One of the first things you see on entering the Church is a terracotta plaque which says "Primitive Methodist Sunday School 1908"
This tells us that the building was planned to be a Sunday School or Church Hall. It was not at all unusual for new Church developments to begin with a room for young people. This would allow youth clubs, uniformed organisations and children and toddlers groups to meet during the week and Sunday School activities on Sundays.
Of course, with the children would come parents and as funds permitted, a Church would follow on the adjoining land. So often, the Church building, as originally planned, was not built and the Church Hall had to serve as both Sunday School and Church.
Such was the case at New Longton and it was recognised that the external appearance did not make it easily recognisable as a place of Worship. It was decided that extensive renovation and modernisation would take place, with a new glass fronted entrance which would provide a much better appearance.
It proved to be the biggest and longest building project ever undertaken by the Church either before or since.
The following is an extract from the brochure produced for the opening of the completed project.
For a long time it was felt that the side entrance was not very good as it was so small, and could be embarrassing at a funeral or wedding due to a lack of space. As the door was reached up some stone steps, anyone infirm or confined to a wheelchair entered the Church with great difficulty.
In 1984, Mr J Berry proposed that the building should be altered to provide four benefits:-
a. a level approach;
b. a more attractive and dignified appearance to the outsider;
c. a spacious porch with room to welcome people with wall space for displays;
d. a much needed cloakroom;
and submitted a scheme which included a new front entrance. This was passed by the Church Council and agreed by the Property Division. Mr Martin Wilson, Architect, of Preston drew plans, planning permission was granted on 31st October 1984 and alterations began in March 1985. The first task was to make a temporary entrance. Mr Fred Blackledge then erected a wooden screen in order that the outer wall could be removed and services still continue.
Sadly Fred died shortly afterwards and was carried into Church through the partition he had erected. Thus we lost one of our good friends.
On taking the end wall down a sealed bottle was discovered in the foundations. This contained two newspapers of the period and details of the original builders. These contents were lodged in the County Records Office in Bow Lane.
Before all the work was started it was pointed out by Mr Ken Berry that all the electric wiring should be checked. This was carried out by Mr T Poulton, who kindly gave his services free, for what proved to be an extensive job. His report showed that the Church neede to be rewired and it was decided that new lighting should be installed at the same time. Ken said that he would carry out this mammoth task. The lighting was designed by 'Lighting Design Centre' in Sedgwick Street, Steve Gorton supplied the electric wire and fuse boxes at a reduced rate and Edward Dewhurst Ltd were very helpful in the supply of other materials.
On entering the roof space it was found that a lot of the area was taken up by large diameter metal trunking. This was the ventilation system when oil lamps were used. This had to be removed. But how? Above the front wall is a plaque giving the name and date of the Church. This was removed leaving a large hole and through this the trunking was removed.
The new brickwork was started in May 1985 by M Walker of Long Moss Lane, who showed interest in the project and later slated the roof. At this time new splayed terracotta buttress blocks were required. It was found that these would cost £120 each and twenty were needed. This idea was forgotten and they were made in concrete at £20 each, and were supplied by Miles McKenna, who also made the gate posts.
The next main item was the roof truss and front doors which were supplied by Gordon Butler (Redman & Bispham Ltd) in August 1985. When the doors were glazed we were able to remove the inner partition. Although far from finished we were able to use the front entrance for the first time for the happy event of the marriage of Margaret Leigh to Jim Wareing.
At this time Ken Berry was looking for some heavy duty mains cable. He was informed by Edward Dewhurst Ltd of Preston that they had half a mile of second hand cable for sale, but it was damaged in places. It arrived in New Longton wound on three huge drums. To inspect it, it had to be unwound. But where? This job was done by laying it along the length of the road in South Avenue. At this time a large quantity of wood came from Eldon Street Sunday School which was being demolished by our New Longton men.
We then had a stroke of good fortune. Ken Berry had to go to Burtonwood Air Base on business. Here, the Department of Employment was using one of the hangars for storing surplus goods, and Ken noticed a number of lengths of timber. He asked about them, and was told that the Department had no use for them and that he could have them. He and his father found that there were eight lengths, four at twenty four feet, and four at nineteen feet. These were lashed to the top of Ken's Landrover and brought back down the motorway.
It turned out that this timber was a hardwood called Keruing. It was used to make the inner partition by Mr David Hazelwood. On one length of this wood a text, chosen by Mr F Leigh, was carved by Ken and placed over the front door.
On the forecourt a flowering tree and shrubs were planted, kindly given by Mr Dick Caunce.
The next main phase was the construction of the new organ loft and entrance to the boiler house, which began in March 1986. All this work was carried out by Joe Berry doing the brickwork, joinery and roofing with two splendid apprentices - Len Dunderdale and Vic Crump.
In June 1986 the organ was moved by the makers into its new position. The girder over the organ was salvaged from the demolition of the old Village Hall. It had formed part of the stage, and we were later told that it had originally come from a bus chassis. The organ blower was given to the Church some years ago in memory of Mr John Purves, who was at one time choir master.
The date stone on the external wall of the organ loft was carved in one of the original foundation stones. A 'time capsule' was inserted into one of the new buttresses, containing newspapers, a Methodist Recorder, coins and plans. This was witnessed by G Walkden, our village 'Bobby'.
The final phase was the internal furniture and redecoration. For many months we searched for enough pews, which were finally obtained for us by Susan and James Cook who deal in Church furnishings. These arrived, all dismantled, from the Siddal Methodist Church, near Halifax. We must at this point thank Mr Tom Leigh who gave us storage space for a mountain of wood and for room in which to rebuild the pews.
The choir was moved from the centre to the right hand side of the Church, and the Pulpit from the right hand corner to the centre. The communion rail was made slightly shorter, repaired and moved nearer the front.
Mr Norman Aspden kindly helped with ideas for redecoration and produced coloured scale pictures to give us a better idea of the finished effect. M A Appletons supplied the paint at trade price. The entire heating system was upgraded and in August 1987 the floor was covered in a new carpet, at a cost of over £2000 - a wonderful gift from an anonymous donor.
The service of re-dedication was held on Saturday 19th September 1987 at 4.00 pm and was packed for the occasion.
Those who worked on the project were proud to be able to say that during the entire project Sunday Worship continued uninterrupted but to achieve this almost as much time was spent cleaning up and moving furniture as was spent in construction work. For those who only attended the premises for Sunday Worship this gave rise, at times to the impression that work had ceased because nothing could be seen of the large amount of work being done during the week, in the loft, under the floor and in the boiler house.
The project aroused a great deal of interest in the village and passers-by who had no connection whatsoever with the Church often stopped to enquire on progress and to pass on their good wishes.
The project achieved its objective in creating a more welcoming approach and interior and this resulted in greatly increased numbers attending worship and showing an interest in the life of the Church.