The Parish Church of St. Lawrence
There has been a church on the site since the 12th century. The first church is believed to have been built by the first lord of the manor, William de Darlaston.

The church had a wooden tower that had fallen into a bad state of repair by the early 17th century. Dr. Pye, a native of Darlaston and famous clergyman visited his relatives in the town during 1606. Shaw describes it as follows in his Staffordshire history:

In the year 1606, Dr. Pye coming to visit some relations at this place, some of his servants went to ring in the old steeple which was of wood, and much decayed, so that their lives were in danger; upon which he built a new tower of stone, upon condition the town was at the expense of carrying it thither.

 


Taken by Richard Ashmore. Courtesy of John and Christine Ashmore.

St. Lawrence's church as rebuilt in brick in 1807. From an old postcard.
Later in the 17th century the church was destroyed by fire and rebuilt using salvaged material. The building was enlarged by subscription in 1721 with the addition of a new, brick-built, slightly enlarged northern side. The church was again rebuilt in 1807 in brick in a plain style, but only remained as such for a few years.

In 1872 the brick building was replaced by a much more ornate version in stone with a nave, chancel, aisles and a porch. The final version of the main church appeared in 1905-7 when the spire was rebuilt and a new clock added at a cost of £3,000. In 1931 the church hall was built at the western end of the church.

The church registers date back to 1539 and may be viewed at the County Archives in Stafford. The Bishop's Transcripts are to be found at Lichfield Record Office.

 


A winter view from around 1900.


Another view of St. Lawrence's Church.


From an old postcard.

A final view of the church.

Taken by Richard Ashmore in the early 1970s. Courtesy of John and Christine Ashmore.

St. Lawrence's choir in about 1952, with the Rev. Brynmor Jones in the centre. Next right is Mr. Foster the Choir Master, and 2nd right is Brian Hingley. Standing next to the Rev. Brynmor Jones, on the other side is Norman Newton, who kindly sent the photo. He was Head Choir Boy.

St. Lawrence's bell ringers in about 1960. First left is David Hingley, the Ringing Master, second left is Norman Newton who kindly sent the photo. The two people in front are brother and sister. Norman is fairly sure her name is “Dolly".

Another view of the bell ringers with Brian Hingley on the left. Courtesy of Norman Newton.
 
St. George's Church
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St. George's Church


St. George's Church.

All Saints' Church

The parish of All Saints was formed in 1872, the church being built and consecrated by Bishop Selwyn in the same year. The building, in Early English style was built of brick and designed by George Edward Street, R.A. The church consisted of a nave, aisles, vestry and a small turret with two exposed bells. The building seated 500 adults and 40 children and was erected as a memorial to Samuel Mills by his widow and children. The church had one of the finest stained-glass windows in Staffordshire, made by Morris to the designs of the artist Sir Edward Burne-Jones, R.A. and an organ built by Bryceson Brothers and Morton.


The original Church.


Another view of the church. From an old postcard.

The church contained a magnificent wrought iron chancel screen given by W. Martin Winn in memory of his father, and a large brass lectern given by F.H. Lloyd & Company.


The interior of the church.

In 1906 a piece of land adjacent to the church was acquired by Mrs. Samuel Mills, Mr. S.M. Slater and Mr. A. Slater on which to build a parish hall. The land was offered to the church at half-a-crown a square yard and became an extension to the All Saints Day School playground. The original purpose for purchasing the land was forgotten and so the parish hall was not built until the early 1930s after the original purpose had been rediscovered.

The church and parish hall were destroyed by a bomb on 31st July, 1942 during a bombing raid on Guest Keen & Nettlefolds' Atlas works. It made a crater 50ft. deep and 40ft. wide. Luckily there were no casualties. This was the only church in the diocese of Lichfield to be destroyed by enemy action.


The destruction left by the bomb.

On 4th August, 1942 the church council formed a restoration committee and made plans for the rebuilding of the church. Services continued to be held in the All Saints Day School building, which survived the blast and suffered only minor damage. Over the next few years they raised £10,000 towards the new church and also received £28,320 from the War Damage Commission.


The temporary church.

The new church was designed by Lavender and Twentyman of Wolverhampton and built on the site of the old church by E. Fletcher of Kingswinford. It opened in 1952.


The new church.


The interior of the new church.

All Saints' Church, Moxley

As the population increased in the area, the new ecclesiastical district of Moxley was formed in 1845 and a church dedicated to All Saints, built on a  piece of land known as "Little Moxley Field".

Worship had previously been conducted in the National School, built in 1837.

The church was designed by architect William Horton, and the tower, built as a memorial to Thomas Wells, was added in 1877.

The first vicar, the Rev. Thomas Knight M.A. resigned on 11th August, 1847 and was succeeded by the Rev. Patrick Wilson M.A.

A vicarage was built by the church in 1849-50.

The foundation stone was laid on 3rd May, 1850 by Lady Emily Foley, and the church was consecrated on Friday 27th June, 1851.

Samuel Johnson Wells supplied the clock as a gift. The choir stalls and clergy desks were given by Mr. William Winn, Darlaston shopkeeper and councillor in 1884.

The photograph opposite, showing the back of the church, and the rear graveyard, dates from about 1890.


An interior view of the church from about 1890.

Wesleyan Chapel, Pinfold Street

In the 1740s John Wesley and his supporters began preaching in the Black Country, where they received a very hostile reception. A group called the Darlaston Mob played a leading part in persecuting the Methodists. They were led by Richard Dorsett who was a churchwarden at St. Lawrence's. The Dorsetts were an old Darlaston family who became considerable land owners. John Aldridge Dorsett, the last of the family to live here and gave the council 18 acres of land either side of a track, which later became Dorsett Road.


The Wesleyan meeting house in Bilston Street. From the Methodist Recorder, June 1901.
On Wednesday the 20th October 1743 John Wesley preached at the High Bullen in Wednesbury, and was attacked by the riotous Darlaston Mob. They took him to appear before Colonel Lane at Bentley Hall, who was the local justice of the peace. On the way they paused at the White Lion in King Street for refreshment.

Wesley feared for his life on this occasion, but later returned to Darlaston many times, and eventually Wesleyanism gained a sure foothold in the town.

In 1762 a house in Bilston Street was licensed for worship by the Wesleyans, and John Wesley preached here on a number of occasions. The last occasion was in 1787 when he was 84 years old, just four years before he died.
 

In 1810 the new Wesleyan Chapel opened in Pinfold Street and the house became a private dwelling. The new chapel cost £2,500 and initially attendance was good, but by 1820 numbers had fallen drastically owing to the trade depression after the Napoleonic wars.

Over the next decade numbers slowly increased again until the cholera epidemic of 1832 when attendance greatly increased with 418 names on the class leader's books.

In 1833 the chapel was enlarged, the original plain facade improved and the burial ground at the rear opened.

The land for the graveyard was obtained from Mr. Griffiths in exchange for land owned by Joseph Yardley and Jabez Bills.


Pinfold Street Wesleyan Chapel before demolition in1970.

The burial ground ran from the back of the chapel to Blakemore's Lane, a distance of 104 yards, and land for family vaults was given in exchange for a £10 subscription. The first burial took place in September 1833 and the first burial in a vault occurred on 13th March, 1834. Although the cemetery has been derelict for many years, some of the grave stones could still be seen until recently behind Wesley Fold.

The Wesleyan School in Pinfold Street. The Methodist Recorder, June 1901.
The chapel contained a tablet dedicated to the memory of John Wilkes who died in 1847.

A new trust was formed in 1851 consisting of William Longmore, Samuel Longmore, William Maddock, Edward Cox, Edward Glover, Samuel Partridge, J. Frost, Thomas Davies, John Lees, Samuel Lees, Richard Dodd, Edward Caddick, Henry Mills, Henry Walker, and Samuel Page.

Adjoining Sunday and Day schools were erected in 1846 to the design of Mr. G.W. Green and built by Mr. Thomas Adams at a cost of £439.19s.6d.

In 1888 the Wesleyan school had no less than 238 pupils and 160 infants. The average class size must have been quite large as there were only two members of staff, but some of the older pupils would have been employed as assistants. At its height the school was the third largest in Darlaston, the larger ones were:

1) The Old Church National School Smith Street

406 pupils, 133 infants

  2) The Central Board School
Slater Street

288 pupils,  140 infants

In 1862 an organ was purchased and new classrooms built at a cost of £850, and a minister's house built next to the chapel in 1884 at a cost of £883. A second enlargement of the chapel took place in 1876-7 and memorial stones were laid to Mr. Enoch Horton, a well-known liberal Methodist. The organ, built by Abbott and Smith of Leeds cost £512.10s. The chapel was renovated in 1907 and electric lighting replaced the old gas lamps.

The building was demolished in 1970 and the congregation moved to Slater Street and Great Croft Street Methodist chapels.

United Methodist Church

The building stood in Great Croft Street and dated from 1852. It had accommodation for about 500 worshippers. In 1909 the Pastor was the Rev. S. Foster Waterhouse of the Wednesbury and Darlaston circuit. There was a Sunday School held at 9.30a.m. and 2p.m., and a Young People's Institute held at 3.15p.m. Ladies' sewing meetings were held on Mondays at 3p.m. A young men's class was held at 8.30p.m. on Thursdays and a prayer meeting took place on Fridays at 7.30p.m.


The United Methodist Church, as seen from Blakemore Lane. Courtesy of Bill Beddow.


The United Methodist Church, after the building of St Lawrence Way. Courtesy of Brian Groves.


Another view of the church.


The church, as seen from across St Lawrence Way. Taken by Richard Ashmore. Courtesy of John and Christine Ashmore.

Looking towards St Lawrence Way and the old flats. Taken by Richard Ashmore. Courtesy of John and Christine Ashmore.


A view from the mid 1970s, just before the building of the first ASDA store. Taken by Richard Ashmore. Courtesy of John and Christine Ashmore.


A final view of the church, taken soon after the building of the first ASDA store. Taken by Richard Ashmore. Courtesy of John and Christine Ashmore.
The church was demolished after the building of the first ASDA store in the late 1970s, when the town's bus stops were moved closer to the store, and a small traffic island was built on the site for the buses to turn round.
 
Bell Street Chapel

In 1819 Mr. Samson Turner, a Primitive Methodist, came to Darlaston and preached in the open air. There seems to have been a lot of interest shown because he soon formed a society which met in some of his rooms. The first people to join included three businessmen, Mr. Carter, Mr. Humpage, and Mr. D. Bowen. The society began to hold services in a schoolroom in Blakemore's Lane and also in premises in High Street.

The first Primitive Methodist chapel was built in Willenhall Street, between Stafford Road and Rough Hay Road.

This soon proved to be too small and so in 1836 a larger chapel, seating 700 people, was built in Bell Street at a cost of £2,600.

The movement grew in size and the chapel was extended at a cost of £1209 including electric lighting.


Bell Street Chapel. Courtesy of Marjorie V. Stockham.

All went well until the church suffered structural damage in 1908 as the result of an underground coal fire. The coal seam burned vigorously and soon large cracks appeared in the building making it unsafe. As a result demolition soon followed.
Slater Street Church
Slater Street Church as seen from the park opposite.

From an old postcard.


Slater Street Church.

The church, a replacement for the Bell Street Chapel, was built in Slater Street opposite the football ground. It consisted of a nave, transepts, a chancel, an organ chamber, and had a high square tower. The pews, rostrum and fittings were made of pitch pine and a central feature was the old Bell Street Chapel pulpit.

The building was designed by Darlaston architect Mr. C. W. D. Joynson and erected by local builder Mr. R. Hammonds, also of Darlaston.

The opening ceremony took place at 3p.m. on Thursday14th April, 1910 with a service conducted by the Reverend Joseph B. Bissell, the first resident minister. During the ceremony the builder and architect presented keys to Mrs Richard Bayley, Mrs David Etchells, and Mrs J. G. Hartshorne.

The opening celebrations continued with a public tea, held in the Town Hall between 5 and 6 o'clock (tickets costing 9d) and a public meeting at 7 o'clock.


Mrs. Richard Bayley, Mrs. David Etchells, Mrs. J. G. Hartshorne. Courtesy of Marjorie V. Stockham.


The President and Vice-President. Courtesy of Marjorie V. Stockham.


Church trustees in 1910. Courtesy of Marjorie V. Stockham.
Left to Right:
Back Row: S. Higgs, J. W. Lowe, R. Bayley, T. Robinson, W. Hunt, J. T. Harper, S. Hartshorne.
Middle Row: J. Small, H. Davis, A. W. Cresswell, A. Roberts, J. T. Jinks, J. Green, A. Cotterell,
I. E. Cresswell.
Front Row: M. Huskison, H. Bird, E. Wilkes, Rev. J. B. Bissell, T. Harper, R. Lees, H. Fernihough.


From an old postcard.

The first Sunday morning service took place at 10.30a.m. on the 17th April and was conducted by the Reverend Joseph Pearce of Cradley Heath.

In the afternoon the Bilston Wesley Prize Choir gave a musical service. The church survived for 69 years, and after demolition in 1979 was replaced by today's much smaller building.

I would like to thank Marjorie V. Stockham for the information about Bell Street Chapel and Slater Street Church.

 

Darlaston Green Methodist Church

In the early 1830s a Methodist society held meetings in a room at Darlaston Green, known as “Shake’s Castle”. Services were held on Sunday afternoons, followed by a class meeting under the supervision of a Mr. Banks.

In 1842 an application was made to the major local land-owner, the Duke of Sutherland, at Groundslow, Trentham for a piece of land on which to build a church. The Duke replied in a letter dated 26th December, 1842 stating that he would give a suitable piece of land to the Methodist group.

The land was given on the understanding that a stone would be erected in front of the building, carrying the following inscription: “The ground was given by the Duke of Sutherland”.


Darlaston Green Methodist Church and school, Perry Street.


Darlaston Green Methodist Church. Courtesy of Howard Madeley.

The piece of land was situated in Horton Street, adjacent to “The Square” and the church opened its doors for the first time in 1844.

The church had a short life, as it only survived for 25 years due to mining subsidence. On the eve of the Sunday School anniversary in 1869 the building was declared unsafe and the celebrations were held outside in Horton Street.

Undaunted, the Methodist group raised funds for a new church and land was acquired on the corner of Castle Street and Perry Street on 3rd November, 1869, at a cost of £104.8s.0d. It appears that Castle Street is named after the original meeting room “Shake’s Castle”.


The Interior of the church.

The new church opened in 1871 as “a place of meeting for religious worship by a congregation or assembly of persons calling themselves Wesleyan Methodists”. The new church was built at a cost of £1,132, the bricks and £200 being given by Enoch Horton, the remaining debt not being cleared until 1916.

Within a few years of opening, an American pipe organ was installed, and a wooden schoolroom built behind the church. In 1926 two gallery wings were added.

By the late 1920s, 200 to 250 scholars met in the old schoolroom on Sunday mornings and afternoons, and the old building could be very hot and unpleasant on summer afternoons.

A school building fund was started to raise money to replace the old wooden school with a modern brick-built building. The new school opened in June 1949 and was a great success.

By the time the church’s centenary celebrations were underway in 1970, most of the old Victorian houses in the area had been demolished and the church stood alone, surrounded by derelict land.

Within not too many years the church itself had gone, thanks to dwindling attendance figures, which had been falling since the end of World War 2.


The Sunday School Anniversary, 1947.

The Salvation Army Citadel

The Salvation Army Corps at Darlaston were founded in 1882 by two lady officers, Captain Nellie Moore and Lieutenant Agnes Reynolds. Their old building, which stood on the southern side of High Street, was originally the Temperance Hall and later called the Salvation Army Barracks. It survived until the early 1970s when it was demolished to make way for the original ASDA store.


The Salvation Army Citadel, just before demolition.
    


The Salvation Army Band in 1956. Courtesy of Brian Groves.
Back row, left to right: Gordon Cresswell, Charles Fletcher, Albert Bayley, Thomas Small, Ernest Thomas.
Front row, left to right: Arthur Small, George Kerry, Thomas Groves, Derek Gibbs, Brian Groves, Ronald Earp (bandmaster), Major Brenda Hoskins (officer), Charles Hanwell, Joseph Cresswell, John Groves, Leslie Cresswell, Ernest Langley.
     

Salvation Army Sunday School Anniversary, 1956. Courtesy of Brian Groves.
   
View some photographs of the Salvation Army in Darlaston
   

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