John Wesley bypassed The Fylde as he travelled north from Preston. The district was dominated by a strong Roman Catholic family, the Cliftons of Lytham Hall. By the mid-1800s Lytham was beginning to develop and rapidly became a popular and fashionable seaside resort. Moses Holden, a Preston Methodist, was encouraged to evangelise The Fylde and in 1811 a society was established at Poulton. A house at Lytham owned by a fisherman, James Mercer, had been licensed for preaching, despite objections which were overruled by the Roman Catholic squire Clifton. Mercer was responsible for a small collection of Fisherman's Hymns which echoed the strongly evangelical notes of the Wesleys.
In due course, Thomas Crouch Hincksman, a Preston businessman, who had married Dorothy Jones, the widow and lone survivor of a tragic drowning of her husband and other missionary families in the West Indies, was encouraged by Mercer's example to take action with others in the building of the first Methodist Chapel, on the site of Mercer's home in Bath Street, Lytham. In spite of financial setbacks, Hincksman saw the building , seating 200, opened by the Rev. Robert Newton in the spring of 1847. Despite little local enthusiasm, Preston Methodists persisted in their support. Mrs. Hincksman, came to Lytham for health reasons and her husband was appointed as the Class Leader. The society took off and Bath Street became widely known as 'Hincksman's Chapel'. By 1867 the society had grown and suggestions were made to build a more splendid building in the town centre. Park Street, an 'Italian Style' Chapel with Corinthian columns and impressive interior, seating 560 and a schoolroom that was later extended, was opened in 1868. It had already been incorporated into the Blackpool Circuit and the year following the opening the premises were declared free of debt. In 1883 Lytham became a separate circuit.
Later, in nearby St. Annes, a fine gothic building, The Drive, was built in 1877 by the Wesleyans and proved a great attraction to the increasing number of people visiting and retiring there. The Primitive Methodists built in 1910 on Clifton Drive, following enthusiastic work by the Rev. George Bichend, a forceful evangelist. This was a successful venture and it lasted until 1968 when the two Churches joined forces at the former Wesleyan Church on The Drive.
St. Annes developed as a town in its own right and the Church Road Church and Community Centre was opened in 1904. It proved to be a very successful Church with over 400 members and a Day Centre in recent years. Fairhaven, a distinct community between Lytham and St. Annes, had its own witness when the Wesleyans opened an impressive building and schoolroom in 1910.
Back in Lytham, in 1901 the Park Street Church was enlarged when an apse and choir were added plus eight magnificent stained glass windows, making this one of the finest buildings of its kind in Methodism. In 1962 structural damage caused by dry rot enforced a complete renovation of the building. This was made possible by the generosity of James Hollas, a Lancashire business-man who lived at Seafield House on the estuary front. He bequeathed this to the Auxiliary Fund and it was converted in to eight apartments for retired Ministers. In recent years Methodism here became part of the first Lytham Ecumenical Partnership in North Lancashire and the Blackburn Diocese.
Entry written by: EWD
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