Acocks Green Methodist church, section three
The Boys Brigade is the oldest uniformed organization connected with Acocks Green church. In 1927 Bill Fox, who had been a B.B. captain at the Baptist church in Acocks Green, started a Life Boys team at the Methodist Wesleyan church assisted by his sister, Ethel. They had the willing assistance of Ivy and Harold Daw and Harry Holman. On 25th February, 1929, the 26th Birmingham Boys Brigade company was inaugurated with Bill Fox as captain and Harold Daw and Harry Holman as lieutenants. The Life Boys flourished under the leadership of Ivy Daw, Ethel Fox and Edith Young until the mid 1930s with a membership of over forty boys, one of the largest in Birmingham. In 1937 Ethel Fox took over as Leader in Charge and held the post for seventeen years until her resignation in 1954. A sister organisation, the Girls Life Brigade, flourished for some years in the early 1930s with Betty Boddington and 'Dobby' Sharp as leaders, to be succeeded at a later date by May Young.
Bill Fox was followed as captain of the B.B. by a Mr Bennett (an uncle of a present church member) and then by Harold Sharpe. With only a break for war service Cyril Mann was captain from 1936 until 1951. Harold Daw stood in as captain for two years at the end of the war until Cyril Mann was demobilised. George Ivison held the captaincy in 1951, to be succeeded a year later by Bernard Greatrex, who held the post for many years. Many successful camps and B.B. reviews were held during these years. In 1958 it was reported that the B.B. had twenty-five boys. The report went on: "They are handicapped in their activities by flooding in the basement but manage to keep their heads above water." B.B. captains who followed him were S. Johnson, F. Davis, C. Croft, C. Andrews and G. Tredinnick.' Upon the latter's removal from the district in 1974 the post was vacant and unable to be filled. For a few months the 26th Company was helped out with officers loaned by Lyndon Methodist church, but in October of that year it was decided that the company should be suspended until such time as new officers could be appointed. The remaining boys at Acocks Green joined with the 73rd Birmingham (Lyndon) Brigade.
During the ministry of Rev. W.H. Harrison it was decided that an attempt should be made to start a Girl Guide company at the Methodist church. Jean Lockwood was approached by the minister, who knew that she was already in Guiding at St. Mary's parish church. The company started in November, 1950, with eight girls. Nearly twelve months later on 3rd October, 1951, it was registered at Guide headquarters in London as the 2l7th Birmingham (Acocks Green Methodist) company. Numbers doubled in the next two years and Barbara Evans became lieutenant. The company took part in both district and divisional activities and summer camps were held with St. Mary's company. Unfortunately, there was at the time no Brownie pack to act as a feed through for new Guides as older girls left and so the company ceased to meet in February, 1956. However, the registration was left open and later a new company came into being under the captaincy of Margaret Aiken. The company has flourished ever since with an enviable record of Queen's Guide awards and other badges and distinctions. There has been a link up with some deaf Guides who joined the company and this has given to both groups a valuable insight into community care. The Guides now have the advantage of a Brownie pack to provide a steady stream of recruits into their company. Brown Owls have included Cath Hiatt and Val Chadd.
Praise for the fellowship that here we find
In the year of Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee, 1897, there is mention at the Leaders Meeting that a certain Miss Hartshorn and a Mr. West had been appointed to the Wesley Guild Committee. This is the first discoverable mention of a Guild at this church and it is believed that its existence at that time was short lived. In 1902 the Leaders Meeting voted the sum of £1 to the 'Young Peoples Association', so enabling them to hire a piano during the winter months. Twelve years later it was reported that efforts were being made to transform the Young Peoples Association into a Wesley Guild. This attempt appeared to be successful as various reports of Guild activities and lectures were reported in the 'Circuit Magazine' which flourished between 1910 and 1915. One of the Guild's earliest debates was entitled: "That it is part of the duty of the church to provide amusements." A visit to the Guild in 1914 by a Madame Jessie Strathearn, A.R.A.M., was enthusiastically commented upon in the magazine:
"It may be as well to say that Madame Strathearn was formerly connected with the stage... Since her conversion she has forsaken the stage and has been all over the country captivating and enriching thousands by her marvellous power of speech and song. On the Sunday afternoon of her visit she delivered her address on 'The Five Steps' and in a concert on the following Monday evening she sang a duet with one of the church members, Mr. Leslie Bailey, "Watchman, what of the Night.""
By 1921 membership of the Guild stood at 80 with average attendances of between forty and forty-five. Subscriptions were 1/6d p.a. for adults and 9d for seventeen years and under. There was a very large committee of over fifty members and there were sizeable sub-committees for each section - Devotional, Literary, Community Service, Musical and Social. There was also a "Look Out" committee with a Miss Clarkson as secretary. Its purpose was two fold - concern for existing members and to act as a spearhead for attracting new members.
The old Guild minute book for the 1920s makes the present day reader thirst for more information. It was reported that the 1923 A.G.M. was followed by a social which closed with the "usual game of 'A hunting we Will Go'." The annual district Guild Eisteddfod was an event of cultural significance with competitions in music, elocution, literature, arts and handicrafts and exhibitions of photography, painting and drawing, handicraft, cookery, sewing, knitting and needlework. For one member at least the Literary evenings of the Guild added a new dimension to his life:
"At such meetings I was introduced to poets like Francis Thompson and John Masefield and on its first publication I heard a reading of Bernard Shaw's 'Saint Joan'. Some of us wrote stories for the district Eisteddfod, stories that were assessed and criticized by professional authors. We had three separate concert parties – very amateurish ones, but we always enjoyed the performances and the audiences sometimes did."
The three concert parties were the 'Follies', the 'Filberts' and the 'Lads of the Green'. Of the latter they are remembered thus:
"Their speciality was topical and irreverent rhymes about their elders. They used to appear in dress trousers and green blouses, which were changed at the interval for dinner jackets. Members were Jeffery Rolfe, Beresford Rolfe, Edgar Cowin, Eric Fox, Algy Hurst, Arthur Taylor and Arthur (Jimmy) George, and accompanist Trixie Cowin."
In the early 1930s the Guild acquired a new secretary and during his time in office the minutes, particularly of A.G.M.'s, became far from impartial records. "The minutes of the previous executive meeting were read, confirmed and signed. The only business resulting therefrom being the difficulty of sundry members not being acquainted with some of the words used in the composition of these minutes. The difficulty was overcome." In 1933 the secretary reported a drastic reduction in numbers from the previous year, 117 to 64. "Membership stated as sixty-four, i.e. the number of people who had paid subscriptions. The average attendance of people present was fifty but average attendance of members was a mere twenty-eight, showing the absurdity of fallacious statistics." The same A.G.M. voted to "introduce a change of office in every department" and the fearless secretary was lost.
The new secretary either did not sustain his predecessor's vigilance or the new treasurer was more zealous in collecting subscriptions because the next year the Guild membership jumped back to 110.
The Guild carried on its evening meetings for the first year of the 2nd World War until the Birmingham blitz in November, 1940. By that time the meetings were held in the basement of the Sunday School building and David Rudge can remember one meeting that he attended when he was home on leave from the Forces. "The basement shook with each burst of ack-ack fire and the piano vibrated spontaneously with each stick of bombs." With membership depleted owing to the young men and women being called up for the armed services and the severity of the bombing the Guild closed its doors for the duration of the war, or more precisely, until 1944.
On August 1st, 1944, during the ministry of the Rev. Russell, a meeting was called for those interested in forming a weekly fellowship meeting on the lines of the pre-war Guild. Much discussion took place as to its name and eventually it was called "The Circle". In the following year, 1945, membership was at its highest with eighty-five subscribers, with average attendance of thirty-six. The subscriptions were 2/6d p.a. for adults and half price for those under eighteen. The sections were devotional, Christian service, literary and social. It was noticeable that the average age of members was older than that of the 1930s Guild as the younger church members were catered for by a class held weekly and run by Alan Fitton. Nevertheless the Circle prospered with a wide and varied programme and with speakers drawn from all walks of life. However, over the next thirteen years the membership fell to twenty-nine. In a bid to attract new and younger members the name was changed back to that of the "Guild", but with the advent of television and wider car ownership, which enabled people to pursue leisure activities further afield, the Guild was facing an uphill task.
During the 1960s and 1970s membership was low but the decline was halted. However, death was removing some of those pre-war members and younger members were not replacing them. The early 1980s brought some increase in membership when former members of Tyseley Methodist church joined Acocks Green when their church closed. Today the Guild has a devoted and faithful following which makes up in enthusiasm what it lacks in numbers.
The Ladies Sewing Meeting
As far back as the 1840s the Birmingham East circuit had what was known as the Dorcasian Society. Circa 1848 there was also a Jervin Street Wesleyan Chapel Ladies Benevolent Clothing Society. These societies existed to make and provide clothing for their less fortunate brothers and sisters. Later these ladies were described as contributing to a circuit 'basket'. This was either a fund of money collected by selling the results of the ladies' industry or a store of clothing for those in need, it is difficult to determine which, just by reading histories of early Birmingham Methodism.
Exactly when the sewing meeting at Acocks Green was formed is not known. After the disastrous fire in 1893 the sewing meeting proposed a sale of work towards restoring the church fabric by raising money. There is an acrimonious reference to this effort in the Leaders Meeting minute book for 1895 when it was: "Resolved that the Ladies be requested to hand over to the society steward the £40 raised by sale of work." It appeared that there must have been a difference of opinion as to whether the sewing meeting could decide for itself on what to spend its hard earned funds. The rift must have been healed, never to open again, because ever afterwards Quarterly, Trust and Leaders Meetings have been meticulous in applying to the sewing meeting for help in raising money and in thanking them afterwards. Such an event happened in 1913 when the Quarterly Meeting thanked the Acocks Green sewing meeting for providing carpets in the refurnishing of the minister's manse. Two years later it was recorded that they gave a substantial amount for chapel repairs.
The focal point of the sewing meeting was in working towards the next fund raising bazaar. During the 1920s and 1930s the meeting was looked upon to instigate the many bazaars. Those of 1926 and 1929 helped to pay for the extensive church alterations of 1927. The 1930, '31, '32 and 1935 bazaars devoted their proceeds to the building fund for the new Sunday School buildings, and the liquidation of the debt thereon. The 1935 bazaar, spread over three days, aimed for a minimum sum of £1600, a truly remarkable sum for those days. The bazaar handbook for that year (it could not be called a programme) was an ambitious affair of some fifty pages and local shopkeepers and traders, some of whom were connected with the Methodist church, placed advertisements therein:
William Daw, 1133, Warwick Road, Acocks Green – "High Class Fish, Game and Poultry Dealers, Oldest Established - Most up to Date."
Crabbe Bros. Ltd., Builders, Newhall Street, B'ham. Houses on the Dovehouse Farm estate, Solihull, £675-£795.
J. W. Gethin, Warwick Road, Tyseley. Rover cars 10 h.p. saloon £248, 12 h.p. open 4 seater £288, speed 14 h.p. streamline coupé £415.
E. Pitt & Son, 1103, Warwick Road, Acocks Green. Florists and fruiters, "You want the best – we supply it."
Keight & Soden, Butchers, Hereford House, Acocks Green. "The only Butchers who kill on the premises in the Village."
Ladies in charge of the sewing meeting stall for the 1935 bazaar included Mesdames Carrington, Clarke, Drewitt, Floyd, Gilbert, Marshall, Miles, Morley, Pullan, Shipway, Thacker, Whittle, and the indefatigable, the Misses Mellor and Ward.
After the war proceeds from bazaar funds went not only to improving Acocks Green's funds but for other churches in the circuit. Of the £982 raised by the 1956 bazaar £500 went to the new church at Lyndon. Again the sewing meeting was the guiding hand behind such efforts with Mrs. Lily Roberts much to the fore. Post war members of the sewing meeting included Mesdames Rushton, Fitton, Pardoe, Marshall, Marsh, Cowin, Rolfe, Humphris, Lucock, Bradley and Fletcher.
In the late 1950s the sewing meeting was perhaps at its zenith and many a church social function depended for its success on its active participation. Many a resolution, finally adopted at Leaders or Trustees meeting, saw its inception during a quiet discussion by the ladies of the sewing meeting, whilst plying their needles during an afternoon session.
It was a strong, or foolish, male who resisted a recommendation as to church governance which had emanated from this meeting. For a female member of the congregation to be asked to join the sewing meeting it was the final accolade to social success.
Even whilst poking gentle fun at the sewing meeting it is acknowledged without reservation that its contribution to the financial resources of the church was immeasurable, and its participation in other activities was always welcomed wholeheartedly.
After the Christian Stewardship campaign in the 1960s the need for church bazaars was thought by some to be at an end. This, together with the drop in numbers by death or removal, was the beginning of the end for the meeting. Finally, on February 11th, 1969, the Ladies Sewing meeting closed its account with Lloyds Bank in Acocks Green and was no more.
The Women's Cheerful Hour
The new minister in 1926, the Rev. G.R. Robson, lost no time in tackling the challenge to the church brought about by the huge expansion of the local population as Birmingham City Council built new council estates in the area, mostly between the years 1924, and 1931, at Shaftmoor, Fox Hollies, Pool Farm, Stockfield Road and The Avenue. Between 1919 and 1939 the population of the old parish of Yardley trebled to 173,000 and over 17,000 municipal houses were built in the former ancient parish.
In the first Leaders Meeting of his new ministry a conversation took place on the new building schemes that were being carried out in the local area. The minutes reported: "It was felt that no immediate steps could be taken although the matter must be continually borne in mind." The minutes went on: "At attempt should be made to inaugurate a Women's Meeting at Acocks Green to be held on a weeknight, and that a meeting of ladies should be called to decide on a course of action." The distinction drawn between the ladies of the church and the women of the surrounding estates grates on the ear today, but if the distinction was observed it was not meant to be derogatory.
The major reconstruction of the church in 1927 held up the plans for the women's meeting but in December of that year the ladies of the church formed a sub-committee to consider the desirability of a house to house visitation scheme of the new estates around the church. One of our elderly church members of today recalls that this committee visited over 1000 homes, inviting the wives and mothers to attend for one hour weekly the proposed new meeting.
On August 27th, 1928, with the Rev. G.B. Robson in the chair, the first committee meeting was held. "The committee moved and seconded that the new meeting, to be called the Womens Cheerful Hour, should hold its first meeting on Monday, October 8th, 1928." Some measure of the numerical strength of the church can be shown by the fact that the committee consisted of 39 ladies, who between them carried out the duties of president, vice presidents, secretaries, treasurers, registrars, welcomers, musical committee, piano players and speaker's secretary. The efforts of the visitation committee were proved well worth while because three months later the treasurer was asked to purchase 9 dozen crackers (one for each member) for the New Year social and the Musical Committee decided to ask the "Lads of the Green" to provide the entertainment. Each member of the Cheerful Hour was given a card for registration which was marked at every attendance. Yearly prizes were given for regular attendance. It was only during the month of August that the meeting was not held. Mothers with young children had an hour's weekly respite from their offspring as two ladies looked after then in the choir vestry.
On the first Monday of every month tea and biscuits were provided at the cost of ld. per person, except for the New Year's social, when cakes were substituted for biscuits at no extra charge.
Only three months after the inaugural meeting the committee decided that as a matter of urgency it should provide a 'Maternity Bag' which could be borrowed by the members upon their confinement and returned after one month. Its contents included towels, linen and baby clothes and other articles useful to a new mother after her confinement. As long as all articles were returned clean and in a satisfactory condition at the end of the month the new mother was given 2/6d. Another practical method of relieving hardship of some members was the redeeming of articles from pawn. The minute book records that in January, 1929: "Mrs ... of Thornfield Road, was given l2/6d to redeem her blankets."
The list of speakers for the first years gives some indication of the nature of the meetings. Devotional meetings alternated with speakers on topical or practical subjects and musical evenings. There were also yearly meetings devoted to Home and Foreign Missions. A large number of the speakers came from within the church, but during the first three years outside speakers came to talk on such diverse subjects as "My experiences in China", "A recipe for happiness", "First Aid in the home" and "Birth Control". This last talk was given in 1931 when opposition was still great towards those doctors and women advocating its use to relieve untold numbers of women from the debilitating effects of yearly pregnancies.
The yearly summer outings were events saved for and much enjoyed by all the members. The first such outing was a visit in June, 1929, to Symonds Yat. It is recorded that a 9.30 a.m. start was made by sixty-three members and helpers with transport provided by Midland Red coach. This enabled them to spend six hours at the beauty spot before departure at 6.30p.m. and arriving home at 9.45 p.m. The cost to each member was l0/6d. This included the coach travel, cup of tea on arrival, a tea of bread, butter, eggs, green salad, fruit and cream and cakes with enough left over to tip the drivers and the head waitress 5/- each. Thanks were recorded in the minutes to Rev Robson who kindly volunteered to take in his car three extra women who had turned up unexpectedly on the day of the outing. Presumably Mr. Robson did not qualify for a 5/- tip. Other outings in those pre-war summers included trips to Church Stretton, Weston, Rhyl and the Cotswolds. Perhaps because of more comfortable coaches, the operator favoured in later years was Allenways Coaches. The New Year socials grew in numbers attending and the quantity and quality of food and entertainment provided. No longer was a cake and a cup of tea considered sufficient. Instead, a sit down tea followed by community singing, dancing and entertainment by the "Lads of the Green" was enjoyed by between 130 and 140 members and friends.
In 1932 the committee agreed to spend two guineas a year in providing what were called Dispensary Notes for Cheerful Hour members who were unable to afford the full cost of medicines in times of illness. From the minutes it is not clear how this system worked, but it is believed that this was a system dating from the times of the old Poor Law, when magistrates and ministers of religion could hand these Dispensary tickets out to worthy cases, to be redeemed for medicine at the General Dispensary in Birmingham. The 1938 A.G. committee meeting recorded: "A hundred homes are surely better because the mothers attend and return refreshed spiritually and physically." Although this was a worthy sentiment no thought had been given as yet towards encouraging these mothers from the estates to stand themselves for election to the committee, which was still entirely composed of women members of the church congregation. Almost alone amongst the weeknight activities of the church the Womens Cheerful Hour did not cease to meet after the 'phoney' war of late 1939/early 1940 turned into the grim realities of the 1940s autumn blitz. A concession was made by altering the time of the meetings from Monday evening to Monday afternoon and membership dropped from 110 in 1938 to about 30 in 1941 because many members were doing war work in local factories. A spirit of optimism and patriotism is found in a minute of the 1940 A.G.M. when it was decided to cancel the summer outing: "all arrangements were made but because of Hitler's lightning invasion of Holland, Belgium and France and our anxiety for our Forces in those countries we decided to postpone our Outing till we had won the war."
In 1942 the meeting could still provide a monthly cup of tea and biscuits because several committee members gave part of their rations to help. In 1943 it was reported that the savings bank, which in peaceful years had helped the members to save for their outings, was not much used "because most housewives now belong to the National Savings Street Groups." During the war years the membership of the committee became more evenly divided between regular church goers and W.C.H. members - a welcome change. With the tide of war beginning to turn in favour of the Allies it was decided in 1943 to revert to evening meetings in the summer and afternoon meetings during winter. By 1944 the membership had risen again to 50 with an average attendance of 35. Sadly, the summer outing postponed from 1940, never took place as planned because for a few years from July, 1945, a garden party and social were substituted for it and held at the manse. It is believed that the summer outings were reintroduced in the 1960s. Regrettably no minute books have been found dating from beyond 1954. Mention can be made of Mrs. Jameson's seventeen years as speaker's secretary from being a founder member until her death in 1953. In 1965 Mrs. Rita Fitton resigned as general secretary after fifteen years in that post. Other members gave long and faithful service but unfortunately their lengths of tenure in office are not recorded.
In 1978, because of dwindling numbers, the Womens Cheerful Hour held its last meeting on July 3rd, with eight members present. Over the years, since its inception, its nature had changed gradually from providing both spiritual and practical help to women of the neighbourhood to being a meeting loved by a faithful few of the older women of the church. Right up until its closure a varied programme of speakers was arranged, but increasing age and lack of mobility of its members forced its closure. In its earliest days it had provided a social and spiritual link between the Methodist church and the neighbourhood and had not been afraid to speak out and provide practical help for many women who might otherwise never have found an hour's respite from the never ending toil of house and family.
"Clothed in white apparel, holding
Palms of victory in their hand."
Tennis and bowling in Hazelwood Road
With the return of peace after the 1st World War there was frenetic activity nationally amongst the young people, who set out to enjoy themselves after the carnage that many of the men had witnessed in the trenches of France and Belgium. Dancing, party going and outdoor sport attracted large followings. Some of the wealthier members of Acocks Green Wesleyan church had tennis courts laid out in their large gardens. Mr. Frank Ault, Mr. Harry Hathaway, and Mr. Thomas Rolfe all had courts on which they invited the young people of the church to play.
In about 1919, towards the end of the ministry of Rev. Kettleborough, the opportunity arose to purchase some ground in Hazelwood Road for use as a tennis and bowling club. Through generous interest free loans from some church members, Messrs. Ault, Rolfe, Morley, Barfield, Sharpe, Marshall and Miss Mellor, the land was acquired. The ground was opened in 1920 and the first doubles match was played between Mrs. Davison Brown, wife of the new minister, Mr. Eric Evans and Mr. & Mrs. Bennett.
The club became so popular that Guild summer outings suffered, the young people preferring tennis to picnics. In January, 1928, the Trust resolved to take over the Recreation Club, which until that time had been run as a private venture, but which by that time was feeling some financial strain. The land and property by then were valued at £1400. To raise the £600, which was the agreed sum by which the Trust acquired the property, Messrs. Ault, Whittle, Shipway, Rolfe and Miss Mellor advanced further loans to the Trust.
The 1930s saw a great increase in members, one of whom recalled: "Who remembers the Tennis and Bowling Club in Hazelwood Road with Mrs. Crabbe and Mrs. Pye stooping and swooping; with Percy Pardoe, youngest of the lot, snatching victory from the veterans? And the Tennis Club, more social than sporting, where there were many trysts but few serious matches?" The Lady Bowlers had a stall at the 1935 bazaar and the stallholders included Mesdames Bates, Bourne, Carter, Crabbe, Horrocks, Jones, Powell, Pye, Scott, Skirrow, Taylor and Wilkinson.
The halcyon days of the 1930s came to an end with the outbreak of war in 1939. In 1940 Hazelwood Road was severely bombed and two bombs landed in the recreation ground. One exploded on impact, causing damage estimated at £500, but the other failed to explode. Most of the residents of Hazelwood Road were ordered to leave their homes until the bomb was defused. The writer has recollections of one small girl spending the next few days at her grandmother's house, initially clad only in pyjamas and siren suit (that all in one garment made famous by Winston Churchill) until allowed to return home.
By 1948 there was growing interest in re-opening the ground and in November of that year the Trust authorised the spending of £1700 to put in order the two hard courts, two grass courts and the bowling green. The 1950s saw a return to something like the summer days of the 1930s and the club numbered nearly seventy members, some bowlers, some tennis players, some both. Many people still remember Saturday afternoon tea prepared and eaten in the pavilion, a rather precarious wooden structure, and with white table cloths spread over the wooden trestle tables. Inquisitive wasps and spiders were brushed aside with nonchalance as Mrs. Roberts presided in state at the head of the table with the large serviceable teapot in hand. Miss Watson would arrive at the ground riding sedately on her bicycle and once on court could, and did, trounce many a younger player with her strong returns. On the bowling green Messrs. Lockwood, Fletcher, Wagstaff, Daw and Boddy were some of the outstanding players, although they were beaten by a young John Hewlett for the 1962 bowling cup. Some of the trysts, conducted as the evening shadow of the pavilion spread across the bowling green, did result in serious matches, as several married couples in this circuit and beyond will testify.
By 1964 the popularity and membership of the club were declining and the tennis courts began to fall into disrepair. After one abortive attempt to sell part of the plot the whole of the recreation ground was sold for housing development in 1968. Green Acres now occupies the site.
Acocks Green Wesley Cricket Club
It may come as a surprise to many that the church once had a flourishing cricket club. It was founded in the mid-1920s and lasted for just over a decade. For most of the information in this section, the writer is indebted to Mrs Ivy Daw, who produced the minute book of the club.
The club was formed in 1925 with a playing membership of twenty. At this time there was another club in being, called the Freebooters, which was composed of many members of the Sunday School. A report of one early match between the two teams mentions that the Freebooters dismissed the Wesleyans for four runs. In the Wesleyans' second innings it is recorded that Daw, after being missed by Daw off Daw, went on to make ten not out. in 1927 the Freebooters, whose membership was declining, became absorbed into the Acocks Green Wesleyan C.C. and this increased the playing membership to twenty-nine men. An interesting extract from the minutes relates to the procedure adopted in admitting new members. The club secretary was required to pin the name of the proposed new member, written on a piece of paper, on a tree at the ground at Olton Hall, where the note remained for fourteen days. If no objections were received at the end of that period the new member was admitted.
At that time Olton Hall belonged to one of the church members, George F. Morley, who lent a portion of a field by the hall to the cricket club for their ground. The dressing rooms and pavilion were part of the stable block. Olton Hall was sold in 1934 to a brewery company: the "Newport Diner" on Lode Lane now occupies the site.
The 1926 A.G.M. records that: "After a rather long discussion the question of fencing round the pitch as a protection from the horses was left entirely in the hands of the Ground Committee. The question of colours for the cricket team was soon decided, green and gold being easily the favourite. The cricket caps were to have green and gold quarters." Three years later another A.G.M. decided to purchase two bats, two pairs of pads, two pairs of batting gloves, a pair of gauntlets and one match ball for the total cost of £5 6s 0d. A proposal for a 10/- annual subscription, less 6d for every hour spent in work at the ground, was defeated and so the subscription remained at 7/6d.
In 1930 Acocks Green entered the Wesleyan league Competition and became league Champions in the first season. The secretary reported: "This season was our best year as regards playing performance for we scored 1038 runs against our opponents' 413, and on two occasions we won games by over 100 runs."
By 1933 the team was finding difficulty in fielding a full side but this year saw one of the most thrilling matches played:
"At the tea interval we were in a hopeless position yet at the finish the game was ours. We were being entertained by our Stechford friends, for a day match on Whit Monday. They batted first, finally scoring 130 runs. We followed and made thirty-seven and no one reached double figures. Stechford, nearly 100 runs to the good took their second innings. Their captain felt their position strong enough to to reverse the batting order and he sent in his tail end batsmen, presumably to give them practice. This gave us some early wickets. With the score at thirty-two for six wickets the Stechford team declared, leaving us 1¾ hours to get the 128 runs required for victory. We made a fair start but all of a sudden we were horrified to see both Boddy and Daw at one end at the same time and there were still nearly 100 runs to get. When we saw Daw returning to the pavilion the game appeared lost. Hyner joined Boddy and ninety runs were scored before Boddy was dismissed. here were still forty-one runs to get when Harold Daw went to the wicket but the remaining runs came quickly, Hyner scoring thirty of them and Harold Daw eleven. Our final score was 132 for four wickets."
This was nearly Acocks Green Wesleyan C.C.'s swan song. Olton Hall was sold the next year and the club moved to a field at Olton Farm, Lode Lane, Solihull. One invaluable asset of Olton Hall to the home team had been its distance from either Olton or Solihull railway stations. Visiting teams not blessed with transport had had to carry match gear and trudge along dusty lanes and arrived considerably fatigued before play began, worth twenty runs to the home team at any time.
By 1935 the club was in great difficulties. One Saturday they could only field five members plus the match secretary's younger brother. They withdrew from the Wesleyan League. The end came in 1936. At the last A.G.M. the treasurer, Harold Sharpe, pointed out that the reason for the small profit of 1/4d on the sale of refreshments was due to the amount of chocolate stolen from the pavilion. Sadly, the green and gold caps were laid aside and the horses returned to grazing in peace on the pitch.
As one door closes so another opens. In the year that saw the demise of the cricket club, 1936, the church Trustees gave permission for a badminton club to play in the large upstairs hall of the Sunday School building. They promised the new club £10 to see it off the ground. The first season saw thirty members joining at an annual subscription of 12/6d plus 2d per night for shuttlecocks. No player could play without tennis shoes to preserve the floor and tennis whites had to be worn. Until 1939 the court was available on Mondays and Wednesdays, but with the outbreak of war, like all other evening meetings, the 1940 blitz put an end to social activities. Also many of the young men and women in the club were called to join H.M. Forces.
The club restarted in 1946 but now the hall was only available on Monday evenings. In 1959 a junior section was opened with play allowed between 6.0 and 7.0 p.m. By 1971 the adult membership figures were twenty-five of whom thirteen were church members. By the terms of its constitution over half of the members of the club had to be church adherents for it to continue as a church club. When the Sunday School buildings were let on a long lease in 1973 the club moved to the Roman Catholic school's premises in Acocks Green as the large hall was no longer available. Membership of the Junior section was restricted to members of the Intermediate Department of the Junior Church. The critical balance of church members to outside players tilted to the outside players and in the late 1970s the club was disaffiliated from the church.
Roll of Honour
In December, 1914, the Belmont Row Home Messenger Circuit Magazine listed volunteers from Acocks Green Wesleyan church who had joined H.M. Forces:
Brown, Lowson. Canadian Royal Rifles.
Brown, Charles Jabez. 1st. B’ham Batt. Royal Warwicks.
Brown, George Henry. 6th Royal Warwicks.
Brown, Phillip Harold. 6th Royal Warwicks.
Booker, Raymond. 1st. B'ham Batt. Royal. Warwicks.
Brooker, George A. 5th Royal Sussex.
Egerton, A.C. 1st. B'ham Batt. Royal Warwicks.
Letts, Frank. 6th Royal Warwicks.
Martin, Percy Talmage. Oxford & Bucks. Light Infantry.
Mullins, Wilfred. Queen's Own Worcester Hussars.
Pardoe, Herbert Harry. Royal Field Artillery.
Pardoe, Percy F.W. 13th Royal Warwicks. 3rd Batt.
Watts, Norman. 8th Royal Warwicks.
After the 1st World War a memorial tablet was placed in church recording the names of all those who fought for their country:
Acocks Green Wesleyan Church. Roll of Honour: The Great War: 1914 – 1918:
Adams, A.G. *
Brown, L. *
Daw, E. *
Malins, E.F. *
Oliver, H. Edward.
Pardoe, G.S. *
*Killed in action or died whilst serving their country.
Of two of the men who did not return from the Great War, G.S. Pardoe died of fever whilst serving in Ireland. No record can be traced of A.G. Adams.
Roll of Honour, Second World War
During this war it was customary to read the list of men and women who were away from church serving in the Forces at home or overseas. This was done once a month at Sunday service. These names were never recorded in any minute books of the church and to include the few names known to present members of the congregation at the expense of the many unknown is not felt to be just. For all who did serve their country they will be remembered with honour and gratitude.
Not many of the activities of the church can flourish without the very necessary presence of a caretaker. During those times when the church was without one, social activities continued with difficulty.
"Who sweeps a room, as for Thy laws,
Makes that and the action fine."
The earliest reference to a caretaker, or chapel keeper as they were called, was to a Mrs Keen. In 1868 she was paid £1 per quarter for her work. Her duties included sweeping the chapel walks and keeping the gas mantles in good condition. In 1874 one Samuel Martin was appointed chapel keeper at the increased salary of £5 p.a. In 1880 the Trustees bought for £36 a hot water apparatus, the money having been raised by private subscriptions from the congregation. This was installed in the first church and no doubt Mr Martin had to contend with the vagaries of this monster as have many other people with similar appliances during the past century. At some time unknown Samuel Martin had been replaced by a Mr Harris but his tenure of office came to an end in 1886 when he resigned. The Trust decided to advertise the position of chapel keeper at a salary of £13 p.a., but could get no one until they re-advertised at £15 p.a., when a certain Mr Davis was appointed. Mr. Davis was not at all satisfactory, and on one occasion the chapel stewards had to admonish him as many complaints had been received as to his inattention to his duties. Mr Davis's conduct did not improve and in 1894 he was given three months' notice. Unfortunately, his son, Master A.E. Davis, had been bringing some useful money into the family as the organ blower for Mr Glassey and as a result of his father's dismissal he too lost his job. The next holder of the office of chapel keeper was a Mr. F. Colman who held it with a raised salary of £18 p.a. Mr Colman only held his post for a year when a John Henry Martin, of 3, Poplar Avenue, Broad Road, Acocks Green, was appointed. It may be that John Henry was related to Samuel Martin who had had the position in the 1870s. John Martin must have given every satisfaction because he and his wife held the position of caretakers until July, 1909, only then resigning on account of his wife's ill health.
It would appear that the church made do with temporary caretakers until September of 1912 when a Mr George was appointed at the sum of £24 p.a. For the next fifteen years Mr George more than ably fulfilled the position of caretaker. In addition, he acted as deputy organist for which he was paid the not munificent sum of £5 p.a. It was not until 1935, when the caretaker's house was built behind the Sunday school buildings, that there was a resident caretaker. However, Mr George did not live far away, only at 16 Hazelwood Road. The conditions of his employment took Mr George on a weekly round of Acocks Green village. During his years of office the church advertised its Sunday services and social activities on three notice boards in the area, one at the church, one at Acocks Green railway station and another at Pitts, the greengrocers. It was Mr George's job to see that the name of the preacher for the following Sunday services was in position on these boards first thing on Monday mornings.
The Trust minutes do not record who succeeded Mr & Mrs George but a Mr & Mrs Wootten moved into the new caretaker's house in 1935 (built at a cost of £550). They stayed throughout the war until Mr Wootten, by then a widower, left in 1947. Since then the list of caretakers reads as follows:
Mr & Mrs W.P. Long, Mr & Mrs H.W. Gibbs, Mr & Mrs L.W. Gibbs, Mr & Mrs Wright, Mr & Mrs Monk and Mr & Mrs Hammersley.
It seems fitting that the church's present caretaker, Mrs Thelma Dowling, should have served the church for the longest period and together with her late husband, Percy, should have given such devoted service. Their joint tenure began in 1964 and twenty two years later Mrs. Dowling is still a welcome and familiar figure on the church premises.
To those readers who look in vain for mention of youth clubs, young wives groups, womens work, and other societies I can only apologise and say that records were either not kept or have disappeared. Recording the growth of a Methodist society in Acocks Green solely from the evidence of minute books is a poor substitute for personal testimony, but for events occurring before the recollections of present members there is no other way. From personal recollections names of some of the leaders come to mind. For the youth clubs which have flourished from time to time - Mr John Harrison, Mr & Mrs Norman Thomas, and Miss Dorothy Foster. Miss Watson, "Wattie", leader of the Young Wives Fellowship from its inauguration in 1950, a leadership which never seemed incongruous despite the fact of her spinsterhood. Leaders of the Sunday Afternoon class - Mrs Ivison, Mrs Samways, Mrs Henderson, Mrs McCoy and Mrs Rita Fitton as pianist. Mr (Skipper) Abbott as signalling instructor of the B.B. and Mr. Harry Nellist as First Aid Instructor for the same organisation. For those who began their local preaching ministry at Acocks Green - Mr Peter Bennett, Mr Leslie Daw, Miss Ethel Watson, Miss Ivy Farmer, Mr Ray Griffiths, Mr John Harrison, Miss Mollie Welch, Mr Donald Marsh, Mr Jos. Pardoe and Mr Pat Welch, the last of whom achieved the highest office for a Methodist layman as Vice President of the Methodist Conference, Miss Lilian Fitton, and Mr John Stent. There were many more. For all who have held office within the church over the past 123 years - society stewards, chapel stewards, poor stewards, class leaders, whose names are known to many or to none.
All churches experience times of strength and times of weakness and Acocks Green Methodist church is no exception. The impetus and challenge of the new church in 1882 carried it well forward into the twentieth century. The social upheaval of the 1920s influx of newcomers to the 'village' was matched by the willingness of the Wesleyan Methodists, and churches of other denominations, to provide for their needs both spiritually and socially. Whether the rising attendance figures in chapel and Sunday School of the 1930s would have continued but for the Second World War is unknown. For a time, until the early 1950s, hopes were high that those pre-war attendance figures would be regained. But changing social patterns made Acocks Green particularly vulnerable. However, the church did not sit back and bewail the emptying pews and strenuous efforts were made by leaders and congregations to attract the newcomers in the district. In the early 1980s the welcome addition of former members of Tyseley church into our society has brought with it new blood. The Thursday Afternoon Class is one manifestation of this.
Did those open air preachers of 1856 in Acocks Green foresee the 130 years of Methodist witness which have ensued? The challenge that faces us today is of a different nature but we can pray, as no doubt did they, for God's grace to give us strength and guidance for the way ahead.
Acocks Green Chapel. Agreement between Henry Taylor and others. 1863.
Acocks Green Chapel. Agreement for letting chapel. 1872.
Acocks Green Chapel. Application for permission to erect chapel at Acocks Green. 1881
Acocks Green Chapel. Receipts and correspondence. 1879-1886.
Acocks Green Chapel. Sittings in original chapel. 1863-1873.
Acocks Green Church. Church Council Minute Book. 1972-
Acocks Green Church. Leaders Meeting Minute Book. 1891-1923.
Acocks Green Church. Leaders Meeting Minute Book. 1923-1946.
Acocks Green Church. Leaders Meeting Minute Book. 1941-1965.
Acocks Green Church. Leaders Meeting Minute Book. 1965-1972.
Acocks Green Church. Trustees Minute Book. 1874-1914.
Acocks Green Church. Trustees Minute Book. 1915-1939.
Acocks Green Church. Trustees Minute Book. 1940-1971.
Acocks Green Church. Trustees Minute Book. 1971-1976.
Acocks Green Church. Womens Cheerful Hour Minute Book. 1928-1954.
Acocks Green Methodist Choir Minute Book. 1940-1977.
Aeocks Green Methodist Circle (Guild) Minutes. 1944-
Acocks Green Methodist Church. Badminton Club. 1936.
Acocks Green Methodist Church. Bazaar handbook. 1935.
Acocks Green Methodist Church Centenary Celebrations. 1963.
Acocks Green Methodist Church. Opening of new Sunday School, 1933.
Acocks Green Methodist Church. Stonelaying ceremony of new Sunday Schools. 1933.
Acocks Green Methodist Church. Sunday Afternoon Class. 1948.
Acocks Green Methodist Guild Meeting Minutes Book. 1921-1940.
Acocks Green, Olton & Solihull Journal. 1911.
Acocks Green Sunday School Council Minute Book. 1949-1980.
Acocks Green Wesleyan Cricket Club Minute Book.
Acocks Green Wesleyan Church. Bazaar handbook. 1927.
Acocks Green Wesleyan Church. 'Bazaar Times'. September, 1930.
Acocks Green Wesleyan Church. "The Greeting" magazine, 1928.
Acocks Green Wesleyan Church. Misc. accounts. 1872.
Acocks Green Wesleyan Church. "The Story of our Church." 1927.
A.cocks Green Wesleyan Church. "Words of Wisdom and Otherwise." 1919.
Acocks Green Wesleyan Church. Institute Minute Book. 1918-1935.
"Aris's Gazette." 1882.
A.M. Banks. "The Diary of Julius Hardy, Button Maker, 1788-1793".
Belmont Row Circuit. Quarterly Meeting Minute Book. 1889-1906.
Belmont Roy Circuit. Quarterly Meeting Minute Book. 1907-1929.
Belmont Row Circuit. Quarterly Meeting Minute Book. 1930-1944.
Be1mont Row Circuit. Quarterly Meeting Minute Book. 1944-1952.
Belmont Row Circuit. Schedule of deeds. 1905.
Belmont Row Circuit. Trustees Minute Book. 1872-1887.
"Belmont Row Home Messenger Circuit Magazine." 1910-1915.
Belmont Row Wesleyan Circuit. Plan of preachers appointments. 1862-1924.
Belmont Row Wesleyan Circuit. Trustees Minute Book. 1896-1940.
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Vivian Bird. "Portrait of Birmingham,"
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"Birmingham Daily Mail." 1893.
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Birmingham East Circuit. Quarterly Meeting Book. 1835-1889.
John Morris Jones. "Acocks Green and All Around."
John Morris Jones. "Bordesley and Deritend."
John Morris Jones. "One Thousand Years of Yardley."
John Morris Jones. "The Manor of Yardley."
John Morris Jones. "The Urbanisation of Yardley."
Kelly's Post Office Directories, 1886, 1911.
Local Preachers Minute Book. 1835-1861.
"The Methodist Recorder." August 29th, 1901.
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Victor T.H. Skipp. "Medieval Yardley."
Victoria County History of Warwickshire. Vol. VII.
Victoria County History of Worcestershire. Vol. III.
Wesleyan Chapel Trust Schedule Book. 1860-1879.
Wesleyan Methodist Conference Handbook. Birmingham, 1894.
Wesleyan Methodist Conference Handbook. Birmingham, 1903.
Wesleyan Methodist Conference Handbook. Birmingham, 1915.
Wesleyan Methodist Conference Handbook. Birmingham, 1931.
Yardley Parish. Tithe Map and Schedule. 1847.