There has long been a settlement in what we now know as Audlem. Some kind of community certainly existed at the time of the Norman conquest, as Aldelime gets a mention in the Domesday Book (1086). But its origins may be even earlier, as there is evidence to suggest a Celtic or possibly even Roman settlement. By 1278 Audlem was important enough to have a church built and in 1296 it was granted a Market Charter.
The Domesday Book recorded 4 identified persons, probably meaning the local population was then somewhere between 50 and 100. The next available estimate comes from 1591, when the village is thought to have had between 300 and 400 inhabitants. In 1669 the Hearth Tax returns suggested a population of about 600. The first official census in 1801 recorded 965 persons. By 1901 this figure had risen to 1,455, and by 2001 to 1,900.
For much of its history Audlem will have been a small, self-reliant agricultural community, centred around its own market. During the nineteenth century its horizons will have broadened through the arrival of the canal in 1835, and the railway in 1863. These will have opened new opportunities for both trade and travel which, in the twentieth century, were then further developed with the arrival of the motor car. Shops and businesses developed following the demise of the market, some of which still remain.
Audlem's community facilities have developed steadily throughout its history. There have been inns and alehouses from the earliest days. There has been a school in the village since the sixteenth century. During the nineteenth century a police house was built, a fire brigade started and various non-conformist chapels added. The twentieth century began with the building of the Public Hall.
In 1997 the Audlem Local History Group published 'Audlem: The history of a Cheshire Parish and its five townships'. (ISBN 0952228432). This tells a fascinating story in much detail.
In 1792, a house in the occupation of a certain Richard Tew of Audlem was certified as 'a place of worship under the Toleration Act'. It is reported that in 1805 the American evangelist, Lorenzo Dow, staged a campaign in the village, and that in 1820 the 'Circuit Missioner', Nathaniel Turner, also focussed his efforts here. Such work apparently bore fruit. By 1822 Audlem was making a contribution (of ten shillings) to the Nantwich Circuit and, in 1829, fifty to sixty Wesleyan Methodists were recorded as dissenters residing in the parish. It was presumably these Methodists that built the first Methodist chapel in Audlem – a Wesleyan chapel – that opened in 1833. This was in Stafford Street, near to Ash Tree House.
The Wesleyans were not the only Methodists in the village. In 1845 the Burland Circuit gave permission for a Primitive Methodist Chapel to be built. This was opened in Cheshire Street in 1848. Both buildings soon became inadequate. In 1863 the original Wesleyan chapel was sold and the present chapel opened in Shropshire Street, with a schoolroom being added and a new organ installed in 1876. And in 1871 the Primitive chapel in Cheshire Street was taken down and a larger building erected on the same site.
1933 saw the coming together of the main strands of Methodism. In 1934 a local amalgamation scheme made the minister at the Primitive Chapel minister of both societies. The following year the two societies became one, deciding to settle in the Wesleyan premises in Shropshire Street. Extensive refurbishment followed. The space at the front of the chapel was widened to accommodate choir stalls. A new organ chamber was added to take the organ (improved and enlarged) from the Primitive chapel. The chapel was completely refurnished in oak and a vestibule, vestry and kitchen added. Additional land was bought to allow for a car park and garden. The renewed premises were opened in 1937.
In the post-war years, Sunday School and youth work, music, and an active Sisterhood all characterised Church life. The later decades of the twentieth century saw steady growth in membership. A religious musical was added to the programme in the 1980s and this has since become an annual event. The premises have continued to be modernised. In 1998 a substantial extension was completed, providing a new entrance, meeting room, vestry and toilets. Further refurbishment work was carried out in 2002, including the complete overhaul of the pipe organ and the fitting of a new kitchen. In 2006 a programme of alterations significantly upgraded the chapel part of the premises.
For most of its life, Audlem has been part of the Nantwich Circuit. A Nantwich Circuit didn't exist in its own right until 1808. Initially it included Crewe until, with the coming of the railways, Crewe grew large enough to be a circuit on its own. The fragmentation of Methodism in the nineteenth century led eventually to there being three circuits based on Nantwich.
The Hospital Street Circuit was Wesleyan, the Nantwich and Burland Circuit was Primitive, and the Pillory Street Circuit was United Methodist. Although nationally the strands of Methodism came together in 1933, it wasn't until 1965 that there was finally just one Nantwich Methodist Circuit.
This Circuit organised local Methodism for the next forty-five years until, in 2010, it joined with three nearby circuits (Whitchurch, Crewe and Sandbach & Alsager) to form the Cheshire South Circuit. In 1965 there had been thirty-two chapels in the Nantwich Circuit; by 2010 there were just thirteen.
|1998||Andrew L Gunstone|
|1983||William A Seville|
|1978||Philip G Owens|
|1972||John M Peters|
|1970||Michael W Hill|
|1962||Wilfrid J Little|
|1957||A Leslie Jones|
|1954||Charles T Santry|
|1948||Leonard R Jennings|
|1946||Jeffrey W Harris|
|1943||Leonard P Barnett|
|1937||Thomas D Meadley|