Photo of the chapel by courtesy of

Littleborough Historical & Archaeological Society

Summit has always been an area with a village character of its own, independent in its ways from its neighbours, Littleborough and Walsden. It first got the name of Summit after the Rochdale canal was taken through the summit gap, and as it was a level pound, it took the name summit, as the canal then starts to drop towards Yorkshire. Before this, the area was known as Wilderness. An apt name it would have been in those early days; bleak and cold with lots of rain as befits one of the watersheds of England.

The beginnings of the actual village began with the drying out of the valley bottom, which enabled the turnpike road to be extended from Steanor Bottom Toll Bar through to Littleborough in 1824. Before this, the area was a quagmire of marshy ground and no horse or vehicle could travel it. They would have to go over the high Calderbrook Road which took much longer. The digging of the Rochdale Canal helped with the draining of the area and so aided the establishment of the community that began to spring up.

Houses and other buildings essential to village life began to emerge with the advent of the road, and so in 1824 a small group of people who wished to worship according to the Congregationalist doctrine decided to begin meetings in the upper room above two cottages near to the top end of Summit village, the home of James Shackleton.

The Rev. Ely, minister at the Providence Chapel in Rochdale, was the instigator of this, and preached at the meetings. So much influence did Rev. Ely have, that in 1825 the small group became recognised and the church was formally constituted as an Independent Congregational Church. The preaching was then taken over by Mr. Rhodes of Littleborough, who was helped out on occasions by Mr. Charles Hamer of Sladen.

This went on until the Rev. Henry Cheetham took over as the official minister. He was a member of the Providence Chapel in Rochdale, and in 1833 he was ordained as a pastor and became the first official minister at Summit. From then on things began to move quickly, and a scheme, which had already begun to be talked about by the village worshippers, looked likely to be realised sooner than they thought. They had dreamed of building their own chapel for a few years, and with the help and drive of their newly appointed first minister, it became a reality.


The lease of a plot land was obtained by Henry Cheetham on the 1st of January 1834 at Wilderness Hill from a member of the church, Mr. John Marsden, who gave the site and the stones as a gift.


It was assigned in trust to build a chapel for the use of a Society of Protestant Dissenters of the Independent Denomination on 12th. April 1834 and signed by Mr. Henry Cheetham, Mr. Abraham Crossley and others. It was built at the top end of the village and was finished and opened on July 22nd 1834, and proudly bore the name Ebenezer Independent Chapel. It had cost near on £500 and officiating at the opening were the Revs. Dr. Raffles, J. Sutcliffe and J. Ely.


The document applying for the registration of the new chapel was made on the 5th of April 1836 and is transcribed below.


To His Majesty's Justices of the Peace assembled at the General Quarter Sessions of the Peace, holden in and for the Hundred of Salford in the County of Lancaster.

I Henry Cheetham of Calderbrook in the Township of Blatchinworth and Calderbrook in the Parish of Rochdale and the said County of Lancaster, Minister of the Gospel, do certify your worships that a certain tenement building situated and being at Calderbrook aforesaid and called or commonly known by the name of “Ebenezer Chapel” is intended on and after this date here mentioned, be appropriated for religious worship of Protestants.

And I hereby desire your worships to cause the said tenement or building to be registered and recorded pursuant to the direction of An Act of Parliament made and passed in the fifty second year of the reign of his late Majesty King George the Third, entitled “An Act to repeal certain acts and amend other acts relating to religious worship and assemblies, and persons teaching or……………

My hand this 5th day of April 1836

Henry Cheetham


It was heard at Salford Quarter Sessions on the 11th April 1836 and was duly granted that Ebenezer Independent Chapel be registered as a Place of Religious Worship for Protestant Dissenters. Two years later on 30th September 1838 it was licensed for marriages. It is recorded that between 1832 and 1843, 179 infants were baptised.


When the building of some houses started in front of the chapel, the builders were approached and asked to put a room over two cottages which would serve as a school. The Sunday schools played an important part in the religious life of the chapel and it was sometimes the only place where children could learn the rudiments of reading and writing.


So Henry Cheetham and his wife Susanna settled into the life of the village minister and no doubt had their fair share of ups and downs. He and his four children lived amongst the community, but in 1842 after just nine years, which had seen the birth of the new church building and an expanding congregation, Henry decided to leave. He preached his last sermon on the 29th of January that year and the chapel was full to bursting. It must have been a sad occasion for the members of the church and probably a hard decision for Henry to make. During his ministry he had seen the chapel cleared of debt but the house-cottage and school was left with a debt of £400.


A new minister was appointed and took up his post in 1843. He was the Rev. Daniel Calvert and he served the community for 6 years. Previous to coming to Summit, he had served some time at Tosside near Settle. In the time he spent at Summit there were 31 new members admitted to the church, so he had a very successful term. It was only his premature death that cut short his term of duty. He died at Calderbrook on 22 of September 1849 aged 55.


He left a huge gap in the community, being a very popular minister and he was replaced by the Rev. Samuel Sugden, who took over the duties of minister in 1850.

The Rev. Sugden served the community for 18 years but it was not a happy time in the history of the chapel. He was not happy in his job and his 18 years service were regarded as a complete failure. In the last two years of his ministry, his sermons would include gossip he had heard on his visits to the homes of the congregation and he began to get very personal with some of the comments he preached from the pulpit. This was no way for a minister to behave and he was asked for his resignation, which he duly tendered.

No doubt it was a relief for the village people as they must have wondered what he was going to reveal in his next sermon and attending services must have been a severe trial for some, especially those who had things in their lives that were best not talked about in public. He was also deemed incompetent to serve two churches. A new church had been built in Littleborough as the amount of worshippers travelling from Littleborough to Summit had increased greatly and it was felt that a separate new chapel was needed in Littleborough.

The journey to Summit from Littleborough would have been particularly hard in winter, battling up that long hill against the wind would have taxed even a young person, never mind the old. A room was hired on Church Street for a beginning, but it soon became clear that it was too small, so work began on building a new chapel in Victoria Street and it was opened in 1869 but work carried on until 1874 before it was completed. It was a small church but adequate for the needs of the Congregational community of Littleborough.


Eight years were to pass before a new minister was appointed, probably to the great relief of the parishioners, who, after 18 years of the Rev. Sugden would have welcomed the respite. The newly appointed minister was the Rev. John Whitton who served the chapel for five years from 1877 to 1882. He originated from Scotland and had a family of three, all born whilst in his ministry at Summit. He had been approached and asked if he would accept the living at the salary of £100, composed of £70 from the church and £30 from the union and that he pay his own house rent. Obviously he agreed and took up the post.


During Rev. Whitton's term of office, it was agreed in 1881 that the Summit and Littleborough Churches should “co-operate under one Evangelist”. The representatives from the union at the meeting held on January 11 th 1881 were the Revs. Mr. Berry of Bolton, John Younge of Warrington and B. Aitken of Rochdale.


The Jubilee of the Chapel in 1884 fell between the leaving of Rev. Whitton and the appointment of Rev. Morgan and plans were made for the celebrations. There was to be a special treat organised which took the form of an Old Scholars Tea Party and special sermons at the Sunday service. Invitations were sent out to the congregation and a copy is transcribed here along with a copy of the original invitation.


Independent Chapel Summit

Cause Established in the Year 1825

New Chapel Opened 1834

The Deacons and Teachers of the above Place of Worship are making special efforts in commemoration of the JUBLIEE,

and it is intended to have

AN OLD SCHOLARS' TEA PARTY, on Saturday, December 27th 1884.

Tea on the tables about Four o'clock. Afterwards there will be a PUBLIC MEETING, presided over by Mr. John Lancaster of Southport and addressed by several Gentlemen, who were formerly scholars here, and Special References will be made to the Past History.

On Sunday, Dec. 28th SPECIAL SERMONS will be preached and collections made at the close, in aid of the

Chapel Improvement Fund.

As you were formerly a Scholar at Summit, the Committee give you a capital invitation and will be glad to see you present at

the above Services.

Herewith I append you a Ticket for Tea, and if you cannot possibly be present, perhaps you would kindly return it to the Secretary.


82, Todmorden Rd., Summit



The Rev. David Morgan was then invited to become the new pastor of both churches in 1886. He was of the Lancashire Independent College, but he was to last only two brief years. In 1888 he was requested to retire by the Littleborough Church.


The Rev. John Jones was next to take up the ministry agreeing to become pastor of the two churches. He held his first service on Tuesday evening 5th of March 1889 and stayed until 1914 when he moved to Bromyard, Worcestershire. Much happened during his pastorate and he was to see the chapel undergo a major refurbishment. After him came Rev. Smisson from Oldham who arrived in 1916 to serve the two churches. He became an army chaplain and resigned from the pastorate in 1918.  

In 1921 the Rev. J.D.Smith took over but left in 1925 being appointed as curate of the Parish Church in Littleborough. Obviously disillusioned that the Congregationalists could not pay him his due salary, he went over to the “other side”.

In 1886 it was reported that the present larger school was built and the chapel building restored at a cost of near on £900. By 1893 this had been reduced to £200. After the new school was built, the old school building was used as a carpenter's shop. By 1896 it had been cleaned, beautified and decorated with pretty pictures and was to be known as the Summit YMCA.

The trustees appointed for the newly built school in 1886 were:

James Clegg

John Uttley

George Gowers Dec.

Emanuel Shackleton

John William Hargreaves

John Edward Uttley

Edwin Gilbert

William Hartley

William Holmes

Thomas Hartley

John Gowers Dec

Robert Schofield


The interior of the chapel was not very well maintained, possibly because they did want to accumulate a lot of debt, so by 1890 it had deteriorated into such a sorry state that an architect was consulted and a “Ways and Means” committee was formed. This constituted of the Deacons, Messrs. M. Uttley, Thomas Byers, John Uttley and James Clegg together with Messrs. James Cryer, Emmanuel Shackleton, the Pastor, John Jones, Secretary Mr. J. W. Travis and Treasurer Mr. E Shackleton.

A firm of architects, Shuttleworth and Blacke submitted plans which were accepted by the committee members. The plans showed a new central doorway in front, two new window spaces, all new windows, new pews, new communion rostrum, minister's vestry and new vestibule plus some other smaller alterations.

The work was done and a reopening service was preached on Sunday June 8th at 2-30 pm. The turnout for the reopening was a good one and it was reported to be a “holy happy day”. In all the collection amounted to £30.


Most members of the church were working class as is to be expected. They ranged from farmers to dressmakers, stone getters to millers, colliers to drapers, but the majority of the congregation was made up of the factory workers and weavers.


Some admissions to the church were:

Sarah Howard of Deanhead, a farmer's wife October 11th 1831

Sarah Hill of Calfholes December 20th 1831

Robert Crossley of Gorse Hills, a stone getter who died 16 June 1862 and his wife Frances October 30th 1833

Samuel Sugden September 8th 1850

Joseph Townsend June 2nd 1853

Martha Rodgers 2 Feb. 1854

June 30th 1855

George Burgess

Samuel Uttley

Samuel Wild

Hannah Burgess

Betty Birtwistle

Sarah Sagar

Sarah Dawson

Sally Howarth

Alice Mariah Sugden of Chapel House February 3rd 1859

John Whitton and Sarah January 27th 1878

Frances Anna Uttley of Longley Heys, a weaver March 25th 1883. It was recorded that she had gone to America.


Some extracts from the Church Minutes

June 2nd 1853

Resolution 2. That our pastor, the Rev. S. Sugden have the use of the Chapel house pew rents and the grant from the County Union for his salary


Sept. 1st 1853

At a church meeting it was resolved that Robert Crossley should be suspended for three months on the grounds of drunkenness.


Feb. 2nd 1854

It was resolved that Robert Crossley and James Rhodes be the deputation to the county union meeting.


Dec. 28th 1858

It was resolved that the cottage used for some time as a vestry of the chapel should be let to John Birtwistle at the rate of 1/6d a week.


August 4th 1859

It was resolved that J. Shackleton should play the organ in the chapel; the appointment is subject to the following conditions;

  • That it shall be annual
  • That Thomas Crossley the leading singer shall find tunes to the hymns so long as he leads.
  • That an annual collection be made for the organist.


August 28th 1859

It was resolved that Robert Crossley, John Birtwistle, Joseph Wilson and James Kershaw should be Deacons of the church.


Feb. 16th 1864

That notice having been given in pursuance of the provisions of the trust deed, of the 12th day of April 1834, on two successive Sabbaths previous to this meeting, we now proceed to the election of thirteen new trustees.


Jan. 12th 1876

That the chapel keepers salary remains as it is, viz. £4 per annum.


Sept. 29th 1877

That we take steps towards raising funds with a view to the erection of a new schoolroom


August 3rd 1879

First mention of union of Littleborough and Summit churches.


July 25th 1880

Moses and his wife Jane Rhodes were stated to have applied for membership.


Jan. 26th 1890

That unfermented wine be used at the communion table instead of the fermented.


June 2th 1890

That the front six pews in the bottom of the chapel be 1/3d per seat per quarter, the remainder 1/6d per quarter.


The Accounts of the Chapel from Jan. 1st to December 31st 1894 make interesting reading. It looks like the Sewing Class and the Musical Cafe were the most popular. The weekly offerings are rather paltry.


Grant from County Union £30

Sewing Class £23.16.1d.

Musical Café £22.10.8d

Cottage Rents £13.18.4

Seat Rents £18.1.10d

Collections £11.5.8d

Collections for Foreign Missions £3.5.10

Collections for Home Missions £1.13.0d

Weekly offerings 3s.2d.

Social gatherings £1.16.7d

School Treasurer £7



Minister's salary £60

Supplies Pulpit £8.6.0d

Insurance, Rent, Taxes £5.8.11d

Organist and blower £4.4.0d

Chapel Keeper's salary £4.11.0d

Printing and Stationary £1.13.8d

Organ Repairs £14

Repairs to Property £20.15.3d

Gas £2.13.4d

Foreign Missions £3.2.4d

Home Missions £2


Quite an even balance between the two.


Local firms were always used to undertake any work, keeping the tradesmen in work and helping the local economy where possible. A list of the firms who supplied their services to the Chapel between 1907 and 1910 were:

  • 1907 Pilling Brothers, 51&53, Church St. Ironmongers
  • 1907 The Empress Orchestra 7, Henderville St.
  • 1907 Halstead Bros. Eastwood near Todmorden Joiners, builders and timber merchants
  • 1907 William Powell 74, Summit Joiner & Undertaker
  • 1907 Rochdale Observer
  • 1907 Abraham Fielden Summit Builder and property repairer
  • 1907 James & Joseph Rushton & Sons Bacup Slate cement etc. merchants
  • 1907 J.T.Chad wick 54, Albion Terrace General repairers of property
  • 1907 Arthur Holden 83&85, Church Street. Complete house furniture


  • 1908 E. Taylor& Co. 71, Church St. Wholesale and retail ironmonger
  • 1908 Wm. Taylor & Sons 32, Featherstall Rd. Funeral Undertakers
  • 1908 Robert Earnshaw Peel St. Smith & wheelwright.. mangle roller maker etc.


  • 1909 T. R. Byers 78, Todmorden Rd., Summit General draper, milliner etc.
  • 1909 Grindrod Rochdale Organ builders
  • 1909 H. Jewell Heywood Teacher of Music
  • 1909 Robert Hudson Plumber, glazier, gas fitter


  • 1910 Jackson Bros. Henderville St. Park Press
  • 1910 Rochdale Times
  • 1910 Mitchell & Son Wheat Sheaf Buildings Stationers, booksellers, printers
  • 1910 E. Stansfield 13, Todmorden Rd., Family grocer
  • 1910 Littleborough Co-op Society of Industry 44 Hare Hill Rd.
  • 1910 Fawthrop & Co. 17, Hare Hill Rd. & 82, Church St. Confectioners



In 1866, a chapel of the Primitive Methodists was built quite close to the Ebenezer. This was an offshoot of the Knowlwood Chapel in Walsden, which can be read HERE.

The Independents and the new Primitive chapels always maintained a good relationship with each other and in 1918 they united for worship and held joint services beginning on Sunday October 6th 1918 up until Sunday March 30th 1919.

A poster from the time is reproduced here.


The Ebenezer Congregational Chapel continued until 1975, when it finally closed it's doors after 141 years. It looks little changed although it has now been converted into private housing.
The Congregationalists Chapel in Victoria Street continues to serve the community as the United Reform Church.

Our thanks to the Littleborough Historical and Archaeological Society for their help.