GEORGE ANDREW PAYNE
BORN 7TH JULY 1865
DIED 13TH FEBRUARY 1950
MINISTER FOR 40 YEARS
OF KNUTSFORD AND ALLOWSTOCK CHAPELS
ALSO OF DOROTHY HIS DAUGHTER
BORN 25TH JANUARY 1893
DIED 24TH FEBRUARY 1919
ALSO OF ADA HIS WIFE
BORN 16TH FEBRUARY 1867
DIED 19TH JULY 1954
ALSO OF MARJORY HIS DAUGHTER
BORN 4TH AUGUST 1897
DIED 3RD APRIL 1959
Brook Street Chapel and Elizabeth Gaskell’s connections
Elizabeth Gaskell’s family connections with this chapel go back to its earliest days. Her grandparents were Coulthursts of Sandlebridge, where the David Lewis colony is today, and you may see the grave of Peter Coulthurst, her great great grandfather who died in 1741,and who was a founding trustee of this chapel. His epitaph says of him . . In his mind were assembled all the virtues that made him happy in himself, useful to the world and an ornament to human nature. What a glowing tribute! And his wife was "truly worthy of such an husband, in all goodness a kind assistant and generous rival."
I’m not sure we can live up to EG’s ancestors. Robert Holland who died in December 1705 had been pastor at Allostock until 1700; William Tong said of him that "he had a good acquaintance with the Hebrew tongue and was very useful". Two others, Thomas Coulthust and John Turner, were ministers here and are buried under the flag stones in the aisle.
John Turner, 1735-7, had been minister at Preston where he was publicly thanked for his services against Jacobite rebels in 1715. The Turners produced a dynasty of noted preachers. Thomas Coulthurst, 1737-39, was probably son of Peter Coulthust who was a trustee. There are a number of Coulthurst graves.
Her doctor, uncle Peter Holland was a trustee for many years and is buried in the graveyard with his daughters Mary and Lucy who were acknowledged by the family as models for Miss Jenkyns and Miss Matty in Cranford. They left money for the chapel in their wills. Her aunt, Hannah Lumb, – "more than mother" to Elizabeth - is buried here too.
Elizabeth’s son-in-law wrote of her death in 1865: "We buried her at the little town of Knutsford . I do not doubt you know it is her Cranford. Was it not fit she should be buried there?"
William Gaskell preached in this chapel and was buried alongside his wife in June 1884. Imagine the scene as reported by The Unitarian Herald : Only a few friends had been asked to attend but a large number, including members of the Cross Street congregation, were present; among whom were Unitarian ministers from all parts of the Northern district, the mayor of Manchester and several prominent citizens, as well as deputations from a number of institutions and public bodies . . when the funeral party entered the air was vocal with the singing of birds and an odorous breeze rustled in the sun-lit leaves . . the chapel was soon filled- indeed there was only room for small proportion of the mourners. In the dimly lit edifice a solemn feeling rested on the silent congregation . . broken only by the organ and as O rest in the Lord was softly filling the chapel, the coffin was brought in and set down in front of the pulpit.
How old is Brook Street Chapel?
Many unitarian chapels give 1672 as their earliest date: this is because Charles II issued an Declaration of Indulgence in that year, suspending penalties against Roman Catholics and Dissenters but this did not last, for Parliament forced Charles to cancel it and brought in the Test Act which meant that no one could hold public office unless they took communion in the Church of England and acknowledged the 39 articles of faith.
In 1687 James 11 issued a Declaration of Indulgence to suspend the religious tests and granting liberty of public worship to protestant and catholic dissenters. A second indulgence was issued in May 1688 and ordered to be read in churches on two successive Sundays. Seven bishops who refused to do this were tried for seditious libel but freed by the courts. James had hoped to ensure a catholic succession but was forced to flee the country and replaced by William and Mary. The Act of Toleration was passed in 1689.
During the time William Tong served as first minister at Knutsford several private houses were registered for use religious meetings.
When his successor Thomas Kynaston died in June 1695 his gravestone read: Here resteth the body of Mr Thomas Kynaston pastor for 6 years of this congregation who was the first that ministered and was interred in this place. (aged 29)
A settlement indenture of the "New Meeting Place" is dated January 1694. This records that the land was leased by Isaac Antrobus and his sons, John and Walter, for 1,000 years at an annual rent of 20 shillings. This is now the date accepted for the building but it may have been built earlier. The Antrobus family and the congregation wished to ensure that its future officially secure by this deed.
It seems a meeting of Cheshire ministers met on 15th August 1693 when Mr Birch preached publicly and after the sermon, the ministers all went down to Mr Kynaston’s house: the latter was Brook Street’s minister from 1689-96 So it seems the chapel was in use before January 1694.
Brook Street Chapel is similar in style to Dean Row, near Wilmslow, and Macclesfield Chapel: all three were built about the same time.
Brook Street Chapel has previously accepted 1689 as the date of its foundation and celebrated the bi-centenary in 1889. When the 250th anniversary was celebrated in May 1939 the Knutsford Guardian reported that Dean Row had celebrated theirs the previous year. Details of Macclesfield ‘s chapel have survived and record their first service was , who may have had the original deeds to hand when he wrote his history of Knutsford put the date at 1688.
It was a custom at Knutsford to preach an annual "Isaac Antrobus" sermon in May. He was a skinner, prominent in the town, often witnessing wills or making inventories; his youngest son became a noted schoolmaster at Stand Grammar school and his brass memorial, in Latin, can be seen on the chapel wall.
One of the first trustees was Peter Coulthurst, (died 1741) Mrs Gaskell’s great-great grand father. A splendid epitaph can be read on his (to the left of the path near the side wall of the chapel) gravestone "In his mind were assembled all the virtues that made him happy in himself, useful to the world and an ornament to human nature". What a glowing tribute! And his wife was "truly worthy of such an husband, in all goodness a kind assistant and generous rival".
John Long was also a trustee of the chapel in 1792. Over the years the Longs lived in Brook House and then Grove House as their tanning business flourished. They gave money generously, and land to extend the graveyard. There is a memorial in the chapel and many family gravestones; one of the saddest is to an only son who was run down by a train in Knutsford station in 1866, aged 22. Son-in-law, Alfred Holt, gave land to enlarge the graveyard
John Long who died in 1889 was a noted Knutsford character. At that time the town crier who went round the town ended his pronouncements with,"God bless the Queen and the Lord of the manor" often followed by boys who added: "and John Long , the tanner".
The Schoolroom was built in 1886 on land provided by chapel member and benefactor John Long who lived in Grove House which was adjacent to the chapel.
Mr Long was old and frail by the time it was finished so the main opening address was given by his son-in-law Mr. Holt of Liverpool. The address makes clear the high principle behind the idea of the schoolrooms being to provide "education for all including the lowliest of children". The former minister and local school master, Henry Green, had been keen on the idea but unfortunately did not live to see that realised. The committee room, kitchen and cellar appear to have been added about 1900 – again on ground provided by the Longs.
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