History: (click the images to enlarge)
Nonconformity in Oldham began its history when in 1672 the Reverend Robert Constantine was given permission, following a petition by the people of Oldham to Charles II, to preach as a Presbyterian in a barn at Heyside. Later when Methodism arrived in the town there was much religious controversy and dissensions arose at Greenacres Chapel, which now replaced the old barn.
In 1812 The Reverend Richard Wright, a Unitarian missionary preached in Oldham and in the same year a group of members was expelled from the Greenacres Chapel. These members later joined Richard Wright and became the nucleus of the Unitarian community in Oldham for after his missionary visit they founded the chapel in 1813. Initially meetings and services took place in a third storey garret over shops numbers 14 and 16 Henshaw Street. These premises were demolished in 1930.
By June 21st 1815 at Lord Street, a foundation stone was laid for a purpose built chapel. When completed, the building held nearly three hundred people. Over the doorway on an oval stone were inscribed the words: "Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is on Lord and thou shalt love the lord thy God with all thy heart mind & strength. CHRIST. 1815." The first appointed Minister was The Rev. Benjamin Goodier (1793 – 1818). Goodier was the son of a handloom weaver. He was sent by the congregation to be trained at the Unitarian College in Hackney.
In October 1845 the new Sunday school was opened and in October 1850 the chapel was licensed for the solemnisation of marriages, the first one taking place in April 1851. However, by 1873 it was decided that the chapel was now becoming too small. Consequently a new chapel was built and opened in 1877 and the old chapel was converted into a school. The old (1815) chapel was demolished in 1892 in order to make way for a new Sunday school building, which was opened in February 1893.
The Chapel's Centenary celebration were held in November 1913 when the memorial windows were unveiled in memory of Wilfrid and Herbert Taylor the sons of Mr and Mrs J.T Taylor who at a cost of £272 gave the windows to the chapel. A novel experiment was tried out, apparently successfully, at the unveiling of the windows. As this event took place at four o'clock on a November day the windows were lighted electrically from outside the building. With the chapel in darkness the congregation could see the loveliness of the glowing stained glass the moment the veils were drawn.
The 1945 post-war re-development of Oldham included plans that would eventually lead to the demolition of Lord Street's Unitarian Chapel and Sunday school. Although these plans were first mooted in 1952 it wasn't until January 1962 that the local council contacted the chapel to inform that the premises would be come subject to a CPO (Compulsory Purchase Order).
The eventual CPO and demolition of Lord Street Chapel did not in fact happen until the end of the 1960s, but at least it brought with it, the end of uncertainty. The Rev. John Roberts who served both Oldham and Rochdale Unitarian congregations between 1969 and 1975 recalled how the new situation allowed the congregation to move on, to look to the future, and to the building of a new chapel, he said, "Eric Nuttall worked to draw up plans and we got involved in raising money so that the building could be completed. I was involved in the planning of the chapel from the very start". The present chapel was completed in 1970.
Oldham Unitarian chapel will be celebrating the 200th anniversary of its founding in 2013.