THE HISTORY OF HAYFIELD BETHEL CHAPEL
From a pamphlet By Fred Leech
When Bethel Methodist Church, Hayfield, closed for worship on March 11th, 1956, it had been in existence for 120 years. The cause, which brought about its origin in 1836, was unique. The Wesleyans started the first Sunday school in Hayfield in 1795 and built Stones Head School in 1814. Educational facilities were very few and there was no day school, as we know schools today. Scholars were taught reading and writing on the Sunday so that they would be able to read the Bible for themselves as well as hear it talked about, and to communicate by letter with people far away. But for this action, many village children would have grown up illiterate.
In 1836, when 'Dr. Jabez Bunting was President of the Wesleyan Conference, it was decreed that reading and writing should no longer be taught on the Sunday, and knowing what that was likely to mean in an isolated and small village like Hayfield, the trustees allowed the teaching of reading and writing to continue. Dr. Bunting came to Hayfield himself and met the trustees. He set the law in motion to compel the trustees to surrender their trust, and teaching reading and writing ceased in the school at Stones Head on the Sunday. But rooms were hired in the village and a new Sunday school started which attracted many scholars.
To consolidate as well as to continue their work, the leaders decided to build a new school on Walk Mill. The first trust deed made in 1837 states the trustees were " appointed on behalf of themselves and other subscribers and contributors to the erection of a public charity school at Hayfield aforesaid then in progress of erection for instructing scholars in reading and writing during the seven days of the week." The land, amounting to 910 square yards, was leased for 2,000 years. It was conveyed by Joseph Bowden, cordmaker, of Hayfield, and Roger Rowson Lingard, gentleman, of Heaton Norris, to the following trustees: John Thornton, the elder, cotton spinner; John Ridgeway, cotton spinner; Jos. Turner, cordwainer; Joseph Bradbury, overseer of the poor, township of Hayfield; John Brocklehurst, innkeeper; John Mossley, of Thornsett, in the parish of Glossop, surgeon; and John Beard of New Mills, in the parish of Glossop, cordwainer.
There must have been substantial support for the movement to get such trustees. Clough Mill at that time was worked by Ridgeway, Thornton & Bennett. As there was no other cotton mill, it is probable that Mr. Thornton and Mr. Ridgeway were members of that firm. Dr. Mossley practised in Hayfield and was surgeon to the Hayfield Lodge of the Manchester Unity of Odd Fellows, which had been opened in 1830. The two cordwainers were shoe repairers.
The third decade of the nineteenth century was a period of much activity in Hayfield. In 1830 there was erected by public subscription Hayfield Town's Day and Church Sabbath School, the first day school in the village. The present Hayfield Bridge was built in the same year as Walk Mill Sunday School, as it became known. That transformed the centre of the village by being higher than the old one. Road level until then was where the old houses in Market Street still stand. On the Church Street riverside, new fronts to property were built which brought them to the new level. The Parish Church had been re-built in 1818, but the steeple was lower and there was a clock with only one dial, which looked over the bridge. Walk Mill Cottage had not been built, but there was an old cottage on the site at the same level as the houses still in front of the Chapel. Neither the Band room (which was originally the Liberal Club), nor the Conservative Club had been built. On Walk Mill, there were woollen mills, and the Grotto Mill was where Mr. Pickles' joiner's shop is. The small water lodges nearby provided the power. Strange how that small corner of the village became the religious, educational, political and cultural centre with its schools, the Parish Church and Bethel, and Clubs, besides having its industries such as woollen mills, soap making and cooperage.
In 1830 there was started the first friendly society in Hayfield, the Lily of the Valley Lodge of Odd Fellows.
In 1838, the Hayfield Funeral Benefit Society was started at Walk Mill School, and had its home there for more than a century until it was wound up because it could not compete with the big insurance societies. The first secretary of that society was Thomas Waterhouse, one of the first teachers in Walk Mill. The last secretary was Thomas Waterhouse of Lea Road, a descendant of the first secretary. The secretary preceding him was Thomas Leech, also a descendant of the Thomas Waterhouse of 1838, and the last president was Herbert Leech, brother of Thomas.
The Wesleyans had built their chapel in 1782, but three other Methodist Chapels in the parish; Little Hayfield, Hugh Bourne and Zion (Birch Vale) were yet to come.
Things generally were not prosperous. People still felt the effects of the Napoleonic Wars, and the Corn Laws were still in operation. Hayfield was dependent mostly on small woollen mills, but there was Clough Mill and bleaching and dyeworks at Wood Printworks. At Bank Vale there was a tannery.
There was no Birch Vale Printworks, and Kinder Printworks was built and disappeared whilst Bethel was still very active. Trade Unions were not legalised. The railway was thirty years distant; all transport was by horse and cart, and the George Hotel was the place where stagecoaches called. There was no Co-operative Stores, and where the Post Office and other shops now stand was St. Anthony's Square with several houses and small workshops. The Village Smithy the saddlers shop and other property later pulled down for Market Street widening were opposite the Pack Horse Hotel. There must have been considerable sacrifice to build Walk Mill School and maintain it. The deeds show that considerable sums were borrowed at various times. The freehold of the land was purchased in 1844, which would abolish the chief rent. The trustees to carry out that transaction were Abraham Massey, James Walker and William Howard.
Old Bethel people will remember when they were called Warrenites, because of the Wesleyan Methodist Association. Dr. Warren was in Hayfield in 1835. The accounts of that year show "to collection by Dr. Warren £30 1s. 0d." and " by coach fare for Dr. Warren 16s.” But that was before the dispute at Stones Head, and when Dr. Bunting visited Hayfield on October 1st of that year, the trustees who were in favour of surrendering their trust signed the necessary document. There is no record that either Dr. Warren or Dr. Bunting ever visited Hayfield again.
The first school at Walk Mill was built on the shareholding system and, says an historical sketch written many years ago, "the shareholders, in a fit of generosity, made over their respective shares to the trustees". The teachers and the society, says this historical sketch, "paid a rent of £8 a year". A majority of the trustees made an order on the teachers for an advance of £1 a year. To this the teachers would not agree. Consequently, when the arrears had got up to some pounds, Mr. Henry Howard and Mr. James Walker were summoned before the County Court and had to pay the amount in full. After this, on May 29th, 1849, they were ejected from the premises and were successful in obtaining the upper rooms at the top of Hayfield over some cottages from Mr. Isaac Rangeley. This had been previously used by the Wesleyan Methodists. It was when they occupied it that one of the beams gave way and one of the audience cried out "Give me my hat and eawr Mat".
In its new surroundings, the cause prospered. At the anniversary services, good collections were made, and with donations, a sufficient sum over the annual expenses enabled them to put money in the bank to a fund for the building of a new chapel. In 1851-2, ground was staked out at the bottom of Cote Lane and on the site of the present County School. Both were abandoned when the school at Walk Mill was put up at a public auction sale in the George Hotel in January 1855, by order of Mr. Thornton and others. Mr. Thomas Connavan, foreman printer at Wood Print works, bought the school for the teachers and society for £255.
In the meantime, an effort had been made to start a Congregational Sunday School at Walk Mill. But it was not successful. Some of the seats with backrests were retained and were in use when Bethel closed.
There was great rejoicing when the services were resumed in March 1855, and at a special meeting on April 30th it was resolved that the name of the school should be Redemption Chapel. Amongst the old documents of that period, which have been preserved, are Government papers licensing Redemption Chapel as a Protestant place of worship. A new Trust was formed on a more satisfactory basis, and the new trustees were James Walker, John Bowden, Abraham Massey, William Howard, Samuel Howard, Robert Turner, Thomas Brocklehurst, James Wild, George Pursglove, Ishmael Pursglove, John Garside, Joseph Howard, Charles Hurst, and James Mason.
In May 1866, it was determined that the time had come to build a new chapel. The old premises were taken down and the school and chapel now closed were erected at a cost of £800. The old material was used along with new material, but the hand some doorway of the old school was retained. Miss Waller, of Mellor, laid the foundation stone, and Mr. Samuel Waterhouse of Chinley, was the contractor. The freehold had been previously bought from Mr. Joseph Bowden, who had charged only a nominal sum. As the building could no longer be Redemption Chapel, the name was changed to Bethel. The new school was opened in October 1866, and the chapel in April 1867. Structural additions were made in 1899, and the vestries at the top end of the school were opened in August of that year.
Dr. Bunting's main argument against the teaching of reading and writing on the Sunday was that it broke the fourth commandment: " Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labour and do all thy work". But what did the scholars read and write on the Sabbath Day? Before the writer are two exercise books written by Thomas Leech, a scholar in the reading and writing days. One book contains the Book of Proverbs from the 8th to the 27th chapters. Then space has run out. Four lines of Hymn 53 are written at the bottom of a page, and the last page contains the 52nd Psalm. At the beginning of the other book he has written the four remaining chapters of Proverbs, so the first seven chapters must have been written in another book. Following Proverbs the book contains eleven chapters of the Book of Ecclesiastes, and there is not room for the last chapter. All the verses are numbered and the writing is beautiful copperplate. What the scholars learned enabled them to take offices. Thomas Leech was Sunday School secretary, a teacher, and member of the choir in his early twenties, and by the time he was 25 he became a trustee. By that time he was helping in village organisations. In his early twenties, he was an officer of the Odd Fellows lodge and secretary to Little Hayfield Cricket Club. At the age of 31 he was appointed first permanent librarian at Hayfield Co-operative Society soon after the library was started, an office he was to hold for 40 years. He was one of the men of his day who went out to render service to his fellows.
The first teachers when the school opened in 1837 were Aaron Hyde (superintendent), Edward Lyne, John Pritchard, John Turner, Abraham Massey, John Brocklehurst, Darius Hurst, John Bowden, William Gee, James Walker, William. Stafford, John Clayton, Henry Howard, Thomas Waterhouse, Mary Massey, Sarah Bowden, Elizabeth Gee and Mary Gee.
Descendants of these teachers were connected with Bethel at the close. The Howard’s appear very prominently in the early years with Henry a first teacher, William, Samuel, Joseph and Ezra by the following year, and Hannah, Elizabeth and Ruth Howard later in the 1840s. Miss Amy Howard and Mrs. Lizzie Cooper and Mr. Ernest Howard are of the same family. Thomas Waterhouse of Lea Road, George Waterhouse and Miss Waterhouse of Glossop Road, are direct descendants of Thomas Waterhouse. Herbert, Harry and Arnold Bradshaw in the female line and Leech family also in the female line with three closing trustees, Herbert, Leonard and James from the same Thomas Waterhouse. George Leech, an ancestor, was a teacher in 1841. Robert Warhurst, a teacher in 1838, was an ancestor of William Lowe, now in Bombay, and Mrs. Alice Crabtree, now in America, who always returned to Bethel on their visits to this country. John Garside became a teacher in 1839. Luke Garside was his son and James Garside, Sunday School secretary for over 50 years, his grandson. Another early teacher was Levi Mason, an ancestor of Edward Warburton, one of the last Sunday School Superintendents, and Wilfred Shaw, Sunday School treasurer when the school closed. Matilda Mason, Wilfred Shaw's mother, was the first baby to be baptised in Bethel Chapel when it was opened.
There are still intact the accounts of the first years of the Sunday School, but unfortunately no minute books to explain some of them. In 1836 there is "Joiner's bill for new desk and alphabet board sets £4 3s. 8d."; "To Jerry Buckley, bill for meat 7s. 3d.," so there must have been a party. In 1838 the following amounts were paid: "for Bibles and Testaments £6 3s. 0d., for copybooks £2 11s. 0d""for repairing books 10s., for quills, ink., etc. 19s. 6d.". The scholars must have written with quills in those days for accounts for ink, quills and paper appear in all the early years. In 1839 £2.13s. 11d. was paid for books, etc., for school, 19s. 8d. for new writing table, etc., 17s. 8d. for coals, candles and sundries, 6s. 8d. for beer for whitewashers and cleaners, etc.. There is also this curious item, "malt, hops, sugar, &c "for Xmas treat". Beer was the beverage in those days for treats, and evidently, someone was going to save the school expense by brewing it. Joiner's bill in 1840 for desks, buffets, etc., was £3 13s. 6d., and books, printing and stationery cost exactly the same amount. Books in 1841 was the biggest item (except rent for school, which was £10), when £2 15s. 5d. was paid. Books must also have been sold in those days, as items appear such as "books sold £1 .18s. 11d., £2 13s. 3d., and 15s. 2d." An annual item is "whitewashing," which is variable, one year 6s. 8d. and another at £1 2s. 9d. There was apparently an orchestra in those days, for items like these appear: "Fiddle strings, &c., 5s. 7d., strings and bow for violincello 4s., bag for double bass 6s. 6d" "strings and hair 3s. 3d." A "charity box," as it is called, contained varying amounts up to more than £3.
In 1848 appears the first mention of a school library, "books, etc., for school and library £4 17s. 5d.". It is clear also that there was a night school. In 1847 are accounts "teaching night school £1 19s. 2d." "maps for night school 6s. 3d.". Another account appears in 1849: "Night schooling at half penny each £2 17s. 3d." A year later it is "teaching night school at half penny each per night."These accounts evidently refer to the law suit and appear in 1849: "Paid into county court and advocate £15 16s. Id. Rent for Walk Mill School not in last year's account £2 16s. 8d. Voluntary subscriptions from friends towards paying expenses of the law suit £7 3s. 9d."
Perhaps there are people who remember the school as I do as it was in the 1880s and 1890s, before the vestries at the top end of the school were built (writes an old scholar). The walls were whitewashed and the beams painted. The heating was by a coal stove in the middle of the school. A big hole had been dug beneath the floor for the coal and it was covered by a double trap door. It was a great attraction for lads when the caretaker went into the coal hole to "fire up". Above the stove was a big opening to let the heat get into the chapel and this was supplemented by a grid, which ran towards the back door on to the female side of the school. There was only one vestry, that at the bottom of the school, in which the ministers were received, and that had slides which, when raised, enabled the vestry to be used for audiences at entertainments. On the Sunday, it was the Young Women's class vestry. At the top of the school was an erection of wood like a huge box without a lid. This was the dressing room for females at entertainments and the vestry for the class next to the young ladies. For lessons, the young men went into the Chapel, and the next class met in what is now the school kitchen. All other classes assembled round their teachers in the main room. At the far end of the school was the pulpit, which had been used for Chapel services before the chapel was built. From this pulpit, the school was opened and closed. The pulpit was removed when the vestries were built and a permanent platform erected.
School services followed an invariable pattern. The registrar from a desk near the pulpit, called the names of all teachers and scholars after "the doors had been closed promptly by the school clock". Those then present called "Here". The Superintendent opened school with hymn, prayer and second hymn. In addition to the harmonium, there was an orchestra of string and woodwind instruments; lessons followed the second hymn, and the school was closed with another hymn and the Benediction. It lasted about one and a half hours.
Most of the teachers I remember until I reached the top classes, used to tell us to find a given passage in the Bible and to read in turn without telling us of any background. Then he would speak and finally set us a verse to memorise. So that there would be no possible chance of scanning the verse, we had to stand with the Bible open before him, and if we were not successful with the first effort we had to try again and again until we could recite it. A lot of it was not too interesting to lads. The prayers some times seemed not only endless but not understandable. When I was in a class about the middle of school we had to kneel on the bare floor during prayers, and we developed a few tricks to relieve the monotony. With so many classes the forms were fairly close together. Lads on the form behind us had their backs to us when kneeling. It was an easy matter to prod one with a pin and cause a scuffle, or to raise his leg and when he was struggling to release it, to suddenly let it go so that his shoe would cause a big bang on the floor. We got the name of "the Awkward Squad." Several male teachers gave us up for a bad job. Then Miss Sarah Ann Bowden (who later became Mrs. Ezra Turner and died in South Africa), was appointed to the class. She was the first female teacher on the male side of the school although there were always male teachers on the female side. By bringing about this revolution, we thought ourselves heroes. But Miss Bowden took another way with us. She told us where to open our Bibles and she gave us the background so that we could understand it. Some times, she would tell us a Bible story or some other story she had read. She so enthralled us and she was so engrossed in her story, that there were occasions when we did not reach the reading round before the bell rang for the closing of the school. She so reformed her class that it became a model class. She was a born teacher.
Promotion day was a ceremonial occasion. The Superintendent called upon the teacher to name the scholars for promotion. The boys rose, put their right hand to their brows and with a sweep of the arm left their old teacher and passed on to a higher class.
In 1851 scholars numbered about 120 and there were 17 teachers, and in the following year, there were 152 scholars. In 1872, there were 32 teachers, which probably means there were more scholars. But in some years, there appears a list of reserve teachers. The teachers used to hold quarterly meetings at which a list of their attendances was submitted. In 1905, the scholars numbered 114 and the teachers 18. But at that time families were not so large as they had been. About that period there was a men's class with over 30 members, some of whom acted as teachers on occasions when needed.
Until quite recent times, there were regular church services on Sunday morning and evening. Frequently after evening service there used to be prayer meetings in which members as well as the preacher for the day offered prayers. For those who were also Sunday school teachers this meant five services on the Sunday. Scholars were expected to attend Church as well as Sunday school services.
There were no picture houses or other regular places of entertainment anywhere near Hayfield at that time. The Sunday Schools were social centres and scholars presented entertainments for school funds or for some special objects. Week night services were held regularly, conducted by the circuit minister. There were also a mutual improvement society at which many topics of the day were discussed, and a Band of Hope at which magic lantern lectures sometimes enthralled the younger scholars.
Three outstanding events of the year were the Sunday School Anniversary, the summer treat and the Christmas party. The Sunday School Anniversary was always held on the first Sunday in May. Within living memory there were notable preachers: Dr. Brewis, principal of the College in Manchester; Rev. W. H. Cory Harris, ex-president of Conference; Rev. Wm. Howe and Rev. S. G. Jenkins, who preached for many years in succession. The last Anniversary preacher was Rev. W. Willey, a student at college, whose father was a visiting local preacher at Bethel for about 40 years. Music was always a special feature with singing by the Chapel choir, the children, the girls' choir and for a long period the day closed in the grand manner with the choir singing the "Hallelujah " Chorus. In the afternoon there was a procession round the village for hymn singing accompanied for many years by the school orchestra, and in latter years by members of Hayfield Brass Band.
The Sunday school treat used to be held at Whitsuntide, as shown in the earliest Sunday school accounts. Then it was held in July. Quite a few of the older folks will remember when the scholars assembled at school on a Saturday afternoon and walked behind Hayfield Band through the village. The field was for many years at Milking Hillock. Back to school behind the Band for tea, which included buns. The buns were a very old custom as shown by an account in 1839: "George Redfern for bunns £1 13s. 4d.". Back to the field in procession for sports with prizes and a final procession to the end of the bridge for dismissal by singing one of the anniversary hymns. In recent years, the treat was a trip to the seaside. Also appearing in the 1838 accounts of the Christmas tea party: "Overplus money at Christmas tea party £1 7s. 10d.," and it appears in the following years. The party used to be held on Christmas Day and it was described as a "miscellaneous" entertainment. Then there was presented at intervals "Joseph and his Brethren." In later years, there were "The Merchant of Venice" and other plays. In the school's musical heyday there were operas and operettas, such as "The Bohemian Girl", "Prince and Pedlar" and "Pied Piper". In later years, when Christmas Day was considered to be essentially a home festival, the annual party was held early in December with Christmas tree and presents, games and entertainment.
Music has always been a prominent feature of services at Bethel and the name of Bowden is inseparably associated with it for the last 86 years. There was a Bowden family, a member of which helped to convey the lease of the land in 1837 and after wards sold the freehold to the trustees. Some of them were teachers. The musical family of Bowden was associated with the place when services were held in the old school. The name of Charles Bowden, who afterwards became superintendent of Zion School at Birch Vale, appears on the list of teachers in 1865, and his brother James two years later. In later years the names of their sisters, Mary Ann (Mrs. G. W. Eyre) and Selina appear. Selina was the mother of Luther Garside, the oldest member with a long family connection, when the chapel closed.
Singing in the old days was accompanied by an orchestra, but in 1871, an organ was installed and Bethel became the first free church in the district to have a pipe organ. The appeal for funds states: "As singing forms a considerable portion of public worship and as many are allured by the charms of music to such place of worship, being first delighted by their singing and then won over to the truth by the preaching of the Gospel, such being the case, it is necessary that the service and music should be of the highest order and this can be best attained with the assistance of an organ". The treasurer was James Walker; the secretary Luke Garside and the committee William Howard, Robert Turner, Robert Warhurst, Thomas Mower and James Bowden.
The organ was built by William Cole especially for the chapel at a cost of £200 and it was opened on the last Sunday in August, 1871. The first organist was Edwin Walker, son of James Walker, but he did not stay very long. His successor was his pupil, Samuel Bowden, brother of James, who, when he resigned in 1922, had held the position for 50 years. He was followed by Thomas Hadfield Bowden, son of James, who was then choir-master and he combined the two positions. He was a fine musician and he died while playing the organ for a Sunday morning service in September, 1931. He was succeeded as choirmaster by his brother Ernest, who held the office until the chapel closed. As organist, he was succeeded by his cousin on his mother's side, Thomas Hadfield Wheeldon, who continued almost to the close. James Bowden was one of the early choirmasters after the erection of the organ. The position was also held for short periods by Joseph Seddon, James Yates and James H. Gregory before Thomas Hadfield Bowden was appointed and held the post for many years.
At one time Thomas Hadfield, Joseph, James, Ernest, Sarah Ann, Maria, Mary, and Elizabeth, sons and daughters of James Bowden, Isaac and Mary Ann, son and daughter of Samuel, and George Wm. Eyre, uncle of all of them, were members of the choir. James William, Herbert, Arthur, Fred, and Amy Seddon, sons and daughter of Joseph Seddon, were at varying periods on the choir. At the last Sunday School anniversary grandsons of James and Samuel, and a great granddaughter of Samuel, sang in the choir. On a number of occasions, the choir gave a full performance of "The Messiah". The music on anniversaries and special occasions was of a high order. The congregational singing at all times was led with a skilled and appreciative knowledge of hymnology, with tunes to suit the hymns and their subjects, which created a worshipful atmosphere. In the school, also the Bowden family was prominent. Mr. Joseph Bowden was leading singer for many years and it was he who produced and conducted such works as "The Bohemian Girl "and "Prince and Pedlar" with some members of the family as principals. He was also responsible for the outdoor singing and the scholars' singing at the anniversaries. James Bowden the younger was at one time Sunday School organist and registrar. He also played leads in the dramatic performances, notably Jacob in "Joseph and his Brethren" and Shylock in "The Merchant of Venice".
Thomas Hadfield and James Bowden were treasurers to the trustees at times and Isaac Bowden was Sunday School Superintendent and trustees' secretary. James Philip, son of James, and Hugh, grandson of James, were in office when Bethel closed, and Ernest, son of Isaac, was a trustee and church official.
In its later years, the mainstay at Bethel was the Ladies' Happy Hour. With their regular meetings and what were called "faith" teas, to which all members contributed food, and at special services, they raised substantial sums of money. At various times they presented entertainments and plays, which added much more money. The ladies were always there to help at other school efforts by providing the refreshments. The officers for many years and at the close of Bethel were: President, Mrs. F. Leech (Miss Bessie Brown); Vice-President, Mrs. E. Warburton (Miss Winnie Osborn); Treasurer, Mrs. T. Waterhouse (Miss Annie Barrett); Secretary, Mrs. T. Leech (Miss Gertie Seeley). A notable member was Mrs. Annie Wright, whose mother was a Garside and who attended Bethel when it was Redemption Chapel. She filled many a corner down the years and when there was talk of closing Bethel she used to say "You must never close it while I'm alive". Her last conscious hour was spent in the chapel for she was seized with fatal illness at a Sunday evening service in 1953 when she was 88 years old. The Happy Hour was happy in fact, as well as in name and its members so much regretted the closing of Bethel that they decided to meet in each others' homes. The first home meeting was in April at Mrs. Peter Cooper's on the 90th birthday of Mr. T. H. Wheeldon, who gave the address, which preceded the "Faith Tea".
Bethel has remained true to its traditions throughout its existence. Besides the Funeral Benefit Society, the Virtue Lodge of Odd Fellows and the Sons of Temperance were allowed the use of the school for a nominal fee. Meetings for various causes were allowed in Bethel. All the meetings in connection with the right of way over Kinder Scout were held at Bethel with Bethel men leaders in the movement, and the Peak District Footpaths Preservation Society returned to the school for its golden jubilee celebrations in 1947. When the education committee offered facilities for girls to learn practical cookery the classes were held at Bethel and an oven was erected. Political parties held meetings at Bethel when they could get no other rooms, and one meeting was held at the General Election of 1955. Sometimes these lettings have been in conflict with connexional rules and regulations, but Bethel trustees on such occasions put the village interests before the connexion. Not only by Bethel people, but by the village generally, it has been regarded as a village institution. Often it has been let for charity efforts. People of Bethel have also been prominent in village institutions and in the public life of the village. Men have served also on the public authorities and been concerned in the carrying out of many reforms and improvements as members and officials. It has a fine record in that sphere. Many have carried Bethel faith and tradition to various parts of the British Isles and to lands far away over the seas where some are living to-day.
In various ways, Bethel has helped other churches. For fifty years, Bethel choir provided the special music at Rowarth Sunday School anniversary, and until last year, the conductor was either T. H. Bowden or Ernest Bowden. For a very long period, Ernest Bowden was superintendent of Rowarth Sunday School, and at one time Herbert Leech was on the rota of superintendents from the circuit sent to help Rowarth. "The Merchant of Venice" was taken to New Mills Mount Pleasant for their new chapel building fund and help was given in other ways. It was Bethel choir, which provided the special music at Hugh Bourne (the Primitive Methodist Chapel), when its pipe organ was opened.
Since it became part of the Wesleyan Methodist Association and was associated with unions of various churches, it has been in the circuit with which New Mills Methodist churches have been associated. Following Methodist Union it was decided after the three circuits had amalgamated, that one of the three ministers should reside in Hayfield and take charge of the five Methodist churches there were then in the parish, including Little Hayfield and Zion (Birch Vale). The first resident minister was Rev. J. W. Ferguson, and he conducted the last service at Bethel.
Rev. Wm. Howard, a minister of the United Methodist Free Church, was a member of the Howard family whose name is writ so large over the 120 years of Bethel's history. His biographer says he was born in Hayfield on 7th February, 1844, was converted at a prayer meeting following the ordinary evening service in the Hayfield chapel, and became a local preacher. In 1867, the year in which Bethel Chapel was opened, he was recommended for the ministry and accepted. He does not appear to have had any training except his own studies and preaching, but he served in town circuits such as Bolton, Sheffield, Leamington, Lowestoft, and Norwich. He married a Sheffield lady and he and his wife and infant son died within a week and were buried at Norwich in 1879. His biographer says of him: "Mr. Howard's mental powers were of a high order. Had he been favoured with a training such as ministers of some other denominations enjoy, and had God been pleased to prolong his life, he might have taken a high position as a preacher. He had the penetrating intellect, his perceptions were clear, and he had in no ordinary degree the power to make others see what he saw himself, his teachings being clothed in simple and beautiful language, aided by apt illustrations and so presented in an attracting and interesting form. His brain was very fertile too he was constantly producing and thus there was a freshness about his pulpit and platform utterances which was highly pleasing. In the circuit in which he closed his days, his ministrations were most acceptable, and the officials and churches were calculating upon his remaining with them for several, if not for many years".
Old Bethelites will remember as superintendents Wm. Howard, Jos. Howard, Robert Trickett, Joseph Seddon, Samuel Brennand, Geo. A. Cade, Isaac Bowden, and in later years Thomas H. Wheeldon and Edward Warburton. Wm. Lowe, father of Arthur H. Lowe, village postmaster for over 40 years, was for many years teacher of the young men's class. John Doyle, an extremely well-read man, was another teacher of the men's class, who related his lessons to present day events, and was a public man himself who inspired his scholars to accept public work, including his own son Alderman J. D. Doyle, who has been a member of Glossop Town Council for over a quarter of a century, is Chairman of Glossop Grammar School Governors and a county magistrate, was first chairman of the North West Divisional Education Executive, and has continued to render service to Hayfield. Arnold Walker, headmaster of the County School, was another teacher of the men's class who was much interested in social questions and related his lessons to the day's events. George Wm. Eyre was a member of the first Hayfield Parish Council and the last School Board, president of the Liberal Club and the Co-operative Society, an official and captain of Hayfield Cricket Club and its first hon. life member. Wilfred Leech was a member of the Parish Council for about 20 years, secretary of the Liberal Club 21 years, chairman of the County School Managers, a governor of New Mills Grammar School and at one period chairman, overseer of the poor, president of the Co-operative Society and the Hospital Aid Society. David Brown was Sunday School registrar for many years, school superintendent, member of the choir and trustees secretary, financial secretary of the Cricket Club and for many years captain of the second eleven. His brother John was treasurer to the trustees, secretary to the men's class and a member of the last school orchestra as a flute player.
Luke Garside, Charles Whitehead, Samuel Barnes and Ernest Howard were members of the Parish Council; James Garside member of that council and overseer of the poor; Samuel Bowden, of Windy Knowl a member of the School Board. Isaac Bowden was secretary of the Liberal Club, leader of the Labour Party, a member of the Rural District Council and Board of Guardians, Clerk to the Parish Council and assistant overseer. William. Brennand was a member of the last Hayfield Rural District Council and one of the first members for Hayfield on Chapel-en-le-Frith Rural District Council. Joseph Bowden was secretary of the Liberal Club and Funeral Benefit Society and secretary and captain of the Cricket Club. Herbert Leech was a founder of the once popular Hayfield Literary Society and treasurer until its end. Thomas Leech, Junior, was librarian of Hayfield Co-operative Society for 17 years, also secretary of the Funeral Benefit Society. Samuel Bowden was clerk to the Parish Council, and assistant overseer. These were public men within living memory. There were others before them, but they serve to indicate the part that Bethel men have played in the life of Hayfield.
Some interesting family associations appear in the list of trustees and on five occasions, three brothers were appointed. William, Samuel and Joseph Howard became trustees in 1855, and Charles, James and Samuel Bowden in 1875. In 1917, Thomas Hadfield, Joseph and Ernest Bowden, sons of James, were appointed, and also Fred, Herbert and Wilfred Leech, sons of Thomas, a trustee since 1875. Herbert, Leonard and James Leech, sons of Wilfred, were appointed in 1936. The Bowden and Leech families were on the trust for 81 years. Other trustees at the close included Edward Warburton and Wilfred Shaw, descendants of Levi Mason (1855), Ernest Howard, descendant of Joseph (1855) and Sam Garside, Jesse T. Garside and Ronald Garside, descendants of John Garside (1855). Ernest Howard, secretary since 1919, held the longest record as a trust official, and descends from the founders. Wm. Brennand was treasurer from 1922 and continued to the end. George Bradshaw was caretaker and chapel steward for many years and so was his son Albert, also a trustee and a helper in various ways. Herbert Bradshaw was caretaker, trustee, and took a prominent part in entertainments. John Smith was another caretaker of long service and a trustee. His daughters, Bertha (Mrs. KEMP) and Elizabeth (Mrs. Waterhouse) were Sunday School workers and members of the chapel choir, and his only son George, who was killed in the first World War, was a primary teacher when he joined the army.
Trustees when the chapel closed were: E. Bowden, D. Brown, W. Brennand, A. Richardson, E. Bowden (Jnr.), Arnold Bradshaw, J. Garside, S. Garside, R. Garside, E. Howard, H. Leech, L. D. Leech, J. H. Leech, W. Lowe, H. Lowe, W. Shaw, E. Warburton, T. H. Wheeldon.
Trust Officials: President, E. Bowden; Secretary, E. Howard; Treasurer, W. Brennand; Auditor, J. H. Leech; Chapel Steward, H. Bowden; Choirmaster, E. Bowden; Organ Blower, F. Bennett.
Church Officials: Society Stewards, E. Bowden, J. P. Bowden, E. Bowden (Jnr.), Mrs. W. Warburton; Poor Steward, Mrs. Walmstley
Sunday School Officials: Superintendent, H. Bowden; Secretary, Miss J. Fife; Treasurer, W. Shaw Missionary Secretary, Miss E. Leech
The first baptism in 1842 was Ruth Howard, daughter of Henry and Hannah Howard, and two of their children, William and Mary Ann, were next. The last baptism in December 1955 was Barbara, daughter of John and Alice Andrew.
The first wedding was that of Jos. Howard and Mary Bowden, members of founder families. The first wedding in 1909 when the civil registrar did not have to attend was of Frederick Gee and Martha Ramwell of Zion, Birch Vale. The last marriage in 1954 was William Arnfield and Alice Garside, a descendant of John Garside.
A variety of reasons combined caused Bethel to close its doors, but its influence will live on. It will live in those who learned their Christian faith at Bethel and carried its traditions into so many other walks of life and work in this and other countries.
Printed by B. T. Hadfield, Crescent Press, Hayfield, Derbyshire