The Early Years at St. Stephen’s Church

The first vestry meeting took place in 1909 with the Rev. Hugh Tunnadine in the chair. During the meeting the church’s first two churchwardens were appointed. They were Mr. F. Orme and Mr. J. Woodward. The church also received a generous gift of £500 towards the building deficit.

The Rev. Hugh Tunnadine.

In 1911 land was purchased from the Earl of Darlington at a cost of £150 for a new vicarage, but it would be some time before the building appeared. In the meantime the clergy occupied a house at 43 Wednesfield Road, which belonged to the safe-maker Cyrus Price. Unfortunately the house was unsatisfactory because of its smoky chimney, outside toilet, and mice.

The first edition of the church’s parish magazine appeared in January 1912 and the first stained glass widows were installed in 1921 along the east wall, as a memorial to the dead from World War One.

On 6th January, 1923 Hugh Tunnadine was succeeded by the Rev. George B. Bardsley and soon afterwards the war memorial was erected in front of the church.

Later that year the St. Stephen’s Choral Society gave its first concert. Productions over the next few years included “The Victor’s Throne” a sacred cantata performed at the church in 1925 and the “Advent of the King” performed in December 1926.

Music at the church flourished with the formation of the Amateur Operatic Society who performed their version of “The Gipsy Queen” on 6th April, 1926 at the day school. During Easter week, 1930 they performed Gilbert and Sullivan’s “HMS Pinafore”, and gave another performance later in the year at Christ Church parish hall. In the following years other Gilbert and Sullivan works were performed including “The Pirates of Penzance” in 1931 and 1937, “The Mikado” in 1932, “Iolanthe” in 1933 and 1936, “The Yeoman of the Guard” in 1934, and “The Gondoliers” in 1935.

The society gave its last performance in 1937.

The Nave.

The church as seen from Water Street.

In 1924 the Rev. Bardsley organised a Sunday outing to Codsall for the children from the school.

A party of 350 including staff and friends travelled to the village on a special train, and later enjoyed an excellent tea at the Reliable Stores.

The school received an inspection by the Rev. Parkhouse in 1926. His report included the following:

The excellent tone of the school is well maintained. The children are thoroughly well taught. They are bright, interested, and attentive. Questions put to them revealed a good practical knowledge of the bible, and thorough grasp of the use of the sacraments. The children are taken to church frequently. Additional prayer books are needed.

1926 also saw the setting-up of the Additional Curate Fund to raise money for an assistant priest. Miss Bardsley, the vicar’s sister became secretary, and as a result of their fund raising, the post was soon occupied by the Rev. W. J. Evans, a master at Wolverhampton Grammar School.

A plan of the church.

From the 1927 Wolverhampton Red Book.

At the time money was in short supply. The Vicarage Fund trying to raise money for a new vicarage, and the Playground Fund attempting to raise money for an improved surface on the school playground, were not having much success. Even so £60 was found as a down payment on a church organ, purchased from organ builder, Mr. Hewins of Stratford on Avon.

George Phoenix's "Crucifixion".

In 1933 the Rev. Bardsley left the church and was succeeded by the Rev. William Hassall, whose sister Vera became head of the day school. In 1936 they became the first occupants of the finally completed vicarage, next to the church in Hilton Street.

Local Artist George Phoenix died in 1935.

Two years later his trustees presented the church with a fine Phoenix painting of the crucifixion, which was hung on the north wall of the sanctuary, until its move to the west wall in 1951.


The inscription below the painting.

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