Cavendish Street Independent Chapel All Saints
Cavendish Street Chapel was a major centre of nonconformity in Victorian Manchester. Its congregation had previously worshipped in Mosley Street but changing residential patterns was one factor which determined the move to what was in the 1840s seen as a more convenient suburban situation. A further reason which prompted the sale of the city‑centre chapel was the annoyance of worshipping in a place where "for some years past, the noise of public conveyances and carriages passing along Mosley Street, has greatly interfered with the quiet so desirable in a place of worship during divine services". £5,500 was paid for the plot of land which stretched from Cavendish Street to Boundary Street and was bounded on one side by Chatham Street. The substantial houses which had been built on the site were demolished and Edward Walters was given the commission for the new chapel and school. Instead of replicating the somewhat severe rectangular boxes characteristic of Nonconformist chapels, Walters freely adopted the Early English style to produce a highly decorated church. Although not the first Nonconformist chapel to adopt this style, it proclaimed those shifts in ideas which were taking place within Victorian nonconformity. The church was erected in the remarkably short period of fifteen months and was opened in 1848 during the pastorship of the charismatic Dr Robert Halley. It rapidly developed a network of educational and welfare organisations. Apart from its day and Sunday schools, the chapel organised a highly successful Literary Society. In the mid‑Victorian years, the worshippers included many of Manchester's leading Congregational families and with names such as Rylands, Armitage, Kershaw and Hadfield supporting the chapel, one presumes that the noise of carriages had not disappeared entirely from the Sabbath. There was clearly substance in the description which Dr Joseph Parker, the minister from 1858 to 1869, provided for himself as being a "pastor of millionaires". Deaths and the inexorable exodus of the better‑off families in search of a more convenient residential suburb inevitably altered the social composition of the congregation. The chapel however maintained its prominent position in northern nonconformity well into this century. The last service was held in 1969 and the chapel which had was bought by Manchester Corporation for £10,000. Protests that the building was of architectural and historical importance interrupted the demolition of the church in 1973. However, the subsequent public enquiry allowed the demolition to proceed.
The chapel has been erected by the congregation of Mosley Street Independent Chapel, under the pastorate of the Rev Robert Haley LLD from the designs of Mr E Walters of this city, within the unprecedentedly short space of fifteen months. It is in the Early English style, with some slight transition into the decorated. Externally the building is very imposing, the general proportions are carefully preserved, and the connection of the tower with the west front by a continued coupled arcade, filled in with tracery is novel and effective. A south porch, between the buttresses of the tower, with richly moulded triple-light window in the gable under one arch, relieves the side next Chatham Street. The tower is in four stages, flanked by bold buttresses, terminating in canopies tabling off from the upper stage; each face of the tower is pierced for two lights under one arch, with side panels, the whole richly moulded. The height of the tower and spire is 171 feet, and it forms a conspicuous object around this part of Manchester. The lower windows of the spire are also coupled, with canopies over, filled in with tracery, flanked with projecting pinnacles springing from the lower corbel-table of the broach of the spire; and from their unusual dimensions (twenty feet in height) they add considerable relief to the broach. The spire is twenty feet square at the base, and eighty-six feet in height, terminating in a vane. A lightning conductor is shortly to be placed upon the spire. The roof of the edifice is of high pitch, and covered with green slates. The centre window, with cinquefoil tracery, in the west front, is deeply recessed, three columns in each jamb, with moulded and enriched arch over. The west door under is similarly recessed, and enriched with dog-tooth ornament in the arch moulds; which ornament is generally distributed over the whole of the west front. The gable terminates in a five light window, number 3 pierced for lights. A lofty arcaded pinnacle, with canopied niche under, tabled from the face of the pinnacle, terminates the north-west corner of the nave. The details of this front of the chapel, with the tower and spire, appear to have been carefully studied, and the effect is exceedingly good. The side aisles are divided by bold projecting buttresses, terminating in canopies above the moulded parapets. The walls are pierced with coupled windows under one arch, with quatrefoil tracery. Projecting buttresses, surmounted by octagonal pinnacles, support the angles of the transepts, corresponding in other respects with the building.
Internally, the chapel consists of nave, transepts side aisles, and apse or organ gallery, at the east end, with lofty tower and spire at the south-west corner of the building, so placed on account of the unusual width of the nave, and from the site being limited. The length of the building, on the ground floor internally is 91 feet, width 61 feet. Its length from east to west in the galleries, 128 feet; width of the nave 32 feet; height of the nave and clerestory, 46 feet; total height to the ridge of the roof, 62 feet. The nave is lighted by a clerestory, carried on five lofty stone arches on each side, springing from clustered columns. The whole of the roofs are open; the nave roof springs from carved corbels, between the spandrels of the arches of the nave, connected together by wing beams, longitudinally of the nave. The organ gallery is placed in the apse, at the east end of the chapel, under a lofty arch with wheel window of eight lights over, filled in with rich stained glass of small pattern and elegant design by Messrs Barnett and Sons, of York. An arcaded screen, with side doors leading to the vestries, supports the organ gallery on projecting brackets. The side galleries, as also the organ gallery, are a series of columns, with trefoil arches over, forming a continued arcade, and breaking round the columns of the nave, rendering the effect of the galleries as little objectionable as possible. The organ screen, pulpit, and the general arrangement for the communion, have been carefully carried out in harmony with the building, and add much to the interior effect. The windows in the west front are also filled in with stained glass.
The chapel will accommodate from 1,450 to 1,500 persons, and some 350 children of the schools – in all, 1,800 to 1,850. Access to the galleries is obtained by two staircases; one in the tower, and the other at the north-west corner, with a spacious vestibule between, separated from the nave by an arcaded screen, less ornate than the one at the east end. An opening is formed from the roof of the nave into the tower for the purpose of ventilation. The vestibule is paved with red and blue tiles. The whole of the work is executed in stone from the Summit quarries, and reflect great credit on the builder, Mr S Hollins, who has also executed the catholic chapel in Salford, and many other similar edifices in the city. The total cost of this building will be £11,000.[Manchester Guardian 28 June 1848 page 8]
But the greatest marvel in Manchester is that Independent meeting house on which we commented last year. We have lately seen the actual building, which is the production of Mr. Walters, a local architect. There are plenty of mistakes about it, but still the whole conception of the exterior is meantto be Catholic, and nothing else. The style is transitional between First and Middle-Pointed, and the plan is cruciform, with an apse. There is a lofty stone spire. Internally, we find the area occupied with oak pews, adorned with poppy heads, and there are galleries in the aisles. There is a tribune at the end, as in the kirk, but a table forms a part of the composition. There is some painted glass in the end windows. The apse is occupied by a Testry below, and an organ above. If these were cleared out and the tribune displaced, the structure might be admirably adapted to Catholic worship. As it is, the building stands a phenomenon in the history of dissent. We understand that the funds were obtained by the sale of a former meeting-house in a central part of the city. [Ecclesiologist No. LXVIL — August 1848. page 143-144]
Reference Manchester Guardian 20 March 1847 page 10 – foundation stone
Reference Builder 27 March 1847 page 150 – foundation stone
Reference Manchester Guardian 28 June 1848 Page 8 - opening
Reference Illustrated London News 1849. vol x page 181,
Reference The Architect, 1849 volume 1 page 339.
Reference The Builder 1848: 577;
Reference 1849: 102.
Reference Building News 7 June 1861 page 473 – Architecture in Manchester