A member of The Federation of Family History Societies
St James' Church, Haslingden
St John's Church, Bacup
St Mary's, Church Rawtenstall


Rossendale Branch Newsletter January 2010

Programme: 2010

Wednesday January 6th


Wednesday February 3rd

To be arranged

Wednesday 3rd March

A deeper look at Civil Registration

Tony Foster

Wednesday 7th April

AGM followed by a talk from Michael Hiluta


Members are reminded that their subscriptions are now due. Renewal forms were in your November "Lancashire" Journal.

Benefits of joining the Lancashire Family History and Heraldry Society

Non-members if you are reading this on the internet, you should consider taking out a subscription for 2010. Subscription rates are very reasonable.

Overseas: £14.00 - Ordinary (UK): £12.00 - Family (UK): £13.00 - Pensioners and Students (UK): £9.50

Membership of the Society entitles you to:

Contact or visit any of our 14 branches, where you can get local knowledge and assistance. You can publish your surname interests, and research problems in our quarterly journal and this newsletter. Similarly there is support available from the LFHHS Discussion Group and from our "Helping Hands" Service. You can discover whether anyone else is researching the same names in the same area, by sending your information to our Pedigree Database. For full details of these and other benefits contact www.lfhhs.org.uk

Rossendale: News Notes and Queries

We were very sad to hear of the death of Eric Frankcom who died on Christmas Day. Rodney Hampson and his wife Elizabeth, have sent me this tribute. Rodney was formerly Secretary of the Society and Elizabeth was Society Chairman.


Eric Melvyn Frankcom

May 15th 1931 - December 25th 2009.

Long time members will be saddened to learn that Eric Frankcom died on December 25th with his family around him, but newer members who perhaps never knew Eric personally nevertheless have reason to mark his passing. Eric Frankcom, and his wife Dorothy were one of the corner stones of this Society.

The Frankcoms joined the then Rossendale Society in 1978 and from the beginning were willing helpers. Eric became assistant Treasurer to George Pelling at the May AGM in 1979. The following year he took over when George went to be Treasurer for the Federation of Family History Societies, in due course Eric followed George and served an honourable term as Treasurer for the Federation.

Eric's term on the LFHHS committee coincided with the opening of many of the branches as we know them today; on each occasion he would be found humping boxes into the venue and arranging the chairs, anything that was needed. When we had more groups than Wednesdays in the month Eric was tireless in attending all the groups as often as he could.

When the Society was offered a room at the Textile Workers Rooms in Rawtenstall it was Eric who organised its clearing, cleaning and decorating, he then put the shelves in for the Library. In recognition of this the Society named the room "The Frankcom Room" and a suitable plaque was created.

Our condolences go to Dorothy and their two children at this sad time

Rest in peace Eric, from all your friends.

Bethlehem Unitarian Church Newchurch 1806 - 2004

Were your ancestors Unitarians?

I was recently given an account of the re-union of Newchurch Unitarians taken from the Bacup Times c March 1906. They were celebrating the centenary of the foundation of the church in 1806 by Joseph Cooke.

Former members bearing the names of many local families, Ashworth, Maden, Taylor, Clegg Tricket, Ingham, Smith etc. arrived for the event from all parts of Lancashire and beyond . There was tea a musical entertainment and recitations. A banner hung over the proceedings proclaiming "21806 - a hearty welcome - 1906"

Maden Clegg had come from Manchester to give the major speech of the evening. He described the Church and Sunday School when he was a boy (1840s), he told how he used to make copy-books for the scholars because they could not afford to buy them. He claimed that the Unitarian Sunday School was the only one that taught the three "Rs" reading, writing and arithmetic and was the only opportunity to obtain learning for many and they were grateful for it. He had many other remembrances especially of the music department. Sheet music was very expensive at that time and he had to copy the parts for the instrumentalists, whenever a new tune was needed.

If your ancestor was a Newchurch Unitarian at this time, you will be interested in the "Grand Centenary Bazaar Handbook" which was published to accompany the centenary celebrations 27th, 28th February, 1st & 3rd March 1906. This includes many photographs of past and present members of the church. It also gives a history of the foundation of the church in 1806.

Joseph Cooke had been a minister of the Leeds Conference of Methodists but found that he disagreed with the majority of his fellow ministers on some matters of doctrine. He came to Newchurch where he established his church, then known as Cookites. The first meeting place was at Mill-end, Waterfoot. This soon became too small and then in 1908 a larger church was built at Turnpike, Newchurch in Rossendale. Shortly afterwards in 1809, Joseph Cooke contracted pulmonary consumption and was succeeded by John Ashworth.

From 1815 the church was described for a time as Methodist Unitarian but is now known as the Bethlehem Unitarian Church, The Sunday School was in existence before 1822. So, if your ancestor was literate, this is probably where he gained his education.

There were facilities for 200 children and it was free of charge.

On Good Friday 1864, Joseph Fielden Esq. of Stansfield Hall, Todmorden laid the foundation stone for a still larger chapel to accommodate the thriving congregation. The new building was sited across the road from the original church which then became the Sunday School. A graveyard had been opened in 1829 and is situated in the grounds of the earlier building.

Sadly the Bethlehem United Church did not survive to celebrate its second centenary. In 1987, the Rossendale Free Press reported that the church had lost its battle against crippling dry rot. The congregation of about 40, had to hold services in the school rooms. The old building was being demolished and its beautiful stained glass windows were being sold to a Bristol firm.

By 2004 the congregation had diminished to only eight stalwarts. Muriel Whittaker, aged 90, gave an interview to the Rossendale Free Press, She said that due to the shortage of members she held the posts of Secretary, Calendar editor, Calendar Distributor and Accompanist. Muriel remembered how there used to be more than 200 people at the services, but over the years the numbers had gradually dwindled. She added that "there were 26 men from the church killed in World War I, which is a lot for families and a village church to lose. and now there are just eight of us and we are all getting on. So we will call it a day. It will be sad but we have many happy memories".

The centenary handbook and a collection of photographs of the church are now stored in the Community History Section of Rawtenstall library. The photographs, which date back to before the First World War, show church groups such as the choir and Sunday School groups preparing for day trips and dress rehearsals of New Year plays.

Rawtenstall library has the baptismal register 1807 - 1994; marriages 1899 - 1985; Monumental Inscriptions c1827 - c1896, the grave register c1827 - c1986 + index and a plan of the graveyard. There is also a list of the archival documents which have been deposited at the Lancashire Record Office. These include Minute Books; Account Books; Pew Rent Books; Sick and Burial Society Records; Grave Book index; and a notebook listing the ownership of various graves.

My thanks to Margaret Heap of the Pendle and Burnley Branch for sending me the account of the 1906 re-union celebrations. I will pass this on to Rawtenstall library.