Mary Bealey’s Methodist Chapel

Close Methodist Chapel large
Mary Bealey’s Close Methodist Chapel.

In 1839, Mary Bealey saw the completion of the Close Methodist Chapel, a project which was accomplished entirely at her behest.

If you have any photographs or memories of the original Close Methodist Chapel, please contact  Gilly Paxton the Bealey Project Archivist.

Adam Bealey, Mary’s late husband, had introduced Methodism into the Radcliffe Hall area in 1800 when he started to hold religious services and a Sunday school in a large room in the Bealey’s works.  These services were well attended with preachers such as Sammy Hick and Billy Dawson drawing in the crowds. This continued for the next 39 years until the Close Methodist Chapel was completed.

For many years, Mary Bealey’s efforts to purchase land to build a chapel had been thwarted by the landowner, the Earl of Wilton and the Rector. However, not to be beaten, she bought a  beer house on Church Green near to the Parish church gate at auction and threatened to demolish it and build her new chapel on the site. It seems that alternative land was quickly offered on the site where the new church, built when the original one was demolished in 1973, now stands.

Close Wesleyan Chapel

Close Wesleyan Chapel not long after it opened in 1839.


As you can see from the pictures, the chapel was not a small building and as a writer said in 1844, it was “a very handsome modern edifice, appropriated to the purpose of the Wesleyan Methodists, the elegance of which is more noticeable from being in the midst of buildings of an ordinary, not to say mean, appearance.”

The crenelated stone columns which stand between the railings are the only part of this impressive building which survive and are still imposing in their size and quality to the passer-by today.

The Bealey Papers contain some of the very first documents relating to the building of the chapel [These can be found at reference BBY/2/2]. This agreement engages Thomas Hall to clear the ground for the building of the chapel which had to be finished and ready for the foundation ceremony on Saturday 28 April 1838.  For this, he was to be paid £5 10/-

Chapel land clearance for foundation stone ceremony.

Agreement between Mary Bealey and Thomas Hall dated 10th April 1838. Click on the image to enlarge.

Chapel Building Committee

Mary Bealey's request for permission to erect a chapel at Radcliffe Close which was submitted to the Chapel Building Committee. Click on the image to enlarge.

Before any work could start on the chapel at Radcliffe,  Mary Bealey had to get permission from the Manchester Chapel Building Committee. This is the document which specified the size of the building, how many people attended the Methodist services, the cost of the land, the cost of the building, the value of subscriptions which would help to pay for the chapel, the value of seat rents which would be chargeable and that there was to be a side gallery and an end gallery. The proposal was passed with the stipulation that a Sunday school was to be established with the chapel.
Chapel building tenders & bills 002

Tenders from tradesmen and bills for the work carried out for the building of the chapel. Click on the image to enlarge.

Some of the accounts for the building work have also survived, including bills for extra work which brought the overall cost of the chapel to over £5,000, a huge sum in 1839.
On Sunday 22nd September 1839, the opening services were heard with some of the most popular and well-known preachers of the day conducting the morning, afternoon and evening services. These included the Rev’s. Thomas Jackson, George Morley, William M. Bunting, Daniel Walton, Robert Newton and Dr. Fletcher.
The original Sunday school which was held in the Bealey’s works was very popular with scholars coming from as far afield as Cockey Moor and Unsworth. When the new chapel was built, it appears to have had a school room built underneath which held classes for 600 children. By the turn of the century, there were 450 Sunday school pupils, the number having dropped due to the establishment of several other schools which were more convenient for the children to attend.
Close Day School Teachers

The teachers of Close Day School who tought the different classes to the children of the Bealey's works.

 Later, an infant school was built and about 35 years after that, a large school-room was erected at a cost of £1600. In 1898, the number of scholars in the day school had reached 639 with an average attendance of 281.
By the turn of the century, there were 450 Sunday school pupils, the number having dropped due to the establishment of several other schools which were more convenient for the children to attend.
Close Wesleyan Harrier Team

Gradually, other activities were included for the children of the chapel and school. These are the Close Wesleyan Harrier Team in 1902.

The Bealey papers also have some records which tell us about the finances of both the chapel and the school which were administered by a group of Trustees, such as Charity Commission Returns, cheque books and an account book.
Another collection of documents held at Bury Archives are from the Radcliffe Close Methodist Church [These can be found in the collection catalogued under the letters CRC].
The documents held in this collection include Wesleyan Missionary Society records, Foreign Missionary Society records, teachers’ attendance registers, scholars’ roll / admission register  from 1846 to 1913 which gives both the school roll at various intervals, and the names of pupils admitted in between times – boys and girls are registered separately,  day school log books, and sunday school attendance registers  from 1955 to 1970.
Did you or your ancestors attend either of these schools? If you have any photographs or memories of the Chapel’s Sunday or day schools, please contact Gilly Paxton, the Bealey Project Archivist.
Photo credits for the pictures other than the documents for this blog go to Christine North.
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2 Responses to Mary Bealey’s Methodist Chapel

  1. Ray Hulley says:

    I have a photograph of the interior of Close Methodist church Radcliffe taken around 1951, the 150th anniversary of its founding. I cannot find an email address on this site for the Archivist Gillian Paxton and would be grateful if one could be provided so that I may send the photograph to her.

    • bealey says:

      Dear Mr Hulley,
      Since completing the Bealey Project, I have now become the Borough Archivist for Bury. I can be contacted at Alternatively, you could send the photograph to Bury Archives & Local History, Moss Street, Bury. BL9 0DR. I’m looking forward to seeing the interior of the church. Many Thanks,

      Gilly paxton

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