A History of the County of Stafford: Volume 17, Offlow Hundred (Part). Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1976.
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An unsectarian mission hall in Rolfe Street was registered in 1906. It was apparently the forerunner of the Rolfe Street Pentecostal Mission in existence by 1918 and known as Rolfe Street Apostolic Church by 1929. It was replaced by the Apostolic Church in Queen Street, registered in 1935. In 1972, after the demolition of the church during the redevelopment of the area, a new church was opened on the corner of Broomfield and Holly Street. (fn. 1)
Assemblies of God.
The New Covenant Pentecostal Church in Pargeter Road, Bearwood, was registered by the Assemblies of God in 1955. (fn. 2)
The Baptist cause in Smethwick was founded in 1839 when the minister from Bethel chapel in West Bromwich started regular preaching in a private house in Oldbury Road. Numbers grew, and the house of Joseph Vernon, the postmaster, was used instead. In 1842 a chapel with accommodation for some 200 was opened in Cross Street, although there was no resident minister until 1851; the first baptism there was performed by Arthur O'Neill, the Christian Chartist. In 1847 the church became independent of West Bromwich and in 1848 joined the Midland Baptist Association. There being no resident minister, numbers declined. Average attendance at services in 1850-1 was 50 in the afternoon and 40 in the evening; there was also a Sunday school. The chapel was given up in 1853 and sold to the Temperance Society, which rebuilt it in 1876. (fn. 3)
In 1866 an evangelist was sent to Smethwick by the Midland Baptist Association. At first he preached out of doors. Services were next held in the messroom at the Patent Nut and Bolt Co.'s works, and later a shed was taken in Union Street where both services and a Sunday school were held. A chapel was built in Cross Street in 1869. Numbers increased, and a new chapel was built in Regent Street in 1877-9; it is a building of brick and stone in a baroque style. The adjoining Sunday school was built in 1908-9. At the beginning of 1969 the church's adult membership was 110, and there were 220 children and young people. In the later 1880s the Cross Street chapel had passed to the Salvation Army and in 1970 formed part of the works of James C. Nicklin Ltd. (fn. 4)
Services were held at the board school in Bearwood Road from 1898 by the minister at the Regent Street chapel. A branch church was formed in 1899. A school-chapel designed by George Bowden & Son was opened in Rawlings Road in 1903, and Bearwood became a separate church in 1915. A new church, designed by E. S. Mitton, was built in Bearwood Road adjoining the first church in 1921 and was itself replaced by another church on the same site in 1965. The 1903 building still stands. At the beginning of 1969 the adult membership was 118, and there were 134 children and young people. (fn. 5)
In 1882 a few people who had left the Regent Street church formed a church of Baptist Brethren. They leased the Temperance Hall in Cross Street and bought it in 1897. By the early 20th century a Baptist Gospel Temperance Mission was being carried on there. The cause joined the West Midland Baptist Association in 1920, and the chapel continued as the Central Baptist Mission until it was closed in the late 1960s. (fn. 6) It was demolished in the winter of 1970-1.
The institute in Mornington Road was registered for Baptists in 1910. (fn. 7) Nothing further is known about its use as a Baptist centre.
A meeting-room was built at Bearwood in 1880, the first place of worship in that district. It was registered in 1881 simply for Christians but may have been the predecessor of the present Gospel Hall in Bearwood Road opened for the Brethren in 1896. Designed by G. F. Hawkes, the new meeting-room was built at the expense of Swaine Bourne. On his death in 1923 it passed to trustees under the terms of his will, with the stipulation that if it ceased to be used by the Open Brethren it should be conveyed to the Salvation Army. (fn. 8)
A meeting-room on the corner of Hume Street and Cape Hill was registered for 'believers' in 1900. It was replaced by the Gospel Hall in Hume Street, a brick building in an Early English style, dated 1901; there is a Sunday-school building attached. The new hall too was registered for 'believers', though not until 1916. By the later 1960s it was occupied by the Christian Brethren under the title of the Cape Hill Assembly. (fn. 9)
The Sandwell Gospel Hall above the canal off Brasshouse Lane was registered for the Plymouth Brethren in 1930. It was closed in 1969. (fn. 10)
The meeting-room in the former St. Hilda's Church in Rathbone Road was registered for the Plymouth Brethren in 1962. (fn. 11)
Catholic Apostolic Church.
The Catholic Apostolic Church had a meeting in Bridge Street in 1869, but it had ceased by 1896. (fn. 12)
There was a Christadelphian meeting-room in Waterloo Road for some years from 1937. Another was opened in Hurst Road about the same time, and Warley Christadelphian Ecclesia was meeting in the community centre there in 1971. (fn. 13)
Congregationalists (Independents), later United Reformed Church.
In 1810 a preachingstation and a Sunday school were started in a room on the Birmingham road in the Cape Hill area by members of the Carrs Lane Congregational church in Birmingham. In 1813 the congregation moved to the house of William Newland at Bearwood Hill at the junction of what are now Bearwood Road and High Street. A chapel, used also as a Sunday school, was built on the corner of Crockett's Lane in 1823-4 and registered as an Independent place of worship; it was later enlarged and a gallery added. For many years there was no resident minister, and the congregation regarded Carrs Lane as their church, going there to receive the sacrament. In 1837 a church was formed in Smethwick and a resident minister appointed. Average attendance at the chapel in 1850-1 was given as 140 morning and evening with 140 Sunday-school children in the morning. (fn. 14) A new chapel was built in High Street in 1853-4, a building of blue brick and stucco with a pedimented classical façade; it was opened in 1855. (fn. 15) The old chapel was used as a Sunday school until a school was built behind the new chapel in 1871. (fn. 16) The High Street church was closed in 1961 since the congregation could no longer afford to maintain the building or support a minister. It was then sold and converted into a Sikh temple. (fn. 17)
Cottage services were held in Victoria Street West in West Smethwick by members of the Smethwick and Oldbury churches, apparently by the 1860s. A church was formed in 1870 and placed in the care of those two churches. A school-chapel was built in Oldbury Road in 1872-3, and in 1877 average attendance on Sunday evenings was 100, with an average of 176 at the Sunday school. The mission had no resident minister until 1885. By 1896 Smethwick alone was responsible for the chapel, and by the later 1960s it was in the care of the church at Sedgley. (fn. 18) It was demolished in 1970 in the course of the redevelopment of the area, and a new church was opened in Mallin Street in 1971. (fn. 19)
In 1859 the Revd. Robert Ann of Graham Street chapel in Birmingham started meetings in Slough Lane and open-air services at Merry Hill. A mission hall was built in Slough Lane in 1870. It was bought by the Harborne school board for a school in 1875 but was used as a chapel as well until the building of Winson Green Road chapel in Birmingham in 1882. (fn. 20)
Elim Foursquare Gospel Alliance.
Elim Tabernacle on the corner of Oldbury Road and West Street was registered in 1930. It was replaced by Elim Pentecostal Church in Woodlands Drive in 1967. (fn. 21)
Mormons were meeting in Cross Street in 1857. (fn. 22)
By 1821 there was a Wesleyan chapel at the French Walls; meetings had been held earlier at the house of a Mr. Grant' in Harding Street. (fn. 23) A chapel was built near by in Rabone Lane close to the corner of Bridge Street in 1826. It had sittings for over 500 people in 1851, and attendances on Census Sunday were estimated as 245 in the morning, 211 in the afternoon, and 317 in the evening, numbers which were said to be lower than usual because it was Mothering Sunday. (fn. 24) The chapel was replaced by one in New Street built in 1855-6 with sittings for 829 people; a building of brick in a classical style, it was designed by G. B. Nichols of West Bromwich. (fn. 25) In 1880 there was a church membership of 168. (fn. 26) By 1921 the fabric was being weakened as a result of vibration caused by the hammers of Harper, Sons & Bean's stamping works in Rolfe Street. Also most of the congregation then lived at some distance from New Street. It was therefore decided to rebuild on a site which would serve one of the new centres of population, and Broomfield House and adjoining land in the Uplands area were bought. The Akrill Memorial Church was built there in 1928-31, mainly with money left by Elizabeth Akrill of Edgbaston (in Birmingham), by will proved in 1913. The church, designed in a Gothic style by Alfred Long, (fn. 27) is a brick building with a tower. The Akrill Memorial Sunday School and Institute in Queen Street was opened in 1931 and used as a Sunday school until the opening of the Sunday school adjoining the Akrill Church in 1932. (fn. 28) The New Street chapel was closed in 1931; the building then became a sweet factory (fn. 29) and by 1970 was part of the works of Smethwick Drop Forgings Ltd.
Several new centres were opened from the mid 19th century. A meeting was apparently started at the soap works at Merry Hill in the north-east of the town in 1849, and by the late 1850s there was a prayer-meeting in a room near the London Works on the opposite side of the canal. (fn. 30) A school-chapel was built in Upper Grove Street in 1864 and replaced by a new chapel built in front of it in 1875. There was a membership of 47 in 1880. After the closing of Baldwin Street church (formerly New Connexion Methodist) in 1957 its congregation united with that of the Grove. The church in Upper Grove Street was replaced by St. John's Methodist Church in Price Street, a brick building in a modern style opened in 1963. (fn. 31) Halford Lane chapel in Brasshouse Lane existed by 1866, and there was a membership of 49 in 1880. A new chapel was built on an adjoining site to the north in 1882; the old chapel apparently survived as the school. The building was closed in 1970 and demolished in 1971. (fn. 32) There was a centre in Bearwood Road (then Bearwood Lane) by 1876, but it disappears from the circuit plan in 1878. (fn. 33) A mission centre in Bearwood Road is recorded from 1884 until 1904. (fn. 34) A mission centre was started in a cottage in Slough Lane (later Wellington Street) in 1878. When this became too small for the growing numbers a bakehouse in Slough Lane was used instead. A mission chapel was built on the site of the bakehouse in 1889 and continued in use until 1939. (fn. 35) A mission was begun in the schoolroom at Shireland Hall in 1878 and had a membership of 14 in 1880. (fn. 36) The centre was replaced by a school-chapel in Waterloo Road built in 1886 to the designs of Edward Pincher of West Bromwich. This was itself replaced in 1896 by the chapel on an adjoining site at the corner of Waterloo and Sycamore Roads. Designed by Ewen Harper in a Gothic style, it is of brick with stone dressings and has a tower and spire by the main entrance. The adjoining Sunday school was rebuilt in 1907. (fn. 37)
At the end of 1862 there was a plan for opening a centre at West Smethwick if a suitable place could be found, but the scheme was dropped in 1864. (fn. 38) A mission was started in 1902 at a shop in St. Paul's Road. A site was bought on the corner of St. Paul's Road and Holly Lane, and in 1904 an iron chapel was erected there. A schoolroom was bought from Messrs. Cadbury in 1910. In 1927 the society amalgamated with the society from Spon Lane, and the following year a church was built on the Smethwick site. Designed by Webb & Gray, it is a brick building in a Romanesque style. The Avery organ from Spon Lane, dating from 1799, was installed in the new church. (fn. 39) The iron building was then used as the Sunday school until 1943 when it was demolished. (fn. 40) There was also a Methodist church (formerly Primitive Methodist) in Corser Street near Smethwick West station until the mid 1950s. (fn. 41)
A church was built in Abbey Road for the growing Warley Woods area in 1928. It is a brick building in a Gothic style with a tower and was designed by Moss (probably A. W. Moss) of Crouch, Butler & Savage of Birmingham. A new Sunday school replacing an earlier school was opened to the west in 1938. (fn. 42)
In 1970 there were six Methodist churches in the area of the former borough. Five were in Birmingham (Smethwick) circuit (formed out of West Bromwich circuit in 1876): St. John's, Price Street (65 members), Waterloo Road (107 members), West Smethwick (122 members), Akrill Memorial (173 members), and the former Primitive Methodist church in Regent Street (52 members). (fn. 43) The sixth, Warley Woods, was in Islington-Quinton circuit.
After meeting in a house in Brasshouse Lane and later at the Temperance Hall in Cross Street, members of the Methodist New Connexion built Mount Zion chapel in Baldwin Street, which was registered in 1865. In 1885 a new chapel was built in front of the old, designed in a debased Italian Gothic style by J. H. Burton of Ashtonunder-Lyne (Lancs.); the first building then became the Sunday school. The church was United Methodist from 1907 and Methodist from 1932. The school building again became the church in 1952. It was closed in 1957 and the congregation moved to Upper Grove Street. By 1962 the site was occupied by James Watt House, a multi-storey block of flats. (fn. 44)
The Primitive Methodists, after meet ing in a house in Bridge Street, built a chapel in Rolfe Street on the site of the later railway station; the materials were rough stone and cinders and it was known as the Cinder Chapel. (fn. 45) A new chapel with sittings for 100 people was built on the opposite side of the road in 1849. On Census Sunday 1851 it had attendances of 20 in the morning, 30 in the afternoon, and 50 in the evening; there was also a Sunday school. (fn. 46) Numbers increased and a gallery was erected; but the chapel proved too small for special occasions, and for those the railway goods shed was used. A large chapel with galleries all round was built on an adjoining site in 1873, and the 1849 building became the Sunday school. (fn. 47) By 1886 there were plans for widening Rolfe Street, and the chapel was sold. A chapel was opened in Regent Street in 1887; it is a building of brick, stone, and stucco in a debased Italian Romanesque style. (fn. 48) It had a membership of 52 in 1970. (fn. 49)
A chapel was built in Corser Street, West Smethwick, in 1878; it was a Methodist church from 1932 until c. 1955. It was then used as a factory and demolished in 1965. (fn. 50) A mission centre was opened in Pope Street from the Rolfe Street chapel in 1885 or 1886. It was replaced by a chapel built in Middlemore Road in 1901, which was closed in 1965. (fn. 51) In 1971 it was being used by City Electrical Factors (Midlands) Ltd.
Rolfe Street chapel became the head of the Birmingham Third Circuit when it was formed in 1881 out of Birmingham First Circuit. At the Methodist union of 1932 the name was changed to Smethwick Regent Street circuit. It was united with Smethwick Broomfield circuit to form Birmingham (Smethwick) circuit in 1954. (fn. 52)
Wesleyan Reform Association.
From about the end of 1854 a class meeting was held at the house of its leader, Charles Richardson. In 1857 the group united with the New Street Wesleyans. (fn. 53)
By 1851 a group belonging to the Presbyterian Church in England was worshipping on Thursday evenings at the Cape Hill school, built in 1846 by John Henderson of Fox, Henderson & Co. (fn. 54) The estimated attendance on 27 March 1851 was 27. Smethwick was recognized as a preachingstation in 1853. The school was apparently rebuilt by Henderson in 1854, and Sunday services began. The group was recognized as a regular congregation in 1855, and in 1856 a resident minister was appointed. Fox, Henderson & Co. failed in 1856, and most of its workers left the area. The congregation dwindled, and by 1866 the remaining few had had to leave the Cape Hill premises. They built a hall in Helena Street off Windmill Lane; they also left the Presbyterian Church in England and joined the English Congregations of the United Presbyterian Church of Scotland. A church was opened on the corner of Helena Street and Windmill Lane in 1875, a building in a plain Byzantine style; the hall became the Sunday school. When the English Congregations and the Presbyterian Church in England united to form the Presbyterian Church of England in 1876, the Smethwick congregation became a member of the new body. The church in Windmill Lane was closed c. 1965 and subsequently demolished.
Protestant Evangelical Church.
The Protestant Evangelical Church was meeting at the Hope Mission Hall in Bridge Street in 1912. (fn. 55)
Providence Young Men's Bible Class.
The Providence Young Men's Bible Class was founded in 1878, and by 1903 it met in the dining-hall at the Cornwall Works of Tangyes Ltd. In 1904 it opened a hall in Mafeking Road, where in 1971 Providence Mission was holding services. (fn. 56)
The Salvation Army 'opened fire' in Smethwick in 1881, meeting at first in the wooden theatre building in Grove Lane. In the later 1880s the former Baptist chapel of 1869 in Cross Street had become the Salvation Army barracks. It was replaced by a hall in Windmill Lane, registered in 1908; the registration was cancelled in 1918. (fn. 57)
The Separatists met first at the house of R. L. Chance and later at the glass-works of Chance Brothers & Co. in Spon Lane. About 1862 Chance built a meeting-house on the corner of Oldbury Road and Bridge Street West (later West Street). After his death in 1865 his son, also R. L. Chance, continued to maintain the meeting-house. He died in 1897, and in 1898 the building was bought from his trustees and opened as an Anglican mission church. (fn. 58)
The Smethwick Spiritualists' Society met in a house in Hume Street from 1889. The accommodation became too small for the growing numbers, and from 1894 meetings were held at the Central Hall on the corner of Cape Hill and Shireland Road. In 1930 a church was opened in Church Lane near the Council House (apparently the northern part of the present Arden Road), and in 1936 it was registered as the Smethwick National Spiritualist Church. The group moved to Crockett's Lane, apparently in 1937, and in 1938 to Thimblemill Road, where, on the corner of Katherine Road, the Smethwick National Spiritualist Church and Healing Sanctuary stood in 1971. (fn. 59) The Christian Spiritualists registered the Sanctuary of Light and Healing Centre in Wellington Road in 1951; the registration was cancelled in 1956. (fn. 60)
Swedenborgians (New Church).
The Swedenborgians were meeting at a house in Bampton Road by 1896. By 1903 they had a meeting-room in Windmill Lane, where they continued until c. 1910. (fn. 61)
There was an undesignated religious group meeting at the Old Library (formerly the Stour Valley inn) in 1874; it had ceased to meet there by 1896. (fn. 62)
The Wattville Road undenominational chapel in Handsworth was running a mission centre in Mornington Road in 1892. It also ran the Young Men's Institute in Mornington Road, opened in a former coffee-house in 1900 by D. P. Wright and closed in 1969, and a mission in the former Rabone Lane Wesleyan chapel in the early 20th century. (fn. 63)
There was an undenominational mission room in Slough Lane (now Wellington Street) which was later used as a factory and c. 1894 became an Anglican mission room. (fn. 64)