By Mike Hall
2008 marks the fortieth birthday of Quinton Methodist Church – not the anniversary of Methodism in Quinton but the birthday of the present building.
Quinton’s first Methodist building was a garden grotto, known as the Hermit House, which local land-owner and maker of musical instruments Ambrose Foley built in his farm garden on the land where the King’s Highway now awaits its fate. The grotto was replaced in 1785-1786 by the first preaching House, standing on Foley’s estate near the turnpike road. John Wesley preached here in March 1786 and again on his subsequent visits. Also in 1786 Ambrose Foley began a Sunday School at his Meeting House at The Quinton.
The 1851 Ecclesiastical Census shows a congregation of 40 adults and 40 children in the afternoon, with a further 63 worshippers at night in this chapel which remained Foley’s private property, bequeathed at his death in 1827 to two local preachers who led worship there on alternate Sundays.
Forty years after Wesley came to Quinton, Primitive Methodism (an offshoot of Wesleyan Methodism which began in the Potteries in 1807) arrived, when Mr Deeley of Tinker’s Farm invited a group of Quinton “ranters” to worship in his farmhouse. Much violent village opposition ensued. Preachers were persecuted; pelted with rotten eggs; windows in their worship place were broken – at one time there was scarcely a whole pane left!
1827 also saw development in Quinton’s Primitive Methodist cause when Samuel Chatwin of Monckton Farm had a barn on his land converted to a chapel accommodating 110. Four years later another Sunday School attracting over 90 scholars was started. An eye-witness reported, there was a stall in the barn for small cattle, which was cleaned out on Saturday nights, and here our children were huddled together on Sunday mornings, while the service was being conducted in the barn. Health and Safety was still a long way in the future!
Some time later James Hall, one of the members of the Barn Chapel, bought a cottage not a stone’s throw from Foley’s Wesleyan Preaching House and sold to the Primitive Society as much of the garden as they needed for a chapel at 2/- (10p) per yard. Within two months the foundation stone was laid and the building rose amidst much opposition and conflict. Bethesda Chapel was opened on November 8th 1840 with great celebrations. We moved in solemn procession from our old to our new place, bearing our pulpit bible along with us. It is impossible to describe the mingled feelings attendant upon that procession. Some wept aloud for sorrow at leaving the old place; others wept and rejoiced aloud at the prospect of opening a new one.
The new chapel, described by a visitor as about the greatest curiosity I have met with, was built of brick and blue slate and accommodated a congregation of 234. Bethesda included two galleries with kitchen, parlour and workshop under one of them. Peculiar though this may seem, this “house” was let for over 40 years, providing a weekly income of 1/8d (8.5p) to the Primitive Methodists. In 1851 Bethesda recorded an average attendance of 135 Sunday School scholars and 65 congregation.
1873 saw Quinton Wesleyans join Birmingham’s Islington Circuit and a decision to build a new chapel, on the understanding that the cost did not exceed £600, of which £300 was to be raised locally. A site was purchased on the turnpike road for £160. Four years later the Toll House and premises were also purchased at the further cost of £100. Hagley Road Chapel [architect: William Smith; contractor: Stockton & Son] was opened on April 8th 1878.
Costs had soared to £957; only £244 had been raised and pew rents varied between 1/- (5p) per sitting and 6d (2.5p) per quarter. These premises were extended in 1891 by the building of a school room at an additional cost of £120.
Shortly after the 1882 arrival in Quinton of Bourne College (a school for Primitive Methodism’s sons) and no doubt inspired by its presence, Quinton’s Primitive Methodist trustees decided to plan a new chapel. November 1888 saw the opening of College Road Chapel, designed by Isaac Meacham and built by H. Dorse and Sons, at a cost of £935, some of which was defrayed by the sale of Bethesda Chapel for the grand sum of £70. Six years later an extra 477 square yards of land were purchased for outbuildings and in 1897 the architect returned to plan an archway behind the pulpit to house a pipe organ.
Three years after Methodist Union (which marked the joining of Wesleyans and Primitives) in 1932, Hagley Road ex-Wesleyan Society agreed to a merger, in College Road’s premises with the ex-Primitives. Hagley Road Chapel then served as a building for the Sunday School until it was sold to the GPO for use as a sorting office in 1936. The combined membership of 78 in the new Society expanded rapidly and its needs were met in 1952 by the purchase for £700 of land on which a new hall was opened six years later. £15,000 had provided a hall (which seated 220) and five ancillary rooms. No-one who took part in the extensive fund-raising could have anticipated that this new building would have a life of just ten years.
When notice was received that the M5 would be cut through Quinton, placing a Compulsory Purchase Order on College Road Church, the trustees happily seized the opportunity offered. Built (at a cost of £70,000) by William Jackson of Langley Green to a design by Selby Clewer of Bournville Village Trust, on land almost opposite the existing chapel, the “new” Quinton Methodist Church opened on February 3rd 1968.
The opening ceremony was performed by Miss Mary Partridge, a church member who had been present at the opening of College Road Chapel eight years earlier, before a congregation of 700, filling every available chair throughout the premises. A fault in the public address system meant that people seated in ancillary rooms heard the Mark Roman Pop Show rather than the service at which circuit ministers and the chairmen of Birmingham and Wolverhampton & Shrewsbury Methodists Districts officiated. Increasing numbers in Junior Church led to an extension of the premises in 1981, when two new classrooms were opened by Mrs Ethel Perry, wife of the first minister of the new church.
So although in 2008 Quinton Methodism celebrates the Ruby Jubilee of its present building, Methodism in Quinton has existed for more than 225 years and has been served by five chapels as well as the variety of kitchens, barns and grottoes where people have met to sing their praises.
There will be a series of special events throughout the year to mark the Ruby Jubilee but most of the celebrations are happening during March.
All are most welcome to be part of any of these celebrations. If you need more information please contact Sue or Mike Hall on 421 6657.
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