The End of an Era and New Beginnings

Most people would have expected the Snow Hill church to be a feature of Wolverhampton's skyline for many years to come. Unfortunately this was not to be, and the church's difficulties rapidly grew. The building had structural problems and in August 1941 part of the gable end collapsed, resulting in a lot of damage to the building and subsequent demolition. For the next ten years services were held in the schoolrooms while plans had to be made for a replacement church.

The minister at the time, the Reverend Louis Mares, found the 1940s very difficult indeed. Not only did he have to continue the work of the church in cramped surroundings, but also had to plan for a replacement building. As such he was chairman of the building committee that made decisions on all aspects of the new church, from the design of the building itself, to its location, and how the project would be funded. The decision was taken to move the church away from Snow Hill so that it could serve a new and growing district.

The initial design for the new church.

After due consideration, Penn was chosen as the district, and the existing site of today's church was seen as the most favourable location in preference to other available sites in the area. The land, purchased by the Congregational Union of England and Wales for £2,400, used to be part of the Woodlands Estate and had two local names; Fox Fields and the Cabbage Patch. The footpath alongside the site is part of the original track that ran from St. Bartholomew's Church to St. Philip's Church.

Construction begins. Courtesy of Lawson Cartwright.

Soon after acquisition the site was dedicated at a ceremony on 22nd July, 1950 and a stone laying ceremony took place on 16th September.

The first design for the church was for a building with the gable end and entrance facing the Penn Road, and adjacent buildings at the rear. The design was soon changed however, into what we see today.

The site on 20th October, 1950. Courtesy of Lawson Cartwright.

Another view from the 20th October, 1950. Courtesy of Lawson Cartwright.

Danger. Men at work. 3rd February 1951. Courtesy of Lawson Cartwright.

The building appears. 7th April 1951. Courtesy of Lawson Cartwright.

The west end starts to take shape. Courtesy of Lawson Cartwright.

The east end and the main entrance. Courtesy of Lawson Cartwright.

A view from the 15th July, 1951. Courtesy of Lawson Cartwright.

Nearing completion. 16th September, 1951. Courtesy of Lawson Cartwright.

Building work rapidly progressed and the new church opened its doors for the first time on 6th December, 1951. Installed in the building is a four-rank Compton pipe organ with a detached console.

A photo from the early 1960s showing the temporary wooden building that was replaced by the church hall in 1963. Courtesy of Mary Harding.

In 1962 the Rev. M. J. Husselbee became minister and the church hall opened on 15th February, 1964. Two years later the Swan Bank Congregational Church closed for the last time and its members moved to the Penn Road church. The church officially became Penn United Reformed Church in 1972.

A view from spring 1964. Courtesy of Lawson Cartwright.

A busy Sunday in the 1960s. Courtesy of Lawson Cartwright.

The church interior in 2009.

The church hall. As seen at the 2018 Penn History Fair.

The church today.

The east end and the main entrance.

The church and church hall.

The church continued it's tradition of forming links with other churches, and entered into a covenant between itself and the other three main churches at Penn, on 20th January, 1985. The members are:
Penn United Reformed Church
Springdale Methodist Church
St. Bartholomew's Church (C. of E.)
St. Michael's R.C. Church.

Penn United Reformed Church is now at the centre of Penn's community life. It is one of the few community centres in the area, and is frequently used and greatly appreciated by all.


Congregational Churches of Wolverhampton, 1662-1894. W.H. Jones. Alexander & Shepheard, 1894.

The Congregational Churches of Staffordshire. A.G. Matthews. Congregational Union of England and Wales, 1924.

History of Wolverhampton to the Early Nineteenth Century. Gerald P. Mander and Norman W. Tildesley. Wolverhampton C.B. Corporation, 1960.

Varnished Leaves. Charles Nicholas Mander. Owlpen Press, 2004.

The History of the Fellowship of the Church now known as Penn United Reformed Church. L. Wilson.

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