Our story starts in 1875


In 1875, two men – Robert Redfern and Robert Kenyon – both originally from the borough of Oldham, relocated to Denton and brought with them their Unitarian thoughts. They began a series of lectures and secured a lease on Denton’s co-operative hall (which was situated on the site currently occupied by the Tameside Wellness Centre).

Richard Peacock
Richard Peacock

Laying of Foundation Stone

Momentum and interest were quickly gained, and by 1876, fundraising to build a chapel had begun. By July of the same year, Richard Peacock, Esquire, laid a foundation stone with an estimated building cost of £800.

Photo of Wilton Street Chapel and Schools, Denton

Wilton Street Chapel and Schools

Photo of Interior or Wilton Street Chapel

Wilton Street Chapel Interior

The Scott Family

Rev. Lawrence Scott
Mary Scott
Russell Scott

Later that same year, our very first permanent minister was employed – the Rev Lawrence Scott – a capacity in which he served for over 50 years.

Some 9 years before Rev Lawrence Scott’s appointment, his father, Russell Scott had passed away. Russell Scott was born on the 3rd February 1801, having come from an old non-conformist stock of small landowners, and makers of linens and woollens. His own father (also called Russell Scott) was a very well respected minister at Portsmouth Unitarians for 45 years. He worked very closely with renowned scientist Joseph Priestly to establish the Unitarian Movement in England, and his father John Scott (1721-1774) obtained a license to use his own home as a dissenting place of meeting.

Russell Scott was simply absorbed in education, and upon leaving the business world at the age of 36, he went on to establish an elementary school in Hertfordshire before working alongside Mary Carpenter to establish one of the earliest English Reformatories at Kingswood, near Bristol.

As Wilton Street Chapel’s Sunday School was thriving, Rev Lawrence Scott saw that there was a need for a permanent place of education, and a plot of land adjacent to the chapel was purchased and funded by Mary Scott. The Russell Scott Memorial School was opened in 1882.

Aerial View of Wilton Street
Aerial View of Wilton Street

Although the original school and Wilton Street Chapel have now been demolished, Russell Scott Primary School still bears the name of our Unitarian legacy, and New Chapel is situated just next door – ensuring that our heritage is never forgotten.

The Scott family are directly responsible for many past and present buildings in Denton. A lad’s club, gymnasium and playgrounds were built, and land and buildings were donated to the town – including the sites where Denton Festival Hall and the Town Hall currently stand. Our movement was also responsible for the People’s Hall, which some older Dentonians may remember as the Roller Rink.

Being an active campaigner, Rev Lawrence Scott was insistent that Denton had its own cemetery. Just off Stockport Road, Scott Road is named in his honour.

Sadly, after 124 years, our Wilton Street Chapel was demolished. We salvaged many of the original building’s features, including the stained glass window, the pulpit, the baptismal font, foundation stones and the cross that once adorned our apex. These features are now combined with our light and airy, modern, multi-purpose building.

New Chapel

New Chapel, located on Clare Street, was opened in 2003 with our first ever service being held on Easter Sunday 2003, and conducted by our then minister, Right Rev Dr Vernon Marshall.

Over the years, we have had different ministers, but our Unitarian ethos remains unchanged.

Further detailed information about our history can be purchased in a book, ‘History in the Making’, written by the late Trevor Whitehead and revised and published by Jean Clements. All proceeds from sales are donated to New Chapel and are available from Jean.

Further information can also be obtained through Denton’s Local Historical Society.