The Wesleyan Methodist movement established a church on the corner of Manchester
Street and St Domingo Street (now Rochdale Road) at which John Wesley himself preached
on the 2nd April 1790, From that church two workers where sent to establish a 'Society
Class' in the village of Cowhill on the outskirts of Oldham. For a while the society
flourished often meeting in houses or the 'National School', but with the departure
of the two key workers and the national controversy agitating the Wesleyan Methodist
cause the society dwindled until it ceased to exist.
The work was re-established in 1847. The Methodists held open air services and cottage
prayer meetings in premises at Old Lane, Bank Mill and Denton Lane. The visits to
these outlying spots became dangerous with ropes tied across the dark lanes to trip
up the worshippers and then pelted with sods and stones. The antagonism increased
with the village bell man going around the area urging the people to yell and shout
whenever they met.
An unsettled period began. First a temporary home was found at the top of Cowhill
and then a room over what became Duckworth's shop, but the number of converts outgrew
the meeting room. Eventually in 1849 the top room in a disused spinning mill in Alder
Root became the venue for the first meeting of the Cowhill Wesleyan Methodist Sunday
School attended by a Superintendent, 2 teachers and five scholars. This was in the
days of primitive education which was dependant on Sunday Schools teaching children
the 3R's. For whatever reason, permission to teach writing was refused by the Methodist
District, but by the following Sunday the matter had been resolved and nine teachers
and some fifty children were in attendance.
The society enjoyed a settled period and began to flourish. Many of those who had
opposed the work were themselves converted and in regular fellowship.
On the 5th July 1854 a request was made to 'friends' and every home in the village,
to subscribe to a new school. In April 1855 the foundations of the Cowhill School
were laid and the church opened on the 29th July 1855.
Manchester Street Wesleyan Methodist Church
Cowhill Wesleyan Methodist Church
Brunswick Wesleyan Methodist Church
In nearby Freehold district the population was increasing and the need to build a
new chapel was important. A decision was made to build one in Rutland Street, Werneth,
half a mile away and in 1861 the foundations where laid for one of the largest churches
in Oldham Brunswick Wesleyan Methodist church which opened in 1862. (This later contributed
to the founding of Eaves Lane Methodist Church). Because of the prevailing economic
climate at the time, the Lancashire cotton famine, the church opened with a debt
Cowhill became prolific at building churches. Two more building projects a new school
for Brunswick, on Oxford Street, opened in January 1890 and two or three years later
the building of what became known at Cowhill as the "Extension Room".
The final building at which Cowhill society was involved came towards the end of
1912 with the removal of out-dated rooms and toilets to be replaced with an entrance
hall, cloakrooms and classrooms; these were opened on the weekend 8th & 9th March
In its 119 years existence Cowhill like so many other churches, started as a pioneering
venture in evangelism, seeing the need to reach out to the community it served with
the Gospel of redeeming love. From humble beginnings in the borrowed room of a disused
spinning mill these men and women burned with a passion to reach out to their neighbours
with the good news to be found in Christ Jesus their Saviour and Lord, built some
impressive monuments to the glory of God, both in stone but most of all, in the hearts
of men and women, boys and girls.