"My sons, be not now negligent; for the Lord hath chosen you to stand before Him, to serve Him”
2 Chronicles. 29 verse 11
The size and scope of the work demonstrated by this early Sunday School is commensurate with the vision and selfless zeal of a dedicated Christian man.
Mr. John Blyth was, I believe, a life-long and highly respected member of Hunters Lane Congregational Church, Wavertree, and for a great many years an active and devoted Deacon of that Church.
The commencement of the work in Hunters Lane was remarkably similar to the founding of the work in Wellington Road.
The Rev. Thomas Sleigh came to spend his years of retirement from the Congregational Ministry in the pleasant village of Wavertree. That was in 1836. A few months after his "Retirement" we read of this energetic and spiritually minded man, "he opened one of his own rooms for Sunday Worship, himself conducting services there. " As was the experience of John Blyth of Wellington Road in the 1870's, so Mr. Sleigh found his room inadequate, and was soon seeking larger premises and in a short time the congregation moved to accommodation in High Street. This work was also blessed by the Lord and in only three years the present Church in Hunters Lane was built and opened on 1st October 1839, and formally constituted a Congregational Church in 1841. It was then known as Trinity Chapel.
I have gleaned this information from notes very kindly lent to me by the Rev. F. O. Brown, M. A. the present Minister of the Church, and I am extremely grateful to him. I find that the minister from 1858 to 1861 was the Rev. W. C. Stallybrass. The note adds that his son, Dr C. O. Stallybrass became Assistant Medical Officer for Health for Liverpool. This is of personal interest to me for as a boy I worked in a section of his department, and later attended many of his lectures on public health. He was indeed a kind, gentle and sympathetic man, completely unspoiled by the eminence of his achievements or authority. He was born in 1882, retired at the age of 66 years, and died in 1951.
The story of Hunters Lane Church, as indicated by the Minute Books of its many, many years of service to the people of Wavertree, must include reference to its concern for the growth of Christian teaching, not only locally, but in other areas of Merseyside and elsewhere.
In 1862 the Rev. E. Hassan began twenty-five years of Ministry at Hunters Lane. He came as a student from University and had the qualities of a "Forceful character, and many gifts" and was used by God to build a strong and influential Church. It was during his ministry that Woolton Congregational Church was built, largely due to the generosity of the members of Hunters Lane. It was opened in 1867.
During this period of what can well be termed Missionary enterprise and endeavour Mr. Blyth's work in his early Sunday School received the sympathetic interest of his Church colleagues. In fact the Wellington Road "cottage" Sunday School was an extension of the work at Hunters Lane.
It was at the Annual Church Meeting held at Hunters Lane on 31st January 1877 that the seed was sown which led to the commencement and completion of the new school premises in Wellington Road. The Minster, Mr. Hassan, had, at the Meeting referred to the absence for a number of years of a statement of accounts respecting the Wellington Road School, and explained that this was because Mr. Blyth had been willing to bear all the costs of the work until, as Mr. Blyth said, "there was an opening for an enterprise commensurate with the increasing and urgent claims of the neighbourhood". Mr. Blyth considered such time had now come and moved a resolution he had prepared. After detailing the work and progress of the cottage school, Mr. Blyth proposed "That the necessary steps be taken to purchase sufficient land in Wellington Road for the erection of suitable buildings for Sunday Schools, etc. and as soon as possible. "
Mr. John Hicks (a baker and corn merchant in the High Street, Wavertree) "in an earnest speech seconded the resolution and it had many supporters who promised substantial help towards the success of the scheme".
I t was considered by the Deacons to be necessary to secure one thousand square yards of land and that the building should accommodate 500 or 600 children "at least". Promised subscriptions at this meeting reached £925.
The resolution was put to the Church Meeting and "unanimously and heartily carried".
This was surely a moment of great joy for the founder of this work and one of prayerful acknowledgement and gratitude to his Master.