Churches and Religion
St. Bartholomew’s Church

There was certainly a church at Wednesbury by the early thirteenth century because it is recorded in the Plea Rolls of King John for 1210-1211, that Master William, a royal chaplain had been appointed to the church at Wednesbury.

The present St. Bartholomew’s Church dates from the late 15th or early 16th century and contains a pulpit carrying the date 1611.

At the west end of the nave is a table tomb with recumbent effigies of Richard Parkes who died in 1618, and his wife.

It has been greatly restored and rebuilt, and stands on the site of an earlier 13th century stone built church.


St. Bartholomew's Church.


St. Bartholomew's Church.

Remains of the earlier church were found during restoration work in 1885 and consisted of a three light window contained in a round-headed arch. The three lights date back to the 13th century but the arch itself could be earlier.

The ancient window is to be found at the west end of the north aisle. It is next to the doorway which gives access to the choir vestry. This has a pointed segmental arch and is said to be from the same date as the window.

In 1757 the tower was restored and the top 16 feet were rebuilt. At the same time the ball and weathercock were replaced. Restoration work continued in 1764 and 1765 when the nave roof was repaired and a ceiling added to the nave.

Unfortunately during the work, part of the parapet on the northern side collapsed onto the roof and both fell onto the pews beneath, causing serious damage. As luck would have it the pews were empty at the time. Only an hour earlier they had been occupied during a funeral service.

As the parapet on the south side was found to be in an extremely poor condition, the decision was taken to rebuild both parapets and also to add a ceiling above the north aisle.

As the restoration was now much larger and so more expensive than previously envisaged, neighbouring parishes were invited to make collections towards the cost of the work.

In 1775 part of the south transept was enclosed and a wall added to form a vestry, and in 1818 the body of the church was coated with Parker’s cement.

Nine years later the church was enlarged by the addition of the north transept and an extended nave. The pews were also replaced and a new font was presented by the Rev. Isaac Clarkson in 1827.

Restoration work continued in 1855 when the upper part of the spire was completely rebuilt and the 8 bells were recast.

Two new bells were also added, along with a new clock and weathercock. The cost of the repairs was raised by subscription and amounted to nearly £1,200.


The Woden window in St. Bart's Church.

In 1878 the spire was raised by 10 feet, and in 1885 the internal galleries were removed and the floor lowered to its original level. 

Further restoration work took place in 1902 and 1903 when the transepts were restored.

In 1913 the Chapel of Ascension was added to the south transept.

The church contains 15 late 19th or early 20th century windows containing stained glass by Charles Eamer Kempe and is also known for its unique fighting cock lectern. On 2nd March, 1950 the building was Grade 2 listed.


St. Bartholomew's Church from Ethelfleda Terrace.

 


St. Bartholomew's bells.

St. John’s Church


St. John's Church.

In 1843 an Act of Parliament, commonly known as Sir Robert Peel's Act was passed. Its purpose was to make better provision for the spiritual care of populous parishes. The vicar of Wednesbury, the Rev. Isaac Clarkson took advantage of the act and instigated the formation of three new ecclesiastical parishes; St. John's, St. James's, and Moxley, which were created on 3rd June, 1844. The Rev. John Winter was appointed as the first vicar of the parish of St. John and services were held in a carpenter’s shop and then in the People’s Hall.

Building work on the new church in Lower High Street began in 1845, supported by Edward Thomas Foley, Member of Parliament for Herefordshire, and one-time High Sheriff of Herefordshire. The land was given by Samuel Addison, along with a gift of £500 for the building fund, and £700 for the spire. The foundation stone was laid by Lady Emily Foley on Thursday 27th March, 1845.

The stone building was built in the early English style using the local yellow-brown peldon sandstone from Monway Field. The building consisted of a western chancel, a nave with 6 bays, a clerestory, aisles, a north porch, and a south-eastern tower, with a spire and one bell. The architects were Messrs. Daukes and Hamilton, and the builder was Mr. Isaac Highway of Walsall. The site and the building cost £5,758.6s.4d. which was raised with the help of grants from the Lichfield Diocesan Church Extension Society, and the Incorporated Society for Building Churches and Chapels.


St. John's lady choristers in 1905.

The church seated 1,000 people and was consecrated on 13th May, 1846, by the Bishop of Lichfield. An organ was presented to the church by James Bagnall and Thomas Walker, and gas lighting soon added. Mrs. Elwell of Wood Green presented the church with the carpet within the alter rails, Mrs. Fletcher of Dudley gave the linen for the communion table, and the books for the minister were presented by the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge.

£300 a year was provided for the vicar, £150 a year was provided by the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, and other funds came from Wednesbury Parish tithes. Rents were paid for the pews, which were given to the vicar, less £6 a year for the church clerk. The church's patron was Lady Emily Foley.


St. John's Church.

St. John's Parish Schools were built in 1848-1849 at a cost of £1,158.10s.2d., including the fittings and the site. The school opened on the 11th March, 1849 and had accommodation for 300 children. It was both a Sunday and a day school. In the 1850s the population of the parish was around 2,500.

A parsonage was built in 1893 and stood on part of the site previously occupied by the Legs of Man Tavern. At the time the church tower contained the only illuminated clock in the town and was given by Edward Smith to commemorate the Queen’s Jubilee. Restoration work carried out during the church’s golden jubilee in 1896 included the decoration of the interior, the provision of an organ chamber, and external repair work.

The building became derelict in 1980 and was demolished in July 1985.

St. James’ Church

St. James’ Parish was created on 3rd June, 1844 along with the parish of St. John. The first building to be constructed on the site, in St. James Street was the parish school, which opened in March 1845. It was built at a cost of £1,126.19s.0d. including the cost of the land, and the residence for the master and mistress. Church services were initially held there until the the opening of the church.

In January 1847 a committee was formed to oversee the building of the church. The laying of the foundation stone took place on 26th May, 1847 and the building was consecrated on Wednesday 31st May, 1848. The church, built in early English style, with the same local stone as St. John’s, cost £3,405, and seated 835 people. The building consists of a nave, aisles, a chancel with an apse, a vestry, south porch, and a tower with a clock, chimes and one bell.


The interior of St. James' Church. From an old postcard.

In 1855 John Nock Bagnall, one of the church wardens, became the church’s patron. The first minister, Joseph Hall was soon followed by William Graham Cole who took over on 5th September, 1846. Two years later cholera spread through the town and claimed 200 victims, more than half of whom lived in the parish. Cole and his assistant curate bravely entered victims’ houses when the other occupants had fled, leaving the victim to die. In 1853 Cole was joined by assistant curate Richard Twigg who would eventually become the most influential minister at the church.

Twigg was born in Yorkshire in 1825 and ordained in 1850. He came to Wednesbury after serving as a curate in Northumberland. He took over after Cole’s death in 1856 and became known for his eloquent preaching and his mission services. Through his efforts at least 30 young men entered the ministry and more than 1,000 children attended Sunday school. One of the people whose lives were greatly changed by him was Dora Pattison, better known in Walsall as Sister Dora, matron of the Cottage Hospital.


The interior of St. James' Church in 1905.

Richard Twigg’s wife was equally enthusiastic and held meetings in some of the local cottages, which led to the formation of St. Peter’s Mission Chapel in Meeting Street, which opened in 1872 in two converted cottages. Unfortunately she didn’t live to see the opening as she died in 1869. Her funeral service was attended by between 4,000 and 5,000 people, and she was commemorated by the building of the chancel apse. Richard Twigg died in 1882.

Other building work included the addition of two chapels, one in 1887 as a memorial to John Nock Bagnall, and the second, on the south side of the chancel, as a memorial to George Silas Guy and Henrietta Maria Guy.

St. Paul’s Church, Wood Green

The parish church was built in 1874 of red sandstone in the Decorated style, at a cost of £5,000 by the Elwell family who ran Wednesbury Forge. A spire, clock and a peal of 8 bells were added in 1888. The church consists of a chancel, nave, aisles, vestries, north porch and a western tower with the spire, clock and bells. Wood Green ecclesiastical parish was formed on 19th March 1875.

There is a font made of Caen stone and Irish marble in memory of Mrs. Griffiths of The Oaks, Wednesbury, a stained east window, which is a memorial to Edwin Richards, and a west window, presented by Job Edwards as a memorial to Bishop Selwyn. Other additions include a stone reredos, erected in 1903 in memory of Alfred Elwell, and a wrought iron screen, erected as a memorial to the Reverend Tuthill, vicar from 1875-1902.

When the church was built, the Church of the Good Shepherd, a chapel of ease at The Delves was transferred to it from St. Bartholomew’s. The Church of the Good Shepherd closed in 1936 when the new ecclesiastical district of St Gabriel Fullbrook, Walsall was created.


St. Paul's Church.


The interior of St. Paul's Church in 1904.

St. Luke’s Church, Alma Street, Mesty Croft

The parish of St. Luke was created in 1944, and started with St. Luke’s Mission, founded in 1879 in a building originally owned by the Elwell family, and used as a school for the children of their workers. In 1884 the building was enlarged and a chancel added. The church in its final form opened in 1894 and survived until the 1970s.

St. Andrew’s Mission Church, Kings Hill

The church, built in 1893 to 94, was built at a cost around £1,700.

In 1903 a small two-manual organ was added, and paid for by public subscription.

In the same year the day schools in connection with the church were enlarged and restored at a cost of £850.


St. Andrew's Church.

A side view of the church from Kings Hill Park.
The church also became Kings Hill Methodist Church, as can be seen from the notice board opposite.

After many years of dereliction, and proposed demolition, the church will be converted into a residential property.
 

The stained glass windows and memorial plaque from the church are now on permanent display at Darlaston Town Hall.
The stained glass windows at their new location in Darlaston Town Hall.
The Great War memorial plaque from St. Andrew's Church.

As seen at Darlaston Town Hall in 2014.


St. Mary’s Church


St. Mary's Church.

The Reverend George Montgomery formed a Roman Catholic mission at Wednesbury in 1852 and soon had upwards of 3,000 members. A church was quickly required and land for the purpose was purchased by Father Crewe of the Bilston mission.

A small church and the existing presbytery were soon built, after much opposition from the Protestants, who talked of destroying it by purchasing and working the underlying minerals.

Montgomery’s successor Stewart Bathurst found the original chapel in a bad state of repair and also had the task of providing a school due to the Education Act of 1870. As a result he built two schools, one on Church Hill accommodating 255 children, and another in Portway Road, accommodating 319.

The existing church was built in 1872 to the designs of Mr. Gilbert S. Blount of London. It is in early English style and consists of a nave, aisles, chancel, chapels, and towers.


St. Mary's Church.

 

Two views of St. Mary's Church.

Methodism

Wednesbury is well remembered for the riots and anger caused during some of John Wesley’s visits to the town. His brother Charles Wesley came in 1742 and preached at Holloway Bank, making several converts who met regularly, and encouraged John Wesley to come to the town to preach. His first visit took place on Friday 7th January, 1743 and during the evening he gave a sermon at the Market Cross building. The following day he preached 3 times at Holloway Bank and the number of Wesleyans in the society reached 29. By the following Tuesday the number of members had increased to 100.

His next visit in April was very different due to hostility fuelled by the Parish Church vicar, Edward Egginton. When he visited again in May the membership had reached 300 and a march was arranged to Walsall. During the proceedings a hostile crowd gathered showing much opposition. By the end of the month things went from bad to worse when rioting began on 30th May. During the riot the windows of John Adams’ house in Darlaston were broken.

As a result Mr. Adams, and the Chief Constable of Wednesbury, along with prominent Methodist Francis Ward, the underground manager in John Wood’s colliery, went to obtain a warrant from the magistrate.

The mob became more hostile and they were stoned. The magistrate refused to issue a warrant and Francis Ward was savagely manhandled by the crowd.


John Wesley greets the Wednesbury mob.

Three weeks later a crowd from Wednesbury and Darlaston assembled in Wednesbury churchyard and proceeded to attack the houses of the local Methodists. The damage was most extensive in Darlaston. The disturbances continued for the next 8 or 9 months and Wesley recorded his thoughts on the matter in his journal on 18th February, 1744:

“Ever since the 20th of last June the mob of Walsall, Darlaston and Wednesbury, hired for that purpose by their betters, have broken open their poorer neighbour’s houses at their pleasure by night and by day; extorted money from the few that had it; took away or destroyed their victuals and goods; beat and wounded their bodies; threatened their lives; abused their women (some in a manner too terrible to name) and openly declared they would destroy every Methodist in the country – the Christian country where His Majesty’s innocent and loyal subjects have been so treated for eight months and are now by their wanton persecutors publicly branded for rioters and incendiaries.”

He briefly visited Wednesbury on 22nd June, but did not appear publicly. His next visit however would be very different. At midday on 20th October, 1743 he preached from the now famous “horse block” at the High Bullen (in reality a flight of steps leading to the upper floor of a malt house) without incident. He then went to Francis Ward’s cottage and while he was there the mob arrived, but soon moved on. He now felt it was time to leave, but was persuaded not to do so.

By 5 o’clock the mob returned and surrounded the cottage with cries of “Bring out the minister!” The mob’s leader entered the cottage to see Wesley and soon quietened down. Wesley then went out to talk to the crowd who asked him to go with them to see the magistrate at Bentley Hall. He consented to do so and along with some of his colleagues and the crowd of 300 or so they proceeded to see Mr. Lane at Bentley Hall. Mr. Lane told them to go home and be quiet, but this was not good enough for the crowd who then escorted Wesley to see another magistrate, Mr. Persehouse in Walsall. Mr. Persehouse had retired for the night and so the crowd decided to go home. At this point they were attacked by a mob from Walsall, into whose hands Wesley fell. His captors were very hostile and while they were deciding what to do next, Wesley began to pray aloud. The leader of the mob was so moved by his words that he had a change of heart and they let Wesley and his friends go. That night they returned to Wednesbury after having a lucky escape.

In November violence broke out in West Bromwich, and later in Darlaston after Vicar Egginton’s visit. He got the town crier, Thomas Winsper to announce that the Methodists must come to the Crown Inn and sign a recantation or expect to have their houses pulled down. This threat was the start of the events that took place in Darlaston during the following January and February. On 13th, 14th, and 23rd January a great mob gathered in Darlaston and fell upon several people who were going to Wednesbury and also on the wife of John Constable of Darlaston. Constable obtained a warrant against the offenders for criminal assault on his wife, but only one person was arrested. When he was brought before the magistrate, the magistrate declined to act. As a result the mob sacked Constable’s house on the 30th of the month and he and his wife took refuge with a friend. The mob then threatened the friend’s house and so the Constables were forced to flee.

The next day a mob assembled at Church Hill, Wednesbury but left after hearing that some of the Methodists were preparing to defend themselves. Wesley himself came to the town and preached the next day without incident. He stayed until the morning of Monday 6th February and was accompanied on the first part of his journey by James Jones a fellow Methodist preacher. On Jones’ return he found his fellow Methodists in prayer, having heard that a mob would arrive the next day  from Darlaston and elsewhere to plunder the house of every Methodist in the town.

At 8 o’clock the next morning Jones addressed his fellow Methodists, and as he was doing so the news came that the mob had already entered the town and had began to break into the houses. Jones himself went into hiding and left for Birmingham early the next day. The mob entered each of the leading Methodist’s houses, breaking windows and window frames, smashing everything inside and generally wrecking the place. Anything of value was taken away. No resistance was offered and most people fled, only some of the children remained, not knowing what to do.

The mob’s ring leaders threatened to sack any of their employees who did not join them in the riot and offered to cease rioting if the members of the Methodist society would sign an undertaking to never invite or receive Methodist preachers again. They did not receive a single signature.

The next day similar outrages were carried out at Aldridge, but this time the returning mob was relieved of their spoils by a group of responsible citizens who took the goods to the Town Hall and invited the owners to come and collect them. Some of the victims unsuccessfully attempted to obtain a warrant against the principal rioters, but none of the local magistrates would comply.

Wesley stated that 33 people had suffered damage to their property with an estimated loss of over £500. F.W. Hackwood suggests that 13 of the victims lived in Wednesbury and that their losses amounted to £325.16s.6d. The disturbances which were not confined to this area where clearly well planned and organised beforehand. Some members of the mob were forced to participate by their employers and others may have taken part in order to steal goods from the houses.

Things began to quiet down, and although Wesley visited and preached in the town on several later occasions, it all went off peacefully. On 15th March, 1761 he preached before a crowd of between 8,000 and 10,000 people in Monway Field. The rise of Methodism in the town greatly benefited from the increase in population due to the industrial expansion in the area. Meeting Street is named after the Wesleyan Chapel that was built there in 1760 and remained in use until 1813.


St. Mary's and St. Bartholomew's on Church Hill.

Spring Head Wesleyan Church

The church was built in 1867 on the site of the old Methodist chapel from 1760 and could seat about 1,100 people. In front of the church stood the old “horse block” from the High Bullen on which Wesley used to preach. There were also two large church schools, originally built in 1847. They were modernised in 1886 at a cost of about £1,500 and could accommodate nearly 600 children. The church was rebuilt in 1932, and demolished in 1965, only two years short of its centenary.


Spring Head Wesleyan Church.

A Primitive Methodist chapel opened in Camp Street in 1824 to accommodate 500 people, followed by 5 others between 1850 and 1873. By the 1960s there were 7 Methodist chapels the town:

Spring Head, Riddings Lane, Camp Street, Elwell Street, Vicar Street, Joynson Street, and Old Park Road.
   

Trinity Congregational Church, Walsall Street


The later church.

In 1761 the Congregationalists purchased land on Holyhead Road and built a chapel which opened in 1762.

In 1848 to 1850 they built a chapel in Russell Street which flourished for 20 or 30 years.

By the end of the century it was in decline, but fortunes soon changed and attendances began to increase, so much so that in 1904 Trinity Congregational Church was built in Walsall Street at a cost of £4,300.

The church opened in 1905 and could seat 600 people.


The chapel in Russell Street.

  
Baptist Church, Holyhead Road

The first Baptist congregation in the town met in the old Quaker meeting house in 1834 and then from 1838 in a chapel in Dudley Street. In 1848 they purchased the ex Congregationalist’s chapel in Holyhead Road. Attendances dwindled and two years later they had to leave, some members returning to the Dudley Street chapel.

By 1856 their fortunes revived and they returned to the chapel in Holyhead Road, now known as Aenon Chapel.

Salvationists

The Salvation Army started in 1878 and reached Wednesbury in 1879. They began meeting in one of the old Methodist chapels in Holyhead Road and then in 1882 moved to the Theatre Royal in Earp’s Lane. In 1905 they moved to Upper High Street and opened a second barracks in Crankhall Lane.


Church Hill.


   
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