A BRIEF EARLY HISTORY OF THE
METHODIST CHURCH IN LEAMINGTON SPA
In 1987, to celebrate 150 years of the Leamington Methodist Circuit, a booklet was published. The early pages deal with the different facets of Methodism and the Union of the different branches in 1932.
Part 2 of the booklet gives a brief history of each of the churches in the Leamington Circuit.
The early history of Trinity Methodist Church began in Grove Place, moved to Althorpe Street where Miss Lucy Holy encouraged the growth of the Sunday School and, having outgrown these premises, moved to Court Street.
A day school was also established here.The Sunday evening Mission Services were so successful that it was then necessary to seek new premises.
In 1875 Mrs Holy offered to build a new church “at a cost of not less than £3,000″.Certain conditions were stipulated and accepted and Trinity Church was built. The final cost, including land and Manse, was £4,568. Mrs Holy donated £5,000. Legend has it that Mrs Holy wanted the church to have a spire to make it plainly visible from the railway. Unfortunately, 20 years later, this had to be shortened for safety reasons.
THE CHURCH ORGAN
The booklet, “A Century of Service”, records the importance of the organ and music at the church (then known as Trinity Methodist Church. It states,
“Music has always been of prime importance at Trinity. Way back in 1895 Rev. Thomas Jenkin was voted 3 shillings (15p) per week for three months to engage musicians to popularise the services.
A request was also made to the choir “not to talk during the service”.
In 1901, although it seems an organ fund was started, these plans were shelved for financial reasons. The following year a second hand organ was bought from Sutton Baptist Church for £290. It had to be blown by hand.
Eight years later another organ was installed by Comptons for £510. Half of this money was donated by Dr. Andrew Carnegie. The installation of this organ resulted in a major re-styling of the front of the church and work was completed in 1911. The organ blower was made redundant and given 3 months salary in lieu of notice! At least two notable organists, Mr G D Pattman, of Glasgow Cathedral and Mr Tertius Noble, of York Minster, both gave recitals.
Forty years later the organ became unplayable. An offer was forthcoming for the organ to be rebuilt by John Harris Ltd. and a packed church heard the opening recital by the organist of the Parish Church in Leamington Spa, Mr Hugh Large. on May 14 1959.
Minor problems still arose from time to time and the blower was re-sited to the Minister’s Vestry and later to the newly added store room.
The gift of a console for the organ stands at the side but the fitting of it to its original position would have been a major operation.
It was through the generous donations of a few individuals and the support and prayers of the whole congregation that this wonderful instrument has provided church music over many years. It wasn’t until after his death in March 1959 that the donor of the organ was revealed as Mr Harold Bird. The organ was dedicated to his memory.
The organ has been regularly maintained and has provided music for Sunday worship and for other services in the ensuing years.
At the present time (2012) major work is again needed to renovate the organ. The church has raised £5,000; grants of £6,000 have been promised and a further £5,000 is still needed. A contract for the work to be done is about to be signed.
We need the help, support and prayers of all so that this money can be raised.
THE CHURCH HALL
The Manse, adjacent to the church, had been sold and the money used by the Circuit for the establishment of a new church at Whitnash. However, a large part of the Manse garden had been retained and so the new hall was built on this land.
On January 14th 1970 Miss Rose King laid the foundation stone. A number of bricks were also donated and laid by Sunday School children.
On September 5th 1970 Mrs Violet Butlin, declared the new hall open.
OUR GUIDES IN THE 1970s
Jill Marley (Stortz) was our Guide Captain in the 1970s but then returned to Australia. She visited the UK in the summer of 2013 and made contact with some of her old Guiding Company and church friends.
THE HOLIDAY CLUB
THE SUNDAY SCHOOL
CHURCH FETE 1975/76 OPENED BY NORMAN PAINTING (OF THE ARCHERS)
Minister: Peter Burnett
WOMEN’S FELLOWSHIP OUTING TO ABINGDON
CENTENARY OF TRINITY METHODIST CHURCH
A BRIEF HISTORY OF
THE UNITED REFORMED CHURCH
IN LEAMINGTON SPA
In 1986 Vi Rutherford, one time Church secretary, a Deacon, later an Elder and always a staunch Church Member, wrote and published a book about the history of Spencer Street Church to coincide with the 150th Anniversary of the Church. This book is most informative and tells of the beginnings and the development of this place of worship and much detail can be found in the pages of her well- documented account. A copy of the Booklet is available at Warwick Records Office.
Vi Rutherford tells us that:
“The first Congregationalist in this town had been a handful of men and women, meeting at times in a cottage, a barn, or a pub, to hear the preaching of the pastor of the Congregational Church,Brook Street,Warwick, the Rev. James Moody….”.
This small group of faithful followers grew in numbers and built their first Independent Chapel on a plot of land in Clemens Street opposite the Blenheim Hotel.
The first services were held on 10th July 1816. Mr. James, of Birmingham, was the preacher at the morning service on that day and Mr. Hartley, of Lutterworth, preached in the evening.
Because subscriptions for the new place of worship had been collected in Bristol, London and other towns in the country and because Christians of other denominations had subscribed and attended the services in the new Chapel it was decided to call it “Union Chapel”.
On July 21st 1836 the Union Chapel was replaced as a place of worship by a more magnificent building known as Spencer Street Chapel in close proximity to the Parish Church.
CLERGY IN THE EARLY YEARS
The Union Chapel in Clemens Street continued, though a split in the congregation caused by the decision to use the Liturgy of the Church of England, although maintaining independent self-government, caused major difficulty. The first three Ministers appointed, Mr. Arthur Bromiley, Mr. William Seaton and Mr. Charles Bassano all left the Independent cause to return to the Church of England. In 1831 the use of the Liturgy was discontinued and caused another major split resulting in a part of the Church and the then Pastor leaving and building a new Independent Chapel in Mill Street.
On April 28th 1829 Rev. Alfred Pope who had spent a year working with the small band of dissenters at Clemens St. was inducted to the pastorate and settled happily with his wife.
SPENCER STREET CHAPEL
The discovery and exploitation of the six mineral springs which turned the sleepy village of Leamington Priors into the elegant and prosperous town of Leamington Spa was just beginning. There was a rapid growth of population and Alfred Pope realised that there was likely to be a proportional growth in the Church membership. Larger premises were needed. The foundation stone of the new building was laid in the autumn of 1835 and Spencer Street Independent Chapel, Leamington Priors, was opened on 21st July
1836 to cater for the spiritual needs of Congregationalists in this growing town.
Mr. John Fairfax and Mr. Frost devoted much time and energy to the cause of building a new Chapel and when Mr. Fairfax emigrated to Australia he did not forget the work in Leamington. He writes:-
The Revd. A. Pope,
My dear Sir,
On the 26th ult. my excellent nephew, Mr. A. Fairfax, left the Colony proceeding overland via India, for England. It is probable that he will arrive in 64 days, and long before this reaches you, will have delivered first of Exchange *** £300.
The cheque for £300
I now enclose second of same terms and intr. Our people are all striving to build chapels and raise salaries for ministers, so that I was afraid to ask for any object so foreign as yours is.
I wish both you and Mrs. P would give us the opportunity of returning your hospitalities – you would then see.However I keep my own promise. Mr. And Mrs Peat contribute £25 – the residue is a free-will and grateful offering to our heavenly Father for all his mercies and blessings during the 16 months we were absent from our beloved home. Mrs. Pope will smile at the idea of a home in Botany Bay!
Well I am rejoiced to hear, indirectly, that you are pursuing your delightful work with so large a measure of health and prosperity. I have probably said my final “goodbye” to Leamington; but I shall always feel an earnest desire for the prosperity of Spencer St. Pray remember me most affectionately to all the friends. I shall be greatly disappointed if they do not put their shoulders to the work and so be relieved of the burden of the Debt.
I am sure Alfred will help if he sees your people are doing this duty.
You will be much pleased with him. We love him as a son.
***** will at us in time – but he suffered much during the voyage – and his spirits and health are a good deal broken.
I am, my dear Sir, Yours faithfully
Pray with me
Old Mrs. Reading and my Mother are quite well – they ride with me each Day.
The Fairfax family had long been associated with Spencer Street Church.
It was John Fairfax who had sent generous donations from Australia where he had emigrated; Alfred Fairfax (John’s nephew) who had brought one cheque from his uncle John in Australia. Mr A Fairfax (possibly Alfred) and another Mr Fairfax (Secretary) who were Committee members on the Leamington Priors Christian Instruction and Sick Visiting Society in 1836. Mr John Fairfax had printed the leaflet giving details of this Society (see Page 8);Mr William Fairfax was a Trustee of the Chapel Fund; John Fairfax donated £275 and Mr A Fairfax £100 to the debt on the premises owing in 1862 and Mr John Fairfax who had held deeds and documents handed to Mr Hordern by Mr Alfred Pope in 1836.
Note: (Details of the life of John Fairfax can be found on http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Fairfax)
In July 1836 a group of nonconformist worshippers who called themselves Congregationalists opened a new chapel set amongst green meadows near the banks of the river Leam. The architect of this elegant building was Mr John Russell himself a member of the congregation. The chapel was the third nonconformist place of worship to be built in Leamington and it provided accommodation for over twelve hundred worshippers. Beneath the church was a large schoolroom and catacombs for burials. Over fifteen hundred people were present at the opening service and many hundreds were turned away.
Dudley, an early nineteenth century local historian present at the opening of the chapel in 1836 described the interior as having ‘an exceedingly chaste and elegant appearance’ and being ‘lofty and well proportioned’. The early congregations also seem to have been of ‘elegant appearance’. The Revd. Alfred Pope the church’s first minister is said to have attracted unusually aristocratic congregations including Earls, Peers and Baronets and the Irish-born playwright and actor James Sheridan Knowles.
BECOMING A CHURCH MEMBER
The Church membership numbers grew and prospective members were asked to answer four questions stating their reasons for seeking membership.
The questions were :-
1. What I thought was the means of my conversion.
2. What makes me hope that I am born again.
3. What do I think is the way of Salvation.
4. Why do I wish to join the Church.
The replies to these questions are absolutely fascinating and throw tremendous insight into styles of preaching, the authority of the preacher and the fear of utter damnation in Hell if one didn’t “save one’s soul”.
There are copies of several of these letters held by the Webmaster and one typical letter is below:
Regent Grove August 31st 1846
I feel lost in wonder, Love and praise at the condescension of the Almighty towards one so unworthy as myself. The encouragements I meet with are many. The privileges I enjoy are great.
I was brought up in the Church of England and previous to my coming to Leamington was strongly opposed to Dissent. I thought I would listen to what might be advanced upon the Subject, but was firmly resolved that it should have no Influence upon my mind, so as to change my views, but through the providence of God I was led to attend upon your ministery (sic). I became greatly interested and my prejudices gradually yielded to love. I felt I had never seen myself in the true Character of a Sinner. I began to feel very anxious about the Salvation of my Soul.
You kindly received me into your Bible class where I obtained more knowledge of the word of God. I pray that my mind may be more enlightened, and through the assistance of divine grace may I daily be enabled to put in practice what I have heard. I want to know more of myself and more of the depravity of my heart. May God grant me the teaching of his Holy Spirit to Enlighten my dark understanding and give me clear views of the truth as it is in Jesus.
At the close of a sermon, you preached a short time since you said (addressing Enquirers) make use of all the helps(sic) which are given you to assist you on your way to glory. The first help was pray much.
The second, at once join yourself to the Church of God.
I came to a decision that evening and determined no longer to procrastinate, but openly came forward and confess Christ.
I will now proceed to answer the questions you proposeth to me.
First I hope I am a Child of God because I feel more dependance for Acceptance with God, through faith in Christ’s righteousness. Once I trusted more to my own works for Salvation. I once preferred the society of worldly companions and would shun if I could the company of a Christian. The Sabbath was enjoyed by me more as a day of recreation, not as a day of devotion and communion with God. The Sanctuary I attended, not because I was desirous of getting good to my soul, but because I thought it was a duty. Now blessed be God I can truly say I love all those who love the Lord Jesus. The Sabbath I anticipate with the greatest pleasure. The Sanctuary is to me a rich feast. The Bible I was once so careless about is now become the precious Treasure.
My mind was deeply impressed by a Funeral Sermon you preached from those words
“How wilt thou do in the swelling of Jordan’s”. It seemed to arouse me to a sense of my Spiritual Hunger. Although I do not now remember much of it, yet the effect it produced in my mind has never been erased and since then the Spirit of God has (I trust) been thriving with me. I have had impressions and formed resolutions before I came to Leamington, but they alas! Like the morning Cloud and early dew soon passed away.
I believe the way if Salvation to be, through faith in Jesus Christ alone “And not by works of righteousness which we have done but according to his mercy he saved us by the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Ghost”. Being justified freely by his grave through the Redemption that is in Christ Jesus.
I wish to join the Church because I feel it my duty to do so, that I may confess Christ before men. Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men him will I confess before my father who is in heaven.
And to shew submission to him as the head.
“He is the head of the body the Church who is the beginning the first born from the dead that in all things he might have the prominence (sic)”.
And so manifest a separation from the world. Ye are the temple of the living God. Wherefore come but from among them and be ye separate saith the Lord.
THE FIRST SUNDAY SCHOOL & A BOYS’ DAY SCHOOL
A Sabbath School attracted a large number of children and in 1840 a Boy’s Day School was started in the basement. Many parents had requested a “cheap” day school for the children of their large families and as the Roman Catholics were making plans to start a free school in the town it was feared that many of the poor people would send their children there.
For much of the nineteenth century schooling for Leamington’s poor children was provided only by the local churches. A school for boys was opened in the basement of the Spencer Street chapel in 1840 within a few years of its opening. It was one of only a handful of Congregational schools in England. A new two-storey classroom block was built in 1866 to the north of the burial ground and girls and infants were then admitted for the first time. Having opened with 70 boys on the roll, forty years later the school had 240 boys, 100 girls and 50 infants on the roll and was the fourth largest school in the town by 1881. The day school closed in July 1884 when a School Board was set up in Leamington.
LAYING OF THE MEMORIAL STONE OF THE NEW LECTURE HALL
On July 23rd 1891 James R Fairfax, Esq. Laid the memorial stone of the New Lecture Hall, Schoolroom. He was presented with the inscribed silver trowel.
The inscription reads:
Presented to James R. Fairfax, Esq., on the occasion of his laying the Memorial Stone of New Lecture Hall Schoolroom
Spencer St. Congregational Church, Leamington Spa
July 23rd 1891
The church continued for another century and more and through the strong convictions and zealous faith of these nineteenth century inhabitants of Leamington for whom life for many was extremely hard. The Church welcomed both the rich aristocracy and the working classes and had a strong belief in the need to help the poor, to provide schooling for the children and to bring the Word of God to all.
Sunday Schools were popular from the mid-eighteenth century mainly because
no other education of any sort was available for most poor children.Local nonconformists recruiting pupils for their Sunday Schools were met with many requests by parents for ‘cheap’ day schools for their frequently large families. The Spencer Street Sunday Schools were reportedly the best patronised in Leamington. In 1886 they were said to be ‘crowded out’ with children and by 1890 there were 707 children on the books and 60 teachers.
Minister: Revd. Ken Colledge
THE FORMATION OF
RADFORD ROAD CHURCH
However, the aftermath of two World Wars and much change in social conditions of families, changed people’s attitudes to the church.
Sadly, many denominations experienced dwindling congregations and financial difficulties. There were many closures of buildings as it became impossible for small congregations to maintain and heat the edifices of a Victorian age.
After much prayer, thought and discussion our two churches decided to amalgamate. Both former names would be dropped and the new church, known as Radford Road Methodist/ United Reformed Church was born.
RADFORD ROAD DRAMA GROUP PRODUCTIONS
RADFORD ROAD OUTING TO WILLERSLEY CASTLE
THE BANNER GROUP
RETIREMENT OF THE CHURCH ORGANIST, NEIL ANNABEL
A BOOK FROM THE PAST
In November 2013 Mr John Bowdler contacted the Webmaster to say that he had recently acquired a second hand book called “Pictures in Colour of Warwickshire”.
Inside the front cover there is a frontispiece that has the following:
“LEAMINGTON P.S.A. BROTHERHOOD. Meeting at Spencer Street Chapel. 28th Half-yearly Book Distribution byMrs. T. H. Berridge,” then the signatures of Joseph Sellicks & Mr. E. Boff or Bott. Dec. 10 1911.
On the opposite page it has, “Present for Lilly, From Her Uncle Ted”.
The ‘Leamington PSA Brotherhood’ refers to the weekly men’s meeting which took place at Spencer Street Church (or Chapel as it was then known). The PSA means Pleasant Sunday Afternoon and the group met under the auspices of a National organisation known as the Brotherhood. The Spencer Street PSA had started on May 29th 1892 preceded by a fortnight of thrice daily prayer meetings. In the late 1890s and in the early years of the 20th century the PSA was a thriving and well-attended group with over 1000 members who met together for a short devotional service in which good music, both vocal and instrumental, played an important part. There was a similar group for women called the PTE Sisterhood (Pleasant Tuesday Evening).
Every six months books were awarded to members of the PSA who had each subscribed 1d per week. I presume the books were for good attendance. Many of the working class men who attended the meetings found jobs through the PSA as some of the leaders were tradesmen or business men.
Revd. Joseph Sellicks was the Minister of Spencer Street having moved from Newton Abbott in 1890. He retired in February 1906 though was obviously still involved with the PSA as his name appears in your book in 1911.
If anyone is able to throw any light on who ‘Uncle Ted’ or ‘Liiy’ were, we would be delighted to hear from you. Please contact the Webmaster.
We are grateful to John Bowdler for bringing this book to our attention.