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CHAPTER 13
BESTWOOD HALL

In a letter from Mr. John D. Player to the Rev. G. Osborn Gregory dated 24 November 1939, Mr. Player wrote: "Confirming the meeting we had this morning, I wish to say that I am prepared to find the money required for the purchase of the site selected, viz., £1,200. My promise of January 23rd 1939 to provide £5,000 towards the cost of the building of the proposed Hall still holds good and the amount will be forthcoming when you are in a position to proceed." Handwritten on the top of the letter are the words "re Bestwood Estate".

In the minutes of a meeting of the Trustees held on Tuesday 5 October 1948 at the Albert Hall Institute, the Treasurer reported the gift by Mr. John D. Player of a total sum of £6,000 to the trust, and the possibility of a further gift of £6,000 from the same source on the commencement of work on a building scheme.  Mr. Llewellyn Davies proposed that a sub-committee be elected to enquire into and report on the erection at an early date of a temporary building on the site, for use until such time as the erection of a permanent building was possible.  Mr. Llewellyn Davies, Mr. H.E. Walters, Mr. H. Palmer,  Mr. Hallam, and Mr. B.W. Gregory were duly elected.  Mr. Thraves was appointed architect and was instructed to prepare plans for the erection of a temporary building on the site.

At a quarterly meeting of the Albert Hall Committee, on 10 December 1945, it was resolved to pay the offered price of £900 for the site which measured 2,400 yards of land, at 4/6d per yard, from the Nottingham Corporation. The land on the Bestwood Estate was regarded as suitable for the erection of a Mission Hall. It was because of the Second World War that development had been held over, notwithstanding the kind offer of £5,000 which had been made before the war by Mr. John Player.

There was still a delay of another three and a half years before the Trustees Meeting on 28 March 1949 was shown plans which Mr. Thraves had prepared for a  new hall which included vestries, kitchen and cloakroom accommodation and the Hall to be erected on the most eastern portion of the site in order that sufficient land would remain vacant for the subsequent erection of a permanent building. Mr. Thraves estimated the cost of the building to be approximately £2,300 including lighting, heating apparatus and decorations.

The Quarterly Meeting on 14 June 1949 recorded that the new building at Bestwood had now received the sanction of the Chapel Committee and the Nottingham City Council had approved the plans.

In 1999, in conversation with Mr. Lewis K. Stockdale, he recalled that:

I was walking along Arnold Road when I saw a notice announcing that the Methodists planned to build a church there.  I wrote to Ken Waights and he came around to see me.  I was invited to help at the new church, so I was there from the beginning.

I felt sorry for Ken Waights.  He would take a service at Bestwood and then he would take one at the Albert Hall straight away.  The Deaconesses would also take services.  There were two services each Sunday.  I used to go to the morning service, have a quick dinner, go back for Sunday School in the afternoon (when we had it in the afternoon), have tea and back for the evening service.

I had the Boys' Brigade on the Tuesday and my first wife had the Life Boys on the Wednesday.  There was also the Youth Club on Thursday.  Mrs. Henderson had the Girls' Brigade on the Friday.  My two sons used to organise a social or something like that on Saturday.  My elder son, Christopher, and his wife, Christine, were married at that church.  He is a lay preacher at Langley Mill Baptist.  Graeme is an ordained Baptist minister.  He trained at St. John's College, Bramcote.  He had two years there and got his Bachelor of Theology.  He is at the Fuller Baptist Church in Kettering now.  They both used to help with the Youth Club.

Bestwood Hall started in the Albert Hall Circuit with Ken Waights and then we transferred to the Central Circuit.  Bernard Franklin was the Minister then. There was another minister who was blind from diabetes and I used to fetch him on the back of my scooter to the Boys' Brigade and take him back.

Sister Grace [Simpson, 1950-54] was the first Deaconess at the Hall.  Then there was Pam [Pratley] who married Peter Keward.  She is in Cardiff now.  I am still in touch with her.  Finally there was May Smith, [1960-65].  My younger son married her niece.  She lives in Cambridge and I still see her now and again.

Bestwood Park was agricultural fields.  I think the last house on the old Bestwood Estate was the vicarage to St. Matthew's.  Bestwood Estate ran from Hucknall Road [in the west], along Arnold Road [on the south], as far as what is now Beckhampton Road [in the east].  There were only a few houses across the road and towards Hucknall Road.  Of course, the Bestwood Park estate wasn't built then.

When we opened the Hall and started the Youth Club we advertised it by handing out leaflets house-to-house.  However, I think they learned about it more  by word of mouth at the school at the top of the hill because the school children talked together and came with their friends.  Once the pupils saw what there was they came in.

There was a Baptist church where the library is now.

The second, more permanent church built about 1955 was a solid brick building with a stone porch entrance, and two stone pillars.  There was a little wooden hut, about half the size of the church, at the side of the church, for the women's meeting and other week-day activities including the evening meetings. 

However, we had the Boys' Brigade in the main hall because that was the only place where we could go.  We had to clear away the chairs.

This church had two vestries at one end and a kitchen and a vestry at the other [front] end.  There were two little rooms and toilets at the kitchen end.

There was a piano, not an organ [as shown on the plan].  There was a platform with a step up to it, with a pulpit on one side on top of the platform.

In 1961 the Methodists built another church on Elmbridge [on the corner with Beckhampton Road].  When we closed ours in 1965 I think it was only my family that moved to the new church on Elmbridge.  Most of the members transferred to the Albert Hall, although some went to Arnold Methodist Church.  Tom and Mrs. Jackson moved to Scarborough and  Sister Pam and Peter Keward went to Shetland.  Rev. Richard Cleave was there for a year [he came in 1964] while the new church was being built.  My wife used to go to his Bible Class, the same night that I had the Boys' Brigade.  I was asked to go to the Elmbridge Church as a steward.  That church is still there although it is now an ecumenical project.

When the Hall closed in 1965 the Boys' Brigade disbanded, because the Elmbridge church had Scouts.  They didn't want the Boys' Brigade.

Until the last year or so I have been chaplain to the Nottingham 21st Brigade.  I took the Bible Class, every Thursday night.  For lads of that age, you have to keep it short.

At the meeting of the Trustees held on 28 September 1949 two tenders for the building including the levelling of the site, wiring, gas pipes, decorations, entrance gates, and concrete posts and wire mesh fencing were opened:  Messrs. Lomax £3,100 and Messrs. Appleby £3,550. The former was accepted.

At the Quarterly Meeting on 14 September 1949, in connection with staffing the new Branch, the Superintendent stated his proposals were that Sister Annie Newsome would develop a Women's Meeting and Sunday School, Mr. E.R. Embleton would introduce work in connection with youth activities and formation of a Boys' Brigade, and Mr. Miles would undertake the duties of Society Steward. He also stated that voluntary help had been offered by the Rev. R.A. Buckley, a Supernumerary Minister.

It was reported, at the meeting of the Trustees held on 3 February 1950, that the Circuit Stewards had agreed to contribute £100 per annum to the fund established for a future Manse and that an investment account had been opened with the Halifax Building Society. The title deeds of the new hall were to be deposited with Martins Bank Ltd., Nottingham. The premises were to be insured in the sum of £5,000.

In March 1950 Rev. Kenneth Waights announced that Sister Grace Simpson would give up her present work at the Albert Hall and be responsible for the supervision and general work of the new Hall and that the immediate aim would be to establish a Sisterhood, one class meeting, a Sunday School, and a Youth Club. Services would be held initially on Sunday evenings only. Mr. Bowles was appointed as the first Trust Secretary. Some of the Albert Hall people had volunteered to go with Sister Grace and help to establish the Church there. Rev. Kenneth Waights said: "There is plenty of hard work ahead but I am sure that the time will come when we shall have a strong branch of the Mission on that Estate."

On Saturday 15 April 1950 the little prefabricated building at Bestwood Estate was opened. The opening was very graciously performed by Mrs. J. Llewellyn Davies, and many friends from the Albert Hall, King's Hall and Aspley Hall were present. The Guardian, 17/4/1950, reported on the opening ceremony.

Over two hundred people from the Albert Hall Methodist Mission, Nottingham, and from the estate close by, stood in the afternoon sunshine and sang hymns in front of the first Methodist Church in Bestwood.  Opening prayers had been led by the Rev. J. Lewis Gillians, President of the Nottingham Free Church Council and Chairman of the Nottingham and Derby Methodist District.


Map SK5644SW (1954)

Plan (Alfred J. Thraves & Son), 1955
Drawn by Alfred J. Thraves & Son, Chartered Architects, Friar Lane, Nottingham, January 1955
for the Trustees of the Nottingham Methodist Mission.
Bestwood Hall


Exterior

Interior
Bestwood Hall

The architect of the church, Mr. A. J. Traves, handed a golden key to Mrs. J. Llewellyn Davies who unlocked the door, admitting into the Hall its first congregation which heard a short dedicatory service conducted by the Rev. K.L. Waights, Superintendent of the Methodist Mission, and the Rev. Albert Aspey of the Aspley Hall Methodist Church.

During the service a hymn book, given by Miss Sylvia Johnston in memory of her mother and a Bible, given by Mr. Ernest Johnston in memory of his wife, were dedicated.  Mrs. Phoebe Johnston, of Wynndale Drive, Sherwood, had been pianist at Methodist services held in a hut on the Bestwood Estate during the years 1938 and 1939.

One of the church's first Sunday School pupils, Christopher Stockdale, presented a bouquet to Mrs. Davies at the Opening Ceremony.

Also at the service were Sister Grace Simpson, who will be Deaconess of the new church, Sisters Annie Newsome and Jean Baillie, all of the Albert Hall Methodist Mission, Messrs. G.I. Akeroyd, A.E. Mason and L.J. Wyer, circuit stewards, and Mr. Llewellyn Davies and Mr. E.H. Palmer, treasurers of the Albert Hall Mission.

The new church is one of two authorised by the Nottingham Estates Committee.  The other is an Anglican Church.  The builders were Messrs. C. Lomax and Son, who completed the work in under six months at a cost of about £5,000.

The prefabricated building is cream and green and consists of one main hall, vestry, kitchen and small stage.  It will accommodate over two hundred people in the main hall, heated by overhead gas-fires.  The Rev. K.L. Waights says it is a semi-permanent church.  A larger one will be built when a licence is granted.

In addition to the normal Sunday services, there will be Sunday School classes, a Sisterhood, Guild, and members of the Good Companions Youth Club from the Albert Hall Mission will start a youth club.

On the following day, Sunday 16 April, the Sunday School was opened and there were thirty scholars present in the morning (Beginners and Primary) and eighty in the afternoon (Junior and Senior). In the evening the first service was attended by forty members.

On Tuesday the Sisterhood Meeting commenced and by Thursday evening the Good Companion Youth Club met with seventeen young people from the estate. It was for the over-fourteens and provided table tennis, dancing, table games, darts, and other activities. The Wesley Guild met once a fortnight on Monday evenings, run on the usual Guild lines.

The Sunday School Teachers' Preparation Class met weekly in fellowship for the teachers to prepare their lesson and to discuss the work of the Departments.  These meetings were considered to be a great help to  all the teachers and a benefit to the Sunday School.

In June 1950 there was a very enjoyable Flower Service, and a Harvest Festival Sunday on 10 September was well attended by friends and parents.

As a result of Young People's Day in October 1950, the Young People's Fellowship Group started a  weekly Bible Study Group for the Sunday School scholars over the age of ten.

A great asset to the Sunday Evening Service was said to be the formation of a Junior Choir which was a great help to the Junior worshippers too, as they had an active part in the service.

The mature were not forgotten. The Old Age Pensioners' Meeting met once a fortnight on the premises for games, refreshments and discussion.  This branch of the National Association of Old Age Pensioners was formed in November 1950 and had a membership of fifty.

Three years later, on 10 February 1953, they found that the proposed building of a Church Hall would cost approximately £17,000, so Mr. Walters proposed that the Superintendent visit London and Manchester to sound the possibilities of the help of the Home Missions and Chapel Affairs Department.

At the Church Anniversary on 25 April 1954, Rev. Richard  Granville Jones,  M.A., B.D., (Area Secretary SCM) was the preacher at morning and evening services.

Mr. Eyre, Miss Margaret Champkins and the assistant leader, Mr. Alf Henderson, were welcomed as leaders in the Good Companions' Youth Club, in October 1954.

On Tuesday 3 November 1954, Mr. Barrie Heafford spoke to the Sisterhood Meeting on "Experience at a Youth Conference in Germany".

2 August 1956 saw the farewell social for Rev. and Mrs. Hale. Rev. Barrie Heafford was "in charge for the month".

There were only five marriages registered at the church:

1.    29 August 1959.           Brian Granville Frederick Benson and Dorothy Helen Lewin.
2.    11 February 1960         Trevor John Whitmore and Joan Irene Henderson.
3.    16 July 1960                Malcolm George Clough and Christine Anne Hollingsworth
4.    17 April 1965               Christopher Henry Stockdale and Christine Ann Wright
5.    2 February 1966           Dennis Victor Salisbury and Elizabeth Jane Eyre

The register was closed on 12 May 1967.

In 1999 Miss Ethel May (Sister May) Smith, who had been the Wesley Deaconess in the circuit from 1 September 1959 to 31 August 1965, provided the following autobiography:

I came from Kingsway Hall, in London.  I was at the Albert Hall for a year and then went to Bestwood Hall.

I think the building was a prefabricated building with a wooden hut by the side of it.  It wasn't an elaborate building.  It was the type they used to put up for halls at that particular time: easy to put up.  I am sure it was what they called "prefabricated".  I don't think it was a brick building, but it could have been.

I don't think I ever took a picture of the outside although I have a picture of Christopher Stockdale's wedding, and I have pictures of when they had Old Aged Pensioners' parties in there, but it really wasn't worth taking pictures of, quite frankly.

I resided in Arleston Drive when I first came to Nottingham.  It was a nightmare.  There were three of us in a flat and one poor soul had to have the little box-room.  We couldn't get a bed up in there.  We rested a bed on a ledge one side and the top of the stairs on the other.  Then I moved to a flat on Bembridge Road.  I was the first person to live in the flat [from 1963], and left it in October 1965.

When I left, they didn't replace me.

Mrs. Henderson [wife of Alf] played the piano for the church.

Rev. Bernard Walkland was the minister in charge of Bestwood in my time.

The Messenger July 1961 reported that the experiment of holding Sunday School in the morning was proving a success. Not less than seventy children had attended Morning Service and afterwards left for their own lessons.

During 1961 hundreds of new homes were erected and occupied on the Bestwood Park Estate adjoining the old Bestwood Estate on which the Mission staff worked. Although these houses had been regularly contacted, there had been little, if any, response. This applied not only to the Methodist Church but also to the Anglican and Baptist Communions with whom they worked in close contact.  However, the Hall did provide, during the week and on Sundays, many activities for children and young people of a religious and secular nature.  At least one hundred children were within the walls each week attending Sunday School, Boys' Brigade and Life Boys, Girls' Life Brigade, and Cadets, Inters Club and Guild. The numbers attending the Sisterhood had grown as had those attending the Young Wives' meeting. The average congregations week by week had grown and since the Junior Sunday School moved to the morning, attendances at service had shown a marked increase.

At the Quarterly Meeting on 9 June 1964. Rev. George Sails announced that Synod had approved the change for Bestwood Church to go into the Central Circuit in 1965.  As the Gladstone Street Church members had shown no desire to come into the Albert Hall Mission Circuit it was decided to "leave it for the time being".  Bobbers Mill Chapel would close but Aspley Hall would offer pastoral oversight for the aged members and the Sunday School within its reach.

In 1965, Sister May considered that in some ways it had been a difficult year for the members of Bestwood. The impending transfer to another Circuit had led some of the fringe members and adherents to assume, wrongly, that the church was closing down. This resulted in what one might call the "deserting of the sinking ship".  However, there had been a loyal group of members who valiantly carried on and maintained a witness in the Sunday School, Guild and Uniformed Organisations. Another Fellowship Group had been started which was held at the Deaconess's flat on a Tuesday evening and the first meetings proved very helpful in answering the need for those who felt they required a deeper spiritual background to their work. During the year the Mission opposed the opening of a public house on the corner of Arnside Road but this was defeated. They considered that it would prove an added burden to the already difficult task which faced the Church.

The Quarterly Meeting on 1 June 1965 recorded that morning services would cease at Bestwood Hall in July 1965 and that they would concentrate on Sunday School activities. Good wishes were expressed from the Circuit on them joining the Nottingham Central Circuit.


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