Anglicans unlikely success in Potovens exasperates Nonconformists

As with setting up the first school for locals in Wrenthorpe (Potovens National School) in School Lane in 1844, a few years later the Church of England is beating its Wesleyan (Methodist) rivals when it comes to Sunday School attendance. This despite there only being a Wesleyan Chapel in Potovens at the time (St Anne’s Church didn’t open until 1874).

Was mid-19th century Potovens more of an ‘established’ community than previously thought? Or were local children being ‘encouraged’ to attend the Anglican school?

Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser
Wednesday 29 December 1847


Lately, at Alverthorpe, the spirit of Dissent [Methodists/Wesleyans] and the principles of the Established Church have been fairly pitted against each other. The dissenters, having proved successful in maintaining their predominancy at the Town’s school at Alverthorpe, feel great chagrined at the success of the Church Sunday School at Potovens, which on Sunday last had 130 scholars, whilst the dissenters’ school of the same place had only about 40, being about 70 less than attended the school short time age.

On the above day, we understand, a row took place at the dissenters’ school, in consequence of a gentleman from Silcoates coming to the school to ask the teachers to give up, if they could, the name of the individual who had reported that he would turn off such of his factory children as did not go to the Church school! All the people of the village were astir, and much amusement was caused by the gentleman hastily closing the shutters of one of the windows in the face of a person on the outside who was making an harangue, with his head stuck through one the squares. A constable was then sent for, who, on his arrival, good humouredly patted the enquiring gentleman on the shoulder, shook hands with him, and wisely wished him to retire. The misunderstanding seems to have arisen from the circumstance of one of the girls who works at a certain mill in Silcoates, having stated, without foundation, that if she did not attend the Church school she would very likely lose her work.

Vicar’s letter on Nonconformity

Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer
Monday 14 July 1902


Sir, – May I add a word? The letters in to-day’s “Yorkshire Port” will, I hope, be allowed to represent the dispassionate feeling of true Christian Churchmen towards Nonconformity. They are perfectly satisfactory as coming from representative Churchmen, and I can conscientiously subscribe my name to every one of them.

There is again, no inconsistency between their spirit and the spirit of the letter written by our revered Bishop to the new President of the Free Church Council. What I am wishing to ask is this: Are the schismatics any more than nominal schismatics at heart? Where is the difference between the majority of them and Churchmen?

I live in a village where Nonconformity has been strong for years, and taking an interest in its public life I find that the so-called “rabid Dissent” is based more upon the suspected antipathy of the parson than upon any theological difference. The Church has placed herself, to speak, in a ring fence, and Nonconformists imagine themselves to be fenced out.

I have succeeded in breaking through much of the unfortunate reserve of the Nonconformists, and I find them as body to be really admirable fellows for whom I have the greatest possible affection.

They in no particular resemble the paid political man who I contend does but libel them on public platforms. Throw out to them unfettered love and sympathy, and who shall say how soon our prayer for unity may be forthcoming? Act arbitrarily and a strengthened suspicion will bar the way. It is a most unfortunate position to contemplate, that the only thing in our common life we split upon is our Christianity.

Yours truly
Wrenthorpe Vicarage
July 11, 1902