The old Earlestown Baptist Church

In the 19th century, The Baptist Fellowship in Earlestown was formed by five local men: George Cuffin, Joseph Eckersley, Joseph Gibbons, John Wallington, and John Walton, who felt led to act upon their faith and hired an upstairs room in Market Street, in the town centre for religious worship according to the principles and practices of the Baptists, the first services of ‘the Baptist Friends’ taking place on Sunday 22 October 1871.

As the congregation increased, a move was made to the new Co-operative Hall in 1878. Since becoming affiliated to Myrtle Street Baptist Church in Liverpool in 1875, the Earlestown Baptists had been thinking of building their own Church and eventually in 1881, having been able to raise over half the building costs, with the help of Myrtle Street, the foundation stone of the church was laid on Easter Monday, 18th April 1881, being officially opened on Monday 7 November 1881.

In 1896 the decision was made to build a schoolroom adjacent to the Church building and the premises were officially opened on Thursday 21 October 1897. All the building costs for both Church and Sunday school were completed by 1908.

Throughout the years, Earlestown Baptist Church has been the focus of many activities for both the Church congregation and members of the wider community. Bazaars or Sales of Work were, from the beginning, an annual popular fundraising event and in later years Autumn Fayres were held every October until 1988. The Earlestown Baptists were noted for their singing and high standard of music, and for many years performances of Handel’s Messiah were presented annually with augmented choirs from 65 to 80 voices.

In 1981 the Church became actively involved with other local churches in a cheme to help the unemployed young people in the area. As a result, in conjunction with the Manpower Services Commission, NEWCET was able to set up training and work experience centre in the Vulcan school until its closure in 1987.

Since 1994 when it was inaugurated, the Baptist Church has been a member of Newton Churches together, the aims of which include joint prayer, worship and reaching out to the local community.

At various times over the years, the premises have been used for badminton, youth clubs, children’s clubs, Brownies, Cubs & Scouts, Boys’ Brigade and Keep Fit classes. Concerts have played a large part in the social life of the Church from the earliest days and in 1969 the Crown Street players were formed, regularly putting on shows and pantomimes until the mid-1980s, which were very popular with the local community.

In recent years, many activities had to be curtailed because of the deterioration of the building. The Church, regrettably, had to close due to extensive wet and dry rot, with the final services being held on Sunday 12 November 2000 and demolition completed in 2001. The Fellowship found accommodation in the nearby St John’s C of E Church at this time, moving to the Newton Methodist Church some twelve months later.

In deciding to demolish the building, the Church Meeting, also made two important resolutions:

  • To ensure the continuation of the Baptist Fellowship in Earlestown and Newton-le-Willows;
  • To rebuild the premises as soon as appropriate funds could be raised.

A Fundraising Committee was appointed with an attendant Grant Application Group consisting of four recently-retired members who undertook the tasks of researching, visiting, contacting and making applications to likely sources of assistance. Four years later, after a great deal of sustained effort, the necessary funds were secured, planning permission given and building control granted. Following advice, undertaking a local Feasibility Survey, experience from the Church Urban Fund, Liverpool and the St Helens Council for Voluntary Service it became clear that premises should aim to achieve two targets:

  • To serve the community at large offering multi-agency occupation
  • To be the home of Earlestown Baptist Church

Two consultants/project managers were appointed (Colin Brogan – Balcarres Design & Development Ltd and David Jackson – Insider Project Management Ltd) and by Christmas 2004 tenders for building were invited from local companies with FW Jones (Newton-le-Willows) Ltd gaining the contract and commencing on site the following month. The work was to be completed by September 2005 with the Official Opening on Saturday 22nd October 2005 – just 134 years to the day after the first act of public worship by the Earlestown Baptist Friends was held in that upstairs room in Market Street – and 124 years after the original Church was erected.

It took the founding Fathers of the Earlestown Baptist Fellowship some 10 years to have their own new church building at a cost of £1,500 which it took half the time to replace it for approximately £350,000 with a completed valuation of almost half a million pounds!

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