Old Hill Primitive Methodist Chapel ii 1867-1975

Laying the Foundation Stone

Old Hill Primitive Methodist Chapel

Date: 1867 – 1975




   The Primitive Methodist Society at Old Hill have for some years found the old chapel much too small for their increasing numbers; and for some time past the leaders of the body have been turning their attention towards providing the means for erecting a new and more commodious chapel.   In the promotion of this object, they have been zealously seconded by the members of the Society as well as aided by friends not immediately connected with Old Hill.  The result is, that ground adjoining the old chapel was purchased and the new structure forthwith commenced.  The memorial stone was laid on Monday last by Mr H. B. Sheridan, M.P. for Dudley (in which Parliamentary borough the site of the chapel is included), the hon. Member having made a journey from London for the purpose.  The intended chapel will not exhibited any peculiar architectural features.   It will be sixty feet long by forty-five broad and will be furnished with galleries and seated for 800.   The estimated cost is £2,000.  Mr W. Keen of Cradley Heath, is the architect, and Messrs. Stockton and Son, of Old-bury, are the builders.

Mr Sheridan arrived punctually at three o’clock.  He was met by a brass band, at some little distance from the site, and escorted by it to the platform, where he was received with loud and continued cheering from the vast concourse that had assembled.   A triumphal arch had been erected in the course of the morning, and the side of the chapel towards the platform was decorated with evergreens and suitable mottoes.   The proceedings began by the Rev. W. Wright, minister of the chapel, giving out a Hymn, which having been sung, the Rev. Thomas Palmer read a passage of scripture, and the Rev. C. Dudley offered prayer.

Mr Wright then said that he thought it might be interesting at that time to give a brief statement of the rise and progress and present position of the Primitive Methodist Connexion.  The connexion had been in existence fifty-nine years.   The first class was formed at Stanley, in North Staffordshire, in 1810 and consisted of ten members, not one of whom was connected with any denomination.  The body did not take its rise in any split or secession, but struggled into existence during a widespread revival of religion.   Hugh Bourne and William Clews, it was true, the founders of the connection, were connected with the Wesleyan Methodists, but because of their so-called irregularities in holding open-air services they were expelled that body – Bourn in 1808 and Clews in 1810. So small were the beginnings of the connexion that the first paid minister only received 10s per week (they paid them rather better now) which sum Hugh Bourne, though a hard-working man, engaged to pay out of his own pocket.  The minister’s marching orders were, to follow the openings of Providence, and to advise those who came under the influence of religion to join other connexions.  They had no idea of forming a separate connexion till its formation became, from the increasing numbers, a necessity.  The connexion began its work without a single chapel or school.   Its first chapel was built at Tunstall, and was only sixteen yards long and eight wide, and had a gallery at one end only; and it was built in such a form that it might easily be converted into four houses, because even then it was a matter of doubt whether the connexion would be of long continuance or not. He might just say that the first chapel, which was capable of seating 200 to 300, had long ago given place to one capable of holding 2,000.  (Loud cheers)   Machinery for future moral action was organised, a written plan was drawn up, containing the names of eight preachers and nine preaching places.   They extended their labours far and wide, visiting those places the most morally destitute, and proclaiming to the working classes of towns and cities salvation through Christ.  They usually took their preaching stand on the village green, or the busy market place; and though they suffered much violence and hardship from ruthless mobs, yet their labours were blest and owned by God.   The first ministers of the connexion often fell into the hands of the constable, and were committed to prison by Magistrates.   Nevertheless, through annoyance and persecution, through determined opposition and repeated imprisonments, the infant connexion mightily grew and prevailed.   Chapels were erected, societies formed, and schools established in many parts of the kingdom, and it was with inexpressible gratitude that their Conference was enabled to report progress last year in every department of connexional labour.  They commenced with ten members; last year they had 161,292; increase for the year, 1,431.   They began with one travelling preacher; now they had 943; increase for the past year, 27.   Of local preachers, they had 14,169, all of whom worked hard and received no monetary compensation.   The increase in that department was 149 for the year.   Their class leaders numbered 9,673; increase, 130.   Their class leaders numbered 3,369, showing an increase for the year of 125 or materially more than two chapels per week.   Of other places of worship, they had 2,963 ;  Sabbath schools, 3282;  increase for the year, 229.  Sunday scholars, 258,857; increase,  10,888;   Sunday school teachers, 46,193; increase, 451.   Besides these, they had missionaries over nearly the whole world, and the total sum raised among them for missionary enterprise during the year was £18,593 16s.   They had a training school at York, and a theological institution at Sunderland.  The Primitive Methodists had been in Old Hill, he was informed, for upwards of forty years.   Their first place of worship was an old warehouse at the cross, which was fitted up as a chapel.  But as the society grew and multiplied, a larger place became necessary.  A plot of land was purchased, and that which was now the old and dilapidated chapel about to be taken down was erected in 1828.   In the course of time that building became too small, and an enlargement was made by adding five yards to the length of it, and a very commodious school-room was added in 1859, at which upwards of 550children were taught every Sunday.   The old chapel was now too small to accommodate the increasing society, and under this pressing necessity a new trust was formed, and that plot of land was purchased with the view of taking down the old chapel and erecting a more commodious building to meet the moral and spiritual necessities of that densely populated neighbourhood.   They had long looked for that day, big with the expectation of success, and it had come at last, and their hearts were glad.   They considered themselves very highly honoured in having the hon. member for the borough to lay the memorial stone of the new chapel (Cheers.)   When they solicited Mr Sheridan to attend, he might inform them that he most cordially consented to perform the ceremony of laying that stone, and expressed the pleasure he should have in undertaking the duty,notwithstanding the pressing nature of his duties in Parliament.   (Cheers)   Mr Wright after a few general observations, called upon Miss Palmer, a little girl of eleven years old, daughter of Mr. Thomas Palmer, to present a silver trowel to Mr Sheridan.

Miss Palmer then stepped forward and said :- “In the name of the trustees, allow me to present you with this trowel, with which to lay the memorial stone of the Primitive Methodist Chapel, Old Hill.”

The hon. member,  having said a few words by the way of reply, proceeded to lay the stone.   Having formally declared the stone well and truly laid, he addressed the assemblage.

Mr Sheridan, who was received with cheers, said he had the greatest possible pleasure in being amongst them that day, and in being invited by them to take part in that good work, and in those most interesting proceedings.   (Cheers)   When he looked round that great assemblage, and saw so numerous and so respectable a gathering, and so many bright faces smiling welcome not only to him, but to each other, he insensibly turned to his friends on the platform and congratulated them upon so auspicious a commencement of their work.   (Cheers.)    His rev friend had referred to the duties which detained him just now in London.   He could assure them that he had left London at a time of very great political excitement, when each day brought forward some new feature, and called for some new decision with reference to the great question which now agitated the country and governed the policy of the Liberal party.   (Cheer.)   Some members had made long journeys in order to take part in particular divisions, and it was only yesterday he was told by a celebrated Irishman that he had travelled two days and a night in order to be present at one division.  (Cheers, and  “Good luck to him.”)    They would see, therefore, that it was very  important for him to be in London ; but nevertheless, he had come down animated  with the belief that they were sincerely desirous he should take part in the work they had begun-(cheers)-and believing that if he had pleaded the urgency of his political engagements, it would have given some disappointment.   (Hear, hear.)    There was nothing so satisfactory, nothing so elevating, as the consciousness of having taken part in some proceeding which was not merely of a practical character, but which was ennobling in its nature.   He was sure that in the whole range of human action, nothing could be more useful or exalting than to engage in such works as they had begun.   They were about to erect a building devoted to the service of their maker, the Giver of all good, and in their humble, simple architecture were about to raise a temple for the worship of the Most High, who was himself the great Architect of the universe.   (Hear, hear.)   That building, too, was destined to be the scene of the labours of the earnest and single-minded gentlemen who had been referred to by Mr Wright, their teachers and their ministers-men who devoted their talents ,their intellect, their education, and their lives to the service of God, who instead of endeavouring to obtain for themselves that worldly wealth and prosperity, which they might expect from their talents and their education gave themselves to the higher purposes of teaching and elevating, and humanising the more neglected of their fellow-countrymen.   There was a Roman Emperor, a good man among many bad, who was in the habit of casting up the whole of his day’s proceedings before retiring to rest, and challenging himself as to his day’s work.  He was in the habit of asking himself what good deed he had done-what could he lay his finger upon as worthy of being remembered? and if he found nothing to record he was in the habit of entering in his diary the words, “ Perdidi diem”- “I have lost a day”).   Now, he thought when {page torn} they would have the satisfactory reflection that the humblest of them had taken part in a proceeding which reflected the highest credit on all who would share in the effort now being made.   (Cheers.)   It was in the nature of good deeds to beget good deeds, and certain he was that they would find themselves offering up a silent prayer that the tree so auspiciously planted might bring forth good fruit, and that a satisfactory reward would attend the labours of the husbandmen.   (Loud cheers.)   In conclusion, Mr Sheridan expressed his regret that it would be impossible for him to attend the tea meeting, but pleaded that he could not do so consistently with his Parliamentary duties.

Mr Malins moved a vote of thanks to Mr Sheridan for attending. The motion was seconded, and carried amid cheers.

The benediction was then pronounced, and the proceedings terminated.      The trowel presented to Mr Sheridan was an elegant instrument of silver, and was inscribed as follows:-“Presented to H.B. Sheridan, Esq , M.P. for Dudley, by the trustees of the Primitive Methodist Chapel, Old Hill, July 19th 1869”   In the cavity of the memorial stone were placed  copies of the Methodist Times, the Daily Post, The Advertiser, a plan of the Circuit and the names of the Trustees, of the architect, and the builders.


In the evening a tea meeting was held in the school-room adjoining the chapel.  Upwards of 700 persons sat down to tea.   A public meeting was afterwards held in the chapel, when Mr Malins of Cradley Heath, took the chair, in the absence of Mr Wood.   In the course of the evening addresses were delivered by the chairman, the Revs. W.  Wright and C.  Dudley (circuit ministers), Messrs T. Bluck, Brazier, J. Hulston, T. Wesley, J. Penn, and T. Palmer.   The proceeds from the collection, after the laying of the stone and from the tea meeting, amounted to upwards of £100.   The proceedings were most enthusiastic.

On Tuesday, the scholars who had taken collecting cards to raise funds for the new chapel were treated to tea; and on Wednesday morning the spars provisions was distributed among  starving families of nailers now on strike.   We understand that the efforts being made to raise the necessary amount of funds for the new building are meeting with a large amount of success.




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