Open Hearts, Open Minds, Open Doors . . .
Enthusiastic Methodists from Liverpool helped to set up the first Society in a garret, in a Tanyard, in Kemble Street but this soon became too small for the meetings and they moved to a larger room behind an inn in Eccleston Street.
By the turn of the century, further expansion of the Society caused the friends to decide to build the first Prescot Wesleyan Chapel in 1805 in Houghton Street. It was expensive and a financial burden for some years but Methodism grew so rapidly that another move had to be made. The Church, Sunday School and graveyard were sold in 1839 to the Church of England to become a Day School and yard/playground. In that year a new stone Church to seat 500 people was built in Eccleston Street (formerly called Long Street) at a cost of £1,700, a large sum in those days. It remained the centre of Wesleyan Methodism in the town until superseded in 1909 and with it's considerable extensions of 1878 continued as Sunday School and Youth Centre until 1967.
The Sunday School had been formd in 1810 in the Church in Houghton Street and moved to Eccleston Street in 1839 but it was not until 1878 that the Trustees were able to erect a new building in Chapel Street attached t.o the Church which provided additional accommodation.
At the end of the 19th century, the premises in Eccleston Street were judged too small for the growing Scoiety and it was resolved to build a Chapel more worthy of Wesleyan Methodism. It was decided to acquire for £275 an adjoining old Unitarian Chapel and Graveyard in Atherton Street which had been build in 1756/7 on the site of a mug factory called Mud House Croft but which had been closed for worship in 1879. It formerly belonged to the Atherton family after whom the street was named..
The church leaders were conscious of the increasing population and prosperity of Prescot, thanks to the Lancashire Watch Company but mostly to the British Insulated Wire Company (known locally as the B.I.) and they wished to respond to the opportunity with a suitable building otherwise they said, "the Wesleyan Methodist Church cannot continue to hold its own in Prescot."
Fundraising was started immediately with such success that on 1st October, 1908, the foundation stone laying ceremony for the new Church in Atherton took place. The first stone was laid by Mrs. J. Forster and, in a cavity beneath it, were placed copies of the local newspapers and the Methodist Times and Recorder, a copy of the current Preachers' Plan and the record of the foundation stone laying service. Copper and silver coins of the realm were placed in a bottle. More stones were laid by local dignitaries and bricks by Sunday School Scholars.
............. to be continued