The story of our own Church has a real romance about it. It began in the parlour of “Plum Tree Cottage,” on Sandy Lane, Heswall. Mrs. Kirkland, the wife of the minister of the Presbyterian Church in West Kirby, visited Mrs. Mary Price to ask her if she would be willing to have services held in her home.
She agreed to this request, and so in 1895 Rev. Patrick Kirkland began walking from West Kirby to Heswall to hold services in Plum Tree Cottage every Wednesday afternoon. (Patrick Kirkland wrote a hymn which appears in the Church hymn book “Rejoice and Sing” number 240 “Jesus Lord Redeemer”).
In 1995, when we celebrated the church’s centenary on Sunday 23rd April, we marched through the streets of Heswall from Plum Tree Cottage arriving at the Church, just before the morning service. The next week on the afternoon of 30th April, a group retraced the walk from West Kirby to Heswall, and Rev. Malcolm Ryland-Jones, who was then the minister at West Kirby, preached at our evening service.
heswall-urc-02The numbers attending these meetings soon outgrew the cottage and so the congregation rented a room above a stable situated on the junction of Grange Mount and Pensby Lane, as the present Pensby Road was then known. It was not long before this also was not large enough to accommodate the growing congregation, which was now meeting on Sundays as well as in the middle of the week. And so a piece of land adjacent to our present site was bought at a cost of £500, and here a corrugated iron building, which was affectionately known as the Tin Tabernacle, was erected, at a cost of a further £660.
The congregation continued to grow and on 31st May, 1908 the last service was held in the Tin Tabernacle. For a time, the members worshipped in a new Church hall until a new brick built Church was completed in 1909. During the next twenty years, the Church saw a considerable growth in the size of the congregation, the greatest growth taking place during the ministry of Rev. D. Conley Eades, from 1932 to 1947. When he arrived the membership stood at 200. After five years it had grown to 320, after ten years to 428 and when he left in 1947 the membership had reached 468. The growth of the church under his ministry is a challenge and an inspiration to us.
heswall-urc-03The brick built church building served the congregation until 1967 when it was found to be unsafe because the walls were spreading under the weight of the roof. So the members went back to worshipping in the Hall until our present Church building was opened in 1970. (You will find the communion table, the font, the brass lamps and a piece from the war memorial window from the old Church in our welcome area today.)
In 1972 our congregation along with the whole Presbyterian Church in England, joined with the majority of Churches in the Congregational Union of England and Wales to form the United Reformed Church. When TESCO was planning to build a new supermarket they offered to purchase some of the Church’s land, including the site of the old hall. With the money received from this land, the congregation was able to build the new hall, which was opened in 1992.
Another notable ministry in our church was that of Rev. Alan Gaunt, who has made a valuable contribution to the worship of the National Church, through his books of prayers and hymns, many of which appear in our church hymn book, Rejoice and Sing.
heswall-urc-04Our Church grew from very small beginnings. It is a story, which we cherish, but it should also inspire us. It demonstrates what God is able to do through a small group of committed disciples.
Those who worshipped and worked here before us bequeathed to us a wonderful suite of buildings, ideal for God‘s work in our time. We take up this challenge with both gratitude and enthusiasm.
A more detailed account of the history of our church can be found in the booklet, which was produced as part of the church’s centenary celebrations.