Back to our Roots
Kingswood Methodist Church celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2003. But although the church building itself was opened in 1953, its roots go back before the Second World War.
A new private housing estate was springing up in Wollaton, and among those moving in during 1939 were the newly-married Bill and Eileen Spray, both Sunday School teachers in Beeston. They began to think about ways of spreading the Gospel in their new neighbourhood.
A Sunday School was meeting at Middleton School, but the children from the new estate had to cross the busy and dangerous Wollaton Road to reach it. Bill and Eileen realised that there was a need for a Sunday School nearer to home. They sent notices to every house on the estate, inviting children to meet for a Sunday School session in the back room of their home - 14 Kingswood Road. The first session attarcted 20 children. Eileen played the piano while Bill led the class.
Week by week the Sunday School continued to grow, affected little by the outbreak of war. Bill Spray, as a constable with Nottingham City Police, was in a reserved occupation and so was not called upon to serve in the Armed Forces.
By 1942 the Sprays had three children of their own under two, and they were grateful for the goodwill of neighbours who offered the Sunday School use of their homes on a rota basis.
By 1947 the Sunday School was back in the Spray's home, where there were now 60 children meeting in two sessions - the younger ones at 10a.m. and the older ones at 11a.m. The following year a Sunday School Anniversary was held in the old Southwold day school on Wollaton Road, and midweek activities started at 14 Kingswood Road.
By 1950 there were 140 scholars, aged three to 15, and over 90% attendance each week. Three sessions were introduced, and while one group left by the back door the next group entered by the front. All furniture except the piano was cleared from the room. Children sat on the floor or on the sill of the bay window, and many stood.
Regular activities now included Sunday School anniversaries, prizegivings, Harvest Festivals, Christmas parties, efforts for the National Children's Home and the Gordon Boy's Home and distribution of Christian literature. A women's meeting was formed and a parents' committee helped with events, summer outings and sports such as football, cricket, netball and swimming. Visits were organised to local industrial premises and other places of interest.
The need for a new building was now obvious. A few years earlier, as the war neared its end, the Christian churches in Nottinghamhad been making plans to develop churches in the many new housing estates being planned for the suburbs. Because of the work being carried out by the Sprays in Kingswood Road, it was agreed that any church in that area should be a Methodist resposibility.
Towards a First Building
The vision of a new building to house the Sunday School and a church had begun to take shape in 1948. Nottingham West Circuit had money available from the sale of two churches in Radford closed as a result of the council's area redevelopment scheme, and a search began for a suitable freehold site. Eventually one was found - and the site at the corner of Lambourne Drive and Elvaston Road was bought for £1,500.
Money now had to be raised for a building. Carol singing was organised on seven nights at Christmas, and became an annual feature; collections were organised at Anniversary and Harvest Festival services, and the proceeds from a variety of events held in homes or in local schools also contributed. Many scholars helped by using a "Foot of Pennies" or "Buy a Brick" collecting cards.
Some members of the Circuit Quarterly Meeting doubted that the hoped for new church would pay its way, but the meeting as a whole gave the venture its blessing. A Trust was launched, with Bill Spray as secretary and Robert Grimley as treasurer.
However, the way was not yet clear. Building development was severely controlled after the war, and when the Trustees applied for a licince to build the new church they were turned down. The Trustees decided to call upon public support. By visiting all houses within a half-mile radius, they collected 1,500 signatures on a petition in support of the new building. Help was also enlisted from the local M.P. and councillors, community organisations and many individuals.
The applications were continually rejected - but in November 1951 a licence was finally granted for the all purpose building designed by John Higginbottom.
A tender of £6,557 was accepted from W. Appleby and Son, and work began in April 1952 on the building to be known as Kingswood Methodist Church in commemoration of its origins.
In the same year an adult membership was established and the Rev. Cyril Armitage assumed pastoral charge of Kingswood as its first Minister.Half-hour open air services, with collections for the Building Fund, began on the site on June 1st 1952 and continued most Sundays until November.
On September 27th 1952 a commemoration stone above the entrance was laid by Mr. P.A. Izzett a prominent blind local Methodist and his wife.
Sunday Services transferred
for the winter to the old Estate House, a disused house connected with nearby Brown's woodyard. A portable harmonium provided music, and heating was by portable paraffin stoves.
Meanwhile, each of the 192 Sunday School children still meeting in Kingswood Road had undertaken to collect £1 for the Building Fund. At a service on January 10th 1953 in the still uncompleted church, each presented a commemorative wall tilebearing his or her initials. These are now incorporated into the entrance lobby of that firstbuilding - which is now the the Main Hall.
On the afternoon of Saturday February 21st 1953 the building was opened as a church by the senior Trustee, Mr E.E,Marshall, and dedicated by the Rev J. Lewis Gillians, Chairman of the Methodist District.The Rev Cyril Armitage led the service, and the guest preacher was Dr,L Ward Kay, Vice -President Elect of the Methodist Conference.
The next day, the building was opened as a Sunday School by John Lockwo d (aged 5) and Ann Swift (aged 6), who were chosen for this honour by their fellow scholars.
A Growing Church
Kingswood Church flourished in its new all purpose building, which provided the venue for two Sunday Services each week as well as a variety of midweek activities.
In October 1952 the church had 30 adult members, growing to 50 by the following April. The Sunday School now had 400 pupils. One of the Trustees, Mr R.E.Armstrong, a skilled cabinetmaker, donated a beautifully designed portable, collapsible pulpit and Communion table to be used in worship.
Activities during the week included the Ladies' Fellowship, Methodist Guild, the Church Choir, Scouts, Cubs, Guides, Brownies and a Youth Club.
It soon became clear that the church was very quickly outgrowing its accommodation,and in 1954 a new Building Fund was launched. The following year a large wooden three-roomed annexe was acquired second-hand from a Government department and was brought into use at a cost of £1,000, including the furniture.
In 1957 the borrowed piano was replaced with a handsome organ, built over three years by one of the Trustees, Mr Ivan Carter, with help from Mr. R.E.Armstrong.
Kingswood continued to thrive, and in 1958 it was decided to accelerate the plan for a proper church building. An appeal was launched, and became known as "The sixpence a week scheme". Members and supporters were each asked to promise sixpence each week, to be collected by a team of volunteers.This proved very successful, and proved a good way of raising money alongside the annual bazaars, which started in 1953.
Architect Mr J.R.Carman of Starr, Clifford & Carman was commissioned to prepare plans for the new church building, and in 1963 the Connexional Chapel Committee gave permission for a scheme costing no more than £25,000.
George Wood & Son (Builders) Ltd. began work in July 1965 with the demolition of the wooden annexe. In recognition of their services to Kingswood, Bill and Eileen Spray were invited to lay the foundation stone of the new church, and did so on November 6th 1965.
On October 29th 1966, the whole of the new church buildingwas opened. Mr Ivan Carter, organist and choirmaster, had been a great help in the planning of the new premises , and accepted the Trustees invitation to perform the opening ceremony. The Rev A.J.Stanbury, Superintendent of the Circuit, led the service that followed, and the buildings were dedicated by the Chairman of the District, the Rev Wilfred Wade. The Rev W. Oliver Phillipson, Secretary of the Methodist Chapel Department, preached.
The Trustees of the redundant Lenton Church Street Methodist premises had generously given Kingswood the pipe organ from their church. It was now reassembled and renovated at a cost of £1,000 and installed in time for the opening. The first Kingswood organ was given to the newly opened Grangewood Methodist Church, with the approval of Mr Carter and Mr Armstrong.
Meanwhile the Circuit had decided that a Manse was needed, and the present Manse at 100 Harrow Road was purchased in November 1961 for £4,600.
Our Extension in1996
The Kingswood community was well served during the first twenty years by the premises opened in 1953 - a flat-roofed building with thick walls and pre-1939 metal windows erected during the time of building licences and resricted materials.
It was used intenvsively seven days a week. In spite of the limited facilities it goes to show that the qualityof the fellowship bore little relationship to the qualityof the building. One periodic activity used to be "roof repairs" - to stop the rain coming in. The roof, made from compressed strawboard, made it impossible to be precise about the location of the leak!
During the late 1980s and early 1990s it became evident that improvements were essential. They should be based on a vision of long term requirements, not merely a roof to keep the rain out.
The "Hall" and "Minor Hall" were to be converted and extended to provide four useful rooms (particularly useful for activities with young people of different age groups), a quiet room and choir/vestry, a furniture store, a utility room, separate from the kitchen and a more accessible disabled toilet. One subsidiary objective was to provide accommodation that could be used flexibly. The stage would be replaced with a portable stackable one that could be used in any part of the premises - and the original accommodation provided with a pitched roof!
The plan that emerged allowed for the possibility of later extension at the back of the church and to make reallocation of space possible without too much structural or building disturbance inside. The Playgroup's outside activity area would be re-sited on the north side of the main hall.
We remain grateful that these plans became a reality in 1996 only because of the generous support of thre Methodist Property Division and Rank Trust - the generosity of the congregation and friends over many years; and the Playgroup who provided the protective outdoor playing surface for toddlers.
Opportunity was also taken to replace the almost indestructible 1930s wooden chairs which had more than valiantly withstood the test of time.