A New Life for ‘The Old Church’, Almond Brook
‘The Old Methodist Church’ has been part of village life in Shevington Moor for nearly 100 years. Prior to The Old Church being built, a Chapel served the Methodist community for nearly 40 years. From as early as 1830 the Methodist cause in and around the Shevington area was served by visiting preachers. This led to centres being formed at Shevington Vale (1859), Crooke (1867) and Almond Brook (1869).
From 1859 through to 1869 various building were used for meetings, an old dilapidated cottage in Shevington Lane, owned by Mr. J. Taylor, an upper room in Almond Brook and Tom Smith’s Cottage, in Pepper Lane. In 1866 an application for land to build a Chapel was made to Sir Thomas Hesketh of Rufford Hall and with the land secured the foundation stone was laid on Good Friday, 2nd April 1869. The first Primitive Chapel in Almond Brook opened in October 1869 having cost the princely sum of £500.00.
By 1904 it was decided to build a new Church so that the ‘old Chapel’ could be better used to the advantage of the Sunday School. Land was leased to the west side of the existing Chapel and on Easter Monday, 31st March, 1910, which the local press described as “a red letter day for the Primitive Methodist Church of Almond Brook”, the memorial stones for the new Church were laid by a Mr. James Rigby (in memory of the parents of the Fairhurst family). The cost of the new Church was double that of the Chapel but lighting would be by oil lamps and there would even be central heating. On Wednesday, 31st August, 1910 Miss Norris of Eccleston opened the new Church for public worship. Records show that the Church and Sunday School Chapel were both well attended and celebrated it’s centenary in 1969 with both the Church and the Chapel being redecorated.
However, in the 1980’s, the Methodist Church finally closed its doors as a place of worship and the buildings were to stay empty for 10 years. Eventually the Chapel was knocked down, and the new Church became known as ‘The Old Church’ and converted for residential use.
In 2006 ‘The Old Church’ was identified as being the possible site for a complete new venture. Liesbet Lester, a veterinary surgeon who has worked in the Wigan area for over 17 years, had been thinking about starting her own practice. As well as being experienced in conventional treatments, Liesbet has also studied acupuncture, homeopathy and Reiki and ‘The Old Church’ seemed an ideal site to put these into practice. The building was also large enough to still retain living accommodation for Liesbet and her family, an important consideration allowing Liesbet to be on hand for any overnight hospitalisations.
The plans were drawn and wheels set into motion to turn Liesbet’s dream into reality. It was important to keep the integrity of the building and only change internal walls and doors as required. This was ultimately achieved, and the only outside change was the addition of a ramp for disabled access. Finally after months of planning and negotiations the building work started mid February 2007 with a completion date by end of March. With only a few minor unforeseen complications the completion date was met.
On 3rd April the family took up residence and on 16th April Lester Pet Care Clinic opened its doors. A new future for ‘The Old Church’ had begun.
I trained to become a vet in my home country of Belgium. This took 6 years, first at the State University of Antwerp where I gained a Diploma of Bachelor of Veterinary Medicine, followed by a Diploma of Doctor of Veterinary Medicine at the State University of Ghent. I then returned to the State University of Antwerp for another year gaining a Diploma of Master of Biotechnology. Before starting in general practice I decided to spend a further year doing Post Graduate studies in Experimental Veterinary Medicine at the State University of Liëge.
By this time I had decided to concentrate on small animals and, at the same time, look for a position in England, where I felt the opportunities were much better than in Belgium. In July 1989 I started work as a full time assistant in a small animal veterinary practice in Southampton. The following year I moved to the Wigan area, where I have been ever since.
During this time I have always endeavoured to continue learning about new medicines and procedures, attending seminars and congresses whenever time allowed. I am also very keen on complimentary treatments and was introduced to Reiki a number of years ago. Reiki (literally translated as Universal Life Force Energy) has been found to have a calming effect on the body. Cats are particularly receptive and immediately I could see the potential for using with stressed animals and to help animals coming round from operations.
In 2001, I followed this with 2 courses on acupuncture, an Introductory Course and a Basic Course in Veterinary Acupuncture, Scientific and Practical. It was a natural progression to Homeopathy and in 2005 I completed a 3-year course in Homeopathy for Veterinary Surgeons in Oxford, run by HPTG.
It is my firm belief that conventional medicines and complimentary treatments should be made available to work side by side. I am pleased to be able to offer the choice to my clients and hope that they will find the environment of ‘The Old Church’ more than welcoming.
My background is engineering. For the last 30 years I have worked in the leisure industry, designing seats and layouts for multi-purpose centres, theatres, lecture rooms. In the late 70’s I travelled extensively throughout the UK, including Northern Ireland, a part of the UK I enjoyed visiting despite the problems at the time. In the 80’s and 90’s my work took me to various parts of Europe, America, Middle East and finally, my last business trip was to China in 2005.
Occasionally I was able to fit in a bit of sightseeing. However, most of the time was spent driving, flying, arriving, meeting, and then return home. Or find the hotel if overnight stops were required. But I have to admit I enjoyed the travelling and the experience of meeting people.
Towards the end of 2004, Liesbet told me that she was thinking of opening her own practice, and once Liesbet’s mind is made up there is no changing it. However, it was becoming more and more obvious that this was the only way forward that would allow her to combine the use of conventional medicines and complimentary treatments.
As the plans progressed it started to become apparent that I would probably have to make an important decision as well. That moment came when the builder was appointed and work began on The Old Church. In February 2007 I resigned from my job to be free to oversee the building work and ensure that the completion date was met.
In April I began a new career at Lester Pet Care Clinic. I may not be able to recognise a Shih Tzu if one is put in front of me. I may not even be able to spell out the name. But I do believe that dealing with people over the years has given me the confidence to be the first point of contact when you make a call to the practice. As soon as the preliminaries are completed you will have the confidence in the knowledge that your pet will be in the safe and caring hand of Liesbet and will be receiving the best possible attention.
In 2017 I finished my Level 3 Extended Diploma in Animal Management. During this course I worked with many different animals as well as within many different professions. This is where I found my passion for working within a veterinary surgery. I was then offered a part time job working as a Veterinary Care Assistant back home in Surrey.
In September 2018 I made the move to Lancashire with my partner and Blue merle Border Collie, Luna. I found Lester Pet Care where I was offered my dream job!. I look forward to working with new clients as well as expanding my skills as new situations arise.
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The Old Church
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