Many of us may not have noticed the diminutive House of Prayer in Coppice Road, Walsall Wood. In my lifetime, I don’t think it was ever a place of worship; I remember it being used as another add-on yard for the ubiquitous Ken Hodges Builder’s merchants, and when that closed, being converted into a private residence.
The history of this tiny, but lovely chapel had, I’m sad to say, never occurred to me. Then I received the following article yesterday, from Davids Evans and Oakley, top contributors to all things Walsall Wood here on the blog.
I think you’ll agree this is fascinating. Thanks so much to you both for the hard work and warm memories.
Just one thing… do you still have a copy of the disc? I’d love to digitise it and make it available here. There’s so little local music preserved, I’d love to capture a bit of it. I’m sure your playing is wonderful…
David Evans wrote:
I received an e-mail asking me about the House of Prayer and quickly forwarded it to David Oakley, to ask him what he remembered of the House of Prayer in Walsall. This is his reply, which I am delighted to share with your readers. I would also like to express my thanks to David for his readiness to share this part of our local history in this way.
David Evans, February 2013
Thank for your email regarding the House of Prayer, I’m happy to say I do know a little bit about this, as most of my Sundays afternoons and evenings were spent there, for twelve years or so.
My first problem was the age of your correspondent, somewhat younger than myself, so he could have been attending, at the time that I was spreading my wings elsewhere. This was borne out by his referring to Mrs Craddock as a Sunday school teacher. There was no Mrs Craddock in my time, but then I remembered – A young Annott Craddock had moved from Clayhanger Road chapel into Walsall Wood, Camden Street, actually. With his young bride, they had started to attend the House of Prayer, what was more natural than she would become a Sunday School teacher?
Your correspondent falls into the common error of thinking that all the local Craddocks are interrelated to Howard Craddock. I do not think they are. All the Craddocks that I was acquainted with were zealous members of the Christian Brethren, mostly based at the Clayhanger Road chapel and nearly all working for C.T. Craddock. a credit draper from High Street, Brownhills.
No one was employed by Howard’s wholesale business. I never detected any evidence of relationship between the two families. Howard and his family of Lorin, Roy and Graham seemed a little independent force, I never knew whether they were church or Methodist.
[I’m hoping either Richard Burnell or his partner Rose can help here. I’m fairly sure that that Rose is a member of the Howard Craddock clan, and can maybe help clarify things here – Bob]
Charlie Cope, a godly man, was indeed a miner and worked at The Lady pit. Teddy Teece had never been in the pits, to my knowledge, and worked during the war years for Pitman’s Sunshine Products, a food firm at Four Oaks. Joe Scragg worked as a driver for Collins, and Lander Cooper was an ambulance man. Lander lived in Beechtree Road, but his daughter, Ethel, married Sam Ensor, a slaughterman, moving to Hilda Hancox’s old house in Brownhills Road, taking posession of the old slaughter-house behind the property. Lander and his wife moved there in his old age.
Mr. Parker, another teacher was a miner and apparently lived to a good age. He lived in King Street. Sunday School hymnbooks were ‘Golden Bells’ but at the front was a blackboard with a large fold-back collection of hymns, large enough to read from the back of the hall.
Charlie Cope played the organ at both Sunday school and evening service. Choruses were popular at Sunday school, such as ‘I lost them on Calvary’s Hill’, ‘Running over, I am H-A-P-P-Y’.
A few years ago I made a disc of all the hymns and choruses I could remember from the 1930s, indifferent organ playing, of course, and sent it my sister in Worthing, to see how many she could remember…
Spending money on Sunday was a sin, and there was notice telling scholars not to bring money to spend on sweets. Star Cards were issued and stamped with a star for normal attendance, ‘S’ for sick and ‘L’ for late. For years my attendance was 52 out of 52. There was an annual Sunday School Treat when after the tea party in the hall, we would go down to Wint’s field in Coppice Road for races and other activities.
The benches were made of red plush with one narrow backrest, leaving room for a smaller child falling asleep to slip down between the bench and the backrest. A loud bump and a frightened yell gave notice of this quite frequently!
The hall was lit by gas radiators, which was ample, even in winter. Most of the prayers were made by the Elders who prayed from the heart, no written prayers, but some would go on and on, until I was forced to open my eyes and look about.
Well, that seems all I can dredge up at the moment, David. If you old friend makes any more specific enquiries about the House of Prayer, let me know. Only too pleased to help.