In 1925 the Wesleyan Methodist Society in Cradley celebrated the 100th anniversary of its Sunday School with the publication of a booklet setting out the Society's past and present history. We present a transcription of that booklet, together with a downloadable version in PDF format.
The reader will observe from the chronological data, that the Wesleyan Methodist Society in Cradley goes back to the year 1766, prior to John Wesley's visit, but according to records, its Sunday School dates from 1825. We have thus arrived at the time for celebrating the one hundred years of Sunday School Work, this being on the unalterable third Sunday in May (and Monday following), May 17th and 18th, 1925.
(See full announcement on last page).
Careful attention in the research of dates has been observed and we are grateful to the help afforded by an old manuscript written by Miss Ann Bowater, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. James Bowater, the devoted pioneers of Cradley Wesleyan Society. This manuscript is in the possession of Mr. James Ashton.
We are also indebted to Mr. A. J. Twigg for most valuable help in recording the chronology and for considerable detail work.
The School Council acknowledges with sincere thanks the contributions of Mr. James Ashton and the Rev. S.E. Dunn, D.D., both time honoured worthies of Cradley Wesleyans.
A coincidence with this Centenary, comes the Jubilee year of the first Anniversary of the present Chapel, May 1875.
"Hitherto hath the Lord helped us." - I. SAMUEL vii, 12.
WE THANK THEE, LORD!
We thank Thee, Lord!
For all Thy blessings on these hundred years,
Wherein love’s labour faltered not, nor failed,
For that high faith that conquered doubts and fears,
And over every obstacle prevailed.
We thank Thee, Lord!
For all the lives so fully, freely spent,
Careless of self if but the work were done,
For all the cheer and help munificent,
Which nought withheld while souls were to be won.
We thank Thee, Lord!
For all our dear dead great ones passed and gone
To nobler work, in closer touch with Thee,
For those Thy servants who still labour on
With tireless, self-denying loyalty.
We thank Thee, Lord!
In all the work Thy loving Hand we trace,
Our prayers and thanks we join in sweet accord,
We pray for further token of Thy grace,
And with full hearts we thank Thee, thank Thee, Lord.
- JOHN OXENHAM
(Printed with kind permission of the Author.)
CENTENARY OF THE CRADLEY WESLEYAN METHODIST SUNDAY SCHOOL. 1825-1925. A Century of Religious Education.
By MR. JAMES ASHTON.
Methodism has played a prominent part in the religious life of the ancient Township of Cradley.
The three great Methodist "Societies," the Wesleyan, the Primitive, and the United Methodist, are well represented.
The founder of Methodism, the Rev. John Wesley, A.M., visited Cradley on March 19th, 1770, and evidently met with a good reception, for he relates in his Journal, that "The multitude of people obliged me to stand abroad, although the wind whistled round my head." The good seed sown on this windy day was not all blown to the winds ; some of it fell on good ground and brought forth fruit like "A handful of corn in the earth upon the top of the mountain." The fruit thereof has increased from generation to generation.
The first outward and visible sign of the good work was a little Chapel in Butcher's Lane, Cradley, erected by the self-sacrificing efforts of a few earnest souls who had plenty of faith, but not much money. The small Society was attached to the Birmingham Circuit, but it could not have a "preacher" more than once a quarter. It had a hard struggle for existence. Eventually the little Chapel was sold to a Mr. Best, who was an adherent of Lady Huntingdon. He pulled down the building, removed the bricks to the top of the hill, and erected what is now the Parish Church. This was about the year 1786. The small Wesleyan Society removed to a private house near the Church Yard, worshipping there for many years.
Later, when the Presbyterians, now known as Unitarians, built a new Chapel at Netherend, the Wesleyans bought their old one at Cradley Forge. This change proved Providential. Conversions were numerous, and the Cause grew apace.
In the year 1817, Mr. and Mrs. Bowater and family removed from Quarry Bank to Parkside, Cradley. They were devout and devoted members of the Cradley Forge Society; and being now some considerable distance from the Chapel, opened their home for a prayer-meeting. This step proving eminently successful, other neighbours did the same. The numbers increasing, an old nail warehouse in Butcher’s Lane was rented. Regular meetings for worship were held, taking at first the form of a Sunday School. This edifice was two floors high, the one being used for adults, and the second for children.
Services were held here on Sundays and on week days, and soon it was put on the Plan of the Dudley Circuit. The Superintendent Minister was Rev. J. Sutcliffe who resided at Dudley. He greatly rejoiced in the success of the new Cause, and gave the first Class Tickets to its members of Society.
When the time came for the Sunday School Sermons, it was found necessary to obtain the use of a larger building. This was afforded by the Baptists who generously granted the accommodation of their Chapel for the evening service in 1825.
The little Cause prospered so well that its friends felt they must have a new Chapel of their own, and after several efforts they succeeded finally in securing a suitable site at Lyde Green, in 1825, where the "Ebenezer Chapel" was erected and opened in October 1826. Subsequently a School was built at the back. In 1839, a Minister’s House was built at the front. This last, the Cradley friends furnished at their own cost with the exception of a grant of ten pounds from the Contingent Fund of the Wesleyan Methodist Connexion.
The date of the erection of the Cradley Sunday School is not certainly known : but the Anniversary of 1826 was held on the third Sunday in May in the unfinished Chapel which was not formally opened until the following October. And so it happens that then, as now, the Sunday School was the nursery of the Church.
Wesleyan Methodism, very early in its history, realized the value of education, secular and religious. And in most towns where suitable sites could be obtained both Sunday Schools and Day Schools were established. Cradley was well to the fore in this particular. A well appointed Day School for boys and girls was commenced at least 80 years ago, continuing, with the exception of a short interval, down to December 1874.
The moving spirit of that early time anticipated an evolution toward the modern thirst for knowledge in the formation during the summer of 1865 of the late Cradley Young Men's Mutual Improvement Society, which produced so many preachers, and has exerted so inspiring an influence in the regions around.
When our forefathers, one hundred years ago, opened the door of the little nail warehouse in Butcher's Lane, they opened what St. Paul calls "a great door and effectual" - a door of hope, leading to the good and growth of many thousands of children ; and a door of faith and hope through which has marched a long line of men and women eager to serve God and man in their day and generation.
The later half of the century last past, has been a period of strenuous effort and enterprise. Previous to the year 1870 there had been a debt of £700 on the old Chapel, gradually reduced, however, after much toil and sacrifice. It was evident, too, that the old "Ebenezer" was becoming altogether inadequate for the growing and multiplying needs. So it was demolished, and the present edifice was erected at a cost of £2928 16s. 10d. and opened on June 8th, 1874. A few years later, mining operations near by damaged the structure, shattering the windows which had to be replaced by leaded Canterbury glass, while the building itself was "clamped."
In 1884 the old School building was demolished and a modern structure, more adapted to requirements, took its place. When all was finished, it was admitted at the time that the accommodations were the most up-to-date in the Midlands.
In connection with the whole scheme, a new organ was purchased and placed in the gallery of the Chapel.
Through all this period the Church was in a flourishing condition. Every seat was taken, and the congregations were good, especially in the mornings. In the course of time, in order to enlarge the seating capacity, and for other reasons, the transepts were extended, and organ and choir brought down below.
About the year 1912 it became evident that there was another underground movement, and preparations were made to repair the damage. But, alas! the Great World War came on, and it was not until the year 1922 that a start of renovation was made. Meanwhile the state of the property had gone from bad to worse. School and Chapel were positively in a dangerous condition. But through the skill and resources of the Renovation Committee, the whole plant of buildings is now safe, and restored to its pristine beauty.
There is now no debt on the whole of the Trust property, except a part of a free loan on the Caretaker’s House, repayable at the rate of £7 10s. 0d. per annum. All the repairs and renovations are paid for, while the sum of £100 is invested towards an organ Fund. In all these enterprises the Sunday School Council has co-operated both financially and otherwise.
It is, indeed, a great privilege to co-operate in the material prosperity of the Church, but who can estimate the honour and blessing accruing to the Christian worker in being permitted to toil in God’s vineyard. Think of one hundred years of loving, faithful service, sustained by prayer and devotion, and the happy consciousness that some of the good seed will laugh in harvest and sing in praise.
It would be impossible to estimate fully the numbers that have been garnered above; besides the many, still remaining, who owe an untold debt to Cradley School and Church. Some have gone t o other lands; and Eternity alone will reveal the full record.
It is interesting to note that ten of Cradley Scholars during the last sixty years, have entered the Gospel Ministry. The roll is :-
Baker, J. S.
Brazier, George, in 1855.
Dunn, Simeon B., D.D., in 1870.
Griffiths, F. W.
Warr, Joseph Gadd, B.A.
Besides this bright roll, five of our lady Teachers have become Ministers’ wives.
Many of our young men have become Local Preachers, some of whom still remain among us in service, sympathy and support.
Special mention should be made here of the remarkable Brazier family. Father and five sons were preachers: George, sen., George, jun., Samuel, John, Enoch, and the inimitable Adam. All these were distinguished for originality of mind and for tireless industry and willing service.
SUNDAY SCHOOL WORKERS.
Past and Present.
Honourable mention must he made of the long line of Superintendents and other workers. Of the earliest years no particulars are known, but in 1840, Henry Hingley was Superintendent. With the help of an old register we are able to give the following list :-
1850 - 1851 ... Joseph Adams
1852 - 1855 ... Thomas Crowther
1856 - 1866 ... David Brooks
1867 - 1868 ... Stephen Dunn
1869 - 1874 ... George Taylor
1875 - 1877 ... Henry Clift
1878 - 1883 ... George Taylor
1884 - 1886 ... Henry Clift
1887 - 1897 ... Joseph Bloomer
1898 - 1902 ... George Taylor
1903 - 1909 ... John H. Griffiths
1910 - 1913 ... Samuel Clift
1914 - 1915 ... William E. Warr
1916 - 1922 ... Arthur J. Twigg
1923 ... David M. Chapman
1924 - 1925 ... Joseph Smith
1850 - 1851 ... Joseph Thompson
1852 - 1866 ... William Downing
1867 - 1899 ... William Brazier
1900 - 1902 ... John H. Griffiths
1903 - 1925 ... Alfred Wooldridge
It is of interest to many of the present generation to know that among the teachers in 1849 appear the following names : John Worton, William Downing, Thomas Hemming, Thomas Crowther, William Foster and Henry Hingley ; also the names of Sophia Worton, Mrs. Hemming, Miss Yardley and Phoebe Worton.
Other well known names which appear during the next ten years are : William Griffin, Caroline Watts, Philip Case, James Perry, Sophia Hingley, John Brown ; while in speedy succession occur the names of most of the families still associated with our Church and School.
During the last half century no name is more fragrant in the memory than that of William Brazier, a life-long friend of the Sunday School, a Teacher from 1854 and its Secretary for thirty-three years. The names of the Teachers of the past is legion, but who can forget the quaint Frank Wall, one of Cradley's characters, whose special duty it was to preserve order among the children of the gallery during service in the Chapel ; or the saintly Philip Bloomer for so many years the teacher of the Senior Girls' Class ; or Mrs. Joseph Darby of more recent times, a mother in Israel among the young women. Special mention must be made of the unique record of service rendered by Mrs. James Ashton, both of whose parents were teachers in 1849, and who herself became associated with our Sunday School more than seventy years ago, served fifty years as teacher, and still acts as Secretary for one section of our work. Mr. James Ashton still continues his life-long interest in the School as Treasurer. And certainly Adam Brazier, "the inimitable Adam" as his old friend calls him, will never be forgotten by those who knew him, as the life and soul of the May-day Festivals and the founder of the "Christmas Sociable", an institution still maintained.
Nor should we forget the devoted service of Charles Bache, James Clift, Joshua Worton, of Frederick Lewis and Ralph Minty, or the valuable assistance in Council and treat field of William Beaven and Joseph Lawley.
And what shall we more say? for time (and space) would fail to tell of all whose labour in our School is worthy of remembrance. With few exceptions we have refrained from speaking of those still living, but none the less gratefully, we gladly acknowledge the inestimable worth of the devotion and sacrifice of a magnificent succession of workers in this part of our Master’s vineyard.
We have not been able to discover who the preacher was at our Sunday School Anniversary held in the Baptist Chapel in 1825, but in 1826, Rev. J. Rosser, of the Dudley Circuit, preached in the unfinished Wesleyan Ebenezer Chapel. In 1829, the famous and saintly John Rattenbury, then one of the ministers in the newly formed Stourbridge Circuit, was the preacher. In spite of much opposition, the services on that occasion were very successful, the collection amounting to £27, an increase of £10 over any previous Anniversary.
Exactly fifty years ago, in 1875, the first Anniversary in the present Chapel was held, when Rev. T. Bowman Stephenson, B.A., the founder of National Children’s Home, and afterwards President of the Conference, conducted the services.
Other Presidents who have honoured us with their services are : Rev. W. L. Watkinson (1895), Rev. C. H. Kelly, Rev. Charles Garrett, and Rev. J. A. Sharp, the latter on no less than three occasions, 1901, 1902 and 1910.
A REVERIE OF REMINISCENCES. By REV. S. B. DUNN, D.D.
A tiny pebble cast into a pond will start many circles of wavelets that roll until they break in quiet music on the rim.
Such a pebble is the Centenary of the Cradley Wesleyan Methodist Sunday School. It awakens previous memories that augur well for the future years.
I have been kindly requested to recall and record some of these memories, more or less personal. And it is a rare pleasure to refurbish a few of these as memory may unlock them.
It was my good fortune to graduate through the Sunday School both as Scholar and Teacher, beginning at about five years of age, in the A.B.C. Class, arrayed in a white pinafore. I threaded the classes until I reached George Taylor's Adult Bible Class. Then I retraversed much of the same course as a Teacher, until, reaching the Local Preachers' Circuit Plan.
Two incidents of this period recur to me :-
(1) Winning a Memory Contest Prize of five shillings for reciting without error about one hundred and seventy verses of St. Luke's Gospel ; Adam Brazier coming next.
(2) A visit and an address to the School by Rev. George Brazier, then seriously ill from consumption, from which, a little later, he died. His subject was the Sabbath. One stanza he taught the School was :-
"The Sabbath, the Sabbath, the Sabbath of rest!
The Day which Jehovah hath hallowed and blest ;
The Day set apart for His service below :
Shall we give up the Sabbath ? ah never! ah. no!"
George Taylor, Henry Clift, Wm. Brazier, John Worton, Jos. Bloomer
The Superintendents in this period were Crowther, Brooks and Taylor. The one that influenced me most was George Taylor, especially as Bible Class Teacher. His memory to me is more than rubies.
Well do I remember too, the two Day School Teachers, Mr. Jackson and Mr. Yeamon, the former having what John Brazier once called, in my hearing, "an indomitable will," -a ponderous adjective that I considered imposing and formidable!
Between this initial period and preaching career came a chain of incidents whose links are more than golden, and distinct in memory as pearls.
At ten years of age I was a member of the Band of Hope - the Cold Water Cure and the Long Life Insurance Co.!
At the age of sixteen or so, I joined the Young Men’s Mutual Improvement Society where mind and soul caught fire to get the best for both, and for both worlds too. Mind rubbed mind, and soul struck soul, making the sparks fly and the weapon-edge keen and fit. Books got into brain, and emulation spurred ambition to be, and do, and achieve one’s best. Little essays, later, grew into sermons, and lectures to young men in my Churches, who themselves climbed pulpits and trod parishes.
In that formative period I joined the Cradley Church, under Rev. Thomas Overton, now of saintly and sainted memory, who baptized me at the same time, and preached on the occasion from the text : "It is good for a man that he bear the yoke in his youth,"-a yoke still easy, and worn with grateful pride, waiting for an Elijah chariot-ride of flame-harnessed horses.
From that day I was a member of the Early Sunday Morning Class of Benjamin Cox, a saint in corduroy and home-spun, and a King in Character.
Attendance with my father, Stephen Dunn, of tender memory, in the dear old "Ebenezer" Choir adorned first with fiddles, and, later, with harmonium (still preserved), presided over, first by William Brazier, and afterwards by Philip Heath for half a century, marked my years from a mere lad to early manhood, leaving the gallery gods and singing angels for the pulpit. Father and son sang tenor under the leadership of a Mr. Maddox, and the fingers of our now sainted, faithful Philip Heath.
The youthful vocalist found time and pleasure in listening to the sermons from the pulpit, keeping notes of texts preached from, for years ; and being rewarded once with a note-book by Henry Hingley, who, for years, was a tower of strength in School and Church at Cradley.
By no means the least precious Cradley memory is the coming of our veterans, James Ashton and William Twigg, whose families still do so much to afford heritage and example in the Cradley legend and future.
And so my Reverie of Reminiscences reaches its finale, with the prayer and hope that the best of Cradley Wesleyan Methodist School and Church may be before and not behind, to be counted among the jewels when their Divine Lord shall some to make them up.
ROLL OF HONOUR.
The names mentioned below are those of men from our School and Church who hazarded their lives in the Great War to maintain the sacred ideals of Christian Civilization.
Billingham, William ... Signr, 2/6th South Staffs. Regt.
Billingham, Victor ... Pte., K.O.Y.L.I.
Blunt, Frederick W. ... Pte., R.A.S.C.
Cooper, Frederick ... Pte., 4th Reserve Dorset Regt.
Clarke, James, Sen. ... Pte. 4th Bat. Worcs. Regt.
Clarke, James. Jun. ... L.-Corpl., 4th Bat. Worcs. Regt.
Clarke, Ernest ... Pte., 2nd Bat. Hants. Regt.
Case, Horace ... Pte., 2/4th Royl Berks. Regt.
Case, Frederick Arthur ... Gr., R.G.A.
Case, Christopher ... Gr., R.G.A.
Corbett, Sidney ... Gr., R.G.A.
Chapman, W. Hubert ... Corpl., 2/9th Bat. London Regt.
Clift, Clarence E. ... Pte., R.A.M.C.
Clare, W. Herbert ... Signr., H.M.S. Llwellyn
Darby, John ... Pte., M.G.C.
Dunn, Arthur ... Pte., Reserver Bat. Worcs. Regt.
Dukes, Frederick ... L.-Corpl., 14th Bat. Hants. Regt.
Errington, Bertram E. ... Signr., R.G.A.
Fowkes, John ... Pte., 5th Bat. South Staffs. Regt.
Grove, J. Albert ... A.B., H.M.S. Tarantula
Green, William H. ... Gr., R.G.A.
Green, C. Dennis ... Pte., 5th Bat. Devon Regt.
Griffiths, Henry H. ... Lieut., 10th Bat. South Staffs. Regt.
Haynes, Edgar ... Pte., R.A.M.C.
Homer, Frederick ... Pte., 18th Bat. K.R.R.
Heath, Philip, Jun. ... Pte., 3rd Bat. West Yorks. Regt.
Hingley, Thomas ... Corpl., 2/7th Bat. Northumberland Fus.
Jenkins, Frederick R. ... H.M.S. Vernon
Jones, Hubert B. ... Pte., 7th Bat. R. Warwick Regt.
Jones, James ... Pte., 16th Bat. R. Warwick Regt.
Jones, David ... Corpl., 16th Bat. R. Warwick Regt.
Newby, Edgar ... Mercantile Marine
Perry, Benjamin ... L.-Corpl., 5th Bat. Worcs. Regt.
Richardson, Edward ... Pte., Tank Corps
Sidaway, Stafford ... L.-Corpl., 5th Bat. Worcs. Regt.
Sitch, James Ernest ... Lieut. R.A.F.
Shaw, Frank ... Pte., 1st Bat. R. Warwick Regt.
Shaw, Alfred ... Pte., 4th Bat. Royal Sussex Regt.
Stevens, G. Horace ... H.M.S. Raglan Castle
Timmins, Joseph ... 8/W, R.E.
Twigg, Jno, Bertram ... Pte., R. Warwick Regt.
Winkett, Edward C. ... Pte., 4th Bat. Worcs. Regt.
Weaver, Harry ... Pte., 2nd Bat. Worcs. Regt.
Waldron, J. Horace ... R.E.
Webster, Thomas ... 2nd A.M., R.A.F.
The following men made the great sacrifice while on service:
GRIFFITHS, HENRY HINGLEY
HEATH, PHILIP, JUN.
"Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends."
WESLEYAN METHODIST MINISTERS WHO HAVE ESIDED IN CRADLEY.
1833-1834 ... Rev. Samuel Fiddian
1835 ... " Henry Hickman
1836-1838 ... " William Ricketts
1839-1841 ... " William Drewett
1842-1844 ... " Thomas Jeffrey
1845 ... " William H. Bakewell
1848 ... " Joseph Parkes
1849-1850 ... " Richard Hardy
1851-1852 ... " Richard Smailes
1853-1854 ... " John S. Ridsdale
1855-1866 ... " No Minister appointed to Cradley
1867-1868 ... " William Kirkman
1869-1871 ... " Andrew Palmer
1872-1874 ... " Patrick Pizey
1875-1877 ... " Alfred Tucker
1878-1880 ... " W. J. Hedley
1881 ... " G. H. Howson
1882-1884 ... " Richard Groves
1885-1887 ... " Robert Killip
1888 ... " R. H. Bleby
1889 ... " F. H. Thomas
Cradley Circuit formed.
1890-1892 ... Rev. Joseph Dyson
1893-1895 ... " H. J. Quilter
1896-1898 ... " G. A. Currier
1899-1901 ... " Samuel Shrimpton
1902-1904 ... " John Thompson
1905-1907 ... " J. C. Brewer
1908-1910 ... " J. T. East
Cradley re-united to Stourbridge Circuit.
1911 ... Rev. Joseph Birkbeck
1912-1914 ... " J. A. Asquith Baker
1915 ... " William Henderson
1916-1920 ... " F. Guy Morris
1921-1923 ... " W. J. Neal
1924-1925 ... " Walter Reed
HISTORICAL SUMMARY OF WESLEYAN METHODISM IN CRADLEY.
1766 First Wesleyan Methodist Society formed in Cradley, which was then in the "Staffordshire" Circuit.
1768 First Wesleyan Chapel, thirty feet long by twenty broad, built in Butcher’s Lane.
1770 John Wesley preached in Cradley on March 19th.
1786 Wesleyan Chapel sold to Mr. Best, who took down the Chapel and used the bricks for the foundation of the present Established Church which was erected as a "Countess of Huntingdon" Chapel.
Cradley was at this time in "Birmingham" Circuit.
1786-1796 The Wesleyan Society met in a private house on Dungeon Head.
1794 Dudley Circuit formed, with Cradley as one of its Societies.
1796 Wesleyans bought the old Cradley Forge Chapel from the Presbyterians who had built a new Chapel at Park Lane.
1813 Mr. and Mrs. Bowater and Benjamin Cox were members at Cradley Forge at this time.
1817 Mr. and Mrs. Bowater removed to Parkside, Cradley, and by opening their house for prayer meetings, re-introduced Wesleyan Methodism into Cradley.
1824 Old nail warehouse in Butcher’s Lane (near site of former Chapel) hired for School; the ground floor was used to teach adults to read and write, and the upper room for a Sabbath School.
1825 Sunday School Sermons. Evening service held in Baptist Chapel, kindly lent for the occasion.
1825 Land bought (present site) at Lyde Green, and the old “Ebenezer" Chapel commenced.
1826 Chapel completed and opened, first Sunday in October.
1828 Stourbridge Circuit formed from Dudley.
1839 Manse (present Chapel House) built.
1840 ? First Sunday School built behind the Chapel.
1874 The present Chapel built and opened on June 8th.
1884 Present Sunday School built.
1890 Cradley Circuit formed from Stourbridge.
1911 Cradley re-united to Stourbridge Circuit.
1925 Sunday School Centenary.
17th MAY, 1925.
10-30 a.m. and 6-0 p.m.
REV. J. SIDNEY BAKER (of Burnley),
(a former Scholar).
Afternoon Service, 2-30 p.m.
To be Addressed by
REV. SIMEON B. DUNN, D.D.
(late of New York, U.S.A.).
Monday, May 18th.
A Great RALLY OF METHODISM.
REV. AMOS BURNET.
President of the Conference.
Sermon 4-0 p.m. Tea 5-80 p.m. Public Meeting 7-15 p.m.
Speaker... THE PRESIDENT
Chairman ...DR. T. M. TIBBETTS
Supported by Circuit Ministers.
Special Music and Hymn by Children and Choir
Cradley Links wishes to thank Linda Lamberg who generously made this document available for scanning and transcription.
"'The Teachers Group' is referred to on page 13, where it lists a lot of the names - if only we knew who was who. The first gentleman on the right with beard is John Worton b. 1827, my gt. x 2 grandfather."
1 Presumably Alfred Wooldridge, who is listed as secretary 1903 - 1925
The entire original document is also available in PDF format. Please click the link on the below to download.