Early history of Methodism in the South of Stoke
The beginnings of the Methodist chapels in this part of the
Strong leaders emerged and people realised the valuable contribution to society of the Methodist movement. They appreciated the Sunday schools which cared for and taught their children; they found joy in the hearty singing and in a world where alcohol was an escape route from poverty, the temperance beliefs of the church gave them moral guide lines. Many lived in dreadful squalor but the sharing of the love of Christ gave them hope.
Starting in 1803, several chapels were built, reflecting this enthusiasm and in 1822 the Longton circuit with its mother
As the suburb of Normacot expanded, it became obvious that a Methodist presence was essential for the people there.
The first actual recorded service in Normacot was held in 1879 in a small room in Spring Road where there were nine members and five candidates for membership. Gradually more and more people became involved and the shell of an iron building became available and was erected on a piece of land in
It was soon obvious that “the tin chapel” was too small for the growing congregation and a building fund was started. The Duke of Sutherland granted a lease on land directly opposite and on 21st June 1910, the foundation stone of
The building, in the late Gothic style with its cruciform plan, balcony and large schoolroom with a stage, was much admired. In 1925, through a generous gift by three loyal members, the freehold of the land was purchased.
In 1932, the different branches of Methodism decided to amalgamate and it is interesting to note that
Many people will remember the full life of the church with the anniversary processions, its huge stage erected for the number of children singing from the Sunday school, the Sunday school outings the Lifeboys and the Boys' Brigade, the Guides and Brownies, Christmas celebrations, rose queens, the youth club, ladies meetings, the Regnal circle, the Omnibus meetings, fayres, church suppers, interesting talks and discussions, Bible studies and prayer meetings and many, many other activities. The church was indeed alive and vibrant with a prize winning choir and talented organists. Hard work ensured that the building remained most attractive with members redecorating and beautifying the interior of the church and tending to the grounds on a regular basis.
As the years passed, however, times changed and membership numbers dropped. The cost of maintaining the church buildings soared and Normacot was plagued with dry rot and boiler problems. Health and Safety regulations became more and more stringent and it was obvious that it would be difficult to continue without some changes.
In 2002, it was decided, after much discussion and heart-searching to amalgamate with Meir chapel with services held in each building on alternate weeks. This worked well until a catastrophic boiler breakdown at Normacot meant that all services were held at Meir. The last service (with portable heaters!) was held at Normacot on 1st February 2004. There was a great feeling of loss for a very beautiful and loved building but there was also optimism for the new challenges ahead.
In 1904 a new ‘Wesleyan’ chapel was opened in the road formerly called Meir lane and now called
The new chapel seated approximately 200 people and it was built with large basement school rooms. For many years it was the largest building in the area. The chapel had a fine organ and a number of dedicated organists, one of whom, Mr Arthur Hawkins continued his role until 2008, completing a wonderful seventy years.
Many new council houses were built in Meir in the 1930s and 40s and the chapel was well used by the community. On Sundays the worship services were always full and there were thriving Brownies, Guides, Boys Brigade, Youth clubs and even a football club together with Bible study groups and women’s meetings. Many people in the community have fond memories of belonging to the large Sunday school with its anniversary each May with such large numbers attending that the local cinema had to be used on some occasions as there was not room to accommodate everyone in the church.
In the 1940s the chapel was part of the Longton Mission circuit together with
Eventually the building became dilapidated and the construction of the A50 also caused problems. A considerable amount of money was needed to be spent in an attempt to bring it up to today’s standards. This was not a feasible financial proposition and after the decision to join with Normacot and
In the 1930s, Meir was expanding rapidly with the creation of new housing estates on each side of
The first stone of Sandon Road Methodist chapel was laid in 1933 and the chapel held its opening service on June 13th 1934. It became part of the Longton Mission Circuit.
The building, situated half way up
The church proudly celebrated its 50th birthday in 1984 when one of the founding members, living abroad, presented a new flag to the Boys Brigade Company to mark the occasion.
Sandon Road chapel was a real family church and its members were devoted and loyal but, as happened at both Meir and Normacot, a fall in numbers, an aging congregation and inevitable demands for money for repairs and to meet new standards imposed a real burden and on 8th April 2003 after several years of struggle, the unanimous vote of the Church Council was to amalgamate with Meir and Normacot churches with the proviso that worship should continue at Sandon Road until the end of 2003.
Evening worship therefore continued to take place at
Today the chapel still stands looking rather forlorn and boarded up and there are still questions about how the site will be utilised in the future.
As the brief history of the three churches shows, the congregations of Meir, Normacot and
A development committee was formed and land was purchased in
After the last service at Meir on 26th October 2008, the congregation was homeless for a few weeks and gratitude must be expressed to Holy Trinity church Meir who agreed to share their premises.
Then on 7th December 2008, the first service was held at the new church with its name ‘
Symbols were brought into the lovely new building:
The bible - the symbol of God’s eternal word
A study book - the symbol of continual learning
A hymn book - the symbol of praise
Water - the symbol of baptism and new life
A ring - the symbol of unity and binding together
Bread and wine - the symbol of sharing in Christ’s sacrifice
The church was dedicated at a moving service on 5th January 2009 when the preacher was the Reverend Peter Barber, the chair of
Since then there has been a wonderful spirit in the new church. People have real pride in what has been achieved. Weekly activities flourish and the church is growing steadily in numbers and is becoming a true Christ based centre for the community, open to all. There is a tremendous sense of belonging and of love and a great optimism as members embark on new projects in faith.
Praise God for the vision and its achievement!
- Pickford Place
- ST3 7DX