Cole Street: A Brief History

A Legendary Start

The history of Cole Street can be traced back to a legend which tells us that nailers from Derbyshire came to the Withymoor area and helped to establish the scattered settlement known as Derby Hand (as in the hands from Derbyshire) now known as Darby End. It is possible that they brought an interest in Methodism with them and could possibly have attended John Wesley's meetings in Dudley.

1800 - Methodist Class Meetings held in Darby Hand.

1810 - Records of a separate Darby Hand Society in the Dudley Wesleyan Methodist Church.


Thanks to a Scythe-Maker

John Griffin, a scythe-maker, helped to form the Darby End Building Society and bought land on which members could build a home when circumstances allowed. The Darby End Methodist Society form in c.1810 and ten years later bought land from John Griffin's widow on which to build a chapel. The Darby End Wesleyan Chapel was opened on 1 April 1821 and for the following forty years served as a chapel and a Sunday School.

The first church (1821-1950)

1820 - Conveyance completed between the Methodist Trustees and the widow of James Griffin for land in front of the turnpike road leading from Darby Hand to Bumble Hole and in front of the road leading from Dudley to Withymore.

1821 - First church erected with the help of the Walker Family of Dudley, and supported by Francis Downing, ironmaster and Mayor of Dudley. The first church, opened on 1st April 2821, was a plain, square building with a small entrance porch and no vestries. A long box structure at the front of the pulpit together with a bench seat for the preacher. 

1836 - Galleries supported on iron columns erected around three sides of the church.


Growth begins but the ground gives up!

A Sunday School building was opened in August 1861 and was also used as a day school until local board schools were built in the local area. Over the years many Darby End activities were centred at the chapel including a cricket club. However, nearby workings of the ground caused the ground to shift although the chapel was never undermined. At the turn of the century, rebuilding of part and extending of the chapel became necessary.

1861 - Sunday School building opened in August.

1879 - New seating and internal redecoration.

1894 - Sunday School attendance recorded at 400.

1903 - Extensions to form new vestries (£698 - approximately £85,000 today) and central heating boiler installed (£12-7-6d).


Reopening and re-brand

The chapel reopened on 29 February 1904 and continued to serve as a centre of activities for use by the Darby End community. In 1933, with the Methodist reunification, the chapel had to drop the word 'Wesleyan' and thus became Cole Street Chapel to distinguish itself from Providence (now located at the Black Country Living Museum). In 1938, a fund was started to replace the building once again. However, the war intervened and the final service in the first chapel was held on 14 May 1950. Services moved to the adjacent Sunday School.

1904 - Wadsworth of Manchester install pipe organ (£400).

1905 - New pulpit erected in memory of Abner Wycherly.

1906 - Sunday School noted as having 322 scholars and 39 teachers.

1919 - Electricity installed.

1921 - 100th Anniversary celebrated in April.

1925 - Pew rents abolished - all seats free.

1931 - Sunday school receives prize for largest increase in numbers.


 

The last and the first! - The last Sunday School Anniversary poster from the old church and the first Sunday School Anniversary poster from the new church

1932 - Sunday School floor collapses during Harvest Festival sale.

1933 - Methodist Union - Darby End Wesleyan Methodist Church becomes Cole Street Methodist Church.

1938 - New Sunday School building fund started. Extra land purchased in Cole Street and Double Row.

1949 - Borough Surveyor called in to inspect church building. Declared unsafe.

1950 - Original church closed on 14th May. Demolished except for vestries. 


The closing of the 'Old Chapel' marked the end of a chapter but produced a remarkable reawakening of activity and interest. People realised that they were not bound together by bricks and mortar but by the fellowship of believers in our Lord Jesus Christ. Within a week of the last service in the old church, the lower storey of the Sunday school building was converted to a temporary church using panelling, pews and pulpit from the old building. The vestries were given a new roof and used for weekday meetings, Youth Church and business meetings. Although cramped, this building would be 'church' for the next nine years. 

1958 - Sufficient funds were now raised and available to consider rebuilding and, with a generous grant from the Rank Organisation, a new church was erected on the site of the old building. It was specifically designed to withstand the effects of mining subsidence which proved the downfall of the old church. 

1959 - The Foundation Stone was laid by Mr. John Burton in March and the new church building was opened by Mr. Bert Beard on 3rd October.


The Current Building

The second building (the current one used today) was opened on 3 October 1959 with the funds part generated by a generous grant of £8000 from the Joseph Rank Benevolent Trust. Part of the conditions of this grant were for the church to be used not only as a place of worship for the community, but also for the community to use at large (something which had always been a theme throughout the history of Cole Street). It also stipulated no fixed pews and the fitting of a stage, which remains heavily in use today.


The New Building - Note the old Sunday school Building still standing behind the far left of the new building. Notice also the absence of the pitched roof above the Vestibule & Guild Room - something which was to be added later. The original perimeter fence was a bollard chain-link fence. The current fence is a reused security fence formerly protecting a culvert in Kinver.

1961 - Celebration of the Sunday school Anniversary saw the formation of a Concert and Drama Group

1968 - The old Sunday school building which had provided shelter during the nineteen-fifties was found to be beyond reasonable repair and was demolished. 

1974 - Providence Methodist Church closed (though the building still lives on at the Black Country Living Museum) resulting in the Cole Street fellowship being strengthened by members relocating from that church. 

1977 - A strong Sunday school, swollen by numbers from the new estates in Darby End, made extra space a necessity and a new Sunday school extension was opened by Mr Harry Townsend. As well as a new Sunday School room, linking the two external rear doors, the kitchen was extended into the original Men's Toilets with a new 'Gents' provided adjacent to the Guild Room. It also included an extra room, presently used as a resource storage area. New pitched roofs to replace flat roofing installed on the kitchen, toilets, Guild Room and Vestibule. 

1980s - A new fence, obtained from works to a culvert in Kinver, was installed around the perimeter of the site.

1997 - Work was started to replace the Main Hall roof through the 'Raise the Roof' campaign. The roof was strengthened and upgraded, once again through various donations and the Rank Benevolent Fund, to extend the lifespan by at least 60 years. Work was completed in 1999. 

 A view from the front row - A painting of the chancel c. 1994


A plaque noting the donation from the Rank Benevolent Trust

2003 - Landscaping work around the rear of the property was undertaken to improve the appearance and usefulness of the area. 30 tonnes of topsoil were added to shore up elevation changes with a small retaining wall installed.

2004 - An electrical survey of the property indicates some major defects. Work undertaken by church members utilising lots of knowhow and experience helps to solve the issues at minimal costs to ensure the church can remain open.

2005 - Easter Experiences begin at Cole Street bringing in record numbers to see the Easter story retold in dramatic form.

2000s into 2010s - External grounds further improved with planning permission for external storage accepted and a remembrance garden planted in place of three felled large conifer tress which posed an insurance problem for surrounding buildings. Fascias and guttering replaced on the building as well as internal and external decoration undertaken. A new kitchen installed improving catering facilities and bringing up to hygiene standards.

2012 - New PA system installation.

2015 - New intelligent Heating system installed.


Cole Street Today

The building and grounds continue to be used by the community and as a place of worship whilst being maintained, renovated and improved by dedicated members of the Church. Cole Street continues to have regular two Sunday Services (10:30am and 6:00pm) as well as holding many different styles of worship, some more traditional, others more modern. Improvements to car park areas have enhanced the grounds, as well as the cultivation of a memorial garden and a vegetable plot and the restoration of the gravel garden. The building has been modernised with recently refurbished toilets and kitchen as well as being adapted for ease of access. 

Most recently, a new intelligent heating system has been fitted to the Church, new smart meters and the introduction of an audio-visual system comprising of 3 projectors and combined twin sound system enhancing our PA technology, really making services and events come alive. Atmospheric lighting in the chancel and Main Hall and on the stage allow for very vibrant and controllable lighting - all adding to the full Cole Street experience. 

The congregation continues to grow across all age ranges and the work of the Church in the community, especially with the children and young people, is now more engaged than ever. Soon, we hope to have a presence in our two local Primary Schools allowing further connections to be made with our local community. So if you have not been to Cole Street before, or haven't been in a while, why not come along to one of our services or events and say hello. We would love to see you at Church.


Morning Worship at Cole Street today c. 2016







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Cole Street Methodist Church | Darby End | Netherton | Dudley | West Midlands | UK | DY2 9PA
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