Houses of the Holy

Since this week’s old photo feature is a day late (sorry, real life intervened after a posting marathon on Friday), I thought it appropriate to cover places of worship, a subject I’ve not touched on much before. Brownhills and Walsall Wood have always had an abundance of chapels of one kind or another, which I think probably stems from the mining tradition. As I’m not a religious person, I find the history somewhat opaque. I love church architecture, but the history, politics and factional nature of Methodism and associated branches of the Christian church bewilder me somewhat, so any contributions to this subject are especially welcome. I often wonder why there are so many chapels that are so similar in religious outlook. Was it social, class based or just branding?

Of course, this post wouldn’t be possible without the diligent and fascinating hard work of Clarice & Bill Mayo, John Sale or David F. Vodden. Please buy their books if you can.

This oddly-named chapel stood on the spot now covered by the Rising Sun Island, and was demolished to make way for it’s construction. Taken from ‘Memories of Brownhills Past’ by Clarice Mayo & Geoff Harrington.

I can't find any decent pictures of Mount Zion, which seems to occupy a prominent place in the hearts of many old Brownhillians. I can recall being told by an old lady that as children, they would stand in the road in front of Mount Zion and strain to see the time on the Council Hous clock. I hope it was more accurate then than now. From 'Around Pelsall and Brownhills in old photographs' by David F. Vodden.

I'm quite pleased to locate this picture. This church stood at the corner of The Parade and Watling Street; I remember it being demolished about 1976, watching the bulldozer destroy it from the field of Watling Street School. The perimeter wall remains to this day, as do the footings if one carefully explores. From 'Memories of Old Brownhills' by Clarice Mayo & Geoff Harrington.

Another illustration of why one must be wary of statements in local history books. The chapel itself - the building on the left - is still extant and converted into apartments. The one on the right - the hall where I remember Jack Smith taking Sunday School is now a car park. Taken from 'Around Pelsall and Brownhills in old photographs' by David F. Vodden.

This is interesting to me, and I don't have enough background information. The church has been demolished (perhaps in the late nineties) leaving the Sunday School on the left. An extension was built on the site of the church some time later. I'm a bit hazy about that. Does anyone know why the church was cleared and the school stayed, and not the other way around? Taken from 'Memories of Old Walsall Wood' by Bill Mayo & John Sale.

This one has me puzzled, too. I certainly don't remember it, but it seems to have stood where the new houses do today opposite St. John's Medical Centre. Anyone know when it was demolished? From 'Memories of Old Walsall Wood' by Bill Mayo & John Sale.


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11 Responses to Houses of the Holy

  1. stymaster says:

    Hi Bob.

    I clearly remember the Methodist church in Walsall Wood being demolished. Can’t remember exactly when, but it’s post 2000, we reckon, maybe 2003ish. The reason it was demolished was pretty extensive dry rot, I believe.

  2. D.Evans says:

    Might I suggest you reading any of the publications by Epworth Press concerning the History of Methodism, or simply Google History of Methodism, which should improve your understanding of this. Locally, a quick glance through Oakparkrunners blog’s articles may help. You might like to trawl through the archives for each Methodist Church locally, in the History Centre in Walsall, and a look through “A click in time” images will give you more images. Lastly, a look through the present day web site; will give clear information about today’s local Methodist Churches.
    There is a lot of easily found and fascintaing information for you to garner…I hope this will whet your appetite to do further research, hitherto unpublished. Opacity removed? Simples. With best wishes, D Evans

  3. Andy Dennis says:

    Hello Bob

    When I read that St Thomas’s was demolished in 1976 I thought you must be mistaken. I went to Watling Street School in the sixties, but only vaguely remember a structure on the site and certainly nothing as big as portrayed. So I checked. And, as usual, you were about right. On the St James church website is a very detailed history (stjameschurchbrownhills / history tab). There are various references to St Thomas, with a short dedicated section on page 49. It says that the church was closed in November 1973, due to rising damp so severe that the building was beyond repair, and demolished in early 1974.


  4. lisa says:

    The sunday school building was used as an extension of the junior school in walsall wood during the 1950’s. It was also used as a clinic.

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  8. David Evans says:

    Hi Bob
    the first Primitive Methodist Church building…before the.Mount Zion shown.. in Brownhills HIgh Street may date back to 1851
    The first Minister was Rev W Rooke, who served there from 1851 to 1854 .
    Source;- that church’s records , researched by Mr Roy Craddock

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