Tunley Chapel, Wrightington - Presbyterian
In 1662 a group of Presbyterians started meeting regularly for worship at South Tunley Hall, the home of Thomas and Elizabeth Wilson. They met under the ministerial leadership of Jonathan Schofield who had been a chaplain in the Parliamentary army and was subsequently curate at Douglas Chapel, Parbold, from where he was ejected for his Puritan beliefs.
Though Schofield died in 1667, the congregation continued to meet for worship, looking to the day when the restrictions on Presbyterians and other Dissenters would be lifted.
That day came in 1688 with the "Glorious Revolution" when King James II having fled to France, was replaced on the throne by the Dutch Prince William of Orange and his English wife Mary. It was glorious because the revolution was effected without bloodshed, and more particularly because a settlement by consent was reached of the religious as well as the political differences that had so long and so fiercely divided the people of this country. The settlement between Crown and Parliament resulted in a new and wider liberty than had ever before been known in Britain.
Part of this settlement was the passing of the Toleration Act of 1689. This was important for Thomas Wilson of Tunley Hall. He was a prominent local farmer and a prominent leading Presbyterian layman. During the Commonwealth period he served as an Elder on the Lancashire Presbytery, and in August 1648 he had provided overnight accommodation to Oliver Cromwell when the Parliamentary army was pursuing the Royalists from Preston to Warrington. Following the restoration of the monarchy under Charles II, and the restrictions imposed on Dissenters, Thomas Wilson had provided in his house a meeting place for the local Presbyterians. The passing of the Toleration Act was thus important for him (as for other Dissenters) because it allowed Dissenters to worship openly. In addition, it confirmed the Anglican Church as the Established Church in England, and in doing this extinguished the hope of many Presbyterians that an arrangement could be reached which would give Presbyterianism a place in the Established Church.
Now that the Presbyterians had been placed clearly in the Non-Conformist camp, it was necessary to provide permanent places of worship for them. Accordingly, Thomas Wilson of "Tunley within Wrightington " wasted no time in erecting on the north west comer of a parcel of his land called the Corn Diglach " an Oratory, Chappell or place of Religious worship for an Assembly or meeting of a particular Church or Congregation of Protestants dissenting from the Church of England for the free exercise of their Divine worship therein." This Chappell was dedicated and opened in 1691.
After that, the fortunes of the church fluctuated for the next 200 years. They were revived during the long and devoted ministry of the Revd. John Goggin at the end of the last century when the Schoolroom was built, the furniture in the church completely replaced, and the life of the church revived.
Since then, additional land has been acquired by the church to ensure its delightfully rural setting, and additional buildings have been erected to improve the amenities of the church.
The original church building is thus believed to be the oldest building in England which was built as a Presbyterian church and has remained in that tradition to this day.
The Presbyterian church was influenced by Calvinism which rejected bishops and believed that the church should be governed by a hierarchy of general assembly, synod, presbytery and kirk sessions attened by ministers and elders of equal rank. Presbyterianism flourished in the 17th and early 18th centuries but in the later 18th century many Presbyterian churches adopted Unitarianism.
In 1972 the Presbyterian Church of England merged with the Congregational Church to form the United Reformed Church.
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