During his long life of nearly 88 years, John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist Church, was often in the district of Pendle. He first came to Burnley in 1784 and this is how he records it in his Journal: "I went to Burnley, a place which had been tried for many years but without effect. It seems the time was now come. High and low, rich and poor, now flocked together from all quarters; all were eager to hear except one man, who was the Town Crier. He began to bowl again till his wife ran to him and literally stopped his noise. She seized him with one hand and clapped the other upon his mouth, so that he could not get out one word. God then began a work, which I am persuaded, will not soon come to an end.
In 1786 John Wesley came to Burnley a second time and among the converts in the crowd who gathered in front of the Thorn Inn (which stood where Market Square shopping precinct now stands) were William Hopwood and his bride. They had just been married at St Peter's and were walking home after their wedding. They became Methodists and joined the Burnley Society. William Hopwood died in 1838, but the firm of William Hopwood & Son donated £400 towards the cost of the Hargreaves Street Methodist Church (where Central Methodist Church now stands)
The Burnley Methodist Society was very outward looking and other societies were formed that were considered to be off-shoots of this Society. One of these was a Society Class formed in 1807 at "New Laund" midway between Wheatley Lane and Pendle Bottom. The leader of this class was Richard Dean, but by 1817 there is no mention of it in the Circuit records.
The next mention we hear of a Society Class in this area is in 1822 when a class was started in Wheatley Lane by Mr. William Anderton and Mr. Robert Proctor. Both these men were connected with the Methodist Chapel at Higham, but lived in Wheatley Lane. The Society Class usually met in Mr. Anderton's home in Tunstill Fold. It started with 18 members then in 1823 it had 27 members and occasionally preachers from Burnley were invited to meet the class. During the next year things progressed so quickly that a small Chapel was built on the site we now occupy. The land was purchased from Mr. James Hartley of Ightenhill Park for £30 and the total cost of the building was £200 of which £45 was borrowed
The first trustees were: William Hopwood, (the man converted under John Wesley's preaching) James Hartley, Edwin Pollard, William Moore, Thomas Parrer, Thomas Whitfield, William Fishwick, John Hargreaves, Thomas Haworth and William Hopwood (Jnr) all of whom came from the Burnley area, and Mr. John Robinson and Mr. John Liversey of Higham and Robert Proctor and John Whalley of Wheatley Lane. The Society now having a building of its own really began to thrive. In 1828 the Society had 4 classes meeting with a total of 89 members (an amazing number for the size of the village). In 1836 Mr. Proctor led 3 classes with 23 members each, Mr. Anderton one class of 16 members and Mr. Moorhouse one class of 9 members. Not only did the classes grow but on the Circuit Plan of 1837 the names of Messrs Robinson, Close, Smith, Emmett and Holgate from Wheatley Lane appear as Local Preachers. Indeed, such was the success of the Society that in 1853 the Chapel was enlarged
The School Building
In 1859 the foundation stone of the School Building was laid by Miss Wilding of Montford Hall. In her speech she said "The memory of this day will live after us and this school will prove to future generations how deep and earnest was our desire that they too may know 'the truth which makes them free' and be blessed with knowledge able to make them wise into salvation."
Although the School building only came in 1859, a Sunday School, probably meeting in the Chapel had started as early as 1830, but with the new building the Sunday School had room to expand and in 1879 we read that 68 children attended Morning School and 94 attended Afternoon School. Whilst the Sunday School was growing the Church also grew and in 1867 it was again enlarged, the choir stalls, organ loft and Minister's Vestry being added on.
Besides its services of Worship, its Class Meetings, its Sunday School and Day School there was the attraction of Temperance Meetings on a Saturday Night. It would seem that the major emphasis of the Church during this period consisted of worship and education. Then after the turn of the century a new factor appears. The Church becomes not only the worship and the learning centre but also the social centre. We hear of Saturday Socials and Concerts, Choir trips and Ladies Social Class Outings - Band of Hope Temperance Meetings were relegated to week nights.
In 1924 the Centenary Celebrations took place. To mark this occasion a new pulpit was installed and electric lights were fitted throughout the building.
After the First World War the Church still remained full, concerts and plays were constantly being given and the class meetings still held their membership.
Gradually after the Second World War, church going decreased somewhat, even in Wheatley Lane, and folk began to leave the village. The future began to look less bright for the Church. Then in 1965 new property began to be built, people started to move into the village and it grew in size. The Day School needed expanding and in 1969 two new infant classrooms were added on. With new people coming to live in the village, new people began to come into the Church.
The 150th Anniversary
Was celebrated in 1974 with two weeks of special services and activities, ending with a Flower Festival and Exhibition. On the final Sunday when the preacher for the day was the then President of the Conference, Rev. J. Russell Pope of Exeter, so many people attended that the service had to be relayed to the overflow congregation in the school hall. From the proceeds two more classrooms were added to the school and the Church continued to grow.
In the Spring of 1984 disaster struck. Dry rot was discovered on the ground floor of the Church. The downstairs pews had to be removed and a completely new floor was installed. The new carpeting and seating completely altered the appearance of the church. The cost of well over £17,000 was raised by numerous efforts and generous contributions in the surprisingly short time between April and September. The re-opening services were held in December 1984, on Advent Sunday; the services during the summer having been held in the school hall.
In 1986 further repairs to the Church, which included re-pointing and exterior painting became necessary, costing in the region of £5,000. At the same time extensive repairs to the school roof were carried out at a cost to the Church of £2,500. Some of the costs were met by the Day School Repair Fund raised by the parents and teachers and by a Flower Festival. (August 1986).
The Church 1986 - 06
In order to meet the continuing needs of our congregation and preserve the Church into the 21st Century, further plans were drawn up: one to alter the front of the Church to improve access and another to consider maintenance and finance required over and above the general work of the Church.
To assist in this a Flower Festival was held in August 1990 and the finance helped considerably to forward the above work.
During this ensuing period an increasing number of young families, with young children entering school kept their Roll around 200. Many parents came to Church and some became Church Members. The Day School has a tremendously enthusiastic Staff under the Headship of Mrs Barbara Hodkinson (formerly Deputy Head of School). It also has a superb Parent Teacher Association (P.T.A.). Its OFSTED Inspection Report was excellent and we are proud of that
fact and that we are one of only two remaining Methodist (Aided) Primary Schools in the whole country.
So it was in April 1997, after much prayer and discussion, the Church Council met to consider the future of our Methodist Church in Wheatley Lane. The result of the meeting was a a commitment of faith to a vision and an agreement to a proposed extension/alteration of the Church ·Demolish existing vestry walls and pantry areas to create a large foyer.
·Eliminating the current problem of congestion.
·Build a single storey extension on the rear of the church to create a new vestry/meeting room. Complete with disabled toilet facilities and a Kitchen area.
·New doorway in the centre of the existing rear wall of the church to provide access to the vestry.
·New central heating system.
·Refurbishing of existing window/frames and secondary glazing.
·A "Loop System" installed for the 'hard-of-hearing' members of the congregation.
·Decoration of whole.
The entrance has been made Open Plan and a new Vestry come meeting room added to the back. As a result it is distinctively more attractive welcoming and reverent.
The cost of the improvements taxed the resources of the church and a sum of £10000 pounds had to be raised. The week beginning September 26th 1999 was dedicated as a week of prayer for this cause. Gifts to support the church would be gratefully received and can be posted to the Church Treasurer W.L.M.C. Wheatley lane Road Fence Burnley Lancs. U.K. The Week ended with a special day of music harvest harmony on Oct 3rd.
Budget Cost: £48,030
Since that day in April the vision continues to materialize with God's help and the work of the whole congregation of our Church and many Parents and staff of the Day School.
We believe this is a place of beauty and usefulness, a place fit to worship God in.
Our Flower Festival has enhanced its beauty and inspired you to be part of our vision by responding as generously as you can.
You know friends, as we look back over the years, we can see how the Methodist Society at Wheatley Lane has been blessed with laymen and laywomen of vision and initiative who through succeeding generations have dedicated their lives to God through the service of His Church, and we praise and thank God for those of the present generation who by their zeal and devotion are continuing God's work of Mission to the whole community. Some years ago the Church took a tremendous act of faith in taking on the long proposed building alterations.
It continues to flourish with A New Ministerial Appointment in September 2006 of one of the youngest ministers The Rev. Gareth Higgs.