Welbeck Street Baptist Church
Latest News from Welbeck Street

Our History
Although there is evidence of General Baptists meeting in Ashton in the early years of the 19th century, it was not until 1835 that a small room, known as the “theatre” and belonging to the Gas Company was obtained at a rental of £30 per annum. The Baptist meeting continued to grow so that it was not long before a much larger building was needed. Land was purchased at Hodgson Street and on 25th June 1846 the foundation stone of the chapel was laid by Henry Kelsall of Rochdale. The chapel was completed and opened on 19th January 1848, and, under the ministry of Rev. James MacPherson, the church grew during the next 10 years. The latter part of 19th century was a time of economic depression in the Lancashire cotton towns but despite this the church managed to clear its debts and become self- supporting.

In 1883 a spacious Schoolroom was built with 6 classrooms and a lecture room, and the Sunday School numbers increased greatly. Further alterations were made, including a change from gas lighting to electricity and installation of a new organ. In 1936, the congregation at Ashton celebrated its centenary and on 25th October, the Rt Hon. Ernest Brown, MP, and Minister of Labour, was the special preacher. During the 2nd World War, the church at Welbeck Street, like most other churches in the area, suffered a serious fall in membership. Number fell from 166 in 1935 to 119 in 1940, and 100 in 1947. During the 1950s the membership was never more than 54, and fell to 32 in 1962.

In 1953, and again in 1959 the church was damaged by fire. The church building could no longer be used for meetings, so the lecture room was used instead. Although there were financial problems because of the building repairs, the Baptist Church maintained a “faithful and consistent witness” into the mid 1960s.

Much outreach work was undertaken on the recently built Richmond Park housing estate but with “little success”.

At that time it was decided that the old church building was too dilapidated to repair, so plans were made to replace it. A new site, at the junction of Welbeck Street South and Brook Street East was purchased, and compensation from the council enabled the church to demolish the old building and begin work on the new one. The work was completed by July 1965, with the first service taking place on September 19th. From the testimony of one of the deacons it would appear that numbers had become quite depleted and that a small team remained to maintain the work, especially among children of the area.

In 1966, a decision was made, after a meeting with the Area Superintendent that the six Baptist churches in Tameside should group together and form the North Cheshire Fellowship and adopt a team ministry, with a senior minister and two assistant ministers. The fellowship, later called the Tameside Fellowship, continued until December 2006.

The nature of the team ministry meant that much of the supervision of the work of the individual churches fell upon the deacons, and in particular, to the church secretaries. Ashton was blessed by the arrival of Professor Ashworth who along with Roy Hopkins became elder and provided strong leadership. Later, after Roy retired from work, he trained at Northern Baptist College and became Lay Pastor. Later, Rev Stephen Haig became a non-stipendiary minister until he was called to Swarcliffe Baptist Church in Leeds.

From 2006, Graham Andrews joined the church as a lay worker and was responsible for most of the preaching and teaching, later becoming an elder and then Church Secretary. For most of that time our congregation has been small. For the last two years, there has been an ethnic mix with the majority originating from Africa. On an average Sunday we have worshippers from Nigeria, Zambia, Cameroon, DRC and England.

In September 2010, we called Ayi Samson Ake from Ivory Coast to be our lay Pastor. He now was our Minister in Training.
Welbeck Street Baptist Church, Welbeck Street, Ashton under Lyne, Cheshire, OL6 7TB