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You are in: Stoke & Staffordshire Features »
2003
So near - yet so far. Hanley's Bethesda misses out on three million pounds
Bethesda Chapel interior
Will you help to restore the Bethesda Chapel to its former glory?
It was so close - just a thousand votes separated the winners of BBC2's Restoration programme from our own regional entrant.

But Stoke on Trent's Bethesda Chapel trailed in fourth; and will receive .. nothing.
:: eMail this page »

:: See Also »

BBC Restoration
The official web pages of the BBC Restoration programme

The Bethesda Chapel
Discover more about the Bethesda Chapel's history.

Bethesda in 360°
Take an exclusive look at the interior of the Bethesda Chapel as it is today with our 360° panoramic images

Historic Chapels Trust
The Trust is the present owner of the Bethesda

The BBC is not responsible for the content of other sites


:: Facts »
On an average weekend, more people visit historic buildings in the UK than go to football matches.

There are 17,000 historic buildings and monuments in the UK at risk.

:: Print this page »
View a printable version of this page.
This summer, the BBC's major new series, Restoration, has seen viewers across the country voting, in stages, to save one historic building, presently in danger of collapse, from dereliction.
The "winning" building is due to receive three million pounds for its restoration.

Votes for Beth
Our Staffordshire "candidate" was the Bethesda Chapel in Stoke on Trent, which was first featured on the programme of August 26th when the public was asked to vote, by phone, on whether or not the Bethesda is worth saving.

As it won that regional heat, it then went through to the Grand Final on September 14th... when dozens of supporters travelled down to London for the live programme.

A friend of ours was on the coach trip when Bethesda supporters went down to the Restoration final in London. To see the photos she took, click the link below...

Photo Gallery

Sadly, the final was where the luck ran out, and Manchester's Victoria Baths stormed through to take the prize - of three million pounds - with Bethesda 1000 votes behind.

Simon JenkinsThe chapel, a terrific example of Methodist architecture has sadly been allowed to fall into disrepair over the years, with many of the original features being stolen or destroyed.

The historian and journalist Simon Jenkins (pictured right) is one expert who supports Bethesda's cause.

You need Real Player to listen to this audio.
If you haven't got it, you can click here to download it for free

It is an outstanding monument to the Methodist movement in North Staffordshire.

Why should it be saved?
The Bethesda Chapel is one of the largest and most handsome nonconformist chapels in the country
and is the largest surviving early chapel in this area.

Two brothers, known as the "Radical Saints", built the Chapel in 1819 which regularly packed in more than 2,500 worshippers and became the central place of worship of the New Connexion.

Dwindling congregations forced its closure on 29th December 1985 and, today, its most frequent visitors are vandals, pigeons and rats.


What now?...
... is the big question.

A heritage expert from Stoke-on-Trent says the Restoration programme could have been the Bethesda Chapel's last chance of survival.

Jon Perkin from the city's Heritage Society says the chapel would be of limited interest to developers.


Learn more about Bethesda
But why did Bethesda ever get in this state? What went wrong? See our feature, with pictures, on the Decay of the Bethesda

You can learn more of the rich history of the building itself by visiting our Bethesda Chapel History page.

There are also some stunning, exclusive, panoramic images from inside the Chapel which you can access by clicking here.

See a photo of the Bethesda congregation back in 1949 - click here


Any others? We also want to hear from you about any building in danger in Staffordshire
The Bethesda Chapel is only one of the buildings that was featured in the Restoration series.
But you can yourself put forward suggestions for other buildings that you would like to see restored to their former glory, which could be featured in some future series.

quote These buildings are both our history and our future and are an invaluable part of our lives and culture.

Losing historic buildings through neglect and decay changes the way a town, city or village looks forever and squanders its most valuable assets. quote
Dr Simon Thurley
Chief Executive of English Heritage

Any style can be featured - from cottages to castles, railway stations to chapels – all dating from the earliest times right up to the 20th century.

If you know of a historic building in Staffordshire that you think is in danger, then please tell us - click here and say your piece!


Your comments:
Newest messages appear at the top of this thread... click here to add YOUR comment

Adrian Romano
I hope that now the restoration work will begin in earnest - timed nicely for Autumn 2005 just as Unity House is coming down floor by floor.

Pete W
About eight years ago i went to a large derelict school, somewhere in the countryside near alton towers. As i'm out of contact with thee person who took us there so i dont know much about it, an internet search didnt reveal a thing. Does anyone have any info at all?

lakshmi dhar guragain
I am keen intrested to participate

James Sutton
Unfortunately, I'm too young to remember how Bethesda was when it was in use, but the restoration programme highlighted what a beautiful building it is. We cannot let this building disappear. James

J Betts
I think the saddest thing about the failure to win the money to save Bethesda Chapel is the statement that this makes about the apathy people of Stoke-on-Trent feel about their city. If only a relatively small percentage of those of us living in Staffordshire had bothered to make a call, we would have won. It would have cost us less than the price of a Sunday paper to bring £3,000,000 to the county. That has to be a good thing, whether you are a supporter of the chapel specifically or the area in general.

Glenn Jones & Jennifer Cooper
Our great great grandfather was baptised at Bethesda in 1833 and so we would love to see it restored. Has anyone suggested a collection to raise the money necessary? Its no use sending it to the chapel trust as that would be shared by other projects.

William Neale
I live in Stoke and am glad Bethesda didnt win. If the people of this city really wanted it, they would have kept it open. The other contenders in Restoration were much more worthy of restoration, being of greater social and archeitectual importance

M.Middleton
This building has to be saved - it was so disappointing to see it lose out in the restoration final, but we need to capitalise on the high profile gained from this series. Now is the time to save the Bethesda chapel!

Paul Phillips
A fund must be set up to help save what is a unique treasure in The Potteries, this chapel could be used by all the commutiny for meetings, concerts etc...

Emma Sloane-Bulger
im glad the bathesda has got as far as it has and os have all my friends as not all that long ago we use to walk aroind the city center evert wedensday nite praying for the city and we always made it a piont to stop by the bathesda ... where saying we would lovre to see it restored to its former glory as a place of worship or confrance center of some from but i would be horified if it was to be turned in to a cinima its stokes cathedral and thats what it should be restored to a church that is used...i reasonly moved away from stoke-on-trent but when i come up soon to visit...and if it wins then i will sertanly be paying the bathesday a visit...i have friends ibn the USA that have seen the artical regarding the bathesda and what it use to look like and thay where amased imagen the amazment and the people it will draw to stoke on trent to see its long lost and forgoten catehdal...

S Hulme
Hanley, Stoke-on-Trent is in dire need of a cinema after the closures of the Regent Palace, Empire, Capitol, Odeon and the A.B.C. A fitting contribution could be made by converting the Bethesda Chapel into a cinema - I went to see the film “Kings of Kings” there some years ago. Your website on the Chapel (I’ve only seen three pages) contains inaccuracies: Bethesda is not “seen as a local disgrace” because standing back from the road and situated in a deserted part of the town, no one has an idea it’s even there, opposite the local disgrace of Pepper’s Garage. People were “packed-in” only because their employers (mostly shopkeepers) whipped them in. Other denomination had school buildings, too, where children had rudimentary education; e.g. St. John’s and St. Mark’s - both supported by illustrious potters; Josiah Wedgewood, a trustee, had five pews in St John’s (a chapel since 1783 before becoming the Parish Church) and his name is on one of the bells in the belfry along with many other potters of the time. The Rev. Middleton (1714 - 1802) couldn’t stand the sound of the organ, which he called the ‘Hurdy-Gurdy’. How can anyone say that Bethesda Chapel was ‘the most important place of worship in Hanley’? St. John’s Church, a grade II* listed building with free steats for the poor in the gallery is noted by English Heritage and other bodies as of more importance historically and aesthetically - the bells, the stained glass windows, one to a provate soldier in the Zulu Wars, the painted-glass window near the altar, the early use of cast-iron in the interior and on the castellations, etc. is seen from afar. Bethesda is hidden away, even today, fourteen years after it was made redundant at the Archdeacon Delight’s behest, St. John’s Church in the High Street (now called Town Road) is still spoken of with pleasure by the townspeople - Bethesda is never mentioned. Ridgeway’s other chapel is now an Islamic Centre. PS. Adventure Place needs no ‘improvements’ to its entrance. The city pranksters, as usual, will spoil what is now a place of contemplation in Bethesda Churchyard.

I Cartwright
Well said Steve>

Rachel Barlow
I new nothing obout it until i saw the tv. Something has touched me too want it saved it must be saved

F J Ferris
 I watched with great interest the programme about the Bethesda Chapel in Hanley.  As a member of the Engineering Heritage Group of the CIBSE I would be interested to know whether the original  heating installation dating from Victorian times is still installed in the Chapel.  Our heritage group is making a pictorial record of all types of engineering equipment or systems that still remain from the Victorian and Edwardian periods. We have found that Churches and Chapels are a veritable treasure trove of engineering history.  Our website can be found at www.hevac-heritage.org

Christopher Bentley
First of all, I have to admit to being one of those peculiar beings from 'Injun Country' over in Derbyshire. I watched last night's edition of 'Restoration' and although our local favourite is of course Cromford Mill I have to say that I was rather taken with the case for the Bethesda Chapel. East Midlands Today, BBC Radio Derby and the Derby Evening Telegraph have all being leaning on all and sundry something rotten to cast their votes for Cromford, even saying that there was 'only one vote in it' this evening (how they know that is anybody's guess!). So, in protest, I am not responding to this emotional blackmail. However, my mother has cast her vote for Cromford so it would obviously be a waste to cast mine for 'Beth'. I'm sure you'll all understand. You DO have all my best wishes, though. By the way, I have a Transatlantic E-Penfriend, whose ancestors came from the Stoke area, who has weighed in on behalf of our own campaign to save Derby's unique Art Deco Bus Station, so there's a bit a soft spot for Stoke going on there. An indirect link I know, but sort of fitting in the context.

Rosie & H Cooke
Hello,it's us again.Why are we wasting time on the internet when we should be putting our coppers & time towards voting for Bethesda??WE've only got till midnight!!! Then we can all work on our other GEM of a building,St. John's Church Hanley.

Elizabeth Goode
Why is just over 50% of the proceeds from the programme going to the fund? Instead of lining the BBC's and BT's pockets, send 30p directly to the owners of Bethesda for the restoration fund. That way 100% will be used on the chapel.Why do we keep getting conned by the large corporations in this way?

Yvonne Farnell, Middlesex
My husband and I saw the programme, deliberately, as it was featuring the Bethesda Chapel. Although we now live in Middlesex, I lived in Stoke-on-Trent for over 17 years and my husband for about 10 years, though he was born in Newcastle then moved with his parents. I never had the chance to see inside the chapel and as a Local Preacher in the Hanley circuit felt I had missed an opportunity by not being able to preacher there. It would be wonderful to see it restored to its former glory and in use again. I was always led to believe it had been completely gutted, both by fire and by vandals, so it was a pleasant surprise to see the inside of it. I shall be voting for it to be restored and have also asked a number of friends and work colleagues in London to vote as well. Surely with northern unity and prayer, it could win the final as well, leaving any money raised separately to help keep it going or to move onto other buildings in the area in need of restoration. Stoke-on-Trent has a lot to offer this country and with Bethesda restored it could be the beginning of a whole new era for the six pottery towns.

Jerry
The bethisda is a wonderful building. this is exactly the reason elected mayors were brought in so that urgent matters did not have to be discussed by hundreds of committees before SOMETHING WAS DONE. And yet what has Stoke's eleceted mayor been doign foer the last 4 months since it was known bethesda would be the subject of this programme? nothing - pious worrds only. so much for the change that elected mayors bring.

fred terry
The BBC is leting itself down badly over its votign system. No one makes it clear that you must have a button phone to vote. I've wasted nearly a pound makign calls to the line getting rejected every time. the BBc must gets its house in order and explain these things if it expects cooperation!

Sarah Pickup
I have lived in stoke for 7 yrs and I did not even know it was there. It's probably situated in one of the scruffy dirty streets in Hanley. I think it must be saved and restored to itrs former glory, the previous owners should be ashamed that it has fallen into such disrepair, similar to many places in Stoke. If it is not in Hanley it does'nt matter.Stoke a fantastic history and heritage and the Council and County council should restore this if it does'nt win. Based on the no of people voting on your website (13)at 9.15am it will not win, as people are not interested. Sorry to be so pessimistic but I used to go to a similar chapel in Macclesfield years ago, this has been demolished and houses put on the site.

David, Manchester
I grew up in Stoke on Trent and always remember walking past the Bethesda Chapel as a child and in my teens, always impressed by its facade and always saddened by the slow deterioration that I witnessed over the years. Stoke has lost so my of its architectural heritage this building should not be added onto the list.

malcolm heywood
I too saw the programme. I hope it will not spoil Bethesda's chances. The BBc should apologise.

David Kerkle, Burntwood
If the BBC is seriously interested in promoting a fair competition why did they mention only one of the Midlands candidates (not the Bethesda Chapel by the way) on their breakfast programme?

jessica moran
I was completely amzed to see Midlands Today's report this morning (the day of voting!) which ONLY mentioed the Birmingham contender in the Restoration programme tonight and completely ignored anything about bethesda. It just goes to prove this "regional" programme is shamefull birmingham-centric

Mary Jepson
living in newcastle u lyme all my life this building has always awed me I love it and would love to see it restored to what it once was

kay mitchell
I think that the row of six shops at the top of the market place in Cheadle are well worth preserving. They have not been modernised and so are still in the form in which they were built in 1819 but are now in poor condition as all but one of the shops have been empty for the past two years. their restoration would not only save a unique set of domestic buildings but would also put the heart back into a small market town which is in a deprived rural area

Malcolm Hawksworth, City Centre Manager
I have been involved with and thoroughly support the efforts of the Historic Chapels Trust and the City Council in their plans for the restoration of Bethesda Chapel. This building is immensely important not only in terms of the architecture of the City centre but even more so in the hearts and minds of the community. I was one of the last people to speak in the chapel before it was closed - I can tell you that it is a wonderful place to be in. I believe Bethesda Chapel is a unique icon that represents the spirit of the people of the whole of North Staffordshire and it's restoration will be a positive indicator of the continued restoration of the City as a whole.

Alan Shutt
Re- Organ. Sorry folks I meant I looked after the organ in the 50s and 60s. not 70s

Joy Beeston from Penkhull, Stoke
I think that the Bethesda chapel should be restored. It is a total eyesore at the minute but it should not be demolished. It has got a lot of history behind it and has a great spiritual history too. A building like this with a history like this should be restored to be used as a chapel again, for Christians across the City & County to meet together & worship. It could to be used to show the spiritual history of Stoke-on-Trent, as a kind of museum, as our spiritual history is very interesting & significant

John Dixon
What a cool building this is. I always wondered what was behind those pillars. 'A church!' Looks more like a stately home stuck in the middle of Hanley. I always thought it was a facinating place to look at as I walk past. It would be great to see this place looking smart again and get the place in use. (please not another pub/club)

Alan Shutt
I would like to know what happened to the pipe organ,as I remember tuning the organ in the 1960s and 70s. It was in need of restoration then.It was a large 3 manuel Instrument with a detachted console.

David Birks
Bethesda should be saved as it is an important part of our North Staffordshire Heritage. When we visit other places, what we find makes them attractive, is the old historic buildings. We have so few such buildings, we need to preserve what we've got and take more pride in what we've got. Most people in the potteries will have had ancestors who worshipped at the Bethesda or one of the other New Connexion churches. I found out quite recently that my ancestors too, worshipped at the one in Longton. Bethesda is important to our heritage, history and architectural beauty and should be saved. It's a pity some of the money spent on the cultural quarter wasn't spent on this unique Potteries wonder as where else is there such a building connected with the Methodist New Connexion and is there any building to compare in North Staffordshire.

Michael J Shaw
It should be saved and it could be used for a number of different Christian events. Plus it would improve that part of the City. If it was used for example Christian Conferences and meetings it would bring in much needed spending to the City.

Mike Wolfe, SoT Mayor
“I shall certainly be voting for Bethesda because it has played a vital part in the history of our city. It was built by a community that wanted to improve life for everyone in the city and recognised that both community works and also creating things of beauty were important. “The restoration of the chapel will be a beacon for the renewal of the whole city. The building of Bethesda was a fabulous example of a community working together to produce great design."

Irene Beardmore
Stoke has few enough buildings of note, to lose another would be a crying shame.It could be used for small concerts or plays or even council meetings. It must not be demolished

kjhoward@austarnet.com.au
Am now in my mid 60's but remember staying with my relations in Hanley and attending chapel at Bethesda

Keith Goodway
It is a wonderful building and a symbol of the confident nineteenth century in the Potteries. If it is restored, it will need to find a new use, if only to generate income to maintain it. It could be a marvellous place for concerts, lectures and similar events. I watched the first programme last night and thought that was the weak part of the argument for saving those buildings. Can more be said about potential uses for Bethesda when it has been restored ?

Julie Cottee
My great, great, great grandparents, John and Elizabeth Sparrow were of the Methodist New Connexion faith. At least three of their children were christened in the Bethesda Chapel between the years of 1815 to 1824. Don't lose your historical buildings England! Vote!

H & ROSIE COOKE.
Hurrah!!A chance at last.We must grab it to save Bethesda Chapel.When this is done then the Council's "spare money" can save another gem,namely St. John's Church,Hanley.Show you care about Stoke's noble history & vote for Bethesda.

Jill Gubbins
When I started looking at the BBC’s Restoration project I couldn’t believe that there was only one church! Ok, so traditionally a church isn’t the most interesting thing in the world -you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all, right? I thought so, at least until I saw Bethesda Methodist Chapel in Hanley. It’s an absolutely stunning building, almost two hundred years old, but unfortunately, it shows its age. The photos on the web don’t do it justice - it’s huge, at maximum capacity it seated three thousand, and its oval shape and gallery remind me of Greek amphitheatres. Picture it . . . three thousand people coming together - this was known as the Cathedral of Hanley, and was so important for the local development of Methodism, which started in the North of England. After all, it is the people’s religion, and this was the people’s church, and that’s why every vote is important.

Chris Taylor
There are few historic buildings left in Stoke-on-Trent, so those that are still here need preserving!The Bethesda Chapel must have looked wonderful in its heyday - too much of a gem to be allowed to perish forever!

Steve Tildesley
I think that instead of Mike Wolfe spending our Council Tax on flower pots, maybe he could see his way to spending some of OUR money on OUR heritage! That would be a good start...

Antony Forst
Bethesda Chapel.... I think its very important to restore historic building such as this one. I really hope it receives suffient votes to win the money for renovation.



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