The story of the Longsight Community Church of the Nazarene
The Longsight church began in Ancoats as a ‘mission hall’ in 1889, by Manchester businessman Francis Crossley – founder of Crossley Works¹ – to meet the spiritual needs of his own workers. He purchased a dance hall, Star Hall, ultimately building his own facilities These included a place of worship which saw a multitude of the leading ‘holiness’² preachers of the day, as well as Ancoats Hospital, providing health care for that blighted area of the city. After his death in 1896 his daughter and a Miss Hatch took leadership of the ministry, which came to include a ‘Bible Institute’ that trained church leaders who were sent around the world.³
¹ Crossley was holder of the British patent for the Otto Gas Engine, which drove the engines of the Industrial Revolution. One of these engines is on display at the entrance to the Manchester Museum of Science and Industry. He was personally associated with William and Catherine Booth, founders of the Salvation Army, and was a major contributor to their work in the cities of Britain (giving an estimated £12m in today’s terms over the course of twenty years), and active on the Board of the Manchester City Mission. His concerns extended abroad as well: he was singularly responsible for bringing the Armenian massacres of the 1890s in Turkey to the attention of the British people and government.
² Star Hall was part of a spiritual movement of the second half of the 19th Century known as the ‘Holiness Movement’, which included America and parts of continental Europe as well. All the most famous preachers of the movement came to preach in the ‘Bull Ring’ (as the semi-circular worship hall was known) at the annual Easter Convention. Hundreds attended these meetings.
³ The Star Hall Bible Institute was led by an American educator, A M Hills, who also founded two universities in the US, now known as Southern Nazarene University and Olivet Nazarene University. These institutions sought, from the very beginning, to offer quality education within a Christian setting. The Institute responded in 1910 to an invitation from a group of churches in Korea to start a Bible College, and sent one of its own graduates, John Thomas, with support from OMS. Today the Seoul Theological Seminary has over 1000 students, serving over 500 churches of the Korean Holiness Church.
Changing Times, Changing Methods…
The work of Star Hall continued until 1919, when the Misses Crossley and Hatch retired, and the buildings were handed over to the Salvation Army. The congregation, however, joined the International Holiness Mission,¹ re-locating to Brunswick Street, Manchester – and was known as the ‘Manchester Tabernacle’ (the church was formerly a Presbyterian church, located directly opposite Owens University’s Whitworth Hall on Oxford Road, now occupied by the engineering building of the University of Manchester).
With the move to Chorlton-on-Medlock, the Tabernacle developed an extensive children’s work. A notable feature of this concern is the number of local children who later became leaders not only in the Mission in Manchester, but also around the world. The Easter Convention continued to draw hundreds each year.² The IHM magazine, ‘The Holiness Journal’ was sold in all the local pubs.
In 1952 the IHM merged with the Church of the Nazarene. This holiness group first found root in Scotland, with a Parkhead group who joined the Nazarenes in 1915. In Manchester, two Compulsory Purchase Orders forced relocation: the first was in 1955, from the University, to Carmoor Road. During these years the youth work of the church was noteworthy, with 150 local young people involved in programmes. A little known fact is that the Cove Coffee Bar which functioned on Friday nights attracted leading Christian rock and folk musicians of the day – decades before Manchester became the focus for bands!³ An old brown coach brought dozens of children from neighbouring estates to the Sunday School.
¹ The ‘IHM’ was founded by a London businessman, David Thomas (brother of the John Thomas who went to Korea), in Battersea. Manchester became the ‘northern headquarters’ of the movement, and its minister was the ‘Superintendent Minister’ for all the churches within the mission.
² The minister of the Manchester Tabernacle throughout the 1920s was himself a renowned holiness preacher and writer, H E Jessop, who went on to the US to lead the Chicago Evangelist Institute (now Vennard College, University Park, Iowa).
³ Christian rock buffs will recognise names like Larry Norman and Randy Stonehill.
New Start on Plymouth Grove…
A second CPO moved the church to its present location on Plymouth Grove in 1985. This period of the church’s history is notably multi-racial, multi-cultural, and multi-congregational, including as many as 20 nationalities on a given week. From 1986-1995 the church provided the home for the Korean church and cultural centre, until this group outgrew the facilities, and now a Hispanic church gathers Spanish-language worshipers from all over the Northwest.
More history of our church and the Church of the Nazarene in the UK is available in the Archives@NTC