Mexborough and Swinton Times August 26, 1927
A Handsome Church
Miller’s Munificence to Cortonwood
Opening of New Wesley Hall and school
The Work of Local Craftsmen
Sixty years ago the seeds of Wesleyan Methodism was planted in a humble way in the village that developed around Cortonwood Colliery.
From the early days the fateful efforts of the pioneers were blessed with success, and stage by stage the work has progressed.
Yesterday a grand confirmation was reached upon the opening at Brampton Bierlow of a handsome new building, to be known as the Cortonwood Wesleyan Hall and School. The opening was performed by Mrs G Baker of Swinton. The building has cost about £7,000 and it was make practical chiefly by the magnanimity of Mr Joseph Rank, of the well-known firm of millers, whose generous benefactions have been shared throughout South Yorkshire, giving joy to the hearts of Christian workers and opening up glorious opportunities for the extension of missionary effort.
The issue of the development of Wesleyan Methodism in the Cortonwood district makes an interesting story. It was related to a representative of the “Mexborough and Swinton Times” this week by two elders of the church, in whom gratification at the attainment of a long cherished ideal has kindly ruled tender recollections of past struggles and achievements.
They mentioned that Methodists of the Cortonwood district first met for spiritual reflection in the house of a certain widow named Anne Buxton, at number 48, Junction Street, New Wombwell. Accommodation was strictly limited, and the atmosphere was not of the best on hot stuffy nights, but no amount of inconvenience could stifle the religious enthusiasm these little prayer meetings engendered. In the kitchen of this house Sunday School accommodation was provided for the children. It was a noble enterprise and worthy of all the grand things that developed from it.
Among the pioneers were numbered the late Mr Thomas Paling, the late Mr Thomas Jepson (father Mr JT Jepson, the present secretary of the trustees), and also the father of Mr Edward Tune, a prominent figure in local Methodism President of the Barnsley Cooperative Society. Mr John T Jepson was a scholar in Mrs Buxton’s “Sunday school”.
The first step of progress was made when eventually the “church” moved to the quaint little group of miners habitations known as Concrete Cottages. The Cortonwood Colliery Company had heard of the need for the provision of better facilities for religious work among the newly formed community, and they responded by offering the use of one of the Colliery cottages in what is known as the “third row.” This was roughly half a century ago and Concrete Cottages were then in the build. Shortly after this the “fathers” of Wesleyan Methodism in this district had again to appreciate the kindly thought of the then proprietors of Cortonwood Colliery.
Church in “Cement Shed.”
On the top side of Concrete was a building known among the inhabitants as the “cement shed.” It had been used by the workmen engaged on the construction of the houses. This was offered to the church workers, and gladly accepted as providing increased facilities for the development of Sunday School work. This building was used for several years, and many of the elderly people, now prominently associated with Cortonwood Wesleyan Church, cherished grateful recollections of the work that went on there.
In the year 1882 a further move was made, the building, erected by the Cortonwood colliery company as a Day School, being taken over for religious work. From this point onwards the Wesleyan Methodists of Cortonwood had their minds on securing a church of their own, and in 1900 their ambitions wire realise upon the opening of the wood and corrugated iron church adjoining the railway crossing in Knoll Beck Lane.
To build this church was considered at the time a wonderful achievement, and no better illustration of the growth and development of the district could be afforded than in the complete inadequacy of this building to meet present day needs. The population of the district generally defined as Cortonwood has been multiplied at least five times during the past 10 years. It was erection of a great number of additional houses, and influx from Lancashire, Durham and other parts of the country of the big new population gave rise to the impulse that led to the erection of the present new church.
There was room enough in the old chapel for the ordinary services, but as regards Sunday’s School needs the church officials were faced by the problem experienced by the old lady who lived in a shoe. There were many more children on the registers than the church would reasonably accommodate. The importance and urgency of this rapidly developing need was recognised not only by the workers in the church but my generous and devout people outside.
Cortonwood Company’s Generosity
The Cortonwood Colliery Company have always had warm feelings for this church, and the tribute paid the proprietors by Mr J.T.Jepson, the secretary of the trustees, might be quoted here. He says:
“The Cortonwood Colliery Company have always been very good to us. We have never appealed to them in vain. Many times they have come to the rescue when we have been in difficulties. This is particularly the case in the past few years, and in regard to this church they have shown great generosity. The church people will never fail to appreciate the kindly spirit.”
The bulk of the money required for the construction of the new church was provided by Mr Joseph Rank, the amount of his grant to the trustees being £5,000. Other districts which Mr Rank has bequeath substantial sums of money for the erection of nonconformist churches include Stainforth, Thurnscoe, Denaby, Langold and Attercliffe.
His grant to Cortonwood made the provision of new church immediately practical, and the realisation of a long cherished ideal was visualised. The Cortonwood colliery company generously provided a new valuable site. The need for a new building was rendered all the more pressing on account of the church having been more or less obscured and made difficult of access by the erection of a road bridge to carry the Light Railway over Knoll Beck.
The trustees began to formalised plans right away, and the called into early consultation Messrs Brocklehurst of Manchester, who have acted as architects of the scheme.
The work of construction was commenced in October of last year, and the foundation stone was laid on “Armitice Day.”
The responsibility for the scheme is vested in the trustees: Messrs George Baker, (Swinton), JH Jenkinson (Parkgate), H E Key (Hoyland), E Gothard (Hoyland), E Tune Wombwell), R H Car (West Melton), J Cook (Wath), J T Jebson, M Charlesworth, WH Wall, R Tomlinson, A Webster, H Webster, H Wall, B Firth, W Nortcliffe, E Hobbs, J Robinson and A Mosley
Comfort as an Aid To Worship
Mr Joseph Rank’s grant was not encumbered by restrictions, but the trustees have observed one particular wish he is understood to have expressed. Mr Rank believes that the standard of comfort in places of religion should not fall short of that provided in theatres and other houses of entertainment, and for that reason special attention was paid to the seating accommodation. There is a big margin of change between straight-backed pews of the oldest churches and the upholstered tip up seats with which this building has been furnished.
The new church is of prepossessing appearance and occupies a commanding site. Standing in the middle of the Brampton housing scheme, it faces Knoll Beck Lane (which thoroughfare is traversed by the Dearne Valley light Railway) and forms the angle between Dearne Road and Chapel Street. It occupies a triangular-shaped site of about 800 yd², and there is ample room for extensions.
The building is of brick and it has unique architectural features. According to the contractors there is not another building like it in the country. What chiefly impresses one about the edifice is a perfect symmetry and balance. There is no item of construction has that as its counterpart. The gables and buttresses afford ornamentation, at the same time giving the effect of strength. The windows are all of the Gothic time, and the interior of the hall and other features of the construction all conform to a style not often seen in nonconformist churches.
The building is divided roughly into three parts. The main hall (4 to 6’ x 60’) provides being seating accommodation for about 400 people, a schoolroom of slightly smaller dimensions, and the primary department measuring 30’ x 15’. The main hall and the Sunday school are divided by a movable screen with glass windows, so that when necessary the two rooms may be used as one. At each side and forming wings to the school room there are three small classrooms, one of which has been equipped with domestic appliances and is to be used as a kitchen.
The building is entered from the front by a vestibule of pleasing design. Having entered the porch members of the congregation may proceed to the right or left of a handsome vestibule screen 20 feet long and fitted with coloured lights. The floor of the vestibule is tessellated in black-and-white. There is a fine stone arch over the doorway.
A Pulpit on Wheels
Entrance to the main hall reveals a most pleasing prospect, the design, and scheme of decoration given a sense of lightness, freshness and harmony of colour. The white Gothic ceiling is lofty and well ventilated, and the high windows are a noticeable feature. The attention is immediately arrested by a large pulpit, or rostrum, elaborately designed and handsomely figured in pitch pine. Made by Messrs A Whitehead and Son of Wombwell, the pulpit is a work of art in itself. It has a unique feature, too, that it is built on castors, and can, therefore, readily be moved to any part of the hall.