A brief history of the Methodist Church in Frodsham
Methodists have been actively proclaiming the gospel message in Frodsham for more than 240 years. Our story begins with Joseph Janion of Bradley Orchard Farm. In 1765 Joseph’s sister, Phyllis Janion, married John Gardner at Frodsham Parish Church. John Gardner was a farmer at Tattenhall, but he was also a Methodist Local Preacher who preached the gospel throughout Cheshire and North Wales. Joseph Janion and his brother-in-law became close friends and Gardner lent Joseph Christian books and evangelical tracts. Joseph became a Christian and on 29th September 1772 he formally dedicated his life to God in writing, in the old Puritan tradition.
Joseph Janion had no evangelical friends in Frodsham so in 1773 he joined the Methodist Society at Little Leigh. In the following year Joseph and his friend William Shone commenced a series of prayer meetings in Frodsham. The first Methodist open air preaching meeting was at the Market House in Frodsham in 1775, when John Hampson was pelted with vegetables by some in the crowd. However, some did respond to the preaching and soon after this a Methodist Class Meeting with 12 members was established at Overton.
By 1790 the Methodists were meeting regularly in a barn in Church Street and within 10 years a new chapel was erected in what became known as Chapel Lane (now Fluin Lane). This chapel was used until 1873 when Trinity Wesleyan Methodist Chapel was opened. Trinity, built in the Gothic style and with a 123 feet high spire, became a familiar landmark in Frodsham. In the 1970’s dry rot was identified in the church building and during a two year period of alterations much of the old building was demolished. The Frodsham Society organised a “Save our Spire” campaign and with the help of the community the spire and some of the adjoining stonework was saved and restored. The remaining church building was reopened for worship in May 1979.
Methodism was also active in the Five Crosses area of Frodsham. The members first met in local cottages, but by the late 1850’s they were in need of a permanent place of worship. Samuel Worrall, a farmer at Five Crosses, spent a night in prayer and before dawn he set out to walk to Runcorn to talk with Thomas Hazlehurst. Hazlehurst, whose family owned a Soap Works in Runcorn, was a devout Wesleyan Methodist and he donated large sums of money to build Chapels in Runcorn and district. Hazlehurst agreed to help the members at Five Crosses and in 1859 Eden Chapel was erected in Bradley Lane. Thomas Hazlehurst also provided money for the Trinity Wesleyan Chapel (1873). By 1885 the Five Crosses congregation had outgrown Eden Chapel and a new Chapel was built in Kingsley Road. The old building in Bradley Lane was used for Sunday School and other church activities until its closure in 1994.
Methodism was originally a movement to bring renewal and revival to the Anglican Church. After the death of John Wesley in 1791 Methodism separated from the Established Church and divisions within Methodism soon appeared. The first split resulted in the formation of the Methodist New Connexion in 1796. It had little impact on this area. By 1801 the New Connexion had only 8 members in Frodsham.
The Primitive Methodist Church had a greater influence on Frodsham Methodism. This denomination originated in the Cheshire/Staffordshire border area. Some Wesleyan Methodist evangelists, including Hugh Bourne and William Clowes, were employing new methods to bring the gospel to the people. Camp Meetings were held in large fields and lasted from dawn until dusk. Hundreds were drawn to these lively evangelistic meetings and the converts were encouraged to join local Wesleyan Methodist churches. Unfortunately, the leaders of Wesleyan Methodism were not happy with the methods being used and they expelled Bourne, Clowes and their associates from the church.
The expelled preachers called themselves “primitive” (original) Methodists because they believed that they were merely following the example of John Wesley with their open air preaching. The new Primitive Methodist Church grew rapidly.
Preston Brook became the centre of a large Primitive Methodist Circuit. The Primitives held Camp Meetings at Five Crosses and Overton and regular services were held at a cottage in Main Street. They eventually erected a church at Frodsham Bridge. This building was later used by the Church of England as the Bridge Mission. The Primitive Methodists then moved to the other end of Frodsham where they built Bourne Primitive Methodist Church in 1876-77. Bourne Church closed in 1987.
In the 1830’s there was considerable debate in Methodism on the subject of a new theological college. Dr. Samuel Warren, who campaigned against the college, was expelled from the Methodist church in 1835. He founded the Wesleyan Methodist Association which attracted many disaffected Methodists who were opposed to the autocratic attitudes of the Wesleyan Methodist Conference. Samuel Warren visited Northwich in 1835 and addressed a meeting at the Congregational Chapel.
Many Local Preachers from the Northwich Wesleyan Circuit attended this meeting, and the Frodsham preachers presented Dr. Warren with a Cheshire cheese.
When Rev. Samuel Sugden, the Wesleyan Superintendent Minister, heard about this he immediately expelled the Frodsham preachers from the Wesleyan church. As a result of Sugden’s actions a large number of Methodists left the church and joined the new Wesleyan Methodist Association. During his ministry in the Northwich Circuit 900 members left the church.