Churches of Rudyard

Rudyard falls within the parish of Horton but has always shown an independent streak in denominational preferences.  Quaker house meetings were held in the area in the 17th century and the first Methodist society was formed at Bank House in 1791.  With the encouragement of Horton Parish Church the society held meetings only on week nights.  In 1811 an acre of land was purchased on Lake Road with planning permission for the construction of a chapel but the congregation, now associated directly with Wesleyan Methodists, continued to meet in houses, moving to Harracles Mill, then to Rudyard Hall.  Finally a Wesleyan chapel was built in 1862 behind Camrose Hall, to the left of the memorial.  The previous year a Sunday School, offering reading and writing tuition as well as religious education, had been opened in a cottage opposite to Harracles Mill.

Meanwhile Anglican parishioners in Rudyard had begun to find Horton Church a little remote from their community.  In 1895 Sunday evening services began at Pine Cottage on Lake Road.  A mission church was proposed and on June 25th 1903 the corner stone was laid on the downhill side of Horton Bank, above the village.  St Gabriel’s, “a plain building in the Italianate style”, was eventually opened three years later and extended in 1910.  The foundations of the structure had, however, not been well considered.  The land had been reclaimed from spoil heaps from the nearby quarry. A landslip in 1917 gave warning of dire consequences but no remedial action was taken.  St Gabriel’s ceased as a place of worship in 1928 and was eventually demolished around 1946.

Non-denominational religious gatherings were also popular in the early 20th century.  Albury House was the venue for meetings of the British and Foreign Bible Society.  Advertised as taking place in Mr F Salt’s Large Room, these provided a focus for both Church of England and Non-Conformist members.

By 1912 the original Wesleyan chapel had become too small for its congregation.  The new chapel, on Lake Road, was set back from the road behind a laurel hedge.  The design was imaginative, with a sliding partition allowing the separation of sanctuary and schoolroom or the use of the whole premises for community purposes.  The chapel has an important role in community life today, both as a centre of worship and venue for numerous activities.

Written by Brian Radcliffe

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