Dorset County Express and Agricultural Gazette
Tuesday 18th May 1875
EXTRAORDINARY CAREER OF A WOMAN
The Warrington Guardian reports that a woman, named Elizabeth Taylor, appeared before the Warrington magistrates on Friday on a charge of being drunk and disorderly. She appeared in the dock in male attire, and the Chief Constable, in relating to her antecedents, stated that she was the daughter of a gentleman who formerly lived at Penketh, near Warrington. She had been married, but her husband was killed 21 years ago. She commenced to wear male attire 13 years ago. She was employed as a sailor during the American war, and made several trips from South Wales to the American coast in vessels sent out to supply the Alabama and blockade runners with coal. She was known by the names of ‘Happy Ned’ and ‘Navvy Ned’. For some time past she had worked as a labourer on several farms in the neighbourhood of Warrington, and had so late as the 12th inst. Helped to kill 13 pigs for a farmer at Croft. Her sex was not suspected until she was arrested.
The prisoner was fined 5s. and costs.
Leigh Chronicle and Weekly District Advertiser
Friday 1st February 1884
On Sale, A BAGATELLE TABLE 13ft by 4ft. 6in., with balls and cues complete, in excellent condition. Apply to Mr. Isaac Maines, Horse Shoe Inn, Croft, Warrington.
Leigh Chronicle and Weekly District Advertiser
Friday 22nd January 1892
LOST AND FOUND
LOST, at Tyldesley, on Saturday, the 16th Inst, a BLACK RETRIEVER DOG, with white spot on breast – Anyone taking same to Mr. Yates, Pork Butcher, Leigh, will be rewarded.
FOUND, BLACK RETRIEVER BITCH. If not claimed in three days will be sold. – Apply 84 Wigan Road, Westleigh.
Leigh Chronicle and Weekly District Advertiser
Friday 6th May 1892
FREAK OF NATURE!
TO BE SEEN AT THE
JOINER’S ARMS HOTEL,
CROFT, NEAR WARRINGTON.
S. DAXON, Proprietor.
Croft Methodist Chapel was built in 1817
That we do know for certain, as it was taken apart and the materials used to build Culcheth Independent Methodist Chapel at Twiss Green in Culcheth.
Here is an extract from ‘A Short History of Independent Methodism’ by Arthur Mounfield, published in 1905.
‘James Wood, a tenant of an old farm near Kenyon Hall, allowed his kitchen to be used for worship by a group of his peers. His co-workers included Timothy Leather, John Fearnhead, Richard Hunt, John Goulden and John Massey, among others. Public worship was continued in the kitchen until 1845, when a chapel at Croft, which was disused, was taken down and removed to a site given by Richard Hunt.’
‘The Story of The Lancashire Congregational Union 1806 – 1906’
by Nightingale has Croft listed under ‘Churches formerly aided but that have now been abandoned’
Croft, near Warrington 1830 – 1834 Amount £75 Abandoned
It was then registered as a Wesleyan Methodist place of worship in 1837.
By 1845 it was disused and so taken apart and used to build Culcheth Independent Methodist Chapel as stated.
After the rebuilding of the chapel, the previous site was forgotten about.
Every source I have found that does mention Croft Methodist Chapel, states that the site is either missing or unknown.
Historic Culcheth: The Story of a Village by Rosemary Keery
‘It is thought that a disused church in Croft was demolished and rebuilt on the present site, but the details of this cannot be traced.’
Croft: The History of a Village by Alan Sharpe
‘Records show that an Independent Methodist Chapel was built in Croft in 1817, though the site on which it was built is unknown.’
A History of the County of Lancaster: Volume 4, (1911) William Farrer and J Brownbill
'An Independent Methodist chapel was built at Croft in 1817 but has disappeared.'
These sources are all accurate to a point. There seems to be nothing at all in any archives or other available means.
One source claims that the burial ground on Lady Lane (belonging to Croft Unitarian Chapel) is the burial site from the missing Methodist Chapel.
I can only assume this is just a wild guess from the author, as his dates for burials at Christ Church are also inaccurate.
Celtic Warrington and Other Mysteries: Book One by Mark Olly
‘This cemetery is part of the old original burial ground of the Independent Methodist Chapel built in 1817 which had been demolished by the 1870’s after burials began in earnest at Christ Church.’
2022 Location Found
I recently had the chance to look through the tithe registers from 1837 to 1843, which also included the full tithe plan, to scale with the current map.
The Methodist Chapel was on the list with full details and a reference number for the plan.
The landowners at the time were George Birch & John Byrom & Peter Philips & William Bowker as Trustees of The Methodist Chapel dated from 30th April 1837. The site of the chapel and yard were included. The quantity of land was 10 Perches (Land was split into Acres, Roods and Perches), with a charge of 1d. payable to the rector.
The Green Pin Marks the Location
A document held at Lancashire Archives entitled ‘Highway Papers’ with the date 5th October 1831 contains a
Plan and notice for stopping up order for footpath between Southworth Hall, Heath Lane and Wesleyan Methodist Chapel in Southworth with croft, Warrington.
Looking at the tithe plan overlaid with the 1834 map, this makes perfect sense as the footpath is clearly shown.
The location using todays measurements and maps are:
Latitude, Longitude 53.448348, -2.5626590
Eastings, Northings 362728, 394767
British National Grid Reference SJ627947
I have checked with Land Registry and the land is now owned by Peel Investments (NORTH) Limited.
See more local places of worship
I recently read an article in The Guardian, which was so thought-provoking, I felt I must share it with the community.
The article was written by Andrew Edwards of Sussex Archaeological Society. I won’t repeat it here in full, but I have picked out the key points:
-We must enable communities to engage with heritage sites in ways that protect their own needs.
-We must find new ways to open up these spaces, so they remain relevant and serve a purpose.
-When a community can engage with these spaces, the whole economy and upkeep of a building improves as a result.
-In treasuring the past, we must not forget about the present and the future.
The article got me thinking about our parish church, Christ Church. The fact that the building is Grade II listed will not save and preserve it alone.
We need to ask ourselves NOW, how do we see our church in thirty or forty years?
There are many different answers, but here are 5 possible outcomes:
Obviously, number 1 would be the best possible outcome. The building is still serving its original purpose after 200 years.
This is also highly unlikely. Churches have faced this problem for a long time due to dwindling congregations.
To show just how much these figures have decreased, I have used data from the 1851 Religious Census and current figures to produce these statistics.
An average of 27% of the occupied households in Southworth with Croft attended this church DAILY in 1851.
Number 2 is the most desirable outcome if number 1 isn’t possible. The benefits include:
a sustainable future for a valued local heritage asset,
new sources of grants and investment capital can be accessed to restore and develop the building,
the ability to establish a more enterprising income generating management model that provides a more sustainable solution to future building management and maintenance,
Influence on public perceptions, and local pride in their community,
Increased community involvement and engagement in their local assets, Stimulating new uses and attracting new audiences to experience and access a local asset.
Numbers 3 and 4 are certainly not wanted and number 5 would be devastating.
How can the community influence the outcome?
We need to look at this in several different ways.
How can we Prevent the unwanted outcomes (3, 4 and 5)?
We do not want the building to be demolished. Either of numbers 3 or 4 could also lead to outcome 5.
So, why are buildings usually demolished?
Age and lack of maintenance –
Old buildings have a weak infrastructure, due to the materials used deteriorating in quality over time, and therefore not reaching required health and safety standards anymore. Even if the building looks good, this will not necessarily reflect the quality of the structure. Poor ventilation and plumbing can sometimes be unsolvable without further damage.
Having an old building demolished (and rebuilt) will in many cases cost less than maintenance in the long term.
Infested with Dangerous Pests or Materials –
An abandoned building can become infested beyond repair with pests and toxic materials over time. It is common, especially in old industrial buildings, for toxic substances to fester in the walls, floors and pipework, so often the best option is to demolish it.
All of these reasons could be used in the future, without action by ourselves to prevent it.
If the active church congregation continues its rapid decline, the unwanted outcomes become much more likely.
The church is currently open once a week for a Sunday service. It can’t open much less often than that and continue to be maintained.
When the congregations reduce, so do the donations, which is what funds the upkeep of the church.
This means that outcomes 1, 3 OR 4 could lead to outcome 5 eventually.
(Of course, option 2 could also lead to eventual demolition at some point in the future, nobody knows anything for certain.)
We need to ensure that the decisions taken by us now, ensure the best possible chance of preserving our heritage for the future. This includes both thirty years from now and in the longer term, for our descendants to enjoy.
How can we achieve either of the desirable outcomes (1 and 2)?
This is where YOU (the community) comes in.
It would be unrealistic to think that the population will start actively worshipping or in some cases take on a new faith in order to save the building.
It would not either be expected for the active church congregation to suddenly stop worshipping.
Both the community and the church need each other to actively engage in creating a plan for the future.
If this doesn’t happen, the church building and it’s history and heritage will slowly dwindle along with the congregation.
I would love to hear ideas and opinions from all sides on how this can be achieved.
I long for the day when I am writing a post showing some hope for the future of our local parish church.
Cheyvonne Bower is a local historian with a passion for the past.