A Long Forgotten Chapel

Page 34

A Long Forgotten Chapel


When, in 1865, an unknown artist, painted this picture of the Independent (later Congregational) Chapel on Westgate, it was going through difficult times. Low in membership and short of funds, imminent closure was contemplated. However the members decided against this and resolved to build a new chapel. This proved a long process and it was not until 1876 that their new premises on Bridge Place was ready for occupation.

“Browsers at book fairs, while perhaps, from time to time, finding an acceptable addition to their collections, will only rarely light upon something that is so totally unexpected, it’s acquisition becomes an absolute necessity. Such was that of a writer at a fair in Buxton. There, somewhat solitarily among the thousands of books, lying on a table, was a water colour painting of a building that had a vaguely familiar look to it. A glance at the inscription confirmed the identification. It read “Independent Chapel, Worksop 1865.”

That there were only a few of them was quite usual as the church was but moderately supported throughout its somewhat chequered history. A first attempt to establish a church in Worksop was made in 1807 when some students from the denominational college at Rotherham held a few services in the town. Attendance was not encouraging and the project was soon discontinued. Perhaps the choice of venue did not help. Standing on Bedlam Square and situated above a stable and next to a slaughter house, the room was used during the week as a school. In 1824 the independents tried to gain a footing in the town, this time meeting at the house of a Mr Gilling that stood on the corner of Potter Street with Priorswell road. Attendance clearly exceeded the accommodation and two Sundays the premises in the inauspiciously named Bedlam Square were again hired. For five years services were led by student ministers from Rotherham College until in 1829, the congregation felt sufficiently strong, both numerically and financially to call its own minister. He was the Revd William Joseph and it was under his leadership and guidance that the infant church aspired to build its own place of worship. Work began in 1830 and by mid 1831 the building depicted on the picture was complete. It did however differ in one detail from the picture, the date stone showed above the door showed the year 1838. Perhaps the artists skill was better than his memory.”