Bethesda Methodist Chapel, Hanley

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Bethesda Methodist Chapel, Hanley
Bethesda Methodist Chapel, Hanley, is a redundant chapel standing at the corner of Albion Street in Hanley, Staffordshire, England ( grid reference SJ882473 ). It has been designated by English Heritage as a Grade II* listed building, and is currently under the care of the Historic Chapels Trust. The building has been known as the "Cathedral of the Potteries", and "it was one of the largest and most ornate Methodist town chapels surviving in the UK".

Early history
In 1797 the congregation of Hanley Wesleyan Chapel were locked out of the chapel for supporting a resolution at the Leeds Conference. The demands made by this resolution led to a schism in the Methodist church that led to the formation of the Methodist New Connexion. In Hanley, the New Connexion congregation initially met in the house of one of its prominent members, and then acquired a coach-house at the corner of Albion Street that was converted into a meeting house. During the following year the first chapel was built on the site, which was large enough to seat 600 people. It was formally opened by Wiliam Thom, the first president of the New Connexion, and Alexander Kilham, its secretary. This chapel was the head of the Hanley Circuit, and by 1812 this Circuit was the strongest in the New Connexion. During the previous year the chapel had been expanded to seat 1,000. It was still too small for the size of the congregation and was demolished and replaced by the present chapel in 1819; this seated 2,500. The plans for this were drawn up by J. H. Perkins, a local school master. In 1859 a colonnade was added to the front of the chapel, with a window and cornice above it. This was designed by Robert Scrivener, a local architect. Further alterations were made in 1887, including the extension of the minister's vestry and replacement of the windows. At this time the pews on the ground floor were renewed.

Architecture
The chapel is constructed in brick with a stuccoed facade, and a slate roof, and has two storeys. The facade is Italianate in style. Its ground floor is rusticated, and has a single-storey portico extending along the full frontage of the chapel. This consists of a heavy cornice supported on pairs of fluted Corinthian columns. Under the portico are two doorways between which is a window. Over the portico, in the centre of the upper storey, is a Venetian window, with two sash windows on each side. At the summit of the frontage is a central pedimented gable. On each side of this is a decorated massive cornice. Behind the frontage, the building extends back for five bays, and at the rear is a shallow curved apse. Immediately inside the entrance there is a vestibule. Stairs on the left and right lead up from this to the gallery, while immediately ahead is a minister's vestry. Inside the main body of the chapel is a continuous tiered gallery carried on cast iron columns. The organ, with its baroque case, stands on the street side of the gallery. Under the organ is an octagonal pulpit approached by two flights of stairs. The stairways to the pulpit have cast iron balustrades and hardwood handrails. On each side of the pulpit is a communion rail. Under the chapel is a burial crypt. The three- manual organ was built in 1864 by Kirtland & Jardine. In the 1950s it was enlarged, rearranged, and converted to pneumatic action.

Recent history and restoration
During the 20th century the size of the congregation declined and the fabric of the building was deteriorating. In 1978 the decorative plaster ceiling was replaced with a suspended ceiling of acoustic tiles, and other smaller repairs were carried out. Further repairs were carried out under the Manpower Services Commission in 1978. Throughout this time discussions were taking place about the future of the building and its congregation. The building had been listed by English Heritage in 1972. None of the ideas for developing the building came to fruition, and worship in the chapel ended in December 1985. Permission to demolish the building was refused because of its listed status. It was bought by a private individual in 1987 but the plan to convert it into a nightclub was declined. The building was acquired by the Bethesda Heritage Trust in 2000 but they failed to raise sufficient finance to continue worship in the chapel while converting other parts of it into an office. It passed into the ownership of the Heritage Chapels Trust in 2002. In 2003 the chapel was a finalist in the BBC's first Restoration series, but failed to win the prize. The Trust obtained an estimate for the restoration of the chapel. This amounted to £2.5m and the Trust decided to undertake the restoration in three phases. The first phase was completed in September 2007 at a cost of nearly £900,000, which included making the building weatherproof. Of the money raised for this, £262,500 came from the Heritage Lottery Fund, £200,000 from English Heritage, £250,000 from North Staffordshire Council, and a further £20,000 was raised locally. By spring 2010 fundraising was underway for the second phase of restoration which is estimated to cost about £710,000. Fundraising for phase three will start once the second phase is completed. Between January and May 2010 an exhibition called Building Jerusalem was held in the Potteries Museum showing the history of the chapel and some of the items associated with it, and a number of fundraising events have been organised.

Building Activity

  • Kiril Pavlov
    Kiril Pavlov activity.buildings_person.create_many
    about 5 years ago via OpenBuildings.com
  • Nichola Mycock
    Nichola Mycock updated
    about 5 years ago via OpenBuildings.com