Bethesda Methodist Church - known locally simply as 'Bethesda' - reputedly seats 3,000 people. It was notable also for the prominent roles in civic life played by its trustees during the 19th century when Bethesda became Stoke's leading place of worship. It was often called the 'Cathedral of the Potteries'.
The Friends of Bethesda will hold open days to raise funds for Phase Three of the restoration of Bethesda Chapel. As the chapel has no heating the Friends will not hold open days during January-March, 2017. The chapel will still be available for organised guided tours, which begin with a history talk about the chapel and then a guided tour of the chapel and churchyard by knowledgeable guides. Contact the Secretary of the Friends of Bethesda to book a tour.
Grid reference: SJ882473
The chapel stands about 30 metres from the junction of Albion Street and Bethesda Street. There are no toilet facilities on site but WCs and refreshments are available in the Potteries Museum and Art Gallery opposite. There are restaurants nearby.
For further information visit The Friends of Bethesda's website.
A free 2-page guide to the chapel can be downloaded here.
Nearest railway station: Stoke-on-Trent, approximately 2 miles away.
Frequent bus service to Hanley Town Centre and Stoke Bus Station.
The Chapel will be open to the public on the second Saturday in the month in the afternoon (12.00pm - 2.30pm) - from Saturday 11th April 2016 to Saturday 12th December 2016 inclusive. See Friends of Bethesda website for choirs performing on the Open Days.
To contact the Friends please email the Secretary of HCT's local volunteer committee.
Bethesda is an impressive building, reputedly seating up to 3,000 people, and notable also for the prominent roles in civic life played by its trustees during the 19th century when Bethesda became Stoke's leading place of worship. The present building, dates from 1819 and was built by members of the Methodist New Connexion to plans provided by a Mr. Perkins. It replaced an earlier chapel of 1798 on the same site. The rear elevation overlooked the burial ground (now a public park) and is handsome with chequered brickwork and quite plain.
The main entrance on Albion Street is, on the other hand, intended to impress. Here local architect Robert Scrivener created a stuccoed Italianate frontage with a portico added to the chapel in 1859. Inside, stairs to right and left lead up to the very spacious gallery, with tiers of raked seats rather like a theatre. This gave everyone a clear view of the preacher.
A towering mahogany pulpit of 1856 is accessed by a double flight of stairs. It was also designed by Robert Scrivener and ensured that the preacher could also be heard by everyone. The gallery is supported on 24 slim iron columns. The ground floor pewing was renewed in 1887 and new windows installed with ornamental margin lights. There is a one-story vestry block on the west side along Bethesda Street which was formerly separately registered for religious marriages - it was used for smaller ceremonies than those held in the chapel itself.
Bethesda Methodist Chapel came to national attention in the 2003 BBC 2 series Restoration, where it was a finalist. The 'champion' of the chapel on the programme was historian Tristram Hunt, now the local MP.
This handsome place of worship in the centre of Hanley had long been a cause for concern, having been abandoned by the Methodists in the 1980s. HCT secured sufficient funding to stabilise the structure of the building and prevent its roof from collapsing, as it was at risk of doing due to extensive wet and dry rot. This phase of work alone has cost around £900,000 supported by generous grants from Historic England and the Heritage Lottery Fund.
The burial ground was passed to Stoke Council and laid out as a public park, though some monuments have been kept.
A second phase of work costing over £600,000, completed in August 2011, included essential external and internal repairs, including galleries, pulpit and staircases. A historic organ was rescued from elsewhere and given a new home - the original had been lost to vandalism while the chapel lay empty. New railings on the street elevation were cast to match the original design.
HCT's work at Bethesda is informed by a Conservation Statement. This can be downloaded free here.
Bethesda is now structurally safe and has been stabilised, but much remains to be done to make it fully usable again.
To enquire about holding an event at Bethesda please contact the Friends of Bethesda. At present there are no WCs and no heating at the chapel, but these may be available nearby.
A supporter's mug, made in Stoke-on-Trent, is now available. If you would like to purchase one of these mugs, please send a cheque for £7.95, payable to 'Historic Chapels Trust' to Lynn Bentley, Battlesteads, Alton, nr Stoke-on-Trent ST10 4BE. Please allow three weeks for delivery.
A guidebook to Bethesda is available by post if a cheque for £8.00 (payable to Historic Chapels Trust) is sent to HCT’s London office in St George’s German Lutheran Church.
Alternatively you can download a two page quick guide as a pdf here.