It was founded in 1765. It has a prior history before Chapel records start. The Chapel is considered to have been first founded in 1672 within the house of Thomas Willoughby. The Chapel was not created by Act of Licence it was a licence granted to an existing Chapel. The Chapels of Horwich and Rivington were the first in Lancashire to be granted Royal Favour, the Freedom to worship as non conformists. Hampson in his history of Horwich, 1893 says 'Rivington and Horwich were rent in twain".
At one time the Rivington Chapel members who could not agree to the Unitarian ways gathered at a dingle or quarry at the base of Rivington Pike, the founding words as quoted by Hampson were spoken at the outdoor meeting, on a cold and wet day " Brethren, something must be done", from those words the cottage was obtained, that cottage was to become Lee Chapel. Here commenced the very first Sunday school.
In 1760 four pious men left with a large flock of the congregation of from Rivington to swell the numbers at Horwich,
The four men were:
By 1774 says Hampson the four men had founded a new building for Lee Chapel. The Rev. Leonard Redmayne, who's grave is to be smashed in 2007, was one of the first ministers to serve the Lee Chapel. He begam his ministry in 1777, he ended his ministry in 1822 and died age 82 in 1829. During these years within the names you will find the Pilkingtons of Rivington at Lee Chapel. By June 1787 a well organised Sunday School with over 100 children attending was launched, this provided education to all families. Lee Chapel had become the not just a Chapel but the centre of community life.
After the Rev. Leonard Redmayne the Rev Robert Harris took up the ministry, he died whilst a serving minister May 19 1840, a total of 18 years as minister. The Rev John Jones took over the Ministry in 1841, he resigned 1842. He was replaced with Rev A. Bateson in 1843 and he remained at the Chapel five years.
The pastorate was vacant until 1854 when Rev Mark Hardaker took up the Ministry. The Rev. Hardaker had raised the funds and support in 1854 for a new building as we see today. The official opening was June 11th 1856. Rev Hardaker resigned in 1867. The pastorate again being vacant until 1869 when Rev R. Nicholls became Minister for one year followed for six months by Rev. D Williams then also of Bolton and Adlington. The Rev. Watkins took up the Ministry until 1878. At the time of writing Hampson says (1882) the Minister was Rev. W. J Houlgate.
Noted schoolmaster :
- From 1814 for 6 years - James Rothwell
- From 1820 for 19 years - John Hood.
The building was designed by George Woodhouse. Mr. W. Pickersgill as builder and Joseph Clarkson, joiner, contributed labour to the building work. Other works being conducted by Mr. Sharples of Chorley.
The building committee were
John Turner of Rivington - Chair
James Clarkson - Treasurer
J. Waterhouse - Davanport as secretary
Other members were
Rev. M. Hardaker
W & J Clarkson
Jesse Hood of Adlington
Some interesting names appear as the first preachers for the opening
Rev Thomas Raffles
Rev Enoch Mellor of Halifax
Rev Robert Vaughan - President of Lancashire Independent College
Rev William Roaf of Wigan
The Independent churches were ones in which each congregation was autonomous, upholding the principles of independence. In the 19th century they became known as Congregational.
In 1972 the Congregational church joined with the English Presbyterian church to become the United Reformed Church.