A History of the County of Stafford: Volume 17, Offlow Hundred (Part). Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1976.
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Asseblies of God. Bethel temple in Gads Lane dates from 1930. (fn. 1) Bethel church in Marsh Lane, Stone Cross, existed by the late 1960s. (fn. 2) By then there was also a Pentecostal church in Tanhouse Lane, Hamstead. (fn. 3)
The Baptist cause in West Bromwich was founded in 1796 to counter the Antinomians. (fn. 4) Providence chapel in Sandwell Road (also known as the Old Baptist Meeting) was opened in 1810. (fn. 5) By 1817 it was affiliated to the Midland Association of Baptist Churches, and had a membership of 43. The burial ground attached to it was presented by George Cutler, and the mortgage on the chapel was paid off by Mrs. Benjamin Cutler. There was already a Sunday school before the building of the chapel. The congregation at first belonged to the Particular Baptist Church, 'but it gradually sank into hyper-Calvinism and varied its course only to reach occasionally the lower and darker depth of Antinomianism'. On Census Sunday 1851 75 people attended the chapel in the morning and 150 in the evening. (fn. 6)
Meanwhile 'a few who mourned over the scene of disorder and decay', including the minister, seceded c. 1834. At first services were held in a private house, but in 1835 Bethel chapel was built at the west end of Danks Hill (the later Dartmouth Street). The members of the church numbered 25 at that time and 76 by 1843. A Sunday school was built behind the chapel for the growing number of children in 1855; it was also used as a day school. On Census Sunday 1851 the attendance at the chapel was 106 in the morning, 120 in the afternoon, and 146 in the evening. (fn. 7) William Stokes, minister from 1838 to 1843, supplemented his stipend with the income from his school in New Street.
The congregations of Bethel and Providence had united by 1853, (fn. 8) and in that year Providence chapel ceased to be used by the Baptists. (fn. 9) Despite the amalgamation membership was down to some 56 about 1855. Bethel continued in use until 1884, but by then it was suffering badly from mining subsidence and was closed. The congregation worshipped in the school for a short time and then met at Prince's Assembly Rooms on the corner of High Street and Lombard Street until a new Sunday school was opened for worship in 1886. A church was built in High Street in 1886-7. Designed by Ingall & Sons of Birmingham in a mixed Gothic style, it was of brick with Bath stone dressings. There was a tower, but the top was removed in 1967 because the stonework was in a dangerous state. The church was closed in 1971 and demolished in 1972; a new church in a modern style was opened in Tantany Lane in 1974, the congregation having in the meantime used the Unitarian church in Lodge Road. (fn. 10) The adult membership of the church at the beginning of 1969 was 98 and there were 88 children and young people. (fn. 11)
A chapel was built at Dunkirk in 1849. It still existed in 1851: on Census Sunday 30 people attended in the morning and 30 in the afternoon. (fn. 12)
In 1913 the High Street church took over a mission at the Lodge Estate school in Oak Lane. The mission had been started some years earlier in a house in Oak Road opposite the Oak House and was already in decline in 1913. It did not long survive the departure of many young men after the outbreak of the First World War.
Bible Pattern Church.
The Bible Pattern Church registered a room in High Street in 1960. (fn. 13) By 1971 it was meeting in a room in Bull Street.
The present Bethesda chapel in Witton Lane, Hill Top, belonging to the Brethren, originated in the work of Joseph Hewitt. (fn. 14) He was a shoemaker who came to Hill Top from Wednesbury in 1891. At first the mission consisted of cottage meetings and tent services, but in 1893 an iron mission room was opened at Holloway Bank. It was extended in 1922 and named Bethesda chapel. The present chapel in Witton Lane was opened in 1961.
In the late 1960s the Christian Brethren also opened Hargate chapel in Hargate Lane. (fn. 15)
Catholic Apostolic Church.
The Catholic Apostolic Church built a church in Victoria Street in 1869-70. It was taken over by the Elim Foursquare Gospel Alliance in 1945. (fn. 16)
A Christadelphian group was formed at Greets Green in 1889. It moved into its first permanent hall in 1937 in Beeches Road. The building was compulsorily purchased by the corporation in 1968 as the site was needed for the northern loop road, and a new hall was opened in Seagar Street in 1969. (fn. 17)
The Christian Scientists were meeting in Bull Street in the later 1920s but had moved to Barrows Street by 1932. (fn. 18) The church there was demolished in 1970 because the roof had become dangerous. A new church was opened in Walsall Street later the same year. (fn. 19)
Elim Foursquare Gospel Alliance.
The Elim Foursquare Gospel Alliance registered the People's Hall in High Street in 1936 and Ruskin Hall in Lombard Street instead in 1937; the People's Hall was registered again in 1939. (fn. 20) In 1945 the Alliance took over the former Catholic Apostolic Church in Victoria Street. (fn. 21) The church was extensively remodelled in 1971-2. (fn. 22)
Two Quakers, John Edwards the elder and the younger, were reported in 1665. (fn. 23) In 1773 the minister at All Saints' stated that there were three Quakers in the parish. (fn. 24) There is, however, no record of any Quaker meeting-house.
Gospel Blue Ribbon Mission.
In 1882 the Gospel Temperance Movement, also known as the Blue Ribbon Army, held a four-week mission in West Bromwich. The mission was followed by organized temperance work, and meetings were held in a house in Pitt Street and later in a building on the site formerly occupied by Hudson's soapworks, probably in High Street. (fn. 25) A corrugated-iron mission hall, capable of holding 800, was built in Pitt Street in 1892-3. The trustees included Charles Akrill, mayor in 1892-3 and 1896-7, and J. H. Blades, the borough's first M.P. (1885-6). (fn. 26) In 1968 there was an average Sunday congregation of 35. (fn. 27) The hall was demolished in 1969 after compulsory purchase by the corporation. The mission moved in 1969 to Grant Hall at the corner of Taylor's Lane and St. Clement's Lane as a temporary measure, and in 1972 the hall became its permanent centre. (fn. 28)
A Kingdom Hall in High Street was registered in 1941. (fn. 29) By 1971 the Witnesses were meeting in the former adult-school building in Fisher Street. (fn. 30) A Kingdom Hall was opened in Jervoise Street in 1973. (fn. 31)
The Labour Church.
There seems to have been a Labour Church in the town in the mid 1890s, (fn. 32) but the West Bromwich Labour Church held what was described as its inaugural service in 1899 in Grove's Assembly Room. There was a congregation of some 40, and the chairman was Henry Brockhouse, of John Brockhouse & Co. Ltd. (fn. 33) In 1901 the church opened its own premises, the People's Hall, a corrugated-iron building in High Street between Shaftesbury Street and Temple Street decorated to the design of Walter Crane. (fn. 34) A Sunday school was formed. (fn. 35) The church still existed in 1921 when a service there in memory of Henry Brockhouse was 'largely attended'. (fn. 36) It probably continued into the 1930s, but by 1936 the People's Hall was being used by the Elim Foursquare Gospel Alliance. (fn. 37)
A Mormon chapel was built in Temple Street in 1850. By 1851 it had an average Sunday attendance of 150 in the afternoon and 150 in the evening. (fn. 38) It still existed in 1854 but was no longer used in 1876. (fn. 39)
Charles Wesley preached at Holloway Bank in 1742 and made several converts. At his request his brother John preached there in January 1743, and the first Staffordshire society was then formed at Crabb's Mill Farm, the home of John Sheldon on Holloway Bank. In 1744 the society divided, the Wednesbury members moving to High Bullen and the West Bromwich members meeting in a cottage near Coles Lane. (fn. 40) Also in 1743 another group influenced by the Wesleys' preaching began to meet one evening a week in a house in the Mayer's Green area. At the end of the year George Whitefield 'broke up some fallow ground' at Mayer's Green. The groups at Holloway Bank and Mayer's Green suffered during the anti-Methodist riots in the district in 1743 and 1744. (fn. 41) Among those inciting hostility towards the Methodists was Richard Witton, the Presbyterian minister. (fn. 42) On the other hand the earl of Dartmouth (d. 1801), the patron of All Saints', was friendly towards Methodists, and there is evidence that Edward Stillingfleet, the Evangelical minister of All Saints' 1757-82, was also sympathetic. (fn. 43)
Meetings continued in private houses, including the house of James Wheatley opposite Dagger Hall. (fn. 44) In 1751 Wheatley was expelled from the connexion by Wesley and was the first preacher to come under his ban. He began to build a meetingroom on the Heath on a site in what is now Paradise Street, (fn. 45) but he did not finish it. In 1764 it was bought by two members of a religious brotherhood of five young men. The brotherhood, formed c. 1760, was the origin of the West Bromwich Heath Society Class. At first the members had attended the Wednesbury meeting and also West Bromwich church. They now finished Wheatley's building and opened it as a Methodist preaching-room, though continuing to attend the parish church. One member of the group was Francis Asbury, who was to be a founder of the Methodist Episcopal Church of America; (fn. 46) in 1763 at the age of 18 he had been made leader of the West Bromwich Heath Society Class. Other members were James Bayley, Lord Dartmouth's park-keeper at Sandwell for 47 years, and Thomas Ault, who like Asbury came from Great Barr. Ault was leader from 1779 for over twenty years but left the society when the members stopped attending the parish church; he was the clerk at All Saints' from 1799 to 1825. (fn. 47)
The minister at All Saints' reported fewer than 20 Methodists in the parish in 1773, and the West Bromwich society remained small until the beginning of the 19th century. (fn. 48) Yet John Wesley attracted large numbers when he visited West Bromwich. On at least three of the four occasions that he preached there the crowds were far too large to fit into the meeting-room; on all four occasions in fact he preached in the open air—once, possibly twice, in the courtyard of the Oak House. (fn. 49) The small size of the society was probably due to the fact that Wednesbury was at first the main Methodist centre in the district. (fn. 50) Wesley visited Wednesbury over thirty times. (fn. 51) It was also the Wednesbury meeting that Lord Dartmouth attended on occasion. (fn. 52)
By the early 19th century, however, the West Bromwich congregation was growing. (fn. 53) In 1803 a Sunday school was opened at the preaching-room, and in 1806 a new chapel was built in Paradise Street. In 1811 West Bromwich became the head of a circuit. The size of the society fluctuated over the next twenty years, but in 1813 a new school was built and in 1821 the chapel was extended. By 1832 numbers had reached nearly 300 and the building was then enlarged again. Numbers continued to increase, and in 1835 a new chapel (Wesley) was opened in High Street; the architect was Joseph Cutts of Birmingham. The old chapel was opened as a Sunday school in 1836, with a day school from 1838, and remained in use until the opening of the school in Bratt Street in 1858; in 1859 it became a public hall. Sunday attendance at the chapel in 1850-1 averaged 1,000 in the morning, 351 in the afternoon, and 1,300 in the evening. (fn. 54) Wesley chapel was refronted in 1905-6 with an elaborate façade of terracotta and red brick. (fn. 55) It was demolished in 1972, and a new church was opened on the same site in 1974. (fn. 56)
At Hill Top, as already seen, meetings were held from 1744 in a cottage near the top of Coles Lane. From the early 19th century they were being held at Martin's Farm on the corner of Coles Lane. From 1820 a barn at Harvills Hawthorn was used which had been taken over from the Old Meeting; in 1821 the society numbered 22. A chapel was built at Harvills Hawthorn in 1830, and the barn was used as a Sunday school until 1834 when a new school was opened on the opposite side of the road. A new chapel was built at Harvills Hawthorn in 1850 and the old building was turned into a house for the minister. By c. 1940 numbers had declined and services were held in the Sunday school; the chapel had become a warehouse. The present church in New Street, Hill Top, was opened in 1955. A number of Warrenite seceders from the society opened a chapel on the main road in 1835, but it was closed in 1844. (fn. 57)
Another early chapel was the 'obscure apartment', formerly a baker's shop, near the end of Hargate Lane at Lyndon which was in use for meetings from the end of the 18th century; it became an official Wesleyan chapel in 1829. It was replaced in 1834 by a new chapel off Lyndon Street, which was in turn replaced by the present church in Hallam Street dated 1883. (fn. 58) A meeting was started at Ireland Green 'under Thomas Simcox's tree' in 1803 by a group of six men from Wednesbury. (fn. 59) There was a meeting at Greets Green by 1821, and a chapel was built on the corner of Ryders Green Road and Greets Green Road in 1835. (fn. 60) It was replaced by the present church on the same site in 1873. (fn. 61) The Sunday-school building to the east in Greets Green Road is dated 1856. A chapel was built in Victoria Street, Swan Village, in 1831 and was replaced in 1865 by the present chapel in Dudley Street. The new chapel was designed in a Romanesque style by Loxton Brothers of Wednesbury and by 1972 had been reduced in height and reroofed. (fn. 62) By the 1830s there was a preachingplace 'at the wharf bottom of Spon Lane'. This was the origin of the chapel in Spon Lane built in 1841; by the mid 1850s there was a separate Sundayschool building to the west. The chapel was rebuilt in 1877-8 and closed in 1927 when the congregation transferred to the church at West Smethwick. (fn. 63) In 1970 the building was being used by the metal pressings branch of John Smith Ltd. The chapels at Lyndon, Hill Top, Swan Village, Greets Green, and Spon Lane made returns at the religious census of 1851 which show that their total attendances on Sundays averaged 1,150. (fn. 64)
By 1847 the Wesleyans were organizing open-air preaching during the summer at four places in West Bromwich. (fn. 65) Between 1861 and 1890 John Skidmore, a Wesleyan lay preacher and missioner to the canal boatmen, held open-air services on Sundays from May to August at Middle Lock between Spon Lane and Bromford Lane. (fn. 66) In the early 1840s Wesleyan influence was felt in the collieries. According to a local Wesleyan minister butties belonging to the connexion were free from the dishonesty for which other butties were notorious. At one colliery, through the influence of a Wesleyan ground bailiff, prayers and scripture readings were held during the dinner hour, and there were rules against drinking and swearing. A Wesleyan miner, however, stated that 'pits that have praying companies in them are as few as parish churches'. (fn. 67)
By the end of the century West Bromwich had ten Wesleyan chapels in three circuits. (fn. 68) West Bromwich Wesley circuit (so named from 1883) (fn. 69) consisted of seven chapels. High Street, Greets Green, and Hallam Street have been described above. Beeches Road chapel, built in 1871-2 to the design of Edward Pincher of West Bromwich, replaced the Park Village Sunday school and chapel opened about the end of 1855. (fn. 70) At Carter's Green a schoolchapel was opened in 1863 and was replaced by a chapel designed by Loxton Brothers in a Gothic style and built on the site of the Junction inn in 1875-6; it had been closed by 1949, and after being used for some years as a warehouse it was demolished in 1970. (fn. 71) At the Lyng a centre was opened in 1872 and a chapel was built in Lyng Lane in 1881; the church was closed in 1965. (fn. 72) At Overend a centre had been opened by January 1871; a school-chapel there was registered in 1877 and was replaced in 1878 by a mission church in Overend Street which seems to have continued until the early 1960s and was occupied by the Spring Dart Co. Ltd. in 1971. (fn. 73) The West Bromwich chapels in Hill Top circuit (formed in 1862 as Wednesbury Wesley circuit and renamed in 1883) (fn. 74) were Hill Top and Swan Village. Smethwick circuit (formed out of West Bromwich circuit in 1876) (fn. 75) included the chapel in Spon Lane. In 1963 Hill Top circuit was abolished, and its two churches in West Bromwich, those at Hill Top and Swan Village, were added to West Bromwich Wesley circuit. (fn. 76)
In 1969 there were thirteen Methodist churches in the area of the pre-1966 borough. Twelve were in West Bromwich Wesley circuit: (fn. 77) Wesley (High Street), Greets Green, Swan Village, Beeches Road, Hallam Street, Charlemont, where a wooden church was erected in 1926 and the present church in Charlemont Road, designed by C. E. M. Fillmore, was opened in 1930, (fn. 78) Hill Top, Moorlands in Hall Green Road (1959), replacing the Hall Green Mission, formerly Primitive Methodist, (fn. 79) Yew Tree, where services were held in Fir Tree school from c. 1957 and the present church on the corner of Greenside Way and Redwood Road, designed by A. J. Jesson, was built in 1967, (fn. 80) and the former Primitive Methodist churches at the Lyng, in Great Bridge Street, and at Hall End. The thirteenth church was the Woods Estate Methodist Church in Coronation Road in Wednesbury circuit; it was opened in 1966. (fn. 81)
The cottage at Newton where Francis Asbury grew up was used for services in the later 18th century, but it is not known whether they continued after his mother's death in 1802. A small Methodist chapel was built on the corner of Newton and Hamstead Roads in 1803 or 1804, but it was sold to the Congregationalists in 1823. (fn. 82) The Wesleyans, however, seem to have been using a chapel on the site between at least the later 1860s and 1885. (fn. 83)
The first Methodist New Connexion chapel in West Bromwich was built in 1826 in Victoria Street, Swan Village. On Census Sunday 1851 it had attendances of 80 in the afternoon and 140 in the evening. (fn. 84) It was replaced the same year by the new Zion chapel near by in Dudley Street, (fn. 85) which seems to have continued until c. 1870; it was demolished c. 1914. (fn. 86) A chapel was opened at Hill Top in 1836, (fn. 87) but nothing further is known about it. Another chapel was built in Wood Lane in 1841. Average attendance in 1850-1 was 55 in the afternoon and 120 in the evening. (fn. 88) It apparently ceased to be used in the early 1890s. (fn. 89)
In 1833 a Primitive Methodist chapel was opened in Sandwell Road near the junction with Stoney Lane. Another was built at Golds Green at the west end of Harvills Hawthorn in 1836, and by then there were also meetings in Victoria Street in Swan Village and in Rydding Square off Witton Lane. (fn. 90) In 1837 there was also a 'Christian Primitive Methodist meeting-house' between Newhall Street and Sams Lane. (fn. 91) A building in Queen Street, originally intended as a public hall, was completed as a Primitive Methodist chapel in 1847 largely with the help of the Spittle family, local coalmasters. (fn. 92) In 1849 the chapel became the head of West Bromwich circuit, created that year out of Darlaston circuit and covering mainly West Bromwich and Tipton. (fn. 93) There was a Primitive Methodist chapel in Union Street by 1851; it was evidently the former non-denominational meetinghouse erected by John Glover in 1833. (fn. 94)
By 1851 there were eight chapels or meetingplaces in West Bromwich. Three were identified as the chapels in Queen Street and Union Street and at Golds Green. On Census Sunday 1851 Queen Street had attendances of 100 in the morning, 363 in the afternoon, and 440 in the evening; Union Street had 32 in the morning, 40 in the afternoon, and 70 in the evening; Golds Green had 185 in the morning, 88 in the afternoon, and 360 in the evening. (fn. 95) Of the five unidentified places of worship four were presumably those in Sandwell Road (which apparently survived until the 1870s), (fn. 96) Swan Village, (fn. 97) Witton Lane, and Whitehall Road, Greets Green (dating from 1848). (fn. 98) The fifth was probably one of the two Primitive Methodist chapels opened in West Bromwich in 1851. One was in Guns Village and the other at the Lyng, in Sams Lane. (fn. 99) There were also preaching-rooms at Hall End and New Town by at least the end of 1852. (fn. 100) On Census Sunday 1851 four of the five unidentified places of worship had total attendances of some 235 in the afternoon and 370 in the evening. (fn. 101)
Seven of the chapels and meeting-places in existence in the early 1850s still existed in the mid 1890s: Queen Street (closed 1966), (fn. 102) Union Street (rebuilt 1852, bought with the adjoining school building by Archibald Kenrick & Sons Ltd. in 1964 and incorporated into the firm's works), (fn. 103) Golds Green (rebuilt 1912, closed 1969), (fn. 104) Witton Lane (rebuilt 1862, (fn. 105) closed by 1969), Greets Green (closed by 1958), (fn. 106) Guns Village (closed by 1969), and the Lyng. The chapel at the Lyng was rebuilt in Moor Street in 1900, and the old chapel in Sams Lane became the school. The new chapel was destroyed during an air raid in 1940, and the school was then used for services. The chapel was rebuilt in 1951. (fn. 107) Other places of worship in the mid 1890s included an 'iron room' in Hall Green Road built about 1876 by Annie Lloyd, (fn. 108) a chapel in Great Bridge Street opened in 1883 (fn. 109) and presumably replacing the Swan Village chapel, and a house in Cophall Street. (fn. 110)
All nine of the chapels, divided into two circuits, were still in use at the time of the union of the Primitive Methodists with the Wesleyans and United Methodists in 1932; (fn. 111) there was also a chapel in Vicarage Road, Hall End, from 1902. (fn. 112) In 1940 the Hall Green Road mission was joined by a society which had met in a scout hut at the junction of Hall Green Road and Crankhall Lane. The mission was replaced in 1959 by Moorlands Church in Hall Green Road, designed by A. J. Jesson. (fn. 113) In 1969 the four surviving chapels, those at the Lyng, in Hall Green Road, in Great Bridge Street, and at Hall End, were part of the West Bromwich Wesley circuit. (fn. 114)
Other Methodist Groups.
The Methodist Free Church was using St. George's Hall in Paradise Street in 1864 but had ceased to do so by 1876. (fn. 115) The Methodist Reform Union registered the Gospel Hall in Pitt Street in 1869 and was using the former Providence Baptist chapel in Sandwell Road by 1892, remaining there until the early 20th century. (fn. 116) The Wesleyan Reformers were meeting in Groves's Assembly Room in Paradise Street by 1871 but had ceased to do so by 1896. (fn. 117)
Presbyterians And Congregationalists (Independents), Later United Reformed Church. The Old Meeting, later Ebenezer Church.
When Richard Hilton was ejected from the curacy of West Bromwich in 1662 some of his parishioners also left the Established Church. Hilton, however, went to Prestwood in Kingswinford for a time as chaplain to Philip Foley, and it was Thomas Badland, the ejected curate of Willenhall, who was minister at West Bromwich until he moved to Worcester in 1663. (fn. 118) At that time the lord of the manor, John Shelton, was a Presbyterian. (fn. 119) In 1667 Richard Fisher and his son and Henry Free and his son, all of West Bromwich, were in trouble for attending a suspect sermon at Oldbury chapel. (fn. 120) The Fishers at least were probably Presbyterians, for in 1672 the house of a Richard Fisher at West Bromwich was licensed for Presbyterian worship. In the same year Thomas Creese and Richard Hilton, both described as Presbyterians, were licensed as 'teachers', the former in the house of John Lowe. (fn. 121) In 1693 Lowe's house at Lyndon and the houses of Thomas Jesson (probably Oakwood), William Turton of Hateley Heath, and Bayly Brett were licensed for nonconformist worship and were presumably Presbyterian centres. (fn. 122) Hilton, who lived at Walsall, was minister of the Presbyterian congregation in 1690 and may have so continued until his death in 1706. (fn. 123) In 1699 John Lowe of West Bromwich left 50s. a year for the maintenance of the two fortnightly sermons then preached in West Bromwich by dissenting ministers. (fn. 124) By then there was apparently a chapel at Finchpath: in 1696 a building there which had recently been repaired and which was called the new chapel was leased by the Jessons to Moses Bird. (fn. 125) In 1702 a weaver's child was baptized 'by a Presbyterian minister at St. Margaret's Chapel alias a barn' in West Bromwich. (fn. 126)
A newly built meeting-house was registered for dissenting worship early in 1710 by Josiah Turton of the Mill. (fn. 127) It stood near Five Ways, the area around the junction of Swan Lane and Black Lake where five roads meet, and was presumably on or close to the site of the later church in Old Meeting Street. The land seems to have been given by Elizabeth Jesson, and the cost of building was met by subscription. (fn. 128) The first trust deed was drawn up in 1714, and the trustees included members of the Lowe, Turton, Brett, and Nock families. (fn. 129) In July 1715 the Presbyterians of West Bromwich, like others in Staffordshire, suffered at the hands of the mob. Early in the month the house of John Mayo, one of the trustees of the meeting-house, was broken into and damaged. From the 13th the meeting-house was repeatedly attacked, and it was finally burnt down on the 18th. (fn. 130) The Presbyterians received compensation from the government, and the meeting-house was rebuilt the following year. (fn. 131) In 1816 it was largely rebuilt on a bigger scale, (fn. 132) and in 1839 there was another rebuilding on an adjoining site to the north. The name was then changed from Old Meeting to Ebenezer. (fn. 133)
In the early 18th century the West Bromwich congregation was served from Birmingham and Walsall and also by an itinerant minister. In 1722, however, Richard Witton came as resident minister. (fn. 134) The congregation consisted of 350 'hearers' in 1717. (fn. 135) In 1773 the minister at All Saints' reported between 200 and 300 Presbyterians in the parish, some of them 'persons of property'. (fn. 136) The congregation was little affected by heterodoxy; only one of the ministers, Benjamin Carpenter (1776-8), held Unitarian views. (fn. 137) A Sunday school, the first in West Bromwich, was opened in 1786 by the minister, George Osborne, who was a pioneer of the Sunday-school movement. The school was first held in a barn on the opposite side of Old Meeting Street to the chapel, but by 1838 the school building was on the corner of what is now Greswold Street. When the chapel was rebuilt in 1839, the former chapel was turned into premises for day and Sunday schools; it was rebuilt in 1906. (fn. 138)
By 1834 the Old Meeting had become Independent or Congregational. (fn. 139) Average Sunday attendance in 1850-1 was 450 in the morning and 400 in the evening. (fn. 140) It was at Ebenezer that John Blackham, a deacon of the church, started the first adult school outside Birmingham in 1870 and founded the Pleasant Sunday Afternoon movement in 1875. (fn. 141) The adult membership of the church at the beginning of 1969 was 68, and there were 106 children. (fn. 142) Ebenezer was closed in 1971 on the opening of the West Bromwich Congregational church and was later converted into a Hindu temple. (fn. 143)
Even in the 18th century the Old Meeting was not the only Presbyterian place of worship in West Bromwich. Of the five houses registered for nonconformist worship during the century three can be identified as Presbyterian, those of Anne Stampes (1720), of Richard Witton (1733), presumably the minister at the Old Meeting, and of Moses Lea (1763). (fn. 144) James Cooper, minister 1808-29, started services in a barn at Harvills Hawthorn; he met with little success, and in 1820 the barn was taken over by the Wesleyan Methodists. (fn. 145) The former Providence Baptist chapel in Sandwell Road was used as the Ebenezer Home Mission for a few years from c. 1869. (fn. 146)
The former Ebenezer church is of brick faced with stucco and was designed in a plain classical style by one Rogers, described in 1839 as late of Birmingham. (fn. 147) The Sunday school to the south was built in 1906 to the design of James Withers. (fn. 148) In the churchyard there are burials going back to the 18th century. Two silver cups were presented to the church by Elizabeth Brett in 1765 and two by William Whitehouse in 1841; (fn. 149) individual communion cups were introduced in 1906, (fn. 150) but the four silver cups were in the possession of West Bromwich Congregational Church in 1971.
Mayer's Green Church.
In 1785 or 1786 a few members of the Wednesbury Independent congregation withdrew after a dispute over the choosing of the minister. (fn. 151) Most of them lived in West Bromwich, and with a few friends they at first held prayer meetings on Sunday evenings in a private house in Spon Lane. (fn. 152) Later they rented a barn at Virgins End. The group was served until 1787 mainly from the King Street chapel in Birmingham, which belonged to the Countess of Huntingdon's Connexion. The first regular minister, Hugh Williams, who took charge after his ordination in 1787, had served the congregation earlier while he was still a student at Trevecca College. The countess herself wrote to 'my well beloved congregation of the West Bromwich Chapel' in 1790, and Williams's successor, appointed in 1799, was recommended by her chaplain. (fn. 153) The new minister left in 1800 after failing to secure an increase in his stipend. The congregation then formed themselves into a Congregational church.
In 1787 Williams began building a small chapel in Messenger Lane, which was opened in 1788. It was lengthened in 1790 and a gallery was erected. Money was scarce at first, but help was given by William Whyley of the Oak House (d. 1800). (fn. 154) In 1805 side galleries were added to the chapel, but even so the accommodation remained inadequate. In 1807-8 a new chapel was built on the opposite side of the road, a brick building with a classical façade: even there side galleries had to be added in 1825-6. The materials from the old chapel were reused, and William Whyley's widow Jane provided a malt-house as a temporary meeting-place during the rebuilding. She also contributed towards the cost of the new chapel from the proceeds of a sale of timber on her Oak House estate. The site of the old chapel became a burial ground; it was bought by the corporation in 1914. (fn. 155) A Sunday school was established in 1804; a building was erected for it in 1807 and was extended to twice the original size in 1813. (fn. 156) Average Sunday attendance at the chapel in 1850-1 was 430 in the morning (evidently including some 190 Sunday-school children) and 340 in the evening; about 90 young children also attended a special service in the morning. (fn. 157) Adult membership at the beginning of 1968 was 63, and there were 35 children. (fn. 158) In 1968 the church was bought by the corporation under a compulsory purchase order; it was gutted by fire in 1969. The congregation was united with that of Ebenezer. (fn. 159)
A benefit club connected with the chapel was founded in 1808. About 1855 a Bible class was begun. It soon attracted men of different denominations and of none from all over the district, and particular attention was devoted to the study of the Bible in the light of contemporary criticism. In the 1880s women were admitted, despite much opposition. In the 1890s there were several clubs and societies, a library, and a gymnasium.
Salem Church, Great Bridge.
A church at Great Bridge was formed by a small group who had previously worshipped at the Old Meeting and at Darkhouse Lane chapel, Coseley (in Sedgley). (fn. 162) In 1833 meetings were held in a room in Blades Street, which ran between Brickhouse Lane and Great Bridge Street, and at the beginning of 1834 a small preaching-house was opened in Sheepwash Lane. It was initially a branch of the Old Meeting, but in 1836 a separate church was formed. At first it consisted of eleven people, but numbers increased. Services were held in the infants' school which had been opened in Sheepwash Lane in 1835, and there was also a well-attended Sunday school. Salem chapel in Sheepwash Lane was opened in 1839. Attendance on Census Sunday 1851 was 130 in the morning, 178 in the afternoon, and 283 in the evening. (fn. 163) The adult membership at the beginning of 1969 was 47, and there were 35 children. (fn. 164) The church is of stuccoed brick and in a classical style similar to that of Ebenezer church; it is perhaps by the same architect. There are extensions at the rear in plain brick.
High Street Church.
In 1873 a group seceded from Mayer's Green chapel after the minister had been accused of preaching someone else's sermon. For four years it worshipped at Prince's Assembly Rooms on the corner of High Street and Lombard Street. In 1877, when numbers became too large, the group moved to the town hall, and in 1878 the foundation-stone of a new church in High Street was laid. It was opened in 1879 and was a building of brick and stone in a Gothic style designed by John Sulman of Holborn, London. (fn. 165) It was bought in 1963 by Kenrick & Jefferson Ltd., who demolished it in order to extend their works. (fn. 166)
The West Bromwich Congregational Church.
In 1967 the Ebenezer and Mayer's Green congregations came together as 'the Congregational Church in West Bromwich with a joint diaconate and a joint church meeting, worshipping for the present time in the two sets of premises and thereafter moving towards unity as speedily as may be possible'. (fn. 167) Later the same year, on the departure of the minister of Mayer's Green, the minister of Ebenezer took charge of Mayer's Green as well. As mentioned above, the Mayer's Green congregation shared Ebenezer church from 1968. A second minister was appointed in 1970.
A site in Hardware Street was given by the corporation in place of the compulsorily purchased Mayer's Green site, and in 1970 the building of the West Bromwich Congregational church was begun there as a replacement for Ebenezer. The foundation stone was laid 'on behalf of the Mayers Green, Ebenezer, High Street Churches and Woodward Street Mission'. The church was opened in 1971. It is a building of brick in a modern style, designed by Cecil E. M. Fillmore and Partners, and it includes a hall and meeting-rooms. The organ from Ebenezer was moved there, and stained-glass windows from Ebenezer and Mayer's Green were placed in the foyer.
Allen Memorial Church, Newton.
The Methodist chapel on the corner of Newton and Hamstead Roads was sold to the Congregationalists in 1823. (fn. 168) In 1850-1 it had an average attendance of 35 adults, although there was seating for 125 people. It was then served from Birmingham. (fn. 169) It is said to have been rebuilt as a Wesleyan chapel in the later 1860s, and a building on the site is shown as such in 1885 on the Ordnance Survey map. (fn. 170) By the beginning of the 20th century, however, the building was owned by the trustees of the Carrs Lane Congregational church in Birmingham and was being used as an institute. (fn. 171) In 1917 it was reopened as a Congregational church by the efforts of a Miss Powell, who had recently come to live in the district. It was replaced in 1932 by a church on the opposite corner, built by Miss Powell's nephews, Frank, Tom, and Harry Allen, in memory of their mother, Elizabeth Mary Allen. It is a brick building designed by Albert Bye of West Bromwich. (fn. 172) The adult membership at the beginning of 1969 was 56, and there were 125 children. (fn. 173)
Land in Spon Lane was bought in 1821 as the site of a chapel for 'Revivalists in connection with Robert Winfield'. The chapel was opened in 1823, with Winfield preaching. The property, however, had been mortgaged by then. In 1831 the building was sold to Lord Dartmouth, and it was converted into a cholera hospital in 1832. (fn. 174)
The West Bromwich corps of the Salvation Army was formed in May 1879 and opened a large hall called Ebenezer chapel in August. (fn. 175) It registered the Gospel Hall in Pitt Street in 1881, (fn. 176) and a barracks was opened in the former theatre in Queen Street in 1883. (fn. 177) The barracks was replaced by another in New Street registered in 1901, (fn. 178) and that was itself replaced by a barracks in Walsall Street, which was registered in 1902 and apparently remained in use until c. 1912. (fn. 179) A new hall was opened in Spon Lane in 1925. (fn. 180) It remained in use until 1972 when it was demolished in the course of the redevelopment of the area. A new hall was opened near by in Spon Lane in 1973. (fn. 181)
The Salvation Army used part of Bethel chapel in Dartmouth Street as a citadel after the Baptists had left it in 1884. (fn. 182) A malt-house at Hill Top was registered in 1885 but had ceased to be used by 1896. (fn. 183) By the earlier 1930s the army was working from a converted railway coach at Hill Top, but in 1934 it moved into a reconditioned bungalow in New Street there. (fn. 184) There is a barracks in Crankhall Lane dated 1954. (fn. 185)
The Seventh-day Adventists began meeting in the town c. 1950. Services were held in various places until a church was built in Dartmouth Street in 1970. (fn. 186)
The Spiritualists' Society was meeting in a room in Spon Lane by 1921. (fn. 187) The United Spiritualist Church was meeting in Walsall Street in the early 1930s (fn. 188) and the West Bromwich National Spiritualist Church in Old Meeting Street in 1954. (fn. 189) After meeting for a short time in a room in Guns Lane, the Spiritualists moved in 1972 to the Dartmouth Park Social Centre in Dagger Lane, and in 1974 they began to hold meetings at the Unitarian Church in Lodge Road. (fn. 190) There was formerly a Christian Spiritualist church in Whitehall Road; (fn. 191) it was derelict in 1970 and was then demolished.
The Theosophical Society was meeting in a room in Victoria Chambers, Victoria Street, by 1916. In 1925 it had a room in Bank Chambers, High Street, but had ceased to meet there by 1927. (fn. 192)
Triumphant Church Of God.
After meeting in a house and a school hall, the Triumphant Church of God bought the former Methodist chapel at Golds Green in 1969. (fn. 193)
A Unitarian meeting and a Sunday school were established in 1859 at the Summit Schools in Spon Lane, founded and owned by the Kenrick family, who were prominent Unitarians. (fn. 194) In 1868 the congregation moved to the Assembly Room in Lombard Street, but they had to abandon it in 1869. In 1874 the Midland Christian Union invited the Revd. John Harrison to re-establish services, and he used St. George's Hall for the purpose. The present chapel in Lodge Road was opened in 1875. The trust deed gave its purpose simply as the worship of God, and in the mid 1890s Harrison was described as being 'as unconventional and in outward appearance as unclerical as his flock are unfettered by creed'. The chapel is a building of brick and stone in the Early English style.
In 1833 John Glover opened a chapel in Spon Lane for all Christians. It seems to have been in Union Street and to have become a Primitive Methodist chapel. (fn. 195)
A Bethel Mission in Great Bridge Street was registered in 1933. (fn. 196)
The Gospel Hall in Price Road, Friar Park, was registered in 1951. (fn. 197)