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Methodism in the Potteries 
Stoke-on-Trent and Newcastle-under-Lyme


Methodist New Connexion

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Methodist New Connexion chapels in the Potteries

The Methodist New Connexion and the Ridgway family...

Job Ridgway (1759-1814) - younger son of Ralph Ridgway, he was born at Chell and when he & his father moved to Swansea he became apprentice to a potter there. 1780 Job returned to Staffordshire but failed to find work and moved to Leeds but only for two years - in Leeds he joined a Methodist society.
In about 1782 Job and his brother George took over the Bell Works in Broad Street, Hanley (now the site of the Potteries Museum). This partnership ended in 1802,  George kept the Bell Works and Job opened the Cauldon Works.  

Job became a class leader in the local Methodists and was one of the founder members of the Methodist New Connexion in Hanley in 1797. They met at a coach house in Albion Street, Hanley until Bethesda Chapel was built on the site in 1789. 


John Ridgway 1785-1860 - first son of Job and Elizabeth Ridgway, In 1830 the John and his brother William inherited the Bell Works from their uncle George. William took the Bell works and John took the Cauldon works. By 1850 the Cauldon works was one of the largest in the area with 500 employees. 

In 1857 John was elected as the first mayor of the newly-created borough of Hanley. The camel on the city of Stoke-on-Trent coat of arms is taken from the Ridgway crest. 

As his father, Job, John Ridgway was a leading member of Bethesda Methodist chapel. He also contributed to the building of New Connexion churches in Tunstall, Burslem, Fenton and elsewhere.

Seal of the Borough of Hanley

John Ridgway became the first Mayor and from his family crest the kneeling dromedary was used in the Seal of the Borough of Hanley.

Bethesda Methodist Chapel, Hanley

By 1797, only six years after Wesley's death, dissension and divisions were surfacing within the Methodist church. One group who broke away from the main Methodist body over questions of church government and discipline became known as the "Kilhamites" or "Methodist New Connexion." This group enjoyed some success in each of the Potteries towns, but particularly in the area around Hanley and Shelton.

This may have been due to the influence of Job Ridgway, a pottery manufacturer in Hanley, whom Henry Wedgwood called, "one of the most remarkable men Staffordshire ever gave birth to." Ridgway was one of the founding fathers and leading figures at Bethesda Chapel in Albion Street, Hanley, which became the central place of worship of the New Connexion. The chapel was rebuilt in 1820 to seat 3,000 people and became known as "The Cathedral of the Potteries," a name it has kept to this day. 

Bethesda in Hanley was the Conference Church
for the whole of the Methodist New Connexion
Bethesda New Connexion Methodist Chapel
- one of the largest nonconformist chapels outside London.

In the autumn of 1859 the front of the Chapel was remodelled. A colonnade with Corinthian pillars was erected at the front of the building, a central upper window was added, and the whole was surmounted with a massive cornice and Grecian ornaments. The frontage was enclosed by a cast-iron palisade, with gates and pillars set in stone.

Job Ridgway

Job Meigh

two of the 1803 trust signatories

Copy of an Indenture declaring a Trust of a Chapel called Bethesda
Dated: 31st August 1803


"The Indenture made the Thirty first day of August in the Year of our Lord One thousand eight hundred and three Between Job Ridgway of Shelton in the Parish of Stoke-upon-Trent in the County of Stafford, Potter, of the one part and George Ridgway, Joseph Boon, Richard Hicks and William Hackney all of Shelton aforesaid, potters; Job Mee, Richard Thurfield and Joshua Mayor all of Hanley in the parish and County aforesaid, potters; John Mort and Jesse Barker both of Burslem in the said County, potters; Daniel Shufflebotham of Shelton aforesaid, Draper; Thomas Allbutt of Hanley aforesaid, Stationer; John Swinnerton of the same, plate cratemaker; Charles Chester of Newcastle under Lyme, Stationer; George Barnes of the same place, Draper; William Bailey of lane End in the same County, Guilder of Earthenware and Joseph Booth of the same place, potter (being respectively Members of a Religious Society known by the name of the new connection of Methodists or persons previously professing the same religious opinions) of the other part........"

Bethel New Connexion Methodist Chapel, Waterloo Road, Burslem

The first Methodist New Connexion meeting in Burslem had started from Bethesda Chapel in the house of a Mr. Rowley in Hot Lane by 1797.

This soon became inadequate and in 1798 Job Ridgway built Zoar Chapel, locally known because of its style of building as 'The Salt Box', on land called Kiln Croft, in Princes Row, Nile Street. Zoar was a plain brick building with Classical features and seated 500, having a gallery round three sides.

In 1802 a Sunday school was started. Zoar remained the property of the Ridgway family until sold in 1825 by John and William Ridgway to Aaron Sant who subsequently let it to the Independents.

Meanwhile John and William Ridgway had acquired a site for a new chapel on the newly constructed highway (Waterloo Road) between Burslem and Hanley, and the chapel was built and opened in 1824.

Also in 1851 a new trust made the chapel independent of Bethesda Chapel, Hanley.

The chapel was again renovated in 1904 and seated 650 in 1940 when it was head of Burslem Bethel Circuit. It was closed in 1955, because of the population shift from the centre of Burslem and its proximity to other large Methodist chapels. In 1960 it was used by Broadhurst Bros., china and earthenware manufacturers.

From: A History of the County of Stafford: Volume 8 (1963)

Bethel New Connexion Methodist Chapel, Waterloo Road, Burslem
Bethel New Connexion Methodist Chapel, Waterloo Road, Burslem

Standing on the corner of Waterloo Road and Regent Street East (renamed in the early 1950's to Zion Street).

Built in 1824 as the Bethel Methodist Church. This chapel with its five bays and the bay pediment, was built at a time of religious fervor. The wings provided space for schoolrooms and the preachers house. Originally the facade, like the sides, was of brick; stucco was added much later. The impressive galleried interior sat a thousand worshipers, at a time when Burslem's entire population was not much more than 12,000.


Mount Tabor Chapel, Fenton

1937 photo of the Lane Delph area

Mount Tabor Chapel in Market Street, Fenton, was founded by the Wesleyans in 1762. When the Methodist New Connexion was formed in 1797 it joined the new organisation. A new chapel was built in 1811. By 1851 this seated 350 and had an attendance of 85 in the morning and 203 in the evening, it also had a Sunday School.
The chapel was rebuild in the Gothic style in 1869, it was still in use as late as 1958.

Bedford New Connexion Chapel, Shelton

In 1834 John Ridgway paid for the construction of a Methodist chapel and Sunday School on Bedford Road. In the census returns for 1851 it was recorded that the chapel could accommodate 300 people and that the seats were rent free. Thomas Hoyland, secretary for the chapel (who lived at 19 Russell Street, Shelton provided details of the number of people who attended the services on Sunday 30th March 1851:

  Afternoon Evening
General Congregation: 90 80
Sunday Scholars: 112 40


202 120

A new chapel was built opposite and named Ridgway Memorial Church in 1867.  This seated 426 in 1940.  The former chapel was then used by the Sunday school.

Bedford Methodist Chapel - now used as an Islamic Centre
Bedford Methodist Chapel - now used as an Islamic Centre

John Ridgway died in 1860 and in 1867 a new chapel was built on the Grove House Estate, on the corner of Bedford Road and Havelock Place. This chapel seated 450 and was named Ridgway Memorial Chapel.

The chapel followed some Anglican traits, the chapel was more ornate than the Bedford Street chapel, with a tower and spire; also rents were charged for the pews to pay off the building debt and to pay for the minister. In the early 1890's the chapel had the third highest income from seat rents out of the 10 chapels in the Bethesda Methodist New Connexion Circuit. Seat rents were abolished at this chapel in 1909.

The chapel was demolished in 1999. 

Ridgway Memorial Chapel was demolished in 1999
Ridgway Memorial Chapel was demolished in 1999



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