the construction of the railway between Todmorden and Walsden in the late 1830's, there
were many itinerant workers in the area and the population outgrew
what little educational facilities there were. It
was described as a "destitute neighbourhood" by Methodists
James Fielden and Joseph Dearden. They decided a school was needed, and went ahead and built one at SQUARE in Walsden. The
school, a small affair in the upper rooms of two cottages, was named the United Methodist Free Church Sabbath School.
Religious services were also held, and a chapel developed along side the school. The main aim of the school was to teach the children to read so they could avail themselves of the scriptures. The church was initially a Free Church, independent from the Wesleyan and Primitive Methodists.
Records from the school show that on 17th May 1846 it was:
"a wet morning, we opened the school at half past nine o'clock. The numbers of scholars were as follows: boys 22, girls 18, total 40. Behaviour pretty well. Teachers present 5 ... after part of the day fine, we opened the school at half past one o'clock. The number of scholars were as follows: boys 21, girls 18, total 39. Behaviour middling. Teachers present 5.
Signed J. Newell."
The cottages at Square where the school and
preaching room were from 1841 to 1848.
Photo taken from the centenary booklet 1961
The tiny school and chapel were so successful that by 1847 a new building was needed. A site was acquired at Inchfield Bottom and the new school and chapel were opened at Easter in 1848. The chapel held 350 people and the school had 85 scholars. In 1853 the chapel's administration merged with the one at THORNSGREESE at Inchfield Top, although both chapels continued to run side by side until Thornsgreese closed in 1889 and its members made the trek up and down the steep hill to Inchfield Bottom.
By November 1856, the staff at the school were working under great stress and with much difficulty. They reported:
"We feel the inconvenience of having too little room for our children, and hope the time is not far distant when our way shall be made plain for an extension of our operations."
On 6th December 1857, the superintendent wrote:
"I have had more work than I could manage very well, and yet it has afforded me some satisfaction to toil in this crowded school."
There were 141 pupils at this time, and not only was the building overcrowded, it had become dilapidated after just 13 years owing to defective construction.
Moves to build a larger chapel and school were already underway, and an application had been made to secure an extra 8 yards of frontage by 16 yards back at the lower end of the building. The terms of a lease were agreed with the landowner, Mr. Greenwood, and a committee was appointed to raise money for the new building, but it was not until 1860 that the resolution to build a new chapel was confirmed and plans drawn up for raising the money.
The cutting of the first sod was done on Saturday 2nd February 1861. The architect Mr. Nicholson was appointed to supervise the project. Messrs. Worsnip and Houldsworth contracted for the masons' work at £192 13s. and George Crossley for joiners' work at £422. Suitable material from the old chapel was used, and extra stone was brought in by boat from Halifax. The foundation stones cost £6 16s.
The last school service in the old building was held on May 26th 1861. The following Sunday the teachers and scholars met beside the chapel and walked in procession to a large room set aside for them at WINTERBUTLEE MILL, which the owner, Samuel Fielden, had given them free of charge.
The ceremony of laying the foundation stones of the new building took place on Saturday June 15th 1861, when teachers, scholars and friends marched in procession headed by a brass band from Winterbutlee to the site of the new chapel. After the service, they returned to Winterbutlee where tea was laid on for between 300 and 400 people.
The Trustees offered a vote of thanks to Samuel Fielden for allowing the use of his room free of charge for nine months, and presented him with a bible for himself and a hymn book for his wife.