"Except the Lord build the house they labour in vain that build it."
Psalm 127 verse 1
In almost every enterprise difficulties, some of them seemingly insurmountable, present themselves from the most unexpected quarters, and so it was for John Blyth and his supporters.
The first difficulty reported in March 1877, was delay in the purchase of the land because of a "large demand" made by Mr. Anderton (tenant of part of the property), for the inconvenience and loss he contended he would sustain. The demand was later revealed to be £50, a somewhat considerable sum in those early days, and possibly around £ 1000 by today's values. Pears cyclopaedia, first published in 1897, cost one shilling, and today it is £4. 25p. Mr. Anderton later said he would return part of the money as a donation to the proposed school, so the agents for the sale of the land advised the Church to pay the compensation and the Deacons felt it desirable to accept this advice.
John Blyth and twenty-two other men, were appointed Trustees, to act for both Hunters Lane Church and the new Wellington Road School. It appears that this number was increased as there are twenty-six signatures on the Title Deeds.
In August 1877 it was recorded that "difficulties and certain stipulations by the vendors were deemed to cause further consideration" of the project. The stipulations were not recorded in the Minutes, but those could well have been linked with new day educational trends, which now presented unexpected problems to the Deacons, causing them doubts, and to "rather favour than otherwise a little hesitation" in proceeding with the new building. Certain stipulations were considered to be too exacting.
It is difficult for us today to understand why considerations of secular education should affect the erection of Sunday School buildings, but this was the situation in 1877 in the Township of Wavertree. It seems that day education facilities were mainly in Church schools such as Holy Trinity School in Prince Alfred Road, St. Bridget's School in Bagot Street and St. Mary's School in Rathbone Road, and the Wavertree Board were taking steps to ascertain by local census the true need for additional schools.
The Church leaders at Hunters Lane had been for many years deeply concerned about the lack of general education for the poorer children of the district, but were prevented by the Trust Deed of the Church from using their Sunday School rooms for day school purposes. Lengthy correspondence with Mr. J. A. Picton, (later Sir James Picton), Chairman of the Wavertree Local Board since its inception in 1851, and with its School Committee, by Mr. Hassan (Minister), occurred in an endeavour to ascertain the intentions of the Local Board with regard to the establishment of new schools, and to learn what effect such a programme would have upon the proposals to construct a Sunday School building in Wellington Road.
The story is as complicated as it is long, but it is sufficient for this account of events to state the conclusions reached by the Deacons when it was subsequently disclosed that the land proposed to be purchased would be conveyed to the Church without any restrictions 'as to day school or other educational work whatsoever.
It was therefore resolved to (a) proceed with the purchase of land; (b) to obtain plans and rough estimates of costs of building, subject to acceptance by the vendors;(c) that building be started as soon as subscriptions amounted to three-quarters of the entire estimated cost.
The estimated cost of land, building, compensation, furniture, legal and architect's fees was £2,816 - 6s - 0d and it was stressed that £2,100 should be secured before the building was started. What would be the cost today of such a building as this? On 29th November 1877, the estimate dropped to £2,761 when a Deacon reported that Mr. Anderton had agreed to forego his claim for compensation and would subscribe £5 to the building fund. Encouraging progress!
Looking back to the remote days of a hundred years ago, it is difficult to comprehend the task of this undertaking, but it will help us to appreciate something of what was involved when we learn that this project was not the only concern of the Church at that time. They had long been involved in Christian work in Mossley Hill, being responsible for Sunday School and other activities in a large house rented by them for these purposes. The Minister and the Members of Hunters Lane had also been concerned about the inadequate day school education in this "far off" rural district and had carefully explored ways and means of providing such facilities.
However, the construction and opening of Mossley Hill Church, which was consecrated by the Bishop of Chester on 23rd June, 1875, presented new considerations.
At a Church meeting at Hunters Lane in December 1877 consideration was given to the proposal by the Mossley Hill Church Authorities to erect new schools, and Church approval was given to the unanimous decision of the Deacons "that in view of pressing claims close at hand, work at such a distance as Mossley Vale, the circumstances of which had so greatly changed within the last few years, might fitly be left to other hands."
My reference to this is because of its link with the Wellington Road School development. The Incumbent of Mossley Hill Church agreed for his Church to take over the tenancy of the house in Mossley Vale and accept all its responsibilities. Later a cheque for £20 was sent by the Vicar on account of furniture left in the Mossley Vale School and this sum was added to the Wellington Road building fund. So, in a sense, there is something of Mossley Hill Church built into the fabric of our Chapel.
Then, as now, the relationship between costs and subscriptions presented testing problems. In December 1877 gifts had only reached £1,700, a sum considerably short of the seventy five per cent requirement of £2,000 and at the end of January 1878, a further ninety five pounds had been added to the fund - a fairly large sum of money in those days, but still only a third of the balance needed to make up the deficiency.
It became necessary to seriously review the design of the new school in order to meet the rising estimates. The plan provided for a stone front to the building, so it was reluctantly agreed to have an all-brick structure which would reduce the cost by more than one hundred pounds.
Mr. John Hicks stressed the need of keeping "within our means", and expressed concern regarding the higher overall cost and the risk of the necessary sum to start the work not being reached. He suggested a modified plan on the lines of a small Baptist Chapel in Old Swan, which had cost little more than £1,000, nearly £2,000 less than the estimate for the new school. Such a modified building, he thought, would meet the need. .
Mr. Hassan, the Minister, expressed sympathy with the desire shown by Mr. Hick's remarks, and, to Mr. Hassan's credit, he said he would rather be content with the humblest appliances "than resort to means frequently used for raising money for religious purposes. " Mr. Hassan stressed the degree of "deliberation, patience, care and true spirit of economy exercised by the Sub-Committee and their fellow Deacons ", and having thoroughly inspected the Baptist Chapel referred to, he was of the opinion "that it would hardly suffice for our wants in Wellington Road and was certainly much inferior to the proposed building".
A Sub-Committee member assured the Church members that no extravagance was proposed - but "a good, substantial, durable structure adapted to various forms of usefulness" was the sole consideration.
Mr. Blyth said he had not thought, at first, of such a building as was proposed, "but looking to God for His help and blessing we might go on. " He also said "Looking back God had done great things for us whereof we are glad and our gladness should lead to faith with respect to the future. " A thought for today!
Mr. Hicks, saying that he was in accord with the "liberal and hopeful views as to the success of the undertaking", proposed the following resolution be adopted - "That the lowest tender be accepted - the stone front being dispensed with and the whole structure to be of brick". It was also resolved "that the building be started as soon as practicable; that the Deacons arrange the proceedings for laying the Memorial Stone; that Mr. Blyth be Treasurer of the building fund, open an account and be empowered to pay all accounts.