I GREW up in Turls Street, Sedgley and attended Tipton Street Chapel from a very early age, probably around four or five.
I went to the Sunday morning service, went home for lunch, back for Sunday School in the afternoon and then back for the evening service. I still have the Bible I was awarded in 1964 given to me, I believe, because I did not miss any service during the year.
The superintendents that year were Mr and Mrs Hollis, but my most abiding memories are of Mrs Shakespeare! She, her husband, sister and Miss Naylor, were the mainstays of the chapel. I knew it was time to leave for chapel when I saw Mrs Shakespeare walking up from her house in Turls Hill Road past my home. She always seemed to wear a fur fox stole round her neck, whatever the weather.
I remember Sunday School was held in the separate hall behind the chapel and there were loads of children there, we were separated into five or six sections. Mrs Shakespeare would open the service and behind her was a print of the famous Holman Hunt painting of Christ knocking at the door. I remember when a little older, having Sunday School in the small room behind the chapel and each week collecting a beautiful sticker displaying a religious scene, like a stained glass window.
Highlights of the year, apart from prize giving, were the day out, usually to Malvern ending in a cream tea, and the chapel anniversary. These meant at least six weeks of singing practice!
I was lucky enough to keep my singing sheet in good condition because my sister took it to work and provided me with a plastic wallet for it. On the day itself, the girls wore white dresses and the boys white shirts and we were provided with either a corsage or sash to wear and the boys had corresponding colour ties (I always preferred the years we had sashes!)
A platform was constructed of four levels at the front, younger children on the front row and moving up in ages. I began on the front row and ended up on the top row at the age of 17, when my future husband came to watch!
We did performances twice or three times that day and a fortnight later, we did a reprise of two more. In between this happening, or around the same time, was the procession. We dressed in our anniversary clothes and marched around following a brass band. We began at chapel and processed all around Sedgley Bullring, Bilston Street.
This was, of course, highly exciting! Another special time was the Harvest Festival. My mum would always send me to Alice Perry's shop to get an empty mushroom basket, which she would fill with produce for me to take on the day. More fun still was the next evening when we children had the Harvest Supper.
Long trestle tables were set up and we had a real spread. I have had a life-long love of egg sandwiches since then. I also remember being served tea out of a massive teapot.
Other memories are of having the privilege to pump the organ bellows, so it would play and the organist was Mr Anslow. I believe he was a relative of Mrs Shakespeare and of one particular man in the pulpit, Mr Abrahams. I remember him as quite 'fire and brimstone' and he had shirts with separate collars!
I have been living in Gnosall since 1986 - where we have a fabulous chapel. But I was able to attend the very last service held at Tipton Street a few years ago, with my daughter and first grandson. This was actually held in the hall behind, as I believe the chapel was deemed unsafe. I was glad to be able to be at this service, there was some memorabilia on show. I saw a photo of myself at one of the anniversaries. It was a special time and good to remember what an important part of my childhood Tipton Street Methodist Chapel was.
Vickie Middleton (née Beardsmore),
6 Far Ridding,
Gnosall, Stafford, ST20 0DW.