The following material is reproduced (with permission) from a document entitled "Fordhouses Methodist Church ... a brief history by George Hawthorne". The original printed version had an appendix containing photocopies of documents and newspaper articles about the church. I intend at some stage to obtain scanned copies of these.

A bit of a bother!

Some time ago Mrs Lowe asked me to look at a few notes about the history of Fordhouses Church, written by her husband Walter. Finding them of interest I wondered if I might add to what Walter had written. However, I had second thoughts and decided not to 'botherí. In due time however I re-read Walterís notes and realised that he had gone to a lot of bother so, why shouldn't I.

While much of what I've written is hear say, church minute books and archives in Wolverhampton library have been thoroughly researched. I have spoken to relatives of Mr W. S. Kidson who donated the land on which our Fordhouses Church is built.

Especially do I wish to thank Sarah Bishop for typing my manuscripts and Keith, her father, for compiling this booklet.

Finally, in love of Christ, I dedicate what I have written to everyone who, over the years, have 'bothered' about,

Fordhouses Methodist Church.
 

G. Hawthorne
2000.

In the beginning.

During the 1930's unemployment was rife throughout Great Britain and none more so than in South Wales where, as a result of pit closures, dire poverty forced miners, ancillary workers and their families to seek employment elsewhere.

One such couple was Ernest and Ellen Bishop who, with their friends George Rees and his wife, Muriel, left Aberdare in 1935 to seek a new life in Wolverhampton. Ernest found employment at John Thompson's of Ettingshall a consequence of which he and Ellen bought a brand new house in Crathorne Avenue, Oxley. Meanwhile, George Rees started work with the Great Western Railway, at Stafford Road Sheds, the site of which is now an industrial estate. George and his wife also settled in Oxley. In 1939, Ernestís son Leslie also came to Wolverhampton to work as a shunter for the G.W. R. at Cannock Road sidings.

That same year war broke out on September 3rd and everyone's life was turned upside down!

Leslie, returned to Wales in 1940 to marry May Williams at Bethesda Chapel, Monk Street, Aberdare, on the 29h of April. On returning to Wolverhampton they also settled in Crathorne Avenue. Meanwhile, being Methodists, Ernest and his wife attended Darlington St. Methodist Church in 1935, before moving in 1936 to Bethesda Chapel, the site of which is now a car park for The Goal Post, a pub, at the junction of Waterloo Road and Stavely Road. At Bethesda, Ernest became a Society Steward attending quarterly meetings where, amongst other things, he made a passionate plea for a Methodist Church to be built at Fordhouses. While most members agreed in principle with Ernestís proposal some had misgivings, bearing in mind that pre-war there were far fewer houses in Fordhouses than there are now. Further more, the then trolley buses terminated at Oxley Moor Road and very few people owned a car. Undeterred, Ernest began looking for a site, one of which was at the corner of Three Tuns Lane and Wood Lane. A brewery had already targeted this and they eventually built the Woodbine, a pub, now known as the Red Rooster.

Mr W. S. Kidson, a respected business man in Wolverhampton, Local Preacher and member of Darlington Street Methodist Church, let it be known that he owned an allotment in Fordhouses which, if suitable, he would donate for the building of a church. Furthermore, he offered to co-ordinate the raising of funds and act as treasurer.

Accepted with gratitude, the Circuit agreed to a dual purpose building suitable for both worship and social activities. A specification was drawn up and the architect chosen to detail the plans, was Mr. Frank Birch also a local Preacher on the Darlington St. circuit. I knew Frank personally both as a fellow local Preacher and friend. Quietly spoken, he was a gentleman, always polite and never without a bow tie. Eventually, the design plans were completed and a contract to build the church was given to Mr. Arthur Griffiths, a prominent member of Wednesfield Methodist Church. Unfortunately Mr. Kidson died before the church opened so Mr. Southern and Mr. Carter became joint treasurers of the project. Their statements of accounts for 9th of June 1939 to 31st  December 1940 are attached.

At the funeral service for Mr. Kidson, the Superintendent Minister, Rev. Jenkinson paid tribute to Mr. Kidson's generosity with special mention to the Fordhouses Methodist Church project.

The church opened officially on Thursday, July 25th, 1940 and was reported as follows in the Express and Star dated Friday, July 26th, 1940:

New Methodist School Church
Opening Ceremony At Fordhouses.

A new Methodist School Church at Fordhouses, Wolverhampton, was opened yesterday afternoon by Mrs W. S. Kidson. Two months ago several memorial stones were laid, the first by Mrs Kidson in memory of the late Mr W. S. Kidson, donor of the site and first treasurer of the building schemes. Following the opening ceremony, the Rev W. C. Jackson (Manchester) conducted a service at which Madame Anne Chadwick was the soloist. In the evening the Mayor of Wolverhampton (Councillor H. A. White) presided over a public meeting when the speakers were the Revs J. Crathorne, vicar of Bushbury, W. C. Jackson, Aaron Smith (Chairman of The District) and Mr A. N. Rose of the trinity circuit. Proceeds at the services, including gifts, amounted to about £100, and £3,500 has already been raised towards £3,800 required.

On Sunday, July 28h, the church opened for worship with services at 11.00am and 6.30pm while a Sunday School met at 3.00pm. The opening of Fordhouses Church was not only a tribute to Ernest Bishop but, also a symbol of hope for the future, it being World War 2 and Britain was fighting for its life, Germany having over-run Europe. In fact, they occupied the Channel Islands just a few days before our church opened. At this point it must be stressed that the go ahead to build, and complete our church in 1940 was unique as the countries resources, both manpower and materials were directed to what we then called "The War Effort". In many respects the original church, though adequate, was a utility building, which lacked essential items of furniture such as a pulpit, communion rail and church organ.

Worship was conducted from a small table at the front of the stage recess, behind which sat the choir while Mr. Jack Ruby played a small harmonium. Not until the 1950ís was the stage recess refurbished with a blue velvet backcloth, altar table, communion rail, brass cross, lectern and carpets making it in every respect, a sanctuary. Meanwhile a pulpit, new organ and new lights were installed in the church.

Despite the blackout, bombing raids, rationing and many other inconveniences the church never once failed to open for worship. Meanwhile, the Sunday School prospered and various organisations came into being. These included Scouts, Cubs, Guides and Brownies with a Drama group, Junior Missionary club and Guild Fellowship which were well supported. Choir rehearsals were held every Wednesday evening under the direction of Mrs Bagshaw and socials were held on Friday evenings once a month. Our Women's Fellowship, which stilll meets on Tuesday afternoons, began in 1940 (see page xx). Part of our premises were commandeered by the authorities to set up a Health Clinic and, even after it closed many residents in Fordhouses referred to our church as 'the clinic'.

Assisted by Pastor Pickard, the first minister to be appointed at Fordhouses was the Rev. William Rickard, while the stewards, so I understand, were Mr. Eric Bagshaw, Mr. Ernest Bishop, Mr. Jack Ruby and Mr. Yarranton. Mr. Bishop and his family played an active part in the founding of the Sunday School, for which, apparently, there was no shortage of children or teachers. Mr. Yarranton was the first Sunday School Superintendent but, so I understand, he was later killed while on active service. Mr. and Mrs Gough, our first caretakers, lived in the Stafford Road, followed by the Shingler family who lived in Ashfield Rd., Ernest Shingler, from Darlington St, took over as Sunday School Superintendent, his son became a missionary.

The first wedding in our church took place on 16th May 1942 and it was significant for a variety of reasons. Firstly, the bridegroom, the Rev. Clifford Lovell Williams and his bride Miss Dorothy Ashton paid for our church to be licensed for marriages. As a token of gratitude church members gave them a bible to commemorate the occasion. Secondly, they held their wedding reception in the church vestry. Thirdly, Clifford was the Pastor of Rowley Street, Stafford and fourthly, he was the brother of May Bishop nee Williams. By a strange coincidence Mayís son Keith married Miss Sandra Walpole on December 4th 1971. Thereby being the first couple to marry in the new church.

In 1941 Mr. and Mrs Lowe came to Wolverhampton before which they were married at Oakengates by the Rev. Samuel Winfield who later became Minister of Fordhouses. Initially Winn and Walter Lowe continued to worship at Oakengates after which they attended Bethesda Chapel in Waterloo Road, before becoming members of Fordhouses Church in 1946. Meanwhile in August 1944 the Rev. William Rickard and Pastor Pickard moved to new pastures and the Rev. Kenneth Aldridge became our Minister in the September. He was joined by Sister Audrey Heap, a very able Deaconess from Poplar, a district in the East End of London. No doubt she knew, or heard of, Lax of Poplar, a most remarkable man who was not only a Methodist Minister but also, Mayor of Poplar. Read about him if you can!

On May 8th 1945 Germany surrendered to the Allied High Command but, not until September 2nd  1945 did Japan capitulate. Itís ironic therefore, that the last year of hostilities in World War 2 was the first year of the Rev. Kenneth Aldridges and Sister Audrey's ministry at Fordhouses.

In terms of human suffering September 1944 to September 1945 was horrendous and few families were spared the misery of losing a loved one. However, throughout this year and until the end of their ministry no one could question the unfailing love and devotion of Kenneth and Audrey to the people of Fordhouses,- Methodists or not. Certainly our church prospered.

Just prior to 1950 Mr. and Mrs Matthews joined our church and Mr. Matthews became our organist. They lived in Oxley Moor Road, sometimes walking to church and back via the canal towpath. A music teacher by profession, Mr. Matthews had a whimsical sense of humour. A dedicated organist however, he served our church faithfully for many years.

The Manse was then in Lansdown Road but Sister Audrey lived with Winn and Walter Lowe as one of the family until 1948. She returned to London's East End and is now in her 90's. Winn, so I understand, still rings her from time to time.

Our next Minister was the Rev. Samuel Winfield who brought to our church a sense of tranquillity and stability after the hectic ministries of Kenneth and Audrey. An excellent preacher, Samuel left his mark at Fordhouses, and many people have reason to be thankful for having known him.

However, he was supported by Sister Baillie and Deaconess Violet Dyson.

Worth mentioning here is that during the 1950ís two eminent Methodist Ministers visited Fordhouses church namely the Rev. Donald Soper and the Rev. Kenneth Thwaites. Both of who became presidents of the Methodist church.

Despite having 'won the warí the late 40ís and 50's were difficult years. Britain was bankrupt and rationing did not finish until July 1954. However, Fordhouses Methodist Church prospered according to Jeanette Babb  (nee Tyrrell) then a Sunday School scholar, The following extracts are from a letter she wrote to me: -

I remember Miss Biddie Monington as leader of the Primary school and the Sunday School anniversaries when the Juniors sang at both the morning and evening services while the beginners, holding flower arrangements, sang solos and recited poems at the afternoon service.
It brought a lump to my throat!
The anniversary services were repeated the following Sunday and especially do I remember the dedication of Miss Monington, Miss Peason, Doreen Revitt, Joyce Campbell and other Sunday School staff.

She recalls: the church Scout band leading a procession of Sunday School children around Fordhouses prior to the morning services and collecting money in tins for the Sunday School funds, followed by a biscuit and a glass of squash.

She recalls also: a youth club run by Mr. Wilkes and Mr. Lowe remembering especially a holiday they organised to Bournemouth. We had a super time she writes and mentions the names of Paul White, Iris Challenor, Christine Corfield, Doreen Dyson, Ted Bagley and Neville Powell.

On January 13th 1953 Jeanette was made a church member, the service being conducted by, the then Superintendent Minister the Rev. Norman Parsons.

Finally she mentions the Friday night socials and various outings when Ďfantastic times' were enjoyed by all, due mainly to the food provided by Mrs Lowe, Mrs Wilkes, Mrs Atkinnson, Mrs Lewis, Mrs Gough and her mother Mrs Tyrrel.

At this juncture I must mention Mr. and Mrs Reynolds who lived in a large house called 'The Homes'. Set in a large garden complete with pool and located between the end of Oriel Drive and the Stafford Road. It is today, the Holmes Estate. A most generous couple, they allowed the church to hold the annual church fete in their house and gardens, which invariably opened with the crowning of a Rose Queen.

The Reynolds also owned a chalet at Bridgnorth and members of the youth club stayed there from time to time.

After the Rev. S. Winfield left the circuit in 1952 the Rev. Norman Cope became our minister staying until 1958. He was also the minister of  Fallings Park Methodist church.

Before entering the ministry amongst other things Norman worked on a steamer, of sorts, which operated between various islands in the Pacific Ocean buying and selling Copra (dried coconut kernel).

A colourful person, he was also an excellent preacher whose sermons were usually short and to the point. He encouraged bible study groups and wrote a few books. I bought one entitled 'Five minutes to wake the dead' then loaned it to someone (end of story!).

Norman was the sort of man who left his mark wherever he went, Fordhouses was no exception.

With our family, my wife and I moved from Parkfields to Fordhouses in November 1957 but for a few weeks continued to worship at Ranleigh Road Methodist church. Early in 1958 however, we transferred our membership to Fordhouses where we received a warm welcome and made many friends whose kindness, at times, was overwhelming. For example, early in January, Joyce was taken ill and despite the help of family and friends both our children and myself missed her cooking. One day Winn Lowe called to see how we were fairing and my late mother in law happened to mention the empty cake tins. That same evening Walter delivered a large sponge cake, which tasted wonderful! Sorry to say it didn't lost very long. For this, and other kind actions by members of the church we were most grateful.

In September 1958 the Rev. Norman Cope moved to another circuit and the Rev. Ronald Taylor become our minister. He was, in many ways, 'a shock to the system' at Fordhouses for, whereas Norman Cope was easy going Ron applied, to the letter, Methodist doctrines and laws. However, no one could fault his preaching or pastoral work but Norman Copeís ministry was a hard act to follow. Nevertheless, I'm sure that most people at Fordhouses respected Ronald for his beliefs.

I recall the appointment of the Rev. Lewis Burton in 1960 there being a spirit of anticipation as the young people became teenagers. Before long the Sunday School, Youth Club and other social activities began to take off due mainly to the support of both parents and church members. In fact several parents were both Sunday School teachers and active in the Youth Club or Uniformed organisations. Further more youngsters were invited to the homes of various church members following the Sunday evening services where, they enjoyed each others company in the form of discussions or singsongs followed by refreshments. Concerts, socials, outings and even sponsored midnight walks from Stafford were all part of a scene which lead up to a campaign for Christ during Holy Week 1963. It was called 'Crossroads'.

Led by our minister the campaign ran from the Good Friday to Easter Sunday and was supported by Rev. Bill Middlemiss, Rev. Gordon Wilson, Rev. Peter Dolling, Rev. David Wheeler and Rev. Norman Baker. All were students from Handsworth Theological College. For the duration of the campaign they stayed with families from within the church. Most mornings, after breakfast, they met at the church for prayers and discussions before visiting factories, schools, the sick and housebound. Families from the church provided lunch and evening meals. Nobody went hungry!  Early evening activity groups were provided for children followed by Bible study groups, prayer meetings and discussions. Everybody within the church had a sense of purpose and there were those who committed their life to Christ.

In 1964 the Rev. Lewis Burton moved to another circuit and though a quiet, unassuming man his was an effective ministry at Fordhouses. In September 1964 the Rev. John Trudgill became our minister. Recently married, Fordhouses was his first ministerial appointment. An excellent preacher, his sermons were invariably short and to the point, a style the youngsters loved.

Whilst at Fordhouses John's wife, a nursing sister, gave birth to two boys. In 1967 however, John decided he no longer wished to be a Methodist minister leaving our church to become a college lecturer. He retained the status of Reverend and continued to conduct church services as and when convenient.

Prior to John's departure, the Church Council agreed to letting our premises, 'free of charge, for a fortnightly meeting for the elderly, lonely and people with disabilities. Independent of the church the club owed much to Mr. and Mrs Leonard, her daughter Jill and husband Mick, Mrs Launder and Ron Martin. The club could not have survived as it did for nineteen years without the backing of church members, especially those who, in all sorts of weather, ferried club members to and from the church.

In September 1967 two ministerial appointments within the Darlington Street Church affected the future of Fordhouses. First was the appointment of the Rev. Gareth Crossley to Fordhouses and the second, the Rev. Gordon Wilson to East Park. So far as I know Fordhouses was Gareths first and only church as a Methodist minister. A young married man Gareth was an excellent preacher whose style was inclined to be evangelistic. Nevertheless he was street wise and very much down to earth, especially where young people were concerned. His fellowship meetings and Bible study groups were always provocative but stimulating leaving many of us with much to think about. In the Spring of 1969 Gareth gave notice to say that he would be leaving Fordhouses at the end of August to become the minister of an independent church situated in Retreat Street Wolverhampton. Sometime later Gareth and his congregation moved to what is now known as the West Park Church.

With Gareth's departure the Rev. Gordon Wilson became the minister of  Fordhouses as well as of East Park Methodist Church which, to say the least, was a daunting task especially in view of having to co-ordinate the building of our new church. Gordon and his wife, Chris were welcomed with open arms and they in turn responded to the love extended to them. On Saturday March 27th a stone laying ceremony took place, Details of which are recorded in an extract from the Express and Star (see page viii).

On Advent Sunday, the 28th November 1971 our new church opened. At 3.00p.m.with the congregation already assembled, the doors were opened by Mr. Ernest Bishop. Meanwhile another congregation had assembled in the original church to watch the proceedings in the new church on a T.V. screen.

The service was conducted by Superintendent Minister the Rev. Joseph Dowell and the Rev. Gordon Wilson whilst the Rev, S. O'Gormon preached the sermon. Afterwards the organist, a Society Steward, Baptismal Steward, Communion Steward and a Trustee each said a few words about their office with the life of the church. It was all very moving. Afterwards refreshments were served followed by an organ recital at 6.00 p.m. At 6.30 the Rev. Gordon Wilson conducted a service of praise and thanksgiving (see page xi)

By way of interest the last wedding in the original church was for Mr. and Mrs Joe Lovett while the last funeral was for Mr. Clifford Went. The last service took place on Sunday 21st November 1971 at 6.30 p.m. As mentioned previously the first wedding in the new church took place on 4th December 1971 between Ernest Bishop's grandson Keith and Sandra Walpole. Sandra and Keith waited many months for the new church to be built, so that they would be the first couple to be married, just as Keith's Aunt and Uncle were the first in the old church in 1942.

The first funeral was for Paul White, husband of Renee (nee Cottis). Paul, the only son of Mr. and Mrs Eddie White was accidentally killed whilst working for the Electric Construction Company (E.C.C.) in Germany. A very, very sad occasion, as all the family were active church members.

In August 1972 Gordon and Chris moved to Sheffield while the Rev. Derek Kellington became our minister in the September. Married with a young family Derek and his wife soon got into their stride. The new church was well attended and the mid week activities began to thrive. Church membership was on a high and there were no lack of members prepared to become Church Stewards or be responsible for one or other of the many jobs within the life of the church. Organists however, were something of a problem. In fact, when the new church opened we did not have an official organist so, for a year or more Mr. Philips, one of the architects took over. When he left Mr. and Mrs Cyril Lent offered their services to become organist and choir leader. Unfortunately they only stayed for a couple of years or so. A young man by the name of David Rollason then offered his services but, not on a regular basis, so Mrs Lowe, Mrs Long and myself acted as deputy organists. Eventually John Chrissydis took over and he was, without doubt, an exceptional organist. Furthermore, John was reliable! He stayed for a number of years but, when eventually he did leave it left only Mrs Lowe and myself to cope with an organ about which we knew very little. Of recent years Miss Helen Tavener and the Rev. Cyril Barnfather have played for one morning service each month and no one has been more grateful for their support than myself.

I must now mention Barry Smith. First a Sunday School scholar he became a. Sunday School teacher, Church Steward and Local Preacher before being ordained as a Methodist minister in 1974. Barry is now a Superintendent Minister and married with one daughter.

By 1972 the original church building was being used more and more for social activities by the church and local organisations. For example, following a grant of £25 from the then Church Council, Mrs Ash and Mrs Kellington founded a play group which met four mornings each week, together with a mother and toddlers club which met each Thursday afternoon between 1.30 p.m. and 3.30 p.m. Mrs Kellington was also responsible for a ladies meeting which met at 7.30 p.m. on Thursday evenings. Dinner dances were held on Saturday evenings to raise money with which to buy small tables, curtains and crockery. During the winter months four course dinners of soup, roast beef and three veg, sweet and coffee were prepared, cooked and served by Tom and Pat Ash, Peter and Jean Long, Barry Smith, my wife Joyce and myself. In the Spring, salads replaced the roast beef. The dancing was organised by Bill and Betty Flavell both dancing instructors from St. John's Methodist Church who gave their services completely free. Without exception every dinner dance was well supported and a good time was had by all. Also very popular were concerts given by the Kettering Male Voice Choir. They visited Fordhouses on a number of occasions and the church was always packed. Visits by other choirs included Bushbury Ladies, Warley Male Voice Choir, The Marston Singers and of recent years The Shelfield Male Voice Choir.

In August 1979 the Rev. Derek Kellington moved to Tipton as Superintendent Minister and Indigit Bhogal became our minister in the September. Born a Sikh, Indigit became a Christian whilst still a young man having attended Bible study classes run by the late Bert Bissel of Dudley. He became a Methodist and then a Local Preacher before being accepted as a candidate for the Methodist ministry, A very loving person everybody took to Indigit especially the young people. Not a great orator, he was nevertheless an effective preacher he spoke from the heart especially in regard to man's inhumanity to man, and the plight of the under privileged. It was whilst at Fordhouses, that Indigit met Kathy Robinson a member of our church. They eventually married in Darlington Methodist Church before moving to Carver Street Methodist Church, Sheffield in 1984. At the 1999 Methodist conference Indigit was designated as President elect of the Methodist Church for the year 2000 and accordingly a letter of congratulations has been sent to both Indigit and Kathy on behalf of our church.

In September 1984 Rev. Roland Bamford and his wife the Rev. Glenys Bamford took up appointments in the Darlington Street circuit. Roland went to Fallings Park and Glenys came to Fordhouses. Of Yorkshire stock, they were exceptional preachers but, with completely different styles. Always well prepared Glenys spoke with authority leaving little doubt as to the subject matter. She conducted weddings, funerals and baptisms with dignity but gave short thrift to irreverent persons on such occasions. On the other hand, Glenys was a caring person whose pastoral care was second to none. Worth mentioning is that during her ministry the Church Council decided to replace the annual Christmas Fayre (see page vi) with a Talent Day to raise money for church funds. The first year raised over £1 000, despite apprehension, and that total has been our target ever since. It says a great deal about the generosity of our members and friends. Glenys and Roland left Wolverhampton for Luton in August 1992 and both Fordhouses and Fallings Park were sorry to see them go. Now retired they have settled in Wolverhampton.

In September 1992 the ministry of Fordhouses was taken over by the Rev. Tony Kinch, Superintendent Minister of the Darlington Street Circuit. However, in January 1993, the Rev. Richard Donogue was appointed to our church as Minister in local appointment i.e. without a stipend and subject to review after five years. In 1994 however Richard, though a Reverend, applied to the Methodist Church to be reinstated as a Methodist Minister and this was granted in May 1994. Richard's initial appointment was reviewed in 1998 and it was decided by a unanimous decision that he should continue to minister at Fordhouses. Also in May 1994 Miss Margaret Brownlow was appointed to our church as Lay Pastoral Assistant.

Our church, I believe, owes a great deal to Richard who, despite having a full time job has always found time to visit families or individuals that need comfort or advice. Likewise Margaret has carried out her pastoral duties whenever the need has arisen. Of recent years things have not been easy at Fordhouses- or for that matter any other Christian church as Sunday trading, Sunday sport and work patterns have affected family life. This, in turn, has affected Sunday worship yet, everything about our society suggests a desperate need for a return to Christian ideals.

As mentioned in the introduction of this booklet, the compiling and writing of its contents has been "a bit of a bother" but, one which I've enjoyed doing.

From the beginning of my research I have continually come across the names of many men and women who, over the years, have 'bothered' to become a Secretary, Treasurer, Property Steward, Church Steward, Baptismal Steward, Circuit Steward, Poor Steward, Door Steward, Flower Steward, Missionary Steward, Sunday School Superintendent, Sunday School teacher, Youth Club leader, Caretaker or the leader of a uniformed organisation and I have felt very humble. I have also thought, about those who have not held office but have 'bothered' to worship Sunday by Sunday. Their support has been a true witness for Christ.

So much for the past!

Let us now look to the future. Trusting that there will always be people prepared to 'bother' about Fordhouses Methodist Church!
 

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