Here are extracts from 'Rochdale Past and Present, a History and Guide' by William Robertson, 2nd edition, Rochdale: Schofield and Hoblyn, 1876. All of the material following is direct quotation except for the words in [square brackets] and has been provided by Charlie Watson nolacharlie[at]ids.net[dot] The square bracket material found at the end of most entries indicates where further information can be found in the book.
St. Mary's Church (pp 105-109)
This place of worship is situated in Cheetham Street, and was best known in bygone years as "Baum Chapel." It is not now often so called; its more modern name was "St. Mary, the Virgin," but, no doubt, for some good reason the second part of the title has been dropped, and it is at present called "St. Mary's." It was erected about 1744, and the outward appearance of the building, which is of brick, is not handsome. ... The mode of conducting divine service at St. Mary's is decidedly high; and the present Vicar's Ritualism is well known. How far High Church practices conduce to godliness admits of considerable doubt. [more on the 'Baum Rabbit' legend and critical comments on the present vicar]
St. James's Church (pp 110-113)
This church is situated in Yorkshire-street, the principal thoroughfare in the town. Built in 1820, it was consecrated in 1821. It is a handsome Gothic building of stone, with a square tower of the same material, in which are placed four dials, illuminated with gas, supplied gratuitously by the Town Council. The clock is of great public utility, and it is for this reason that the illuminating is at the cost of the town. [some critical comments on the current vicar and his introduction of a 'high' mode of worship whereas his predecessor used 'low' forms]
St. Clement's Church (pp 113-114)
This church was built in the year 1835, out of a fund provided by parliament for the erection of churches in the manufacturing districts, which was commonly known, on account of its amount, as the million grant. The site was given by James Royds, Esq., of Mount Falinge, who also afterwards gave ground for a school and a parsonage house. ... [informaiton on the endowment] In the year 1870 a new National School was erected in connection with the church, and the old building was converted into an Infant School.
St. Alban's Church (pp 114-116)
This sacred edifice, unquestionably one of the most beautiful churches in the provinces, was erected about twenty years ago. It stands on an eminence (like a city set on a hill) which commands a fine view of the surrounding country. [more on the interior ornamentation and the first vicar]
St. Peter's Church, Newbold (pp 119-120)
St. Peter's Church, Newbold, situated in a thinly populated but growing district, off Milnrow-road, was consecrated for divine worship in May, 1871. ... [much description of the interior] As a result of [the vicar's] indefatigable efforts in a church district that was brought into existence as such by the passing of the Rochdale Vicarage Act, and containing a population of about 6,000, almost entirely consisting of factory operatives, he has been able to gather together a numerous congregation, who meet for worship in an elegant building, and whose children may receive a good education in some really excellent schools, which are spacious, lofty, and well ventilated.
All Saints' Church, Hamer (pp 123-125)
This handsome church was erected in the year 1866, at a cost of £3,800, upon a picturesque plot of high land given by the late J. S. Entwisle, Esq., on the Foxholes estate, a few hundred yards off the main road leading to Littleborough, at Hamer Bottoms. The foundation stone was laid by the donor of the site, on the 29th April, 1865, and the church was consecrated by the Bishop of Manchester, on the 22nd of November, 1866. [more on the interior and the benefactors of the building]
St. John's Church, Smallbridge (pp 126-128)
The church of St. John the Baptist, Smallbridge, was erected by the late Church Building Commissioners out of a fund called the Million Grant. From the consecration deed it is called the Government Chapel of Smallbridge. ... The church of St. John was erected simply as a chapel of ease to Rochdale, but a district chapelry was assigned to it in 1844. [more on the benefice and the activities of the present vicar]
Christ Church, Healey (p 128)
The tower and spire of Christ Church, Healey, are visible for miles round, as the church stands on a slight elevation, and is a prominent feature in the landscape. Previously to the building of this church, in the year 1850, the Rev. Mr. Stanier conducted worship in a warehouse at Broadley, and by his labours brought together a good congregation.
St. Stephen's Church (pp 129-130)
This church, in the connexion of the late Countess of Huntingdon, was erected in 1811. ...
Previously to the opening of this church, services had been held in the old Theatre, conducted by the Rev. J. Nelson, who died in Rochdale before the building was completed. ...
The prayers of the Church of England are required to be read, according to the discretion of the minister, as is the case in all the late Countess's chapels, necessity, not choice, having compelled her Ladyship to secede from the Establishment, while she continued attached to its services, its articles of faith, and its evangelical ministrations. [more on the current minister]
St. Patrick's Catholic Chapel (p 132)
In the year 1861 the Rev. M. Moriarty commenced a mission in Rochdale, in an Assembly-room, in Yorkshire-street, opposite St. James's Church, and gradually he increased his congregation. The same year, the room not being sufficiently large for the congregation, a building was erected in Watts-street, which was made to answer the purpose of a chapel as well as schools. In 1867 a chapel was erected in close proximity to the schools. [more building description]
Baptist Chapel, West-street (pp 133-135)
It is now upwards of a hundred years since the Baptist church originated in Rochdale. Prior to the year 1773 there were a few godly folk, members of the Baptist churches at Bacup and Wainsgate, who resided in Rochdale, and who, Sunday after Sunday, used to cross the hills, to their own place of worship, to attend the ministry of Mr. Hirst or Dr. Fawcett; after a while, however, they succeeded in obtaining the services of these and other ministers in their own houses, and as the result of their preaching, nine persons were baptized, in the river Roach, on the 12th October, 1773, in the presence of a great crowd of people: This baptism took place nearly opposite where the New Town Hall stands.
The first meeting house that the Baptists occupied, was a room attached to the Bull Inn, then situate nearly at the bottom of Yorkshire-street, almost opposite the present Market Place, and was known as the "Bull Chamber." In this room they continued to meet till the year 1775, when, encouraged by the ministers who visited them, they procured a plot of ground in Town Meadows, and began the erection of a place of worship. ... The chapel in Town Meadows was occupied till the year 1833, when the present building in West-street was opened. [more on the ministers and the building]
Baptist Chapel, Drake-street (pp 137-139)
This chapel was opened in January, 1854, having been built by subscription, towards which the late Henry Kelsall, Esq., of the Butts, was the largest contributor, to accommodate a small congregation which had been gathered by the labours of Mr. Todd, who came from Bacup, in March, 1847, at the invitation of H. Kelsall, Esq., and from that time till the opening of the chapel worked zealously, gathering children for Sunday School instruction, and their parents for public worship and preaching, in a Mission Room, first in School Lane and afterwards in Church Stile. ... Until [September, 1863,] the Drake-street cause held the position of a branch of the older church at West-street, but now became a separate church by the dismissal of a number of members from that church and the union with them of a number of newly baptized converts. [and more on improvements]
Ebenezer Baptist Chapel, Water Street (pp 139-140)
This church was formed of members formerly in connection with the West-street Church, and met at first for divine worship in Baillie-street, on the 8th of January, 1867; it continued there up to the time of its removal to the chapel in Water-street. The last mentioned place was built in 1834, by the New Connexion Methodists, and was purchased from them by the Baptists, and re-opened for divine service on the 1st of May, 1870. [a little more]
Providence Chapel, High Street (pp 140-143)
This building was erected in 1806, for the ministry of the Rev. Joseph Cooke, who had been expelled from the Methodist connection on doctrinal grounds. After his death it was offered for sale, and purchased by a mere handful of people for the, at that time, large sum of £1,600 -- an act of courage for which lovers of Christian liberty ought to be ever grateful. Vested in trust, it still remains one among a number of congregational chapels, a testimony to the growth of principles which, in those days, had few adherents in Rochdale. ...
The first congregational minister who made Rochdale his home, was the Rev. John Ely. He commenced his labours in Providence Chapel a few months after its purchase in 1814. ... After [they removed their debt] , prosperity was uninterrupted, until the removal of the pastor to Leeds. Amongst the external evidences of this prosperity may be mentioned the several circumstances of the establishment of branches at Smallbridge and Calderbrook, 1824, and the erection of an organ in the chapel, 1822.
[In 1852 occurred] the separation of a large part of the congregation, who afterwards erected Milton Congregational Church.
[About 1866 a dispute arose with the result of] the secession of a number of the congregation, who afterwards became the United Presbyterians.
Milton Congregational Church, Smith Street (pp 144-146)
This church owes its origin to a secession from Providence Chapel, High-street, in March, 1852, the cause of which was a difference of opinion upon the choice of a minister. ...
Their first place of meeting was in the Public Hall; the upper room being used for service, and the lower one as a Sunday School. ..The week-night services were held in the Commissioners' Room, Smith-street. ... The [new] building was completed and opened, without any accident, in 1855. [more on ministers]
Methodist New Connexion (pp 146-147)
In the year 1814 Mr. William Whittle Barton, a native of Liverpool, settled down in Rochdale, and finding no church of the Methodist New Connexion in this town, he commenced a class in his own house, in the year 1815, and preached in cottages in various parts of the town. In 1820, a garret was rented in St. Mary's Gate, and here for a time, the Rev. W. Driver, and other early ministers of the connexion preached. The cause flourished, and the room being found too small to accommodate the increasing numbers, it was determined to build a chapel, and accordingly a chapel was erected in Zachary, and opened for public worship on the 2nd June, 1822. ... In process of time, the Zachary Chapel gave place to a much larger one, which was built in Water-street. ... On the 3rd of October, 1868, a still larger chapel was commenced in Molesworth-street. ... On the 10th of October, 1869, it was opened. [more on the ministers]
Primitive Methodists, Smith-street (pp 147-149)
... About fifty years ago missionaries from Manchester visited Rochdale and preached in the open air, and services were also carried on in a cellar in Cheetham-street, near where the "Three Crowns" public-house now stands. ... The Primitives next rented a large room in Packer Meadow, at the top of King-street, where they sojourned for seven or eight years. The congregation increasing, it was decided to build a chapel, one storey high, in Drake-street, opposite Water-street, which cost about £400. In the course of time this place was not large enough for the ever-increasing worshippers, and the old chapel was pulled down and a larger one built upon the site, the cost being about £1,200. In 1863 it was determined to have a still larger chapel, more convenient and better lighted, and one was built in Smith-street, at a cost of £2,500. [more on the building]
Society of Friends (pp 150-151)
The Society of Friends, commonly called "Quakers," have a Meeting House in George-street, Rochdale, which was erected in the year 1808. ...
Previously to the year 1808 the members of this society, from Oldham and Rochdale, were in the habit of assembling at Turf Lane End Meeting House, which is four miles from Rochdale and two from Oldham, but they ultimately erected a place of worship in each town. ... It is here the Right Hon. John Bright regularly attends for worship when at home; but we believe he does not ever address his fellow-worshippers on such occasions.
Wesleyan Methodist Chapel, Union-street (pp 151-157)
[notes Wesley in Rochdale and methodism in nearby areas] About 1760 a society was formed, and a preaching room was secured at Waterside, near the river, on a part of the site now occupied in the Town Hall and its approaches. The room would be about the centre of the eastern esplanade. The Methodists afterwards occupied a building in Temple Court, Blackwater-street, now Temple-street, and subsequently removed to a new chapel in Toad Lane, about the year 1770. ...
The chapel in Toad Lane appears to have been occupied by the Methodists more than twenty years. The society established by the late Countess of Huntingdon afterwards occupied the building. Subsequently it was used as a theatre and assembly room; and there is now erected on the site the central store of the Rochdale Equitable Pioneers Society. The Methodist chapel was built in Union-street, and opened on Sunday, the 22nd May, 1793. ... This chapel was used for worship exactly thirty-two years; the last services being held on Sunday, 22nd May, 1825. ... The present chapel was erected in the year 1825-6, and was opened Thursday, March 16th, 1826. ...
In the year 1835-6 a large secession from this congregation and society took place, and eventually formed the congregation now assembling in the Methodist Free Church, Baillie-street.
... The Rochdale circuit, for greater convenience of managing its pastorate, was divided, in 1868, into the Union-street and Wesley circuits. Wesley chapel was built 1867, in Castlemere-street. [more on John Wesley]
United Methodist Free Church, Baillie-street (pp 157-158)
Baillie-street Chapel, belonging to the United Methodist Free Churches, was opened for Divine worship on January the 8th, 1837. ... It is the largest place of religious worship in the town, having accommodation for 1,800 hearers. ... In the year 1864 Mr. Oliver Ormerod laid the foundation stone of Castlemere Chapel, a fine spacious edifice, off Drake-street, which has 1,250 sittings, and it cost about £8,500. It was opened for Divine worship on September 6th, 1865.
United Presbyterian Church (pp 159-160)
This handsome church is situated in Manchester-road, opposite the pleasure grounds, and was built in the year 1868, at a cost of about L6,000. ... In 1866 this religious body was formed by gentlemen who had left Providence Chapel and other denominations, and for two years their services and Sunday School were held in the British School, Baillie-street, where the congregation increased rapidly. [more on the minister]
Unitarian Chapel, Blackwater-street (pp 160-161)
This is not only the oldest dissenting chapel in Rochdale, but the oldest place of worship of any kind, except St. Chad's Parish Church. ... It was not till the year 1689, when William the Third passed the "Toleration Act," that the Rochdale Presbyterian dissenters dared to meet together in a meeting-house of their own, without fear of molestation from the authorities. The first meeting-house or chapel seems to have been in existence from the year 1690 till 1716, when a new one was erected and duly licensed as "a meeting-house of dissenting Protestants," at the Quarter Sessions, held at Manchester, October 17th, 1717. ... The old chapel existed from 1717 till 1856, when it was pulled down, and the present neat, though rather small chapel was erected.
Unitarian Chapel, Clover-street (pp 161-165)
This chapel was built in the year 1818, but has since been considerably altered and improved. [considerable discussion of the origins of this chapel having split from the Wesleyan Methodist Chapel, Union-street]
Holland Street Church and School (pp 166-167)
This school and place of worship are not connected with any of the general denominations, and have no special name. The origin was the secession of twenty-seven teachers, in 1851, from the Wesleyan Methodist Association Sunday School, Baillie-street, which occasioned a considerable number of scholars to leave also, who naturally urged the teachers to commence a school, to which the teachers yielded, and they first met in Sunny Bank House. ... The late George Ashworth, Esq., of Roche House and Sunny Bank Mills, allowed them the use of a room in his warehouse adjoining, where a congregation, in addition to the scholars, assembled, and a regular service and preaching were commenced. After eighteen months' trial, and finding that the work and effort were likely to be permanent, Mr. Ashworth, seeing and sympathising with the good work that was evidently going on, erected a fine brick building for the congregation and scholars. ... The services are conducted by preachers from every denomination, who have willingly and effectively supplied them. [more on the school and building]
Chapel for the Destitute (pp 167-174)
On the 4th of October, 1858, Mr. John Ashworth, who at that time was a master painter in Rochdale, opened this chapel in the Lyceum, and it has been the means of doing great good amongst the poor and itinerant class of the population. [much description about Ashworth's work among the very poor]