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Kidderminster

While curate at the parish church of St. Mary's from 1641 to 1660, Richard Baxter wrote The Saints' Everlasting Rest and The Reformed Pastor and under his influence Dissent became well established in the town, with Independent and later Unitarian congregations claiming descent from his tradition. In the 18th century the town became a centre for the manufacture of carpets, worsted and silk.

Methodism was late arriving in northern Worcestershire, despite an invitation as early as October 1739 from Joseph Williams of Kidderminster, who had met Charles Wesley in Bristol. The Countess of Huntingdon\'s Connexion chapel in Mill Street was opened in 1774, possibly by the Countess herself. John Wesley often passed through the area without mentioning the town, though a severe nose bleed obliged him to spend the night at nearby Broadwaters on 27 August 1760. His first recorded visit to Kidderminster was on 13 March 1771, when he 'had the pleasure of spending an hour ... with that good man, Mr. Fawcett'. The Rev. Benjamin Fawcett became the minister of the Old Meeting in 1745 and may have been one reason why Wesley did not preach in the town until after his death in 1780. On 16 May 1781 he preached in the Old Meeting. His first overnight stay was on 22 March 1782, when he preached in the evening and at seven next morning, despite intense cold and heavy snow. The WM society may date from about this time, since a gentleman who died in 1804 was said to have been a member for twenty years.

WithLady Huntingdon's death in 1791 her Kidderminster society declined and in 1800 sold their Mill Street chapel to the WMs, who enlarged it. Further extensions during the century increased its capacity and added schoolrooms. A second WM chapel was opened among new housing on Birmingham Road on the other side of town in 1905. Kidderminster was in the Stourport Circuit until a separate circuit was formed in 1885. The two circuits were reunited in 1907.

In 1818 a few remaining members of Lady Huntingdon's Connexion united with seceders from the Old Meeting and in 1820 built a new chapel in Dudley Street, not far from the present Trinity Methodist Centre. When the proximity of a tannery made this site difficult, Park Street chapel was opened in 1896 in a developing housing area on the west side of the town. Dudley Street was sold to the Salvation Army, who began their work in the town there. After a fire in 1971, the Army eventually moved in 1978 into the redundant St. James chapel of ease on Jerusalem Walk. In 1920 the remaining members at Park Street joined Baxter Congregational church and their chapel was sold to the Mormons, who in turn sold it to the Red Cross in 1983.

PM came to the town in July 1820 and a small chapel was opened in Cross Street in 1824. It was in the Hopton Bank Circuit until 1832, when a Kidderminster Circuit was formed. This eventually included societies in north-east Worcestershire, south-east Shropshire and south Staffordshire. After being enlarged several times, the chapel was replaced in 1901 by George Street. The Cross Street building became a factory and was demolished after World War II. In November 1885 an iron chapel was opened at Foley Park among new housing on the south-west side of the town.

The MNC had a short presence from 1871 until some time before 1897, when their Bethesda Chapel in Crowther Street, off Bewdley Road, was demolished. It was in the Stourbridge Circuit.

The ex-PM and ex-WM circuits united in 1938. The Mill Street WM and George Street PM causes eventually merged in 1963 under the name Central Methodist Church. George Street was demolished in 1967 in preparation for the building of the Inner Ring Road. The same development caused Mill Street to be compulsorily purchased. In 1967 the society united with Birmingham Road as Trinity Methodist Church. In March 1976 the new Trinity Methodist Centre opened in Church Fields, adjacent to St. Mary's parish church. The Birmingham Road site was eventually sold to the Mormons, who opened a new building there in 1983. Foley Park and Broadwaters continue, the former relocating into new buildings in 1962 (since extended twice) and the latter refurbished in 1967 and 1991.

Quotations

Charles Wesley's Journal:

8 October 1739: 'Mr. Williams of Kidderminster was much edified among us. He followed a letter he wrote, inviting me thither. Of what denomination he is, I know not; nor is it material, for he has the mind which was in Jesus.'

Joseph Williams to Charles Wesley, 17 October 1739: 'I forgot at parting to renew my humble request to you … to let me know when we may expect you or Mr. John Wesley here. I have provided you a field, larger than any bowling green, and enclosed with a high wall, to preach in, and cannot but greatly hope, if you continue a while with us, your and our Lord might reap a plentiful harvest here… But you may be sure of many adversaries, and none more violent than our Vicar.' (Quoted in J.F. Wedley, 1899)


John Wesley's Journal:

May 1781: 'About ten I preached in the large meeting at Kiddderminster, to a numerous congregation.'

March 1782: 'So deep a snow fell in the night that we were afraid the roads would be impassable. However, we set out [from Worcester] in the afternoon, and made shift to get to Kidderninster. We had a large congregation in the evening, though it was intensely cold, and another at seven in the morning., … and all of them were deeply serious.'

March 1788: 'I breakfasted at Mr. Pochim Lister's, in Kidderminster, with a few very serious and pious friends.'

Sources

  • John F. Wedley, A History of Methodism in the Stourport Circuit (Stourport, 1899)
  • David Samuel, No Silver Spoon: an Autobiography (1993) pp. 85-87

Entry written by: CCS
Category: Place

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