In the same year that David Livingstone was found by HM Stanley in Central Africa a Christian place of worship began in lowly surroundings, in a South Eastern Lancashire coal mining village called Hurst. That year was 1871.
It all began on the 2nd March 1870 at the church meeting at Albion. A question was raised about opening a room in Hurst for evangelistic services, and this was “to attempt to set before the people of Hurst a higher and nobler life” (the current pastimes being cock fighting, pigeons and Pitch and Toss).
Across the road from the present church there used to be a row of low built cottages with their backs to the road. The end nearest our gate was known as the FOWT and it had a small and a flagged seat outside. At the other end of the row was a house with an upper room known as a garret. This garret, originally used as a pigeon cote became the first Sunday School in Hurst in 1871. Repairers came, then painters and last but not least the ladies with their buckets until the old room was quite respectable and opened on Sunday 20th August 1871 with sixteen scholars and our first Superintendent – Mr Radcliffe (from Albion).
Numbers grew over the next three years and the room was no longer suitable. Back to Albion, and Mr Abel Buckley had generously offered £100 towards the erection of a new school, others were also keen to help. A site across the road was acquired, an architect engaged, work given out and a date fixed for the procession from Albion, Charlestown and Hurst Nook, led by a band, to place the foundation stone of the new church, amidst great rejoicing. Fund raising began in earnest with special services, tea parties, concerts etc.
On the 26th March 1875 the school was completed. It had cost £800. It had been given a good clean out the day before, after a hard day’s work in the mill with the ladies mopping and the men bringing in the water. There were, on register seventy girls, sixty four boys, twelve male teachers and eleven female teachers, in addition to a mothers class of eighteen.
By 1885 we had grown to three hundred and thirty five scholars and needed more room and a year later it was arranged build a new Infants classroom and a room for Young Men at a cost of £316.
We had the audacity to actually hold a sale of work, followed by yet more fund raising which allowed the new rooms to be free of debt – “with all our imperfections, being in debt was just one more thing we could not tolerate!” In fact there was actually £50 in the bank!
Hazlehurst Mission opened in 1913, extending the work further. Years passed with Jubilee celebrations, Whit Walks, Harvests and Potato Pie Suppers, Christmas parties and concerts, jumble sales and fairs, trips out and sermons.
To conclude there is a quote from a speech given by the minister Rev WJ Farrow at a meeting at Hurst Nook on the 3rd November 1926 – “The Church’s message to you is one of courage and steadfastness. We would remind you that work and character tell in the long run. You have put not a few years behind and in that spirit that has brought you so far, continue. The present is encouraging, the future is waiting and is worth waiting for”.
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