The 1930s saw great changes taking place in much of Penn; greater man-made changes than ever before. The traditional farming community rapidly gave way to a new urban community as the old fields were replaced by Wolverhampton’s new commuter belt.

The population had been slowly increasing, and people were living longer. The infant mortality rate had declined since the beginning of the century, and the 1930 Housing Act resulted in the demolition of some 2,738 houses in the town, so that new homes would have to be found for over 11,000 people. All of this led to a housing shortage and so new houses were built in several areas around the town, including Penn.


Springdale Church. The community centre is on the right.

The new population would require all of the trappings of modern life and the amenities that go with them. Shops and schools would have to be built along with the houses, as well as places of recreation and entertainment, and of course churches.

By 1936 much of the area to the south of Warstones Road, including Spring Hill had been developed. In July of that year a small group of Methodists, who called themselves the Springhill Trust was formed.

At this time there were no suitable churches in the area and so they purchased a piece of land on the left-hand side of Springhill Lane, on which to build a church. In September 1937 S. D. W. Timmins was appointed as architect for the new church and in November a building scheme was approved.

In the meantime a suitable venue had to found for meetings. Initially at least two meetings were held in the locality, at the home of Vic Cox and consideration was given to open air services on the site in Springhill Lane. The unsuitability of the ground however, made this an impossibility.

Luckily there was one suitable local building, the Penn Cinema.

This stood on Warstones Road, where Somerfield’s supermarket is today, and was built by the Penn Cinema Company, in the form of a plain, simple, rectangular building, constructed from Baggeridge bricks.

It officially opened on December 27th, 1937 with the film ‘A Day at the Races’ starring the Marx Brothers.


Penn Cinema.

The cinema’s manager, Mr. Harry Shawcross was approached and he agreed to allow the group to hold  regular services on Sunday evenings in the cinema lounge. A folding rostrum was constructed for the purpose, and an organ loaned from Mr. and Mrs. Fleet.


The church tower and original entrance.

The first service on 18th September, 1938 attracted more worshippers than expected and everyone had to move onto the cinema balcony. From then on all subsequent meetings were held in the main body of the cinema, with the organ and the rostrum on the stage. The services continued until September 1940 when they were abandoned because of the wartime ‘black-out’ restrictions. The building plans for the new church were also put on-hold because of the war.

After the war in 1945, the church group decided to get the building plans underway and invited the architect Mr. Moss, from Crouch, Butler & Savage to meet them at the site and prepare an outline scheme for the project.

At the time there was a great demand for houses. No new building work had been carried out during the war, and the housing schemes of the 1930s had prematurely ended at the onset of war.

Several sites were about to be developed for housing, including the Warstones Estate, which would result in a great increase in the local population and a greater need for a new church in the locality. Possibly with this in mind, Wolverhampton Corporation advised the Springhill Trust to buy a site near to the Penn Cinema, in Warstones Drive, which had already been considered to be a suitable site for a new church.

In November 1948 Mr. Moss was asked to prepare an outline scheme for the new church in Warstones Drive, and after quickly completing his task, the scheme was handed to the trust in January 1949. After much discussion, the trust held a meeting in October 1950 to decide upon the matter. Some members favoured the new scheme while others still wanted the church to be built at Springhill Lane. After considerable argument it was decided that the best way forward was to find yet another site, that would be agreeable to all, and build the church there.

By the middle of 1951 a suitable site occupying around 7,000 square yards had been found in Warstones Road. On the 27th June it was purchased from Holts Brewery for £550.

Mr. Moss was appointed as architect and the recently formed Springdale Trust and Building Fund Committee agreed to accept a tender for the building work from A.M. Griffiths & Sons Ltd. on 10th September, 1952. The church would be built for £11,397 and the contract was signed on 14th October.

In the meantime the decision had been taken to open a Sunday school in the canteen at Warstones Primary School, the 7 members of staff being provided by Beckminster Sunday School. They included Geoff and Margaret Race, Vic Cox, Doris Horobin, Colin Smith and Stan Loweth. The Sunday School opened on 15th June, 1952 and 33 children attended. On the first day the school received the gift of a new piano.


  The view of the Church from Warstones
  Road.

Work progressed rapidly at the new site and the foundation stone was laid on 28th February, 1953. By October the buildings were ready for use and the Springdale Trust held its first meeting there on 13th October 1953.

The church officially opened on 24th October and the first Sunday services were held the next day. The details are as follows:

11.00a.m. The morning service held by the Rev. Dr. Douglas Bebb.
  3.00p.m. The Sunday School met at Warstones Primary School and marched in procession to the new church, where they arrived at 3.20p.m. They were welcomed by the Rev. Norman Parsons and Sister Claire Powers, the resident deaconess.
  6.30p.m. The evening service held by the Rev. Norman Parsons, who was assisted by Sister Claire Powers. This was followed by Holy Communion.
Over the next decade or so the church continued to grow and new buildings were added. 1955 saw the addition of two vestries and a flat for the use of the Deaconess. A Compton organ was installed in February 1964.

The most ambitious scheme was the building of the youth and community centre in 1967, at a cost of around £20,000.

The church wanted to establish itself as the centre of the local community in this part of Penn by providing buildings for the use of outside organisations and societies, as well as for the church. The project was greatly helped by the church’s enthusiastic Minister, the Rev. Norman Peck. The money for the project was raised partly by the sale of some of the land, partly from trusts, and from a number of money raising events.

The building was designed by Crouch, Booth and Savage of Birmingham, and built by Philip Blundell & Sons of Penn. It was officially opened on 18th November, 1967 by Mr. G.C. Stone, and followed by a service and dedication by the Rev. Brian O’Gorman with greetings from Ken Healey and Mr. R. Cooper.

In 1969 number 10 Woodhall Road was purchased to accommodate the new Minister, the Rev Brian O’Gorman and his family, and in 1971 the church choir took part in the television programme “Songs of Praise” which was televised from Darlington Street Methodist Church.

A new Minister, the Rev. Ken Hawkins was appointed in 1972 and the 21st birthday celebrations were held in 1973. Events included a children’s concert and family evening, a family service and evening worship led by the Rev. R. Ankers, and a choir concert.

The Silver Jubilee celebrations were held in 1978 in the form of “A Spectacular Extravaganza” which took place on October 14th.

In January 1985 Springdale Church signed a Covenant with the three other Penn Churches, Penn United Reformed Church, St. Bartholomew’s Church and St. Michael’s Church, enabling them to work closely together.


Another view of the church from Warstones Road.

Unfortunately the Compton organ was proving to be unreliable and a fund was started to raise money for a replacement. This was installed in plenty of time for the 40th anniversary celebrations in 1993.

In February of that year Peter Churchill gave a recital on the new organ, a Flower Festival was held in July and the Wulfruna Ladies Choir gave a concert in October entitled “Voices in Harmony”.

In 1994 a church refurbishment scheme was set up and completed in 2002, and 2003 saw a number of events to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the church. The many events during the year included a Jubilee Concert by the Wolverhampton Orpheus Male Voice Choir, the launch of a new development scheme, a church family outing to Little Sutton, a concert by the Penn Singers, and a Harvest Festival barn dance.

The events on the anniversary weekend itself, in October, included performances of the musical ‘Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat’, and Golden Anniversary services.

The Community Centre is used by many societies and groups including the Women’s Fellowship, the Springdale Wives Group, the Keep Fit Class, the Springdale Playgroup, the Multiple Sclerosis Society, the Shell Group, the Scout and Guide Groups, and many, many more. It has certainly been a great success.

Since it’s opening in 1953 the church has gone from strength to strength and clearly achieved its objective of being at the centre of the areas’ community life. It is greatly appreciated by all who regularly attend church services or use the facilities at the community hall.


             Ministers at the church:
   

1953 – 1963 Sister Claire Powers.
1963 – 1965 Rev. Bill Middlemiss.
1965 – 1969 Rev. Norman Peck.
1969 – 1973 Rev. Trevelyan Wills.
1973 – 1983 Rev. Ken Hawkins.
1983 – 1985 Rev. Richard Donoghue.
1985 – 1990 Rev. Phillip Harrison.
1990 – 2000 Rev. Alan Francom.
2000 – 2007 Rev. Phil Summers.
2007 – to date Robert Ely.

I would like to thank Jackie Neilson for all of her help in producing this brief church history.


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