A CHAPEL steeped in religious history has staged its last service - to a full congregation.

Bank Street Unitarian Chapel welcomed parishoners on Sunday (May 14) for its last service.

As numbers at the congregation have dwindled in recent years, and the demands of the upkeep of the building, the church has to close. 

The Bolton News:

The attendees at the service joined together to bid farewell to the facility. The assembly sang ‘Jerusalem’, the last hymn to be heard by the congregation.

Mayor of Bolton Cllr Linda Thomas was present. She said: “I thought it was going to be such a sad occasion. People have been worshipping in that building for 160 years. But it was a celebration.

The Bolton News: Mayor of Bolton Linda Thomas. Credit: Henry LisowskiMayor of Bolton Linda Thomas. Credit: Henry Lisowski

“Returning reverends came with great speeches.

“Unfortunately, things come to an end and things change and people have to move on, and they’ll find another area to worship and do their good work.”

Worshipers from Walmsley Chapel and Chowbent Chapel in Atherton were present as show of solidarity and a reminder that there are alternative venues for practising Unitarianism in the area.

Chairman of Walmsley Chapel, Jim Sheffield, confirmed that a lot of the congregation at Bank Street have found their way to there.

“That’s what we are here for,” he said. “We welcome anybody.”

The Bank Street site has been a focal point for worship area for more than 300 years – although, when it was built, the area was known as Windy Bank.

The Bolton News:

“It’s a little hidden gem is that building,” Cllr Thomas said. “It’s kind of hidden away. It’s beautiful inside. It feels like it’s from a bygone age.

She added: “It’s such a shame. I hope whoever buys it decides to keep some of the stain glass windows.”

The Bolton News: Some of the chapel's stained glass windows. Credit: Henry LisowskiSome of the chapel's stained glass windows. Credit: Henry Lisowski

In its original form, the chapel was built on land donated by preacher Robert Seddon in around 1696.

It is known that there was a manor house occupied by Seddon on land near where the chapel now stands in the 1670s.

The chapel played a major role in the religious landscape of the area.

READ: When Bank Street in Bolton town centre was hotbed of non-conformism

It was a time of religious upheaval with many people unhappy with the intolerance displayed by the newly established Church of England. From this site, Bolton became a centre for non-conformity.

A boarding school was established next to the chapel in 1755 by Rev Thomas Holland.

Then, in 1856, the original chapel building was replaced by the one that stands there today, designed by George Woodhouse. The older building became a Sunday school but has since been demolished.

Pictures by Henry Lisowski taking during the last service.