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Bolton Labour Church

The Labour Church was formed in October 1891 when John Trevor attempted to create a religious organisation which would meet the needs and concerns of working people. It flourished for a decade, providing a place where socialists could meet, express themselves and listen to the band of itinerant socialist preachers who viewed the labour movement as a religious movement. Labour Churches were involved in the formation of Independent Labour Parties and in the first national conferences. They continued with rather less influence in the early years of the twentieth century before dwindling away in the years up to 1914. What overall influence they had is difficult to gauge;. ...

The purpose of this essay will be to look specifically at the Labour Church in Bolton, telling those bits of its story which can be ascertained or surmised, reflecting upon its internal and external relationships and exploring its influence within the town. In most accounts of the Labour Church movement, Bolton warrants a short mention. As Pelling, quoting the Labour Prophet of May 1892 says, "At Bolton . . . the Rev. B.J. Harker made his church a Labour Church 'so far as their constitution as a Congregational Church would allow'" (1963, 134) and the assumption seems to be that the link remained. What seems to have been previously missed is that within nine months the Labour Church had split from Dukes Alley Congregational Church and Harker had become persona non grata within the Labour Church movement.

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