The Watchorn Memorial Methodist Church on Derby Road, Alfreton, Derbyshire is well known to me! When I was 12 I went for a bike ride from a small village in Yorkshire, where I lived, to my aunts, sixty miles away. It nearly killed me. On one of my many stops I was leaning against a wall when I looked up and read the sign for the church and nearly collapsed with amazement. My name on a sign. Years later I have stayed many times in the travelodge by the traffic island, clearly labelled with a large green and white sign saying 'Watchorn Roundabout'.
So why is the chapel here?
Alicia Hogan was an Irish catholic girl who in 1846 and aged 16 married John Watchorn in Carlow (familiar territory?). They fled to Alfreton to escape the potato famine. They had nine children. Her second child, Robert, is the hero of the story. He worked down a coal mine at the age of eleven. He developed a strong protestant faith. At the age of 22 he emigrated, and his intelligence and organisational skills saw him rise from rags to riches. To cut a long story short, in 1905 he was put in charge of emigration on Ellis Island, and by 1916 his was president of his own oil company. As a very rich man he visited Alfreton and in 1929 the chapel was built with his money. It stands on the site of his birth. as you are from Carlow you are probably related to probably the most famous Watchorn of all. A longer version of the story may be found in the journal of the Irish Family History Society, volume 16.2000. or in Robert's autobiography.
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