'My distant ancestor founded this chapel'
A DISTINCTIVE chapel built more than 200 years ago enjoyed a special visit from a distant descendant of the man who helped create the building.
Gordon Ridgway travelled thousands of miles from his home in America to see the work of his great 'eighth' grandfather, Job Ridgway, who helped build Bethesda Methodist Chapel, in Albion Street, Hanley – way back in 1798.
Job, who was also the founder of Staffordshire's Ridgway Potteries, had a son John, who was the first mayor of Hanley and a potter to Queen Victoria in the 1850s.
Gordon, who travelled from Connecticut where he is the mayor of Cornwall, was thrilled to see the magnificent building and to experience a piece of his family's history.
Panasonic Store Camera•20x Optical Zoom LEICA DC Lens from 24mm...View details
What Digital camera Gold award winning DMCTZ40
SAVE £20 off our store price ONLY with this voucher
Plus you can also claim a SD card or spare battery
Choice of colours, free parking behind store
Terms: Print this voucher and hand in at Panasonic Store Hanley to save £20 off our store price ONLY £269.90
Contact: 01782 342609
Valid until: Friday, May 31 2013
The 54-year-old said: "I am amazed at the warm reception I have received. This is my first visit. My father came back and forth until he sold the business in the 1960s.
"I have only seen pictures and stories before so it is quite special to be able to experience it in person."
The chapel, which once held a congregation of 3,000, was enlarged in 1819 and gained its distinctive ornate facade in 1856.
It boasted a Sunday school which taught 1,000 children every week and a library which was popular with both church-goers and the general public.
But throughout this century numbers attending the chapel diminished and by the early 1980s £500,000 was needed to repair the church and Sunday school.
The last service was held on December 19, 1985. By that time membership of the church was down to just over 110.
The chapel building, once hailed as the 'Cathedral of the Potteries', is in need of funding to complete a restoration project.
Bethesda, which was transferred to the care of the Historic Chapels Trust (HCT) in 2002, was the subject of an ambitious two phase project of repairs which were completed, costing more than £2m.
Now the Friends of Bethesda committee and HCT are fundraising for a third phase in a bid to bring the building back into a wide variety of uses.
Fundraiser Jean Booth, aged 69, of Endon, said: "We do many things to raise money. We sell pottery and books and even hand out Smartie tubes for people to fill up with coins. We found an old clock behind a panel which we have restored. We want it to be restored to exactly how it was."
Roberta Higson, secretary of the Friends group and also a distant relation of the Ridgways, said: "The council knocked down the nearby houses so many people from the congregation moved to another church, it's sad but we are working hard to keep it open."
The building will be open to view on the second Saturday of every month. For more information or to donate, contact 01782 856 810