There has been a building on this site since 1690. Although this building was completed in 1719, not as it looks now. Over one hundred years after the Civil War, in 1660 the new king determined that he would impose a more rigid application of the Church of England. All church ministers who could not agree became ‘Dissenters’ and were obliged to sign the declaration of the ‘Five Mile Act’ which stated “I do swear that it is not lawful upon any pretence whatever, to take arms against the King, &c., and I will not at any time endeavour any alteration of government either in church or state,” and if they declined to write themselves slaves, were not to come within 5 miles of any City, Corporation or place where they had preached. It is believed that this Act is the basis for the siting of New Chapel through the agreement given by the Bishop of Chester, to the founding of New Chapel provided it was at least 5 miles from the established i.e. Church of England, churches of Bolton and Chorley. The Bolton church in question being St. Mary’s at Deane.
In the traditional history of the village of Horwich it is recorded that in the passing of the Uniformity Act in 1662, many, who, “for conscience sake” despised the Act, and refused to subscribe to its declaration made Winter Hill their church. They met under the overhanging rocks of Horwich Moor to assemble for worship. In 1862 a service was held at this place by the Rev. William Wilsden of New Chapel to remember this. There are also earlier references to nonconformist preaching in old documents of ‘Horridge’ such as Thomas Willesbie who received a licence in 1672 to allow him to preach in his own house! There are too, constant reference in notes relating to New Chapel stating that services were held from 1690 but no verifiable details have yet come to light.
New Chapel remained firmly within the beliefs of Congregationalism up to the United Reformed amalgamation of Congregationalism and Presbyterianism in 1973. A significant change since then caused by diminishing congregations, the rising cost of living, and the diminishing number of ministers has been the need to form joint ministries of several churches to ‘share’ ministers, from two in 1962 (with Lee Lane) and presently of four (with Deane, Westhoughton and St. George’s). The last Minister left for personal reasons in 2015.
After its construction was completed in 1719, the first major ‘makeover’ was undertaken during the incumbency of Rev. Kenwright when the church was “extended and enlarged”. The dated plaques on the south elevation gives the completion date as 1805. In 1906 a new vestry and lobby, and the chancel were built. The new and impressive chancel arch was built and the building decorated.
This building was erected in 1827 as a school had been formed in 1812 and increased each year. This building was demolished and anew one erected in 1883 which has since been extended.
A full history booklet of New Chapel United Reformed Church will be available to purchase at the 300years celebration Flower Festival being held in September 2017.