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Mere Brow Methodist Church
Centenary 1902 - 2002

Methodism in Mere Brow

Beginnings
We celebrate a century of worship in the present chapel at Mere Brow during November 2002, but the story of Methodism in the village, goes back to about 1840. Information about the early days is rather sketchy, but there are a number of sources to show us that this is the case.

  • Before building commenced in 1902, Rev. James Dickinson who was then the minister, circulated a letter appealing for support, in which he states that there had been a small society at Mere Brow for over sixty years.
  • There are a number of old Circuit plans in existence, one of which shows preachers planned at Mere Brow during the early 1850s. At that time and for some years later the society was known as Holmes, and was in the Preston Saul Street Primitive Methodist Circuit.
  • Many of us have been told by parents and grandparents, of services originally having been held in the cottage which is now in Mr John Moss's garden next to our present Sunday School building. The National Religious Census of 1851 indicates that a cottage had been used as a preaching house since 1840. ( The census was never repeated. Some suggestions are that denominations could not agree how accurate the figures were. )


Cottage used for services up until 1861

Methodism came into being following John Wesley's Aldersgate Street experience of May 1738, although Wesley himself remained a Minister of the Church of England for the whole of his life. The denomination itself had several breakaway groups which became separate churches, but eventually re-united in 1932. Those who broke away included the Inghamites who still remain as a small group around the Burnley area. Among the others were the Bible Christians, who were mainly in Cornwall, The Methodist New Connexion, and the United Methodist Free Church. The original Church became known as the Wesleyan Methodist Church, but the one which involves Mere Brow was the Primitive Methodist Church, which was founded in 1810 in the area around Mow Cop, on the borders of Cheshire and Staffordshire. The two founders were Hugh Bourne and William Clowes. They had organised two camp meetings; open air services based on an idea from America. The meetings were very successful, but were frowned upon by the church officials. Wesley himself of course used to preach outdoors, but Methodism had by now become "respectable". The two were eventually put out, and Primitive Methodism began officially in 1810. It spread to Hull on the other side of the country, from where preachers were sent to mission Preston in 1821, and a Society was formed at Hoole (now Walmer Bridge) in 1824. Preachers from Hoole helped to found the Society at Hesketh Bank in 1826, and, after a series of attempts over a period of ten years, Banks in 1836, who were able to open their first chapel that same year. Marshside had also got enough members to enable them to build theirs by 1832. In all probability, preachers from one of these places came to Mere Brow, or Holmes as it was then known. We cannot say which one, but by 1840, meetings were being held. The forebears of the present day Holmes Methodists, had already founded their Society in 1809, and built their first building on their present site by 1832, but this was the parent denomination, later to be known as the Wesleyan Methodists, from which the "Prims" had broken away. Some of Mere Brow's early members might have originally belonged to Holmes, but there is no tradition of this having been the case.

The First Chapel
Services must have been held in the old cottage for about twenty years, but by December 1860, the lease on a plot of land had been granted by Lord Lilford, to "John Wright of Holmes within Tarleton " at "Mere Brow within Tarleton", containing two hundred and sixteen square yards. The lease was for twenty-one years, at a yearly rent of ten shillings, and a "Building Chapel or Meeting House according to the plan already Approved" by Lord Lilford, was to be built on it at the expense of "John Wright his Executors Administrators and Assigns". The only signatories to the lease are Robert Banks, Lord Lilford's land agent, and John Wright. Just what the financial arrangement was between John Wright and the church members we do not know, but the building which we now use as our Sunday School was built, and used for the next 40 years.
The Trustees Minute Book has an entry for January 1882 which mentions a new Deed being obtained, and another appoints the minister, Rev. T. Smith, and Mr T Wright to see the steward with a memorial to Lord Lilford about giving us the Chapel property, and some on Rigby's side to erect a school. If that was not forthcoming, then a ninety nine year like the Wesleyans was to be asked for. That Memorial or Petition is among the Lilford Estate Papers, written in beautiful copperplate writing. In it the "Trustees , Sunday School Teachers and Senior Scholars together with other Members of the Congregation worshipping in the Primitive Methodist Chapel at Holmes" state that in an act of Parliament passed during the administration of the recently deceased Earl of Beaconsfield, power was given to estates to make grants of land for the erection of schools or places of worship. They ask to be granted the present site of land together with a further area to build additional classrooms, and better sanitary arrangements. They pointed out that most of the petitioners were either Lord Lilford's tenants, or labourers employed by them, also that there had been an improvement in the morality and religious knowledge of the district, and that the public well-being of the area would be improved if the grant were made.
The gift must not have been forthcoming, because a lease for a further twenty-one years at fifteen shillings a year was signed by the Land agent and Thomas Wright in January 1883. It may have been that members of the Wright family acted as guarantors on behalf of the Society, because shortly after that, there is a minute that a new trust deed be made and enrolled.
The new deed was dated 28th May 1884, and was between Thomas Wright Of Holmes within Tarleton, Farmer, and Thomas Moss, Farmer; Richard Watkinson, Labourer; James Moss, Labourer; Richard Yates, Labourer; Daniel Prescott, Labourer: Richard Hart, Grocer; Thomas Wright, Labourer; Moses Moss, Huckster; David Moss, Labourer; John Pownall, Labourer; William Sutton, Labourer; Hugh Sutton, Shoemaker; and Jehu Hunter, Labourer; all of Holmes.
It states that Thomas Wright had procured the lease from Lord Lilford, so that it could be assigned to the Trustees for the erection of a Chapel, Meeting House or School, The Trustees were to ensure that the use the premises conformed to the provisions of the Primitive Methodist Deed-Poll, which set out the Doctrines of the Primitive Methodist Church. No other Doctrines were to be allowed to be preached.
The earlier lease procured by John Wright would have been for the same purpose, and assigned to the previous Trustees. It can be seen from their occupations, that the Trustees would not have had the necessary influence to be granted a lease themselves, but the Wright family were substantial farmers, tenants of Lord Lilford, and were able to use their position to enable the Chapel to be built.
A variety of activities continued, and various jobs of maintenance. A minute for 1889 states that new windows were to be put in, and that the glass be diamond glass. Some of that glass is still in situ! In 1890 there is an entry that Mr Whittle ( the Minister) be instructed to see the land agent about a plot of land the same size as that which the original chapel was built on, for a school or chapel, and another in 1892 that he should write about land for a school. It would seem then that the idea of a second building had been in peoples minds for over twenty years before it actually came to fruition.

The New Chapel
As was stated earlier, Rev J Dickinson, circularised a letter asking for support. we can let that document speak for itself:

We have had a small Society at Mere Brow, a hamlet which lies between Banks, Tarleton and Rufford, for over 60 years. Its population is about the same to-day as it was half-a-century ago, viz. : 250 ; who are chiefly of the agricultural labouring class. We have 68 Church Members, 13 Sabbath School Teachers, and 127 Scholars connected with us, and most of the other residents come to our many Services. For some years we have been making Annual Efforts towards a New Building Fund, as we find it most inconvenient to worship in the old one-room building where we must have on the Sabbath, a School and a Society Class, and on the week-days any Tea Meeting, Lecture, or any other meetings we desire.
We have in hand £150. We propose spending about £500 or £600 on a building that will be large enough to meet our requirements, for Mere Brow is not an increasing neighbourhood. Many times we have to regret our young men must leave us and go into larger centres of population. We are anxious however, they should carry with them the lessons taught by our faithful workers, and many are the testimonies of the lasting good received at this little Church, and we trust through them good has been done to a larger community. It is practically impossible to realise much more than £100 in the village itself, -which, I feel sure you will agree with me, is a noble sum, seeing that most of the men only earn from 10/-to 15/- per week, so we must appeal to those who sympathise with this kind of work to help us.
Lord Lilford has granted us land for 99 years, at 5/- per year, and several of the Farmers around have promised practical support.
I shall be most happy to wait upon you with a plan and specification at an early date, to see if you can lay a Stone for us on June 21st.
Yours respectfully,
Rev J Dickinson.

The Stone Laying
His efforts were successful, and an estimate of £550.00 from Wm. Blundell of Banks who was the Circuit Steward at that time, was accepted. The estimate is dated 30th April, and by 14th June everything was ready for the stone-laying ceremony. Mere Brow along with Banks, Hesketh Bank and Hesketh Moss, (Hesketh Lane was only built in 1909) had been formed into the Southport Third Circuit 1895, and ministers from the First and Second Circuits were present.

The Rev James Dickinson was the Minister at Mere Brow when the present Chapel was opened in 1902
The Reverend James Dickinson

The Southport Visiter had a full report. It was a day of glorious weather. The Marshside Teetotal Brass Band was in attendance, and accompanied the singing. The proceeding opened with the singing of the hymn "And will the great Eternal God". Rev James Dickinson reiterated what he had said in his letter, and hoped that everyone would support the collection very well, for they were beginning to feel that there was the possibility of declaring the chapel free from debt after the opening ceremony.
Rev W. R. Bird Of the Derby Rd. Church gave an address.
He stated that this was his first visit to the neighbourhood, and he never looked at one of those picturesque white cottages without thinking of "the happy homes of England". The new building would be a very pleasing addition to the architecture of the district, but that was not the primary object of the building. It was to be a Christian Church. The church really meant a gathering place for Christian people, a place for Christian people to cultivate their spiritual life. But it would not simply be for Christian people. The building when completed would be open to every man and woman in the district. He hoped it would never be closed even to the worst. If any man wanted to discover the pathway into spiritual life, if any man wanted to be forgiven, and how to have a grand new life, he hoped that the doors would always be open to him. He hoped moreover that no one would ever come within who would pass outside without knowing how to be saved, and have his name written in the roll of Life. He then went on to state that this was to be a "Free Church", he made no wilful reflection on any other Christian Communion. He thought there was good in all, from the Roman Catholics on the one hand, to the Christian Scientists on the other, but he then went on to extol the virtues of being a Free church, with Jesus Christ as its head, in contrast with the Anglican Church which had King Edward VII as its head. He also quoted membership figures to show how the various Free Churches were prospering, while Anglican numbers were falling.
( There seems to have been a controversy at the time about the passing of an Education Bill which favoured Anglican rather than Free Church day schools, and the figures he had quoted were challenged a few days later in the columns of the Southport Visiter.) Be that as it may, the report states that his address was greeted with applause.
Stones were then laid by the following, who wished success to the undertaking:- Mrs. R. Hart, Mrs. R. Wareing, Mrs. W. Rimmer, Mr. R. Houldsworth, Mr. John Ball, Mr. C Moss, and Mr R Fell. Mr James Taylor laid a stone on behalf of the Trustees, several of whom had contributed handsomely by donation. Each stone-layer was presented with a mallet. A vote of thanks was accorded to Mr Bird, the stone-layers, and the band, on the proposition of Rev. J. Dickinson.
Afterwards, a public tea was held, at which 250 people sat down.
In the evening, a meeting was held over which Mr. R Wareing presided. The speakers included Rev. J. Dickinson, Rev. J. H. Hughes of Marshside Chapel, and Rev. J. Roxby of Cemetery Rd. Chapel. High Park Primitive Methodist choir sung.
Rev J Dickinson presented a financial statement which was received with great enthusiasm. He said that up to date the cash received had been £114. 7s. 6d., that there were promises of £44. 12s. 6d., £1 bricks amounted to £18, by collecting-books £58. 7s. had been raised; the young people's effort had realised so far, £9. 3s. 4d.; that of the married folk £13. 12s. 5d. £6. 10s. was collected at the stone laying, £3. 14s. 1½d at night. The chairman gave a donation of 3 guineas, a total of £271. 9s. 10½d. The tea was estimated to produce £5. £144. was invested with Chapel Aid, giving an aggregate total of £420. 9s. 10½d. They hoped to raise the full cost of the building by the opening service. The subscribers were Mrs. R. Banks £20; Mrs. J. Taylor £10; Mrs. R. Hart £10; Mr James Taylor £4; Mrs. Wareing Glazebury £5. 5s.; Mrs. William Rimmer £5; Mr. Robert Houldsworth £5; Mr. Castor Moss £5; Mr. Rd. Fell £5; Mr. Thomas Abram £5; Mr J. Ball £7. 10s.; Mr. T Wright Blackgate Lane £2; Mr. W Wareing Banks £1; Mr Southworth £2; Mr Thomas Wright £2; "From a Friend" £3; Mrs. Sutton Southport £2; Mr Franklin Hilton£5; Mr. Henry Johnson Glazebury £1; Mr Thomas Banks £2; Councillor Rimmer 5s.; Mr. John Wright Churchtown £2; Mr Thomas Jones Southport per Mr. Robt. Cooper £1; Dr. Kenworthy 10s.; Dr. H. Robson£1.1s.; Mr. Bamber Longton 2s.6d.; Mr. J. J. Muxlow Southport £2.2s.; Mr Maden Southport £2."s.; Mr Johnson £1; Mr. Radcliffe 10s.; Mr James Blundell Blackburn £2.
Promises had been received as follows :- Mrs. J Wright, Miss M. Wright, and the late Mr. J. Wright, £20; Mr Richard Banks £5; Mr Thomas Moss £5; Mr Hugh Sutton £5; Mrs. Weld Cambridge Road £1.1s.; Miss Carver Albert Road £5; Mr John ball Crossens £2; Mr Gaskell 10s. 6d. Mr Rimmer £1.1s.
The collecting-books were announced as follows:- Castor Moss£10. 2s.6d.; Miss Minnie Taylor £16. 5s. Mrs. Hunter £1.11s.; James Wright £5; Hugh Taylor £5; Mrs Johnson £3. 3s.; Mr. Hart £6. 6s.6d.; Mr Hugh Sutton jun. £1. 2s. 6d.; Richard Sutton £1. 4s.; William Taylor £4. 5s. 6d.
The £1 bricks have been given by:- Jane Watkinson, Ruth Watkinson, Mrs Ellen Sharrock, Henry Harrison, Henry Dandy, Maggie Hart, Chris Sutton, James Coulton, R Prescott, James Wright, Richard Sutton, John Ashcroft, Thomas Ashcroft, May Hart, Mary Abram, Alice Taylor, Alice Hamilton, and Mary Wright Blackgate Lane.

The Opening
Work continued, and on Tuesday November 4th 1902 The Southport Visiter contained this report.

The opening ceremony in connection with the new Primitive Methodist Chapel at Mere Brow particulars of which have appeared in these columns, took place on Saturday afternoon. The Rev. J. Dickinson at the request of the congregation, performed the opening ceremony in the presence of a large gathering. Amongst those in attendance being, messrs. Wm. Blundell sen. and jun., Mr Martin, Mr R. Ball (Banks), Mr Thomas Moss, and Mr. J. Moss.
The sermon in the Chapel which was crowded, was preached by Rev. R. Bird of Southport, at the close of which he paid a high tribute to the architect and builder. He thought that everything had been done and finished in a most creditable manner. They had his best wishes for the future.
After the service an excellent tea was held at which between 250 and 300 sat down.
A public meeting was held in the evening, when the chapel was again crowded to the door, some not being able to gain admittance. Mr. R. Lund (Lydiate) presided, and others on the platform were the Rev. J. Dickinson. the Rev. T. Fletcher, Mr Buckley, and Mr. Stazicker (Croston).
The Rev. J. Dickinson said that before he introduced the chairman, he had to give them a financial report. They would understand it could not be a complete report. They would not be able to do that till the end of the month. The report was a very favourable one, and showed that before the end of the special opening services, their chapel would be free from all financial responsibility. It would be nice to sing the doxology on November 23rd, when they would know that every item had been wiped out. Mr. Dickinson then called on Mr. Lund to preside over them.
Mr. Lund, who was received with applause, said that he congratulated them at Mere Brow on the very nice little chapel they had got. Proceeding, he said that it was right as Mr Dickinson said, he was born and bred a Primitive Methodist. (Applause) His father was the assistant class leader at Hesketh Bank for a number of years, and his mother was a member of that society for forty years. (Applause)
Mr Stazicker, who was also received with applause, said that he was not a Primitive Methodist - (Laughter) - he was a Wesleyan Methodist born and bred. He had every reason to be proud of the associations that he had with Wesleyan Methodists. He had been a member of that church for 18 years. He was not the oldest local preacher in Croston as regards age, but he was as regarded church membership. But he was glad on such occasions as these they could forget church distinctions, and meet on the common platform. When he received the invitation to take part in that day's proceedings, his answer was "Yes" he felt delighted and glad to go amongst people when they were going in for good times. The memories of previous gatherings there live with him. Then. in proceeding he said that God is "our refuge and strength, and a very present help in trouble". God had proved himself a refuge to them in more ways than one. When one place got too small and insufficient in its accommodation, for their wants and requirements, He had provided for them in a liberal way with a larger place where they could be sheltered from the storm, and meet in comfort and delight. In that sense, He was a refuge to them. (Applause)
Mr. J. Buckley of Southport, said he was always pleased to hear of the development of Methodism. (Hear, hear) He was pleased that the chairman was a Methodist, and he hoped that God would spare his life for many years to come, and would make him abundantly useful to his fellow men and to the church. He was also very pleased with the singing. Someone had said that their choir came from a Wesleyan Chapel, but it was Primitive Methodist singing. (Laughter) He was also very pleased with the chapel. The chairman had called it a little chapel. It was a sensible chapel, and he would very much like to congratulate the trustees. He thought their chapel was the right size. he very much liked its appearance, clean and tidy. No one would say that they had been extravagant in the expenditure, yet the chapel was neat in its arrangement. If he had the money, he would have the sanctuary second to no other place. (Loud applause) He would have the house in which he publicly worshipped God as convenient and nice in every way as the best room in his house. He therefore said that they had no reason to be afraid of asking their friends when they came to see them, to go with them to the chapel. He was always glad to hear of progress being made, and he was glad that God had so earnestly blessed their labours in the old chapel as to make it necessary they should have a new one. Let him say there were always difficulties as they knew. There were difficulties in chapel-building, and one of the greatest difficulties was to keep united. He was glad to hear that they had kept united, and that the undertaking had been brought to so successful a close. But he did not want them to imagine that the time had come for a rest. They might have had difficulties, but there were still difficulties before them. It was difficult to build a chapel and to pay for it, as he understood they had done, but his experience was that it was more difficult to fill it. He hoped that they would be successful at Mere Brow, and that they would very soon have that chapel filled. They had reason to be thankful for their past history. God had done great things for them, and he prayed that God would continue to abundantly bless their labours. Might he appeal to every member in that congregation that night to labour for still further success, for without labour they would not have success, and he would like to appeal to them to labour more abundantly in the future than they had done in the past. He not only wanted them to labour, but he also wanted them to give their substance, for they could not carry on these material houses without assistance and without support. It was as much part of a Christian's duty to give as it was to pray. Therefore he appealed to them to give as God had blessed them. He did not think they would be any the poorer for giving. He was very pleased that they had overcome all their difficulties, and trusted that God would bless their efforts in the future. (Applause)
Other speakers also took part in the meeting.
During the evening the Holmeswood Wesleyan Methodist Choir gave several anthems, and they also led the singing at the afternoon service.

No reports appeared in the "Visiter" for the Opening Services held on the four following Sundays, but details are as follows :-

November 2nd
2.30pm. Marshside Primitive Methodist Choir gave a Service of Song "The rose of Lambeth" Reader Mr R. Houldsworth, Chairman Mr R Latham
6.30pm. Preacher Rev. J. E. Hughes
November 9th
2.30pm. High park Primitive Methodist Choir gave a Service of Song "The Narrow way" Reader Miss C Gore, Hesketh Bank, Chairman Mr A Pye, High Park.
6.30pm. Preacher Alderman W Vaughan
November 16th
2.30pm. Tarleton Wesleyan Methodist Choir gave a Service of Song "The River Singers" Reader Miss Lizzie Wareing, High Park. Chairman Mr J Lund, Tarleton
6.30pm Preacher Mr John Wright.
November 23rd
2.30pm. Banks Primitive Methodist Choir gave a Service of Song "Never Forsaken" Reader Miss J Blundell, Hesketh Bank. Chairman Mr Wm. Blundell (John's),Banks.
6.30pm. preacher Rev J Dickinson
The choirs were also to sing at the evening services, and a tea at a nominal charge of 6d. provided for visitors.
Saturday November15th 7pm. Lecture " The Bible its Conflicts and Triumphs" given by Mr. John Wright of Glazebury. Chairman Mr. Robert Wareing Glazebury.
The visiting choirs, apart from Holmeswood, were brought to Mere Brow in Robert Baybutt's Waggonette, at a total cost of £2.17s. 6d. (Four of the choirs will take part in the Centenary Celebrations. High Park Chapel is no longer in existence.)Several families from around here had moved to Glazebury and the surrounding areas when some of the mossland was being brought under cultivation, and came back to take part in the opening. Thus the New Chapel was opened, and the work went on.

Church Life
A typical Sunday timetable would be 9.30am Sunday School. 1.20pm. Sunday School. 2.30pm Afternoon Service. Children expected to go into the service but were allowed to leave after the "Children's Address". 6.30pm Evening Service, which was followed by a Prayer-Meeting. Quite a full day, and in addition there was sometimes a choir practice before the evening service.
Christmas Day too was a busy time. The first mention of having a "Christmas Tree" was in the 1880s. The whole effort seemed to be called a "Christmas Tree" The local newspapers advertised events with that title in other villages during that period. In 1888 the minute-book gives this time-table.
The articles for the tree were to be received from 5 - 9pm the previous night (But no doubt some would only be brought the following morning). Sermon at 2pm. Sandwich Tea price adults 9d. Children 6d. on the tables at 4pm. Public meeting at 6.30pm. addressed by Rd. Hart, H. Sutton, & E. Vaughan. Chairman Rd. Watkinson. At the end of that meeting Tree Tickets would be sold, and the articles distributed. Prices of tickets were 1s. and 6d., and everyone's duties for the day are recorded in meticulous detail.
The "Christmas Tree" continued to be held on Christmas Day into the 1950s. Originally the organisation was done by the trustees, but it has been part of the Sunday-School's responsibilities for many years. Selections from Handel's Messiah were sung during it on one or two occasions after W.W.II. The event continues today, in an abbreviated form, usually held earlier in December.
One feature of Christmas was the singing of "The Mere Brow Anthem", "Behold a Virgin shall conceive". It is a fairly unsophisticated piece of music, not to be confused with the one in Handel's Messiah, and may have originally been sung accompanied by the string band, (see below) but more recently, it was sung un-accompanied. Only manuscript copies are known to exist, the oldest in a book dated 1859, and despite several attempts down the years, no one has been able to trace its origins.
A Sunday school probably began not long after the Society itself was founded. By 1873 books were being bought as Sunday School prizes. Many faithful teachers have taught both children and adults there down the years. The Sunday School Anniversary, or "Sermons" as it was then known, and also the Tea party, go at least as far back as 1869. It may well be that the Procession was also in being by then. £2.5s. was paid for a new banner in 1881, and 4s. was paid for repairing it in 1883. For a time, the fairground attended the Tea Party. When that began and ended is unknown, but it did return on one occasion in the 1960s.
Besides the Sunday School Anniversary, the Harvest Festival was the main "Special" of the year. This is first mentioned in 1890, and was planned to take place on the second and third Sundays in October. It may well have been something new about that time, and of course the choir would have played an important part in it.
Another "Special" in the past was the "Infirmary Sunday", when the collections went towards the upkeep of the local infirmary, in those pre National Health days. A volunteer string band would accompany the singing on that day, and possibly on others besides.
Choir Sundays, Ladies Sundays, and Men's Sundays were among the others. Mr Henry Bond Senior worked hard for many years, training choir members who in many cases, were not very accomplished musicians. Mrs. Maggie Porter was in charge of the Ladies Choir for a long period. It was revived with Mrs. Mollie Taylor as accompanist around 1980. This followed the disbanding of the James Mason Singers of Wigan, who came each year from the late 1940s. Besides visiting Mere Brow, they also took services at many other chapels. Congregations flocked to hear them. Among the organists down the years have been R. Fell, R. Hart, H. Moss, T. Taylor, and H. Bond jun.
There were yearly payments to the Trust Fund of 10s by the Rechabite "tent", as their groups were called. This was a temperance Friendly Society, which collected small subscriptions each week, and was able to make small grants if people were sick, and a lump sum when they reached retirement age. The Rechabites still exist, without local groups, and with more emphasis on insurance.
From the earliest days Class Meetings were held to nurture the spiritual life of members. We still have class tickets, and group our members into "classes", with class leaders or Pastoral visitors as they are now known, but the class meeting itself no longer functions.
The Circuit Minister took a weeknight service every other week, and for some years, the alternate weeks, speakers on a variety of subjects were arranged. This has now been revived, first as a monthly Ladies Fellowship, but more recently open to all.
A Christian Endeavour meeting was held regularly for a number of years, but had ended before the war. There was also a Young People's League which flourished for a time, but ended in the early 1950s.
The Over Sixties Party, or Old Folks Treat, began in 1891. Then as now, everyone over sixty in the village was invited, and also widows of any age. Money was raised by carol-singing round the village. This took place after the evening service, which started earlier than normal. Singing was to begin at 7pm.and end at midnight! Those who smoked were to be given a present of tobacco, with tea for the ladies.
A Circuit plan of 1904 lists seventeen Local Preachers. Seven came from Mere Brow. They were:- H. Sutton, R. Yates, J. Taylor, H. Sutton jun., W. Taylor, C. Moss, and W. Moss. More recently, some of the others have been J. W. Sutton, T. Taylor, J.T. Sutton who came into the Circuit from Woodplumpton, R. Sutton, and J.W. Taylor. Mr. John Taylor from Bank Farm, who was society Steward along with Mr Chris Sutton, for many years, was known to have told preachers, " We want a good sing, a good sermon, and out in an hour, unless there's something doing", evidently long winded preachers were not to be suffered lightly.
A plan of 1853 shows us to be in the Preston Circuit, which went as far as Fleetwood, Caldervale, Freckleton, Leyland, and Churchtown, besides some closer at hand. By 1864 Southport had become a separate circuit Holmes (Mere Brow), and Banks were included in that, but Hesketh Bank remained in the Preston Circuit till 1880. As was stated earlier, the Circuit as we know it today was formed from the Southport First Circuit in 1895. The only change being the building of Hesketh Lane in 1909.
Ministers since 1890 have been:- Revs. J. Dickinson, W. Overton. J Hopkins, J. Dickinson 2nd term. T. Sowerby, A. J. Wigley, W. R. Reed, L. J. Jackson, W. B. Barton, B. Oliver, J. W. Jenkinson, S. L. Lane, J. W. Chapman, L. D. Brenton, H. Lister, A. E. Fisher, H. V. Briggs, R Davison, C Denney, and K. F. Jarvis. Memories are fading of the earlier names, but all have contributed along with our own members, to make the Circuit what it is today.

Plate comemorating the founding of Primitive Methodism
Plate from the 1910 celebrations of the Primitive Methodism Centenary

Epilogue
Readers have been patient to have stayed with the story so far. The reports from the "Southport Visiter" have been quoted at length to give an atmosphere of the age, and because so many names are included, we are thus able to see just how involved many of our families were in the efforts. Primitive Methodism was looked on as a working class denomination and that would certainly be true of Mere Brow, members being mostly farm workers, or small farmers. The chapel would be one of the finest and best furnished buildings in the village. Most of the cottages were still built of thatch and daub. Inside "those picturesque white cottages" mentioned by Rev W. R. Bird at the stone-laying, lived many large families. The earth or flag floors would still be sprinkled with sand, both in some of the farm-houses, and the cottages. In the words of one of my aunts, who would not yet have been a centenarian, "When you could afford a piece of coconut matting, you were somebody". Wages like those quoted in Mr. Dickinson's letter, could not have left anything over for luxury items, but people were generous according to their means, and very generous with their time.
During this year the Chapel has been re-decorated at a cost five or six times the original cost of the building, and a new venture has been the presentation to full houses, of the Roger Jones Musical "Greater Than Gold" at the village hall. Our forebears had very little in the way of material wealth. Compared to them we have a great deal. Their faithfulness and enthusiasm for their Lord and their Church, come as a challenge to us, to follow in their footsteps with as much vigour, and to make the faith which they had, our own vital living faith for today.

J. W. Taylor.
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