Way back in 1836 Edward Evans was baptised in the Primitive Methodist Chapel on Steam Mill Street, Chester. According to the register it was on 25 May 1836. Edward was born on 5 January of that year in the parish of St John’s, the sixth child of William Evans and Priscilla Mould (sic). So, as I am staying nearby, I went to Chester to see what remains. Edward was my grandmother’s grandfather. Some of his story is told in Evans the Boat.
Well, the Steam Mill building remains.
And there is still a Steam Mill Street
But no chapel. There is a Chapel Street off to the right.
I had hoped that, even if no longer used for worship, the chapel building would remain, but it seems to have been abandoned even before the Ordnance Survey’s first survey of 1869.
This is what British History Online has to say:
In the early 19th century the Primitive Methodists began to recruit in Chester. Their earliest preacher was Joshua Reynolds, a native of Saughall, but the real beginnings of the movement date from the missions of John 00in 1819 and Thomas Brownsword in 1821. The new society initially met in houses in Steven Street and King Street, but in 1823 a chapel was built in Steam Mill Street. It became the head of a circuit in 1826. Despite being in a discouragingly violent neighbourhood, the chapel, a plain brick building of five bays, remained the home of the congregation for nearly 40 years. Its construction burdened the society with debt and the early years were clearly precarious, although by 1832 the circuit reported 390 members. (fn. 186)
In 1861 the congregation decided to leave Steam Mill Street and in 1863 a new chapel and school, of brick with Gothic details, opened on the south side of George Street.
It appears that the family did not attend Steam Mill Street from the start. In 1833, Edward’s brother Francis was baptised at St John the Baptist. The current church stands within the ruins of a much older one, to the west of Grosvenor Park, which opened to the public in 1867.
Edward would never know this park, as by 1858 he had moved to the Black Country, where he was married at Dudley, and by 1861 was a boatman living at Wombourne. I have not been able to trace Edward in the 1841 or 1851 censuses, but by 1841 his parents and two sisters were at Wombourne.
So would Edward, or more likely his father, have recognised anything that remains? Probably not much. They would have recognised the Steam Mill, a steam-powered flour mill dating from 1785 (according to Historic England). There was also the Shot Tower, erected in 1799 as part of a lead works, for the production of lead shot.
And The Cross Foxes?
I was unsure of the age of this building. Was it as old as the half-timbered parts suggest? Probably not, but it is at least Victorian. The Chester Chronicle of 1 August 1868 gave notice of an auction there. That is the earliest reference I could find in Findmypast’s newspaper archive.