THE first and only Welsh Chapel in Warrington has closed its doors for the final to time after opening more than 130 years ago.

The church on Crosfield Street, which opened in 1891, held a celebratory service to mark the occasion by the Reverend Eleri Edwards, who has been the minister of the chapel since 2004.

The Welsh Chapel was opened by members of the Welsh community who had moved to Warrington in the late 1800s in search of a better life after many had struggled to find work in their home towns.

Many found jobs working on the Manchester Ship Canal and, as the number of Welsh men and women grew in Warrington, so did the desire for a Welsh Chapel.

It was also used as a first port of call for Welsh youngsters, who had moved to Warrington following the Second World War, to attend the Padgate Training College and a nearby RAF training camp.

Edward Francis, who now lives in North Wales, looks back on him time spent at the church during his childhood with fond memories.

He said: “My overriding memories are of my mother being the organist and our Sundays very much revolving round ensuring that she was at the church on time.

“I recall as a boy treble singing solos up in the pulpit and having to sometimes stand on a box in order to see over it.”

But over the years, the congregation numbers began to dwindle until there were only two members left, Emyr and Brenda Pritchard from Thelwall, who have been members of the church since they moved to Warrington in 1979.

Mr Pritchard, who along with his wife are now members of the Welsh Chapel in Manchester, said: “We will never forget the hardships faced to get the money to build the Welsh Chapel. It has been extremely successful over the years.”

The church stopped holding services on July 15, 1995, and worshippers rented out a room in the Wycliffe United Reform Church on Bewsey Road.

The chapel is now being used as a Pentecostal church.