Tuel Lane Chapel (mid - late 1800's)
The history of St. Paul’s dates as far back as 1873 (furthest record back that we have found) when the then single storey ‘Tuel Lane Chapel’ existed, we believe it had been there for many years before that however the records are very scarce.
A new building is born
Due to the areas thriving industrial culture, congregation sizes were surpassing what the building could cope with, so in 1874 the Chapel was rebuilt to become the magnificent structure that many remember up until the 1980’s (more about that later).
The Chapel/Church was well received and congregation numbers far exceeded those that we see today, some of that was to do with culture at the time, but some was due to the Sunday Schools and in particular that for some this was the only means of education available, although further up the road Bolton Brow Methodist Church held possibly the largest Sunday school in the area (the building is still there today and is home to Bolton Brow Gallery and a Recycling company) as well as boasting being one of the first Sunday Schools of its kind in the country, Tuel Lanes was strongly attended.
Many tales are told of how mischievous children would drop Toffee Wrappers and even Bibles or Hymn Books from the Upper level to come crashing down on the floor, making many jump and often resulting in a stern word being had with them.
Sowerby Bridge was thriving, however congregations started to reduce as the decades passed by, the same was seen nationwide, therefore in the 1980’s the decision was taken for 3 local Churches to merge, those being Bolton Brow Methodist Church, Triangle Methodist and Tuel Lane Methodist Church, the new amalgamation became the now known St. Paul’s, to alleviate any potential risks of supremacy.
Work was done inside the Church (as the size was such that even with the new numbers didn’t warrant the enormity available) and the upper level was closed off to create a more modest and compact worship area (as seen below).
Easter Sunday Disaster
However shortly after this in 1988 disaster struck, in the early hours of Easter Sunday morning (April 3rd) the call was made to West Yorkshire Fire Service that St. Paul’s was in flames due to an arson attack. Many crews tackled the blazing inferno, that totally destroyed the internal structure, windows and roof leaving the main shell only.
Even through all that had gone on an Easter Sunday service was still held thanks to the warmth and Christian unity with Christ Church, who generously opened there doors to the congregation and made everyone welcome.
In the days that followed the full extent of the damage was visible, St. Paul's Methodist Church had been destroyed and left in an irreparable condition.
The lettering on the front of the Church left a sign of hope to all though, no longer did it say St. Paul's Methodist Church instead now it said 'St. Paul's ..... 1st Church'
In the months that followed the building was subject to safety work to make the area safe, this predominantly meant all the side wall being demolished, however due to planning restrictions to be able to reconstruct on the site meant that some sort of original feature had to be maintained, and as the front pillars had withstood the inferno they became a central feature in the plans of the new building.
Rebuilding of St. Paul's
Undeterred the members began on the mission of rebuilding St. Paul's, plans were drawn up by Architect Russell Earnshaw and work commenced.
Even through all that was going on the congregations faith stood strong, and remarkably services did still go ahead, many in union with Christ Church with the assistance of their Vicar at the time Peter Jeffrey and unbelievably some (including the picture below of Easter Sunday 1989) on the site of St. Paul's, with our own Minister Revd Mike Brooke (also famously known as the Wrestling Vicar and regularly partnered Shirley Crabtree better known as Big Daddy).
Work continued and although took some time in 1990 the Foundation stone was laid and blessed by Mike. The following months saw the new St. Paul's rise up like a phoenix from the flames and by October of 1990 was formally reopened as the Church that stands before you today.
Our thanks to Colin, Joan, Brenda and Norman for information on the history, and thanks to Malcolm Bulls Calderdale Companion, Chris Simmons, and Paul Hinton for the imagery.