M.P. CHURCH HISTORY
A new Church in a new suburb
The history of Moorland Park started in the years following the First World War. Society was changing and those who had lived through the war had dreams of better living conditions and hopes of new beginnings. The parish of Boultham was also changing as the local hall had been sold and now the land of the estate was available for new building developments. This happened during the 1920’s and 1930’s as is explained in greater detail in the section headed “Historic context of Boultham”.
The Methodist Church in the south of Lincoln as well as the Church of England acquired sites on Skellingthorpe Road which were located within what had been part of the Boultham estate. They were anticipating the needs of those who would be moving into the area as it changed from being largely rural to a residential suburb of Lincoln.
The move to set up a new Church in the area was first suggested at a local preachers meeting at Hannah Memorial Church (located in the High Street where the Baptist Church now stands) on 11th March 1920. The nearest Wesleyan Church was St Catherine’s at South Park about two miles away – a long way in the days before general car ownership. In true Methodist tradition the result was the setting up of a committee by the Circuit quarterly meeting on 17th March 1920 to explore possibilities.
In the meantime Mr & Mrs Samuel Porter who lived at 2 Almond Avenue in the Swanpool suburb offered their home for services. 8 people attended the first service which was conducted by Mr James Fowler. This arrangement was not really satisfactory and another committee was formed in September 1923. This met on 3rd November 1923 on the site of the present Church. Mr Albert Priestley, a local builder and member of the committee had secured the possibility of purchasing half an acre of land from the development company which now owned what had previously been the Boultham estate. The price negotiated was £200 with a £50 reduction to £150 as long as a Church was erected on the site within 12 months. (In 2013 money values £200 is equivalent to £10,200 – land prices have increased substantially more than inflation over the last 90 years)
Whilst there was lots of enthusiasm there was little money so the small congregation was encouraged by the then Superintendent Minister, Rev H Paynter -
The then President of the Conference, Rev Amos Burnett, preached at the opening service held on November 30th 1924. At the local preacher’s meeting on December 4th 1924 Moorland was added to the plan of the Lincoln High Street Wesleyan Methodist Circuit. In 1932 the Primitive Methodists and Wesleyan Methodists joined together as Methodists and Moorland became part of the Lincoln High Street Methodist Circuit.
In 1924 Moorland Park was in place alongside St Helen’s Hall on the Anglican site with a few houses at that end of Skellingthorpe Road and council houses being built on Highfield Avenue and Usher Avenue. Moving from the Junction northwards on Boultham Park Road there were no houses before Bristol Drive, although Bristol Drive and Brancaster Drive had been built up from 1914 onwards.
The initial membership of the Church was about 25 – a small but enthusiastic group. The chairs they used were “cast offs” from St Catherine’s which were very uncomfortable. The heating was inadequate but was improved about five years later.
During the 1920’s the premises were used temporarily as an elementary school, together with the Anglican hall until a school could be built for the area on Skellingthorpe Road.
Growth and Building the Church
As the years moved on the membership at Moorland increased as new houses were built in the surrounding area. By the mid 1930’s properties had been completed along Rookery Lane, Skellingthorpe Road and Boultham Park Road. It was a little later before Western Avenue, Mayfair Avenue and Hunt Lea estate were added.
The Church started with a debt from purchasing the land and securing the “black hut”. It was not until 1936 that the debt was cleared. Thoughts immediately turned to raising money for replacing the “black hut” with a brick church building. A building fund was set up, a Circuit Bazaar held in October 1938 over 4 days at Portland Place (renamed Central in 1962) raised £685 ( £39,730 in 2013 values) Plans were passed in 1939 , but the outbreak of the Second World War caused the scheme to be put on hold.
After the war a second hut was acquired. There were a number of false starts and disappointments but eventually a “temporary building” was secured at a cost of about £1,000 including transporting and improvements. Moorland had to find about £350 of the cost. This was known as the youth hut or “white hut”, it was made of wood and asbestos and was obtained to solve the problem of space needed for the expanding youth work. As well as the afternoon Sunday school there were scout and guide groups started during the war and a youth club formed by Rev Eddie Greetham at the end of the war. Rev Eddie Greetham also conducted a special rededication service on Friday November 30th 1945 on the occasion of the Church’s 21st anniversary.
The vision of a permanent brick built Church came to the fore again as the austerity of the war years was replaced by new hopes for a peaceful future. Whilst a building fund still existed further monies had to be raised and costs had increased. New plans were drawn up in 1951 by local architects, which had to meet new regulation requirements. The plans envisaged a complete suite of rooms as well as the Church, covering the whole site. However, because the cost of the scheme was £20,000 (£480,000 in 2013 values) it was decided to go ahead with the Church and add the other rooms later. This reduced the construction cost to £11,500 (£276,000 in 2013 values) and meant the black and white huts were left in place for the youth work and fellowship meetings during the week. However, the fees of the architect, quantity surveyor and other incidentals made the total cost £14,000 (£350,000 in 2013 values).The procedures were complicated by the scarcity of building materials in the post war era and the need to obtain a building licence. There was a £8,000 limit for each scheme which just covered the cost of the Church itself. A separate licence needed to be obtained to build the entrance, toilet facilities and the stairs and upper rooms. There had to be a 6 month gap between each licence. The upper rooms were included to give the possibility of a balcony area overlooking the Church should the congregation increase to the extent that this should prove necessary. So the upper part of the wall at the rear of the Church was built only one brick thick in case it needed to be removed later.
The Silver Street Chapel in the centre of town had been sold and the proceeds were divided between Moorland and Swallowbeck, which were being built at the same time. This was expected to provide £7,000, however part of the Silver Street assets were held in government gilts and selling those early when the funds were needed resulted in a penalty so that only £6,086 was actually received. Another £4,000 came from the Joseph Rank Trust and £500 from the Ministry of Education. Unfortunately the shortfall meant that Moorland still had a debt of £700 when the building was opened which was not cleared until 1957.
So building started on what had always been envisaged as a multipurpose Church and on Saturday 28th June 1952 the foundation stone was laid in the east wall of the Church by Mr Herbert Beacock who was a Chapel Steward (now a Property steward) and the Sunday School Superintendent. The inscription stated “This Stone was laid to the Glory of God by the members and friends of this Church on Saturday 28th June 1952”.This stone has since been moved and is now situated on the right hand wall next to the entrance door, as the original position would now be behind the organ.
The builders were Wm Wright and Son (Lincoln) Ltd and by the following spring the Church was completed. By now membership stood at nearly 100 and there were approx 200 in the Sunday school. The opening ceremony took place on Saturday 11th April 1953 at 3.30 pm with Mrs Paynter-
The Church leadership was told in 1952 that the “white hut” would need to be replaced by 1959. However, they still had an outstanding debt and funds were always hard earned. So the “black hut” and “white hut” continued to be used. Monies raised by special efforts such as the garden party and Christmas bazaar were needed to cover regular outgoings and costs.
Despite these difficulties activities thrived and the “huts” were well used. A Wesley Guild was formed in 1933 and meet fortnightly, a Woman’s meeting had started in 1936, meeting during the day. This was supplemented by a Men’s fellowship afternoon group which had been formed in 1952 although the later disbanded at some point in the 1960’s. The Wesley Guild became the Tuesday fellowship after the war, and then disbanded a few years later. The Tuesday evening slot was then taken when a Young Wife’s group was formed from September 1960 and subsequently became the “Tuesday Club”. The Sunday school met on Sunday afternoon, separate from the Sunday morning service, although this was altered to morning timing concurrent with the service in the late 60s.
From 1st September 1957 there was a redrawing of the Circuit boundaries – Lincoln changed from two Circuits (Wesley and Aldersgate) to three (North, Central and South). Moorland became part of the Lincoln South Circuit. [There had been a previous reorganisation in 1944 which was when the Aldersgate and Wesley Circuits had been originally set up]
A Girls’ Brigade and Boys’ Brigade Company were formed in 1962 and are both still going strong although the Boys’ Brigade stopped meeting for approx 10 years and then reformed in 1983. A mothers and toddlers group was formed in 1968 and the Youth Club continued to meet.
During the 1960’s possible plans for a new hall were discussed from time to time but the funds needed seemed to be beyond the capacity of the Church to secure as it was struggling to cover the day to day costs and on occasions had debit balances in the Society account and/or Trust account. Funds had also to be raised in the late 60s and early 70s to replace the original organ with an instrument which had been donated by a Church in Chesterfield but a cost was incurred for transport and putting the organ in place in its new home.
A new Church Hall at last
In the 1970’s it became obvious that the “huts” were going to need replacing sooner rather than later. The only answer was to have a concentrated period of fund raising. The Church account was now in credit, after a great deal of effort to increase weekly giving. A Church Council meeting on 22nd September 1977 agreed to set up a fund-
The working party comprised representatives from the various departments in the Church and between them came up with numerous ideas and events for raising money. Junior Church members were given “smartie tubes” complete with the sweets and asked to full the empty tubes with pennies. In return for the filled tube they were provided with another tube so the whole process was repeated. Newspapers and magazines were collected and exchanged at the local scrap yard for cash in the days before household recycling bins. Concerts were held and social events arranged. Bricks were purchased and the donors name written on the brick. Gradually from these collective efforts funds were raised but it was found to be a “tall order” to raise £2,000 per annum and in fact about £8500 was raised over a 5 year period. Additional donations and bank interest raised the total to about £12,500.
Plans had been drawn up by architects Parker, Fairburn and Manton but it was becoming clear that it was going to be difficult to raise sufficient money and therefore the scheme was reduced in size. Inflation was such at the time that delaying could result in chasing a target which could never be achieved. The final cost was in the order of £35,000, of which £31,700 represented the cost of the building (£115,500 total cost in 2013 values). The Church was successful in obtaining grants from the Circuit of £6,000, Joseph Rank Trust of £4,000, Wright’s Trust of £1,000, Halkes Trust of £1,000 and Whitton Trust of £500. However, there was still a shortfall – this was covered by selling the land on which 34 Skellingthorpe Road is now situated for a net amount of £6,533, obtaining interest free loans from the Circuit of £2,000 and members of £700 which with a property department donation of £1670 enabled the extension of hall and kitchen to be built and for the “old huts” to be demolished. The builder was P.D.F. Butler of Skellingthorpe.
All the hard work seemed to have been worthwhile when the hall was formally opened on Saturday 11th September 1982 by Mr Phillip Race, local solicitor, trustee of Moorland in the 1950’s and ongoing friend of Moorland. The thanksgiving service which followed was led by Rev Frank Smith, the then Minister, with the address given by Rev W. Eric Jones, Chairman of the District.
There were some drawbacks to having the one hall instead of the several rooms provided by the black hut and youth hut. The most obvious being that the older members of the junior church had to meet upstairs in order to split the age groups (the numbers attending were smaller than 30 years previous but still averaged about 35). Those in the upper room had to limit the noise they were making because the single brick thickness of the back wall meant the sound could be heard by the congregation in the Church service.
The loans from the Circuit and individual members were all repaid by 1984 and rather than disband the development fund it was decided to rename it as the project fund. Since then it has been used as a means of raising funds for improvements to the Church. These include a replacement heating and lighting scheme for the Church in 1993, new padded chairs to replace the linked chairs in 1997, updating both the ladies and gents toilets and installing a disabled toilet between 1990 and 2000, laying tarmac on an extended car parking area in 2001, renovating the kitchen and making a fire exit door from the hall in 2011. The larger schemes have been supported financially as well by the Circuit and local trusts; and the Wren environmental trust paid for the fire exit from the hall. These projects have all enabled Moorland to keep its premises in good order and provide modern facilities for the Church and Community.
Building for the 21st Century
A large proportion of the money in the project fund has come from the activities of the Thrift Shop. This was set up in 1987 with a two fold aim of providing a service to the local community and to assist Moorland’s financial position. It has been successful on both accounts and is part of the reason for the current building project to provide much needed storage for the Thrift shop’s stock and thereby enable the Thrift shop to operate more efficiently and remove the stock from the area currently curtained off in part of the main Church. The Thrift shop is manned by an enthusiastic group of helpers, which include Church members and others from the wider community. Many have come regularly week by week over a long period of time.
Discussions have taken place about a new extension since the beginning of this century. Various ideas have been talked about. Some of the ideas whilst impressive were decided to be too costly for Moorland and not achievable. Whilst, history shows Moorland has taken steps of faith over the years there has always been careful consideration of the options and a pragmatic view of the scale of the schemes. It is necessary to have the resources (human as well as financial) to maintain the ongoing activities that benefit members and the wider community at the same time as organising a building scheme. It does appear that there has been a definite pattern of Moorland having a major building scheme and financial commitment every approx 30 years (1924, 1953, 1982 and hopefully 2015).
Although, Moorland has never been a financially rich Church, it has always been rich in the enthusiasm and commitment of its members who have worked long and hard over the years using their skills and determination to build and expand the Church and its’ activities and reach out to the local community. It started with a very small group of about 25 members, which grew to approx 100 by the time the new Church was built in 1953 and seemed to have peaked at about 130 in the early 1960’s. Whilst membership declined during the 1970’s and 1980’s over the last 20 years it has generally stayed at between 60 and 80 members. The numbers using the premises on a regular basis have always been considerably more than the membership and immediate family members. Those who have contributed to the life and work of Moorland Park over the years are too many to mention by name and it would be difficult to select particular individuals. Therefore, it is more appropriate just to acknowledge the deep debt owed to the many that have worshipped at and lived much of their lives for the benefit of Moorland Park and the local community over the last 90 years.
Weekday activities have been mentioned already. Some that used to meet no longer do so; needs and requirements change over the years. We continue to benefit from the skill and work of the Banner Group which met for approx 10 years from 1992 onwards each time we enter the Church and see their work displayed on the walls.
A publicity leaflet issued for the stone laying ceremony in 1952 details the weekly activities available for young people. In addition to the Sunday school there were Brownies, Girl Guides, Youth Club and Junior Guild. For the older members there was a Fellowship meeting on Tuesday evening, Woman’s meeting on Wednesday afternoon, Men’s fellowship meeting on Thursday afternoon together with Prayer and Bible study on Friday evenings.
“Today we have a Toddlers Group, Girls’ and Boys’ Brigades as well as the Sunday morning young people’s group -
Our premises are also used by Community Groups for regular activities and one off family celebrations. The current regular users include Slimming World, Weight Watchers, a patchwork and embroidery group, and a young people’s Karate group.
We continue working to improve the premises with plans for a new front facing lounge and coffee area; and additional storage to the rear. With the funding from grants so far secured and our own fund raising this now looks to be an achievable reality for 2015 and will provide suitable premises for the work of the Church in the 21st century. “
Prepared October 2014
Acknowledgements – Sources of Information
Moorland Park Methodist Church, Lincoln and its Neighbourhood – A Brief History – written by Mary Reeve, 1984.
Historic Records of Moorland Park, including Minute books of Trustees Meetings, Society and Leaders Meetings, Church Council Meetings, Finance & Property Meetings and Church Account Records.