CHURCH GOERS in Micklehurst are counting down with sadness to the end of a religious era.
Saturday, April 23 will mark the last ever service at Abney Church on Huddersfield Road.
And it might not be long before a ‘for sale’ sign is erected on the side of the crumbling building.
Elder Mary Howarth admits: “There will be a lot of tears. It won’t be easy.”
The last hymn and sermon will see the small but loyal congregation dispersed throughout Mossley and Tameside.
“It is partly down to falling numbers,” says Mary of the impending closure. “But mainly down to structural problems surrounding the building.
“The front walls need re-enforcing, a bit like the work carried our near Mossley Station and the old bank.
“We estimated repairs would cost around £65,000. We are a small congregation and that sum is beyond us.
“Reluctantly, we had to admit defeat and close the church. We are not sure what will happen to the building.
“It will be given back to the United Reformed Church and I would imagine they will sell it.”
Abney’s closure also saw the ‘eviction’ of Abney Orchestra. Final rehearsals have already taken place and the Orchestra re-located to the Vale Community Centre less than 100 metres away.
It won’t be as easy for church goers. “It will be down to individual choice where they go,” added Mary, an active member of Abney for more than 30 years.
“When I came in 1986 it was thriving,” she recalled. “We had a choir, Rose Queens, all sorts of events going on. Sadly, it’s all dwindled away.”
The final St George’s Day service, however, won’t be lacking in numbers. “We have invited lots of people to make it a service to remember.”
Already dispersal of certain church artefacts has started and Mary hopes a good home can be found for a striking Memorial window-possibly to Mossley Heritage Centre.
Congregational services had been held in Mossley and Staley from 1838. In 1852 regular services began in Britannia Mill before the foundation stone for a Congregational Church building was laid in 1854 by John Cheetham, MP of Stalybridge.
The financing of the Church project was down to Mill owner giant John Mayall, brother George and George Lawton.
The church opened in 1855. Abney Branch School was established in 1875, and took over the pupils originally taught at the Micklehurst School (founded in 1839).