Early History of the Chapel & Sunday School

With meticulous attention to detail and a commitment to excellence, we create spaces that inspire, elevate, and enrich the lives of those who inhabit them.

Our Chapel History

Sunday School History

There was a school building in what became the Chapel yard in 1700. The building was demolished in 1775 to improve the view of the Chapel. It is not known whether the children of the neighbourhood continued to be educated at Old Chapel after 1775 but, it is certain that the Sunday School was re-established in 1800 by the Reverend James Hawkes. The Sunday School went from strength to strength and numbers increased from 87-239 between 1800 and 1812.

In 1810 a separate Sunday School building was erected on a site where Pickford Lane meets Town Lane and where Pickford Mews is today. Just like the Chapel, the Astley Dukinfield family gave the land. The Sunday School building was extended twice, once in 1839 and again in 1882.

At the beginning of the twentieth century by far the biggest event in Old Chapel Sunday School’s history was held. The centenary of the Sunday School was on Saturday 22nd September 1900. The school was redecorated and on the outside evergreens and clusters of banners were hung. A large flag curled in the wind. The members, friends and scholars paraded through the streets richly decorated by townspeople in honour of the event. They first gathered round a flag in front of the Chapel, near to where the War Memorial now stands. The procession numbered seven hundred in all, and they were given a free tea and entertainment. Speeches included one from the Reverend H W Hawkes, grandson of the founder of the school in 1800.

During the first half of the twentieth century the Sunday School met on Sunday mornings and afternoons. Scholars attended Chapel in the morning leaving before the sermon and in the Town Lane building in the afternoon. There was a rich social life with Girls’ Guild, Boys’ and Girl’s Brigade, Temperance Society, Pantomime Society and Operatic and Dramatic Societies. Whitsuntide Walks also took place having started in the 1800s. The Walks continue to this day when the Sunday School walks with their two beautiful banners first unfurled in 1924 and 1928. They are on permanent display in the Chapel.

Sunday School life was disrupted by the First and Second World Wars. But the work of the Sunday School continued, often with the women taking on the greatest responsibility. Eventually the School met only on Sunday afternoon, as it does now. Throughout the years important events have included the Sunday School Sermons every year in May, youth activities such as the Unitarian Young People’s League. The North Cheshire Unitarian Sunda School Union hold an Arts and Crafts festival every year and both young and older members of the congregation enter. Dukinfield young people and adults win lots of certificates and often other trophies too including the highest award the Challenge Shield. The Sunday School teachers and children gradually took on the responsibility for preparing Special Services throughout the year, such as Harvest and Mothering Sunday and raising money for charities. By far the biggest event in any year is the Annual Pantomime in which most members of Sunday School take part along with some of their parents and adult members of the congregation.

Old Chapel Sunday School building became a day school, administered by Cheshire County Council, as well as a Sunday School on Sundays. It also served as a social centre on evenings during the week. This arrangement continued until 1985 when a new local authority primary school, Clarendon Fields, was built with all the facilities a modern school needs. It was difficult after the loss of the Day School to prevent the building being damaged by vandals and the by now much smaller congregation did not really need such a large building anymore. The school was finally sold for building development. After a period without a home and during which the Sunday School numbers dropped to an all-time low the present School Hall was opened in 1987. Numbers and activities have grown again and an extension was added in 1996. The present School Hall was built in the Chapel yard thus returning to the situation that existed in 1700.

The Sunday School celebrated its bicentenary in 2000 when once again there was a procession through the town, in pouring rain with the local wind band, Adamsons Band in attendance. A special service was held at which the children sang and gave extracts from the pantomime. This was followed by a buffet in the School Hall.

Memories of our lives, of our works and our deeds will continue in others.