Christ Church - The Round House - Every Street, Ancoats

(Above: my rough sketch of the Round House based on the drawing by L S Lowry)

If you walk up Every Street today from Great Ancoats Street you won't find the Round House but you will find a brick circle on a green space beside the road.

The story of the Round House begins in the 1800s.  In a talk delivered to the Salford Local History Society in 1998 Derek Antrobus gave an insight into the "Roots of Vegitarianism" in England.  He told a story about the Swedenborgian chapel in Salford that was attracting large crowds of followers.  These crowds were drawn to listen to the charismatic preacher William Cowherd.  As Antrobus explains, Cowherd, " didn't just talk of the word of God but of the Rights of Man, of democracy and liberty".  On a particular Sunday in 1809 Cowherd's sermon, " instructed his congregation to abstain from meat".  Ideological rifts within the congregation of Swedenborgians led Cowherd to split with them and start his own Bible Christian ChurchHe called his chapel Christ Church.

Antrobus tells us that,  "Cowherd ministered to the sick and became known as Dr Cowherd. There was a soup kitchen for the poor and Cowherd's study served as a public library. With its provision of rudimentary welfare services, the church attracted large numbers of the working class created by the industrial revolution which had its hub in Manchester and Salford. And Cowherd preached the revolutionary politics of Tom Paine from his pulpit. Belief in human equality and liberty, democracy and cooperation, was the logical consequence of a religion which venerated all life as holy. Members of the vegetarian church were also political radicals."

Cowherd died in 1819 and his successor was Joseph Brotherton, who would later become Salford's first MP Brotherton's statue stands near Bridge Street on the Manchester side of the Irwell looking towards Salford.

The Bible Christian movement prospered and in 1824 a new branch opened a chapel on Every Street in Ancoats.  As you can see from the map below, from 1851, the chapel was round and it sat within a "burial ground".  (The extract below from the Adshead Map is shown with the permission of Chetham's Library).  The church was called Christ Church but for obvious reasons it was called the Round House.

I don't know the exact details of what happened next but I have seen a reference to the fact that Christ Church closed in 1880, at some point after that the building passed into the hands of the Salvation Army.  Then in 1897 the Manchester University Settlement was founded.  The first University Settlement was established in London, in Toynbee Hall in Whitechapel.  The idea was, "that men and women from Universities lived amongst the poor and help remove some of the inequalities of life."   The Manchester University Settlement established itself initially in Ancoats Hall and the nearby Round House. 

The Round House provided a large recreation room for plays and dances and an outdoor playground.  In 1963 the Settlement moved out of Ancoats Hall and the building was subsequently demolished.  The Round House was itself demolished in 1986.

If you visit the site today you will see the brick circle which marks its location.  Arranged around it are a number of gravestones, remnants, I suppose, of the former burial ground.

The stones are difficult to read.

There is also a stone plaque embedded in the wall on the eastern side.  It is similarly difficult to decipher.

The grassed area around the former Round House is a remnant of the old burial ground.  The houses in the background, of the image below, are built close to the site of the former Ancoats Hall.

The photograph below looks south east and in the distance you can see the Ardwick Lads Club Building.

The Manchester Settlement lives on and they recently moved into a new home on Ashton Old Road, which they have called the New Roundhouse.  The irony of this name is that this Roundhouse is actually square!

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