Cole, Sidney (1877-1968)


The death occurred in Wordsley Hospital on November 12 1968 of Mr Sidney Cole, aged 91 years.  He was a well known and respected local preacher for 67 years, a Sunday School superintendent for 27 years, and he was also a Trustee and Leader of the Hasbury Methodist Church until his death.

Mr J Hunt of Ebury House, Romsley, writes, “His life covered the heyday of Primitive Methodism, and it was to him I turned for information about the history of Nonconformity when I was organising the ‘Romsley in History’ exhibition in 1966.  I found him then, at 89, remarkably hale and with faculties unimpaired.  As I write, I have before me notes which he compiled about our village ‘Prims’.  His earliest memories were of visiting Romsley with his father (also a local preacher) when the tiny and recently opened chapel on the hillside (the year would be about 1884) had no illumination of any sort.  In those days visiting preachers had to walk up from Halesowen and usually came for both afternoon Sunday School and evening service.

With  no prior arrangements for meals, hospitality was always forthcoming from the villagers who vied with one another to provide high tea for the preacher.  At the Malt Shovel (a village inn long since closed and demolished) lived the Hampton family whom Mr Cole recalled as being particularly kind to him.  As I sat with him at the fireside of his cosy little cottage in Hasbury, he conjured up from the firelight stalwarts long departed, such as George Beers, ganger on the now defunct Halesowen-Rubery railway, and a local preacher of repute.

A highlight of the local Primitive Methodists’ year was the annual Easter tea and concert at Romsley.  Succulent freshly gathered water-cress from Madeley, and other homely fare sustained the crowds through the evening concert when Tom Seeley’s rendering of popular ballads and his kinsman Walter’s conjuring prowess evoked rapturous applause.  Sidney remembered these events with evident delight and made the point that in those days people had to create their own entertainments.

The sterling work and worth of the local preachers of those times has received far too little recognition.  Workmen were poor, propertyless and unlettered, inarticulate in everyday conversation, but the Sabbath saw them ‘Blessed with tongues’ and mightily eloquent in the service of their God.  To them, religion was far too serious a business to leave to the parsons, and while some of their theological flights were nothing short of hair-raising, they yet brought many people into a fuller life.

Being ‘on the Plan’ was the highest honour they desired.  Their extempore prayers (some of them almost of sermon length) wrought wonders.  Congregations interjected ‘Alleluias’, ‘Praise the Lords’ and ‘Amens’.  Let us praise some of these worthies, Sidney Cole, George Reynolds, John Higgs, David Lea.  There were many others whose faces and voices can be recalled but whose names are momentarily forgotten.

My own memories of Sidney Cole go back some 50 years.  He was one of my mentors when I myself was, for a brief period, ‘on the Plan’.  I did not have the staying power of the worthies I have mentioned and heeded rather the siren voices of commerce.  He and his like could have been successes in politics or in trade union affairs, but preferred a humbler calling, devoting all the spare time they had to a church whose stark and ugly buildings housed people of stout and kindly hearts”.

The funeral was on Friday November 15, followed by cremation at Stourbridge.  Prayers in the home and the service in Hasbury Methodist Church were conducted by the Rev T Soulsby.  A large number of friends were present, including many from the Huntingtree Sons of Rest, of which Mr Cole was a founder member.

The mourners were: Herbert, Jim, Fred, Horace and Eric (sons), Annie, Maggie and Frank (step-children), Fred (brother-in-law), Keith (grandson), May, Hilda, Joan, Irene and Mollie (daughters-in-law), Mary (granddaughter), Edith and Nora (nieces), Tom and Leslie Cole (nephews).  The bearers were Arnold Sawyer and Fred Saunders (nephews), Howard Male, William Tolley, Charles Smart and Reg Hewitt.  Flowers were a family cross; members of Hasbury Methodist Church Mr and Mrs Russell and Arnold, Kate and Roger.  Donations from neighbours were given to the New Church Building Fund.

This notice appeared in the County Express of 22nd November, 1968.

Footnote to the above

In 1992, Mr Frederick Sidney Cole, a son of Sidney was presented with a certificate for 70 years service as a local preacher, most of which were served in and around the town of Corby in Northamptonshire.  Not only had he reason to be proud of his father, but his grandfather, Thomas Cole, had a long record as a local preacher stretching well back into the nineteenth century, and indeed the whole Cole family has had a remarkable connection with the Methodist Church, including Thomas’s sister, Mary Jane, who also became a local preacher.  Thomas Cole continued to occupy Methodist pulpits till his 76th year, and he had a brother Joseph who had several sons who became local preachers.

Editor’s Note

Sidney was born in 1877 at Halesowen, Worcestershire, to parents John Thomas Cole, an ironworks labourer (1891) and Louisa Crumpton.

Census returns identify the following occupations for Sidney.

  • 1891 coal miner
  • 1901 labourer at colliery below ground
  • 1911 packer in engineering department of G.W.R.
  • 1939 steel tube platelayer

He married Alice Clay (1877-1901) in late 1899 in the Stourbridge Registration District, Worcestershire. Census returns identify two children.

  • George Herbert (1900-1969) – a maintenance fitter (1939)
  • James (1901-1970) – a capstan lathe turner (1939)

He married Mabel Hinton (1874-1918) in early 1905 in the Stourbridge Registration District, Worcestershire. Census returns and birth records identify three children.

  • Frederick Sidney (1906-1998) – a push bench operator for stainless steel tube manufacturer (1939)
  • Frank (1908-1908)
  • Frank (1910-1985)

He married Minnie Bissell, nee Dingley (1883-1956) in late 1919 in the Stourbridge Registration District, Worcestershire. Birth records identify two children.

  • Horace (1920-1995) – Aero Time clerk (1939)
  • Eric (1924-1987) – tube works messenger (1939)

Sidney died on 12 November 1968 at Hasbury, Worcestershire.


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