Warwick Methodist Church marks 125th anniversary in town

Warwick Methodist Church. Photo by Gael Conway
Warwick Methodist Church. Photo by Gael Conway

The congregation and friends of Warwick Methodist Church celebrated the church’s 125th anniversary on Sunday (May 20). We take a look back at the church’s long history in the town.

Members and friends of a church congregation in Warwick joined together to celebrate their church’s the 125th anniversary.

The celebration of Warwick Methodist Church's 125th anniversary. Photo by Gael Conway

The celebration of Warwick Methodist Church's 125th anniversary. Photo by Gael Conway

On Sunday May 20 100 members and friends of the Warwick (Northgate) Methodist Church, which is in Barrack Street, celebrated the anniversary since the church was consecrated with a special service.

The service was led by Rev Loraine Mellor, president of the Methodist Conference, assisted by Rev Barbara Greenwood, the church minister and members of the congregation.

The Northgate Choir sang an Introit “We love the place O God’ and ‘The Lord’s my Shepherd’ accompanied by Trevor Barr.

A lunch and refreshments followed the service and hot drinks were served in limited edition anniversary mugs designed by church member Gael Conway, which had been donated to the church by many of the members present.

The stained glass window at Warwick Methodist Church. Photo by Gael Conway

The stained glass window at Warwick Methodist Church. Photo by Gael Conway

As well as hitting the 125-year milestone, Methodism itself has also been in Warwick for more than 200 years.

Wesleyan Methodism was introduced into Warwick in 1801 by Thomas Facer, a Yorkshire stonemason and local preacher.

After years of meeting in House Groups in Castle Street and Gerrard Street, the Warwick Wesleyans built a chapel in Chapel Street between 1820 and 1825.

It closed in 1834 when many members left the town following the closure of a major employer, Parkes Wool Factory, in the Saltisford.

Then the 28 members built a second chapel in Stand Street, which was opened in April 1839.

In 1863 the Warwick Wesleyans moved to a site at the corner of Market Street and Bowling Green Street.

In 1863 a second Wesleyan congregation was formed and a Chapel was built in Avon Street, off Emscote Road. This survived until 1968.

In 1878 part of the walls of the Market Street Chapel collapsed and the congregation worshipped for a time in the Court House while repairs were made. Following continuing subsidence issues, plans were drawn up for a new chapel.

The plans to build Warwick (Northgate) Wesleyan Church were drawn up by J L Ball and on June 15 1892 the foundation stones were laid and the new Warwick Methodist Church was opened on May 25 1893 by Rev Dr James H Rigg, president of the Wesleyan Methodist Conference.

In 1958 plans were drawn up to add a church hall. In December 1960 the foundation stones were laid and the hall was formally opened on September 23 1961 by Sir Alfred Owen.

Extensive repairs to the roof in 1973 led to moves to modernise the church when it was discovered that the Saltisford side of the building was bowing outwards.

After several years, and with the church centenary approaching, the members decided in September 1991 to keep a Methodist witness in the town centre, stabilise the building and rearrange the interior of the church.

Detailed plans were drawn up by architect, Kenneth Holmes of Coventry. The final cost came to £345,000, most of which was covered by grants from King Henry VIII Charity, Joseph Rank Benevolent Trust, Gift Aided giving and a number of fundraising events by members of the congregation.

The official reopening of the church, which included a new stained glass window, took place on January 30 1993.

Since 1993 further structural work on the roof and drains has been necessary and work costing £78,000 was carried out in 2011/12.

The church members are continuing to look at redeveloping the church and are now looking at converting part of the vestry into a kitchenette with access to the flexible worship area, and updating the kitchen and church hall.