22nd July 2016


Origins of Bolton Methodist Mission

The  Ridgway Gates Chapel was opened in 1776 and was visited  by John Wesley on 16 April 1777 when he gave it his official blessing. At the time it was considered to be the second largest Methodist Chapel in England.

In 1790, on his last visit, aged eighty-seven, he writes:

In the evening I preached in the lovely house in Bolton, to one of the loveliest congregations in England who by patient continuance in well being, have turned scorn and hatred into general esteem and goodwill. 

The Victoria Hall 1897

Influenced by a visit to the Manchester Mission Thomas Walker proposed a similar Mission Hall be built in Bolton.

This would be the first town in the country to have a Central Hall, in keeping with the ‘forward movement’, which was the last great attempt to reach those alienated from all the churches.

The new Mission Hall was built on land belonging to Ridgway Gates Chapel.  Terrace of eight shops were bought with the middle four being demolished so that an entrance to the main hall could be created from the main street. The other shops were let to provide an income for the Mission.

In 1897 Bradshaw Gass (architects) were commissioned to build the finest hall in England, based on the design of the popular Music Halls. It was felt that non- church people would feel more comfortable in such surroundings.

Victoria Hall Methodist Mission was opened on 14 March 1900

In addition to Worship, the Hall was used for many other activities including…..

Penny concerts and silent films were held on Saturday nights and the audience were invited to return on Sunday for worship.

Concerts lasted around two hours, opening with a hymn and prayer, followed by several nationally famous soloists, musicians and often a comedian, and ending with the invitation and a benediction.

The Sunday School, founded in 1785, continued in Ridgway Gates Chapel until in 1932 when the chapel was found to be unsafe and therefore, demolished. The widow of Colonel W.E. Walker generously donated funds to enable the build of The Walker School as a memorial to her late husband.  On October 1 1932 the new school was opened. This makes it one of the oldest continuous Sunday Schools in the country.

During both World Wars The Victoria Hall played a vital role in keeping the people of the town safe as it was one of Bolton’s Fire Wardens Post. When the evacuees from the Channel Islands came to Bolton, The Walker School served as their reception centre before being placed with families.

Today the Victoria Hall remains primarily a place of worship on Sundays, but on other days it plays host to a variety of musical events, lectures, meetings, school presentations etc. The many ancillary rooms can also be booked for many different events, and are used by many charities and organisations in our town.

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