Wheelock Heath Baptist Church …over 300 years of Christian witness
It is not precisely clear when a Christian church was originally established in Wheelock Heath but it is generally accepted to be around the late 17th, very early 18th Century. A sixty minute talk by one of our previous pastors, Neil Richards, is available on-line:
Two complementary talks by Errol Hulse are also available on-line:
The Wheelock Heath Baptist Church TIME-LINE:
1690s - 1703? – A church was founded in Wheelock Heath as a result of the Dissenter movement away from the established Church of England during the late 17th – early 18th Century.
1704– The Wheelock Heath church work was sufficiently well established to call a pastor – Silas Sidebottom. Matthew Henry, author of the famous Bible Commentary, took part in the ordination service. The church in those days was Presbyterian. Within ten years the congregation had grown to over one hundred.
This was obviously over 300 years ago and we know very little of the history of the greater part of that period. At some point in the mid-18th Century the Wheelock Heath church became a Baptist cause.
1790 to 1904- the pastorate was filled largely by one family, beginning with Cornelius Gregory, 1790 – 1818; his grandson Richard Pedley, 1830 – 1871, and his son, another Richard Pedley, 1879 – 1904.
Little has been recorded of the history of the church during the first half of the 20th Century.
1952- following the retirement of the Reverend W.S. Shaw, the church was served by a number of lay speakers.
1953 to 1954– Alan White was temporary pastor and this short but energetic ministry included the establishment of the youth work and a 10 day mission to the village.
1954 to 1957– Gordon Weston was pastor, jointly with the small Baptist Church at Haslington. During this period a number of new ministries were added to the work.
1958 to 1969– the pastorate passed to John Waterman and was a time of consistent, solid bible teaching with much renewal and blessing.
1969 to 1975- David Boadle became the pastor. In 1972 the decision was made to part company with the Baptist Union following their failure to properly deal with leaders who denied basic Christian truths. The youth work was further strengthened with the establishment of summer camps.
1976– Graham Brownsell became the pastor. The first church fellowship weekend was held in Bowness. During this period the "pastoral" side of the work was further developed. Graham resigned due to ill-health in 1979 and the church was run by the Elders and Deacons for the next two years.
1981– Neil Richards took over the pastorate and the following 20 years were a settled time of consistent expository bible teaching which resulted in considerable growth both numerically and spiritually.
1982– The church joined the BEC (British Evangelical Council – renamed Affinity in 2004) and the children's work continued to expand with the commencement of a playgroup.
1985– A new club, "Wheelers" was established to cater for primary school aged children . Many families moved to the area and the Sunday School attendance expanded from 2 children in the early 1980s to over 30 in 2001, when Neil Richards retired.
2001 to 2008– Danny Foulkes took over as pastor and continued the tradition of consistent, expository bible preaching. Our Sunday morning services were moved to Sandbach School in January 2006 in order to accommodate the increasing attendance.
2008 to date: – After the resignation of Danny Foulkes in 2008, the church has since been run by the Elders and Deacons in a pluralistic, New Testament fashion with a variety of visiting preachers. Whilst actively seeking a new pastor, the church continues to develop and grow, proclaiming and living out the Gospel of Jesus Christ to our local area and beyond.
IN SUMMARY: Many changes have taken place over the last 300 plus years, but the Christian message we preach and the truths that we love remain consistent. It has been our privilege, by God’s grace, to be part of a growing church, both numerically and spiritually, and our diverse congregation is seeking to maintain a warm and relevant witness within our contemporary 21st Century world. Our long term hope is to see believers' faith deepened and people of all types and backgrounds coming to join us in heartfelt and sincere worship.