METHODISTS are celebrating 125 years of worship at a Warwick church.
Rev Loraine Mellor, president of the Methodist Conference, led a special anniversary service at Warwick Methodist Church on Barrack Street at the weekend.
Wesleyan Methodism was introduced into Warwick in 1801 by Thomas Facer, a Yorkshire stonemason and preacher. After years of meeting in House Groups in Castle Street and Gerrard Street, the Warwick Wesleyans built a chapel in Chapel Street in the 1820s on the site of an old sandpit.
It closed in 1834 when many members left the town following the closure of a major employer, Parkes Wool Factory, in the Saltisford, and the building was sold for use as a National School.
Undeterred, the 28 members built a second chapel in Stand Street in the late 1830s. In 1863 the Warwick Wesleyans moved to a more central site at the corner of Market Street and Bowling Green Street. This chapel, the third in Warwick, had seating for more than 300 worshippers.
Also in 1863 a second Wesleyan congregation was formed in Warwick and a chapel was built in Avon Street, off Emscote Road. This survived until 1968 when it was closed as the Leamington Circuit sought to strengthen Methodism in the area by building bigger new chapels for larger congregations. Most Avon Street members joined the Northgate Congregation.
In 1878 part of the walls of the Market Street Chapel collapsed and the congregation worshipped for a time in the Court House while repairs were carried out.
The Market Street Chapel continued to have problems with subsidence, so eventually plans to replace it with a new chapel in Barrack Street, to be known as Warwick Northgate Wesleyan Church, were drawn up.
The new Warwick Methodist Church was opened on May 25, 1893, by Rev Dr James H Rigg, president of the Wesleyan Methodist Conference. The final cost of the church was £3,228 of which £581 was spent on purchasing the site and demolishing four old buildings.
In 1958 plans were drawn up to add a church hall, which opened three years later.
Extensive repairs to the roof in 1973 led to moves to modernise the church when it was discovered that the Saltisford side of the building was bowing outwards.
After several years of deliberation, the church received a major facelift inside and out. The final cost came to £345,000, most of which was covered by generous grants from the King Henry VIII Charity, Joseph Rank Benevolent Trust, and many fund-raising events by the congregation.
The official re-opening of the refurbished Church with its landmark stained glass window on the Saltisford side took place in 1993.
The church remains a focal point for the community hosting events ranging from summer holiday sessions for youngsters to a fortnightly Bread Church.
Visit www.warwickmethodistchurch.org.uk for further details.