled the furnishings to be viewed in ideal natural light. The ground floor was used as storage with access through the wide doors and entrance to the first floor showroom was by the side doors.

The building is now used as a plumber's warehouse and showroom as can be seen in the photograph below. Internally very little of the original features are visible. The floor area is sub-divided and the ceiling boarded. Externally a sense of the original building remains and the stone-cleaning has improved its appearance although the main entrance has been altered and one of the side doors obscured by a single storey extension.



This article attempts to give an impression of daily life at the chapel but is not written from personal experience - if you were a member of the congregation or lived in the area before the chapel closed in 1967 please get in touch with us via this website and tell us your stories about the chapel so that we can add them to this article. Do you have any photographs or booklets that show the interior of the chapel?

References used:
A History of the Non-Conformist Churches in Burnley. Vol. 1: The Methodist Churches. Stephen Martin Child. Publisher: Burnley and District Historical Society, 2014. (Held at Burnley Central Library)
The British Newspaper Archive (www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk )
Burnley Library Newspaper catalogue
Lancashire Archives deposits MBU/ACC6295/29/1/1&2 - Register of baptisms and marriages for Stoneyholme Methodist chapel and MMR/8/5 - Register of marriages