THIS splendid Victorian photograph, dating, we think, from the 1890s, belongs to John Taylor of Kidderminster and it shows New Road in Stourbridge, a road that has altered greatly in the intervening years.
The construction of the Stourbridge ring road in the late 1960s transformed New Road, which forms its southern section. However, of the two large buildings seen in this picture, the one closest to the camera, has survived into the 21 century. It has been converted into apartments but it was originally the Sunday School of the New Road Wesleyan Methodist Church.
John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, preached in Stourbridge on 19 March, 1770, and 20 years later there was a small community of Methodists in the town meeting for worship in a building in Mill Lane. As their numbers increased they moved to a house in the High Street and then rented the old theatre in Theatre Road, which was roughly where the Ryemarket is today.
In 1804 two Dudley Methodist ministers, Edward Gibbons and William Horner bought a plot of land in New Road from Stourbridge banker Edward Rufford. A new chapel, seating around 1,000 worshippers, was completed the following year. This is the building in the left of our photograph.
In 1828 the New Road chapel left the Dudley Circuit and became the head of a new circuit of chapels in the Stourbridge area. A year later the chapel building was extended.
In 1836 a Methodist New Connexion chapel was built a little further up New Road and the Wesley chapel lost many members to it. But the old chapel survived and grew once more. In 1885 land adjacent to the chapel was bought and a new Sunday School was built and opened in 1886 – the main building in our picture.
In 1905 the chapel celebrated its centenary but fears were growing that the old building was worn out and no longer fit for purpose. Plans were drawn up in 1912 to supply the funds for a new building but the First World War intervened. Fund raising began in earnest once peace had returned to Europe and by 1926 £5,000 had been collected.
Construction of the new chapel began in May 1927. The old chapel was demolished and the foundation stone of the new was laid on 8 September, 1927. The new church with its tower was opened on 28 June, 1928.
In 2008 the church was extensively redeveloped to give it a new lease of life for the 21st century.
Our photograph was taken by the distinctively named E. Totherick of 18 Church Street, Stourbridge; can readers tell us anything about him?
Have you any photographs of a similar vintage to share with Bugle readers; perhaps one by E. Totherick? Contact dshaw@blackcountrybugle or write to our editorial address.