Chapel Street Chapels
The Chapel Street area is one of the oldest parts of Ormskirk. Formerly a small lane projecting from Scarth Hill Lane, which became St Helens Road, the building of Chapel House and several rows of cottages along the lane in the 17th Century meant that the town extended further East to the edge of the Moor and being close to the road in from Wigan and St Helens it would have been a busy area. From the late 1650s, Chapel House was the home of Rev. Nathaniel Heywood M.A. (Trinity College, Cambridge).
Nathaniel Heywood was baptised at Little Lever, Bolton-Le-Moors Sept 16th 1633. Despite being a sickly child and often considered to be failing in health he survived his weakness. He was an exceptionally gifted scholar and was admitted to Trinity College Cambridge at the age of 14 on May 4th 1648. After he graduated he went to work as a minister in Eccleston near St Helens where he married a local girl and they then moved to Illingworth, West Riding.
Nathaniel had been Minister at Illingworth Chapel, West Riding, living with his older brother Oliver, the Minister at Coley Chapel, Northowram, Nr Halifax, before coming to Ormskirk in the spring of 1657. Nathaniel and his wife had nine children and he was well known in the town for his ability to never get into debt and manage his family with good judgement.
In 1672, Nathaniel built two small chapels outside of the town, one adjoining Lady Stanley’s house at Bickerstaffe, 2 miles South of Ormskirk, and one at Scarisbrick, two miles north of Ormskirk Parish Church. He preached on alternate Sundays and found them very well attended. It was whilst preaching in the pulpit at the Bickerstaffe Chapel in 1674 that, after several warrants had been issued against him for his continued non-conformity, a band of soldiers took him from the pulpit with a pistol pointed at his head, even as Lady Stanley (Elizabeth Bosville, 1645 – 1695) bravely stood her ground trying to prevent them seizing the minister.
He was taken to Up Holland where he was bound over to appear at the next assizes at Wigan, once there, his accusers expected him to be sent to Lancaster Jail but the JP intervened and he was acquitted and sent home.
He then continued his travels around the district on foot or on horseback, travelling to preach as far away as Toxteth Park and for a week he travelled to the West Riding to visit his brother and to preach there. On his journey home, he stopped at Rochdale and Bolton to preach .
In 1662, the brothers were both ejected from their respective parishes after refusing to adhere to the Uniformity Act of 1662. Nathaniel and Oliver were used to conducting their sermons without direction or prayer book. In 1662 Nathaniel set up a dissenters meeting house at Chapel House after being ejected from his role as Vicar of Ormskirk. After Nathaniel’s death on 16th Dec 1677 aged 44 and after being ill for over a year, Nathaniel’s Brother Oliver wrote : ‘My dear and only Brother, ten years a public preacher and half that period Vicar of Ormskirk, but turned out on Black Bartholomew’s Day in 1662, having preached in private since,and prophesied in sackcloth, is now clothed in white robes before the throne of heaven….He was a Christian, and a minister if great ability,an ornament to his generation, eminent for zeal, piety, humility and all ministerial endowments’
The funeral took place at the Parish Church and was attended by ‘a vast confluence of all descriptions of people’. He was interred in the chancel in the burial place of the Stanleys of Bickerstaffe with their ‘free consent and desire’. The Constable of the town led the funeral procession, carrying the town mace.
Descendants of Nathaniel Heywood include the Liverpool Banking family of Sir Benjamin Heywood, the first Baronet of Claremont being the owner. Another descendant is William Ewart Gladstone, MP and Prime Minister four times between 1868 and 1894,
The dissenters meeting house remained open after The Rev. Heywood died, his son, also Nathaniel, carried on his father’s ministry, building a Chapel on the street in 1696 which remained there until the land was bought in Aughton Street to build a new one.