For many years the vicar of Runcorn had been Rev. Thomas Alcock MA who received the gift of the living on July 23rd 1756 and he continued in this role until his death on August 24th 1798. He was a local man who had been born in Aston. He was a pluralist, in that he was also vicar of St Budeaux, near Plymouth. Despite his local origins he seems to have spent most of his time in Devon, leaving the Runcorn parish to be run by curates1 . He married an heiress, Maria Harwood, who owned much property in his parish. She died in 1777, leaving her property in the parish to Rev. Alcock2 . This was important to our story, as we shall see later.
Rev. Alcock was succeeded by Rev. William Edward Keyt who was vicar for a relatively short time, from 1799 to 1816 when he died at the early age of 48. He was important to Runcorn in the field of education because he founded day and Sunday schools and also the first National school in the town in 18113 .
At the turn of the century, the major Christian denomination was the Church of England, which in Runcorn itself was centred on All Saints' church, the parish church. Small groups of dissenters (so-called because they, like the Methodists, dissented from the authority of the established Church of England) met in a variety of premises. Early in the 19th century a group of Congregationalists (who were alternatively called Independents) met in the White Hart hotel (later named the Royal) and in private houses. There were also a number of other small groups variously described as being members of the Countess of Huntingdon's Connexion, Welsh Calvinistic Methodists, Welsh Presbyterians, and 'Dependent' Methodists and there were probably in addition a few Baptists and Roman Catholics4 .