Roby United Reformed Church is one of the few remaining mainstream free churches still serving the Longsight area. Located off the main A6 Stockport Road on Dickenson Road, we moved into our small, modern building in the 1970s.
We provide a Christian fellowship community for people to belong to - a mixture of local and gathered people from a wide range of backgrounds, all ages and nationalities.
We are one of the closest United Reformed Churches to the University of Manchester and only a few minutes walk from the Victoria Park campus accommodation. We welcome all students to Roby.
We continue a Reformed church tradition in a place that has changed dramatically since our predecessors moved out from the city centre to leafy Longsight before the First World War. We perpetuate the name of William Roby who played such a significant part in the history and mission of the Church in Manchester and internationally.
We provide a place of worship and opportunities for theological placement for students from Luther King House. We provide opportunities to develop our confidence and skills, teaching and learning together and from each other, children and adults together.
We are tolerant, respectful and supportive. We are one of the few remaining Christian presences in the area, trying to make real God's love and reconciliation. We are particularly interested in issues of social justice.
What are our characteristics? Here is a list containing a few:
Small and friendly;
Both gathered and local;
A lovely mix of people from different backgrounds and walks of life;
All ages: children are very much part of the group;
Welcoming to students;
Willing to try new ideas in worship;
An extended family;
Tolerant and respectful, sharing a mix of views;
A mixture of more formal worship and group Bible study/discussion etc.
A teaching church and a learning church;
We aim to be a fairly traded church;
We enjoy music – what we lack in talent we make up for in enthusiasm with piano and guitars.
We support the Bangladesh project within Commitment for Life
We encourage our minister in his work in the local community, with The Roby and with his interfaith work with local Muslims and his international links particularly with Bangladesh.
We meet for a cup of tea together on a Sunday morning from 10.30-11.00am. Do please join us then.
Our Worship Service starts at 11.00am and usually finishes between 12.00 and 12:15pm We often have a time for group work – discussion, bible study, or other activity – at some point in the morning. But the format varies depending on the worship leader that week.
There is a collection taken for the work of the church which usually follows the church notices.
The children are always included in some part of the service in some way. The children usually continue their worship in Junior Church before the sermon. They return for communion on Communion Sundays.
Numbers: we typically expect 10-15 adults and 3-6 children/teenagers (aged 6-18) on a Sunday.
Communion is on the second Sunday in each month and children take communion with the adults.
Music: We use Rejoice and Sing, Mission Praise, and a variety of other sources of songs. Accompanied by Guitar and Piano.
Bibles: We generally use the Good News Bible.
Seating: Chairs are usually arranged in a circle or a horseshoe. There are tables in the room around which people may gather for group work.
Through our diverse congregation we have informal associations with people from around the world including Ghana, Botswana, South Africa and other African countries, Bangladesh, Netherlands, Finland, France, Jamaica, Mexico, Burma, Pakistan, Australia and New Zealand.
History of Roby
A genealogical chart that illustrates the progress of Manchester Nonconformity can be viewed here.
This shows how the two main streams of Congregationalism and Unitarianism both issued from the Cross Street Chapel, which was itself in direct line with the Cathedral.
August 24th 1662 is the date popularly associated with the birth of English Nonconformity. On that day upwards of 2000 “worthy, learned, pious and orthodox divines” voluntarily resigned their livings rather than do violence to their consciences by subscribing to the Act of Uniformity which then came into force. Amongst the 2000 who unhesitatingly gave up their offices and came out into the wilderness of poverty and banishment was the Rev. Henry Newcome MA who since 1657 had been held in high regard for his piety and learning and for his services as minister in the Collegiate Church, Manchester (afterward the Cathedral). He remained in Manchester, supported by his admirers, until the passing of the Five Mile Act in 1665 drove him to Worsley.
In 1670 Newcome returned to Manchester, and after some persecution obtained a licence to preach in his own house and afterwards in a barn in Cold House, near Shudehill. His followers became so numerous that in 1694 Cross Street Chapel was erected for him. He died in the year following his settlement there.
Time passed and fashions changed. And in the 1740’s, the congregation of Cross St Chapel split over the movement of its then minister John Seddon into Unitarianism. The breakaway group who still held to the Trinity left Cross St and returned to ColdHouse – we don’t know if this was the same barn Henry Newcome had used or a different building. And in 1756 they called their first Minister, the Reverend Caleb Warhurst. They declared themselves an Independent Church (which became known as Congregational), the first in Manchester, and it is to this church that we trace the direct origins of Roby church as you see us today. The congregation, made up of seceders from Cross St, Scots people and some stirred by itinerant Methodist and Calvinist preachers grew and in 1762 they again outgrew the building in ColdHouse and Cannon Street Chapel (known as Hunter’s Croft) was opened with Caleb Warhurst as minister.
Cannon Street saw further division, when in 1788 a large proportion of the congregation broke away to form Mosley Street Independent Chapel. Those remaining in Cannon St struggled on until in 1795 they called the Rev William Roby (pictured) to be their minister.
In 1807, Roby left Cannon St with the majority of the congregation to settle in Grosvenor St where his church and Sunday school attendees number thousands. Roby died in 1830 after 35 years of remarkable service and Grosvenor St Chapel became known as Roby Chapel.
By the end of the century, the population of manchester was on the move, out of the city centre to leafy suburbs like Longsight. The church decided it needed to folow them – in 1910, Grovenor St Chapel was sold to the infirmary (to eventually become the blood bank) and a new church was opened here on Dickenson Road.
In 1960 the population was again moving further afield. And so it was decided to rebuild again but this time on a smaller scale – the old schoolrooms on Clarence Road were sold and the DSS building sprang up on the site. The Birch Court flats were built on the site of the houses on Birch Lane that belonged to the church. The church was demolished and we held our services in the old Church Parlour until the new building arose from the ashes, opened in 1972, by which time Roby Congregational Church was now Roby United Reformed Church. And we proudly bear the name of William Roby.
The influence of William Roby (1766-1830) on the establishment of Independency and the ‘Dissenting’ tradition cannot be under estimated. His initiatives helped to found many Congregational Churches across the North West of England and assisted in training many men for ministry.
We rejoice in Roby’s contribution to our heritage as we celebrate in 2020 our 264th Anniversary at Roby United Reformed Church.