The History of New
The eighteenth century heralded the beginnings of the Industrial Revolution in
The first steps to the building of a church were made on September 17th 1804, when Messers William Horner and Edward Gibbons, two Dudley ministers, bought 680 square yards along New Road for £34 (at one shilling a yard) from banker Edward Rufford. The new chapel was completed a year later in 1805, as were a dwelling house and other buildings, constructed by Phillips of Clent for a cost of £1413/18/10. The ministers conveyed the land to the trustees in a deed on
Old pictures indicate that the entrance to the church came straight out into
For twenty three years the church was part of the Dudley Circuit. In 1828 the chapel left the Dudley Circuit to be head of a new circuit of eleven churches in the Stourbridge area. These included Brierley Hill, Cradley, Amblecote,
The first two ministers in the new Circuit were Samuel Sugden and John Rattenbury. They came for two years. John Rattenbury, in this his first appointment, was to be the greatest of them all. He was one of the great evangelists of the nineteenth century. Rattenbury was President of the Conference in 1861. Yet he never forgot his first circuit and kept his link with Stourbridge wherever he went. In 1877 he made his fiftieth consecutive annual visit to the church.
For many years this chapel served the needs of the people of Stourbridge. The nineteenth century saw an explosion in the numbers attending church. Methodists, with the evangelical message of salvation for all in Christ, were in the vanguard and helped change the religious attitudes of the nation. These were momentous years when great preachers could command enormous congregations. Yet this happened in a time before the welfare state. The spectre of the workhouse was a threat to all, but especially for the aged, sick and infirm. People could and did starve to death. Yet it was in this age that religion flourished, as men and women found a solace and a comfort in their belief in Jesus Christ, which enabled them to face and survive whatever misfortunes life had in store for them.
The Chapel in the Nineteenth Century.
In this period Methodism, with emphasis on the Class Meeting, as well as its spiritual ministry of Leaders and the employment of 'laymen' as preachers, won a distinctive place within the religious life of the nation. Despite it's origins, it was inevitable it should range itself alongside the older Nonconformist Churches. Yet the dual existence of the Church of England and the Nonconformists, together with fresh outbursts of evangelical work, produced tensions which led to some parallel and breakaway movements, represented in the main by the rise of the Methodism New Connection (1797), the Primitive Methodists (1812) and the Bible Christians (1815).
Despite this the Wesleyan chapel in Stourbridge continued to thrive. By 1835 the circuit had over a thousand members, of which
The local churches soon recovered most of the lost membership. In 1838 Rev Robert Melson, the superintendent, reported an increase in the circuit of 150 members and that the Sunday School in Stourbridge had been re‑established. The
numbers were 765 in 1843 and 860 by the end of the century. In 1890 Cradley became a separate Circuit, but was re‑united with Stourbridge in 1912, when there were 838 members and 2,300 Sunday School children.
The Circuit gained an extra minister, making three in 1841. By 1876 there were four, but they reverted to three again in 1880. New Road and the circuit also supported the great fund raising efforts throughout the century: the Centenary Fund in 1839, the Missionary Jubilee Fund of 1863, the Thanksgiving Fund of 1878 and the great 20th Century Fund that collected over a million pounds, of which £1500 came from the circuit.
In this period the church at
The New Church.
For upwards of fifty years the members had looked forward to the building of a new church to replace their old chapel. In 1878 the Trustees passed a resolution to build a new church, but forgot to carry it out.
By the twentieth century the people of Stourbridge made a more determined effort to replace their old chapel that had become gloomy and rather delapidated. Since 1900 yearly inspections had been carried out on the roof timbers, these timbers were large and heavy, being 14 inches by 9 inches, spanning the whole width of the roof and weighing over five tons. As long as they seemed to be in good condition, the decision to rebuild was put off for another year.
In 1912 the Rev John Hornbrook, Connexional Chapel Secretary, came to confer with the Trustees and recommended building an up‑to‑date church. The Great War intervened, but in 1918 a building fund wag started by investing £1500 in War Bonds. Bazaars in 1920 and 1923 raised £1300 and £500 and, with donations, the fund had reached £5000 by 1926, so the superintendent, Rev H.R. Crosby, had plans prepared for a new church and a building contract was fixed. The last Sunday Services were held on
The Chapel was full for this final service, so full in fact, that one of the trustees, unhappy at the state of the building, was afraid to go in and remained in the vestry praying. He was proved to be right, for after the service it was found that the upper gallery had pulled out of the wall by four and a half inches. When demolition started it was discovered that the roof supports were not secure and could have given way at any moment. Rebuilding was to come at the right time.
The first thing the Trustees did was to build a new house at the rear of the Sunday School to accommodate the caretaker, when his cottage and others nearby were taken down. Then the rest was demolished to make way for the new church, which was to be built parallel to the road. The builders were Messers S.F.Swift & Sons of
The opening and dedication of the new church was on
Details of the New Church.
The new church was designed on a cruciform principle. The plan consisted of entrance porches, spacious vestibule, nave, aisles, chancel, transepts and organ chamber. There was a tower at the
The builders' plan was to produce a magnificent building generally on the lines of ancient Gothic architecture by developing a style sincere and honest in its outward forms, yet suitable for the worship of its members. The old building was dark, gloomy and falling into decay. It was felt that the generous donors had made it possible to rebuild in a manner more in character with modern requirements for 1928.
The whole of the congregation were seated in the nave and transepts, the choir being placed on either side of the chancel. It could seat 500. The side aisles were to be used as passages only. These side aisles were divided from the nave by stone piers supporting the nave arcading. The centre portion of these piers was carried up to the sill level of the clerestory and finished with richly carved capitals illustrating the works of God in creation.
The exterior was in small
The stained glass window in the Chancel was to the memory of Mr Fred North, the secretary of the Building Committee, who had died in the January before the church was completed. Fittingly, his widow formally opened the new church. The window consisted of three panels, the centre is "The Light of the World", based on the painting by Holman Hunt. The two side panels represent the soul before and after seeing the light.
The architect claimed that his work as a whole was simple and dignified, with a certain richness in places, such as the chancel, the carved capitals of the nave and in the main entrance. It was seen as a memorial to the superintendent, Rev H.R. Crosby, who had brought to fruition the wishes of the Stourbridge Church and Circuit for a church that was called the Cathedral of Methodism for the district" in 1928.
Changes at New Road.
Since those early days it is interesting the challenges that the Trustees and the Leaders Meeting have had to face. The church had electric lighting and this was something very new. Then there were more mundane discussions over pew rents and umbrella stands in the new church. More surprising was the fact that the church was in debt for most of those early years. They had an overdraft with the National Westminster Bank and had to pay yearly interest. Fortunately it was low in those days. Most of it had been paid off by 1938.
Then there were the topics that have taken the church's time in recent years. Besides problems such as repairs and decorating, the Sunday School and the Youth Club, there were difficulties with the heating of the church right through the period. There were the acoustic problems. It was often hard to hear the preacher in the new church. The caretaker's house, now the cottage, and its upkeep was a constant source of difficulty. There were also problems with the maintenance of the boundary walls, especially of the manse. Then there was issues of the day like the cost of blacking out the church in the Second World War. It was removed in 1946. After the War new railings were put in place outside the church in 1947.
Perhaps, the biggest change that occurred in the early years happened in 1932. All the different streams of Methodism: the Wesleyans, the Uniteds and the Primitives came together in the
A big change at
The other main change in the church buildings came with the construction of the Hall of Memory in 1929. It was the work of the Young Men's Bible Fellowship, an inter‑denominational group, meeting on Sunday afternoons and it was dedicated to those who had died in the First World War. In 1931 it began to be used by Toch H. This was a christian fellowship founded in 1915 and was also dedicated to remembering those who'd given their lives in World War One, so it was obvious the two would become intertwined. In 2003 the room's function was changed when it was taken over by the Robin Woods Library.
Within the church there were many developments. The organ, built by Norman and Beard of Norwich prior to 1895, was installed in the church in 1929 by Nicholson. The first organist was George Hodgetts. The choir master was Mr Sutton until 1933, when Percy Crook took over. When Mr Crook gave up in 1945, George Hodgetts became choir master and organist until 1963. Michael Carless then took over and has remained as church organist and choir master for over forty years.
There have been additions to the decorated windows in the church. The small windows in the chancel entitled Truth and Peace were in memory of John Charles Deeley and added in 1940.
Those entitled Charity and Love were in memory of Elizabeth Fellows and were fitted in 1947. In 1938 the "Sunday School" Window (South Transept) was given in memory of Felix Petford Fellows by his widow. The Modern Window (North Transept) was given in memory of Mr & Mrs J.E. Hickman of Stourton in the 1960's. Designed by Stourbridge College of Art, it depicts Christ from the Cradle to the Cross'.
The other main alterations occurred in the School Room. A new floor was incorporated in 1971 making it a two story building. Then after the centenary celebrations held on
1978 and Beyond.
In 1978 celebrations marked the fiftieth anniversary of the church. The minister Philip Hodgson (1971‑1980) led the festivities in June of that year. One of the highlights was the visit on Anniversary Sunday of the Rev Kenneth H. Crosby, the son of the first minister at the re‑built
In 1928 the Sunday School had been well attended, services being held in the morning and the afternoon. The Sunday afternoon school was dropped in 1972. In 1978 it was reported that the morning school was still thriving, although the numbers were diminishing in the senior departments. There was a thriving youth club, linked to M.A.Y.C., that met on Friday nights. Parties regularly attended the annual M.A.Y.C. rally in
In those days a feature of the Sunday morning worship was the Family Service, which enabled parents and children to attend together. At this service the uniformed organisations were present. Of these uniformed organisations the Wolf Cub pack was started in 1952, the Scout Company in 1954, Brownies began in 1958 and the Guides in 1960. Sadly none of these groups now meet at the church. The Play Group has also gone, although a Mother and Toddlers Group does meet at the church.
Some things continue. The choir lead worship Sunday by Sunday with special efforts at Passiontide and Christmas. The Young Wives began in 1947 and has now become the Thursday Ladies. The Wesley Guild first met way back in 1924. In those days it consisted of young people. Later it changed and the membership became older, but they are still meeting regularly. The After Eights began in 1970 for those young people who had outgrown the youth club.
There are new endeavours. In 1988 a Stroke Club was founded, by Dennis Howard. Every fortnight the group meets for lunch. Here those with strokes, their partners and the helpers come together. The Thursday Coffee Morning was begun in 1982 by Eileen Price and Kath Mountford. Although mainly social it does give friends, visitors and strangers alike a change to meet and chat. Every month a Communion Service takes place on Thursday.
Since 1978 the work at the church has continued. Recent ministers have been John Mountford (1980‑85), David Meacham (1985‑90), Alan Elgar (1990‑5), Janet Roe 1995‑2001, Peter Clarke (2001‑6 ) and Stuart Davis (2006‑). Throughout the years news has been provided about the church by the publication 'Contact'. Begun in 1964 by Tony King, other editors were John Syed, Henry Whitehouse and Peter Thorogood. Since 1987 this monthly magazine has been edited by Pam Cook. Throughout all those years 'Contact' has been printed by David Cormell.
In 2005 the church celebrated two hundred years on the