The New Church
A new church for Nunthorpe became an active project during 1959. By this time, the community was developing quickly. Building on Beverley Road was nearing completion and work was also progressing on Windsor Crescent and down the Avenue. New members were joining the Methodist Church regularly and the prospect of a new church appealed to established and new members alike.
As always, the main concern was the financial one. The overall cost was eventually found to be around £33,000 and the local Society was asked to raise as much as possible, the balance would be met by the Middlesbrough Circuit from the Advance Fund established in the main from the sale of Wesley and Centenary Churches.
As now, a range of activities and events were arranged to raise the local contribution. Jumble sales, car treasure hunts and other events were organised. The principal contributions, however, came from the Building Fund Boxe and Envelope Scheme and the Talents Scheme. The former scheme produced a regular income by direct giving to the New Church Fund. The Talent Scheme started as a challenge from Mrs A.E.Cooper, one of the Trustees. Present day members will have noticed Mrs Cooper's name on the foundation stone located on the left side of the main entrance. She loaned the Church £100 which was to be issued as £1 talents to 100 members and friends. Each member was asked to increase the value of their talent by personal effort over a given period. The responses were many and as might be expected varied. Making jam, baking cakes and biscuits, sewing and many other ideas were pursued. After some discussion about a design which would be acceptable to the Circuit and to Manchester, the contract was awarded to Lazenby of Ferryhill. The Church furniture was provided by Richard Thompson of Kilburn and his mouse trademark is evident throughout the Church. The organ came from Station Road Church in Redcar which closed at that time and this required some alteration by the architect in order to provide an organ loft into which the organ was rebuilt by John T. Jackson & Sons of Leeds.
The official Stone laying Ceremony on February 25th was performed by Mrs A.E.Cooper on a very dark and dismal day with pouring rain but spirits were high now that our New Church was on the way.
And so the vision of the members of Nunthorpe Methodist Church, first conceived in 1951 by proposing the purchase of a site for a new Church, was eventually fulfilled on September 16th 1961 when the New Church was formally opened and dedicated. The opening ceremony was performed by Mr Harold S. Myers, the Financial Secretary of the Middlesbrough Circuit, the dedication by the Chairman of the Darlington District Rev. T.J. Sutcliffe and the sermon preached by Rev. W. O. Phillipson, General Secretary of the Connexional Chapel Department.
It should be added that with all the effort and including the cost of the site which had been purchased so many years before, the local Society made a contribution of some £6,500 to the new building. It should also be remembered by all of us with a deep sense of gratitude that the balance of over £2,5000 came from the Middlesbrough Circuit.
Within 2 years of opening the New Church it was clear that accommodation particularly with regard to the work amongst the young people, was far from adequate. Therefore, a submission was made to the Circuit for additional premises at Nunthorpe. It is of interest particularly to us this year that a decision was made, not for a single large hall as originally envisaged , but for a suite of smaller rooms which, it was felt, would lend themselves more readily to the work in hand. This decision raised some difficulty with the officials of the Connexional Department for Chapel Affairs who insisted that in their opinion, a large hall should be considered an indispensable part of Methodist Trust premises. In the end, a compromise was reached in that rooms 2 & 3 of the new premises were extended to give a combined area equal to that of the Rookwood Road main hall.
There were problems with the building of these new premises, principally concerned with the fact that the builder to whom the contract had been given went into liquidation mid way through the project. In the end the completion was carried out by Peacock of Guisborough and the extensions were opened and dedicated on Saturday March 9th 1968 by Rev. Horace Cleaver who, as a former Superintendent Minister of the Circuit, had given much help and encouragement to Nunthorpe during the preparation and building of the New Church. He had unfortunately left the Circuit 2 weeks before the Church was opened in 1961 and it was considered fitting that Nunthorpe members should show their appreciation by inviting him to carry out the ceremony. Greetings were offered by the Minister, Rev. Peter Jones and prayers by the Superintendent Minister, Rev. Frank Crowder. The Chairman of the Darlington District, Rev. T.J. Sutcliffe, preached the dedication sermon.
All activities were transferred to the new premises and Rookwood Road sold to the Brethren.
In the first few years of the 20th century, the Methodist's Sunday services were held in several of the local houses until 1911, when the Congregationalists built the Church in Rookwood Road. The foundation stone laid by A.J. Dorman Esq. J.P bears the date of August 2nd 1911. The Methodists decided to join them in worship and therefore have had a presence in the Rookwood Road Church since its foundation 92 years ago. In 1936, a decision was made that the Methodist Church should purchase the Rookwood Road premises and the first services as a Methodist Church were conducted on Sunday December 6th 1936 and so began a new era for Methodism in Nunthorpe.
Early reminiscences of Nunthorpe and the Methodist Church.
Sylvia English, has been a member of our church at Nunthorpe since the time when the church met in the Rookwood Road building which is now The Rookwood Gospel Hall.
She shares with us the memories of what it was like in Nunthorpe in those days and remembers the early church and some of the people she met. Most of those were involved in moving to our present building.
Ken and I came to Nunthorpe on Saturday 21st December 1957, our wedding day, to spend our honeymoon in our brand new home. It was one of the first of ten new homes built by Wimpey in Nunthorpe. We wanted our home to be in a village close to fields, trees, cows and sheep since we originated from such a village. We had had no time to look around the village so on the Sunday morning we walked into the village looking for a chapel and found the one on Rookwood Road. The Sunday school was held in the afternoon so we went for the evening service.
As we arrived a small elderly man walked in front of us, wearing a dark suit and a shiny bowler hat and he spoke to us. The building was small, with a screen just inside the door. It was quite dark and you could go to the right or left. The vacant seats were at the front so everyone could see we were new visitors. In front of us was a raised platform on which the choir sat, about 10 to 12 people. The room was well lit and warm. The organ was a harmonium, the type that has to be pedalled with your feet to get the air in. The seats were individual wooden ones, quite sturdy. The walls were plain and the floor just bare boards, very basic. The singing was good, everyone sang heartily for which I was pleased as in those days I had a decent singing voice. After the service quite a number of people came and spoke to us, it seemed we were the first new people for some time.
The elderly gentleman introduced himself. He was a retired minister, the Rev. Neville and was over 90 years old. He introduced us to his daughter and son in law, Mr. and Mrs Malyon. Mrs Malyon had a private school called “the Firs” on the corner of Marton Moor Road and Guisborough Road for 5 to7 year olds .Mrs Lumley was a choir member who will be remembered for her many humorous monologues.
Others we met were Mr and Mrs Ralph Richardson, Mrs Nancy Dodds, Mr Jack Jones, the organist Mr Harold Walton and his wife, Ray Berry and his wife Gwen, Sarah Wilson and her sister Connie Alderson, and Mr and Mrs Martin. Ken was soon involved teaching the older Sunday school youngsters. One was June Fletcher whose mum taught ballet in the front room of her house on Marton Moor Road.
The Sunday school Superintendent was Mr. Hitchen, the head Gardener at Middlesbrough parks. Sarah Wilson also taught. There was a youth club run by Peter Cooke. He was well known as a broadcaster on sport on Radio Cleveland and is now the editor of “Now and Then”. As Nunthorpe expanded so did church members and the youth club .Ken was asked to help and a Mrs Jean Silcocks volunteered. I can remember John Cundall (now retired from the chemist’s shop), attending when he was about 14years of age. These first three years of our life in Nunthorpe were quite remarkable.
The original inhabitants of Nunthorpe absorbed us newcomers into the chapel. I remember the C of E priest walking round the Wimpey site regularly, calling on homes that were newly occupied. He was a friendly elderly man who wore a long gown which got quite muddy as the footpaths and roads were not always completed
All new members were given the same warm welcome and became a vital part of our Lord`s church family. In 1958 we attended a circuit weekend at Moorlands Whitby where I first met Herbert Hopper who later became a local preacher. His daughter Jenny Winnard is a member of our present church. In 1970 we joined a circuit group to visit Oberammergau.
Sarah Wilson is the only member of our church who was here when we joined in 1957, though sadly she can no longer attend due to illness. She took on so many tasks in the church over the years. It must be remembered that our church is here today because of those who worked in Nunthorpe doing God’s work in the years before we arrived.
The land for our present church was released for less than its true value by Mr Clayton, a well known “bonesetter” at the time, to the Trustees of the Rookwood Road Church. His daughter Miss Louise Clayton now 103, tells me he set bones in the old way with wood and cardboard. The prospect of a new church on the land on the corner of Connaught Road aroused much interest amongst the Nunthorpe residents since the land had only been used for grazing a horse or pony.
The new minister, the Rev. Gooderham was eager for everything to be perfect in the new church and we all looked forward to moving into it. It was inspiring to give thanks and praise to our Lord in this new building when it was opened. Today as I enter I can see that new members are given the same warm welcome as we were originally given and made to feel part of the church family. It is so good to know also that the warm welcome continues in Nunthorpe too.
Sylvia English 2010
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