Towcester Road Methodist Church
The origins of Primitive Methodism in Far Cotton (or Cotton End, as it was then known) are somewhat obscure, but the cause had developed by 1863 when it was decided to acquire premises.
In that year a chapel in Henley Street, believed to have been used by the Baptists, was bought for £237.12.8. The name of Far Cotton Primitive Methodist Chapel first appeared on the Plan in 1864.
The cause progressed, and this chapel was demolished some 20 years later to build a new one. The foundation stones of the Henley Street Chapel which many still remember, were laid on 2nd August 1888.
The opening date is not known but worship continued, and after the end of World War I, Far Cotton began to develop east of Towcester Road. In 1903 th ecircuit ministers were Rev Fred Winterburn, and Rev Arthur Goodall and meetings at Henley st were on Sunday at 2:30 and 6pm and Tuesday at 7:30 pm.
In 1920 Far Cotton Trustees took the momentous decision to build a new Church nearer the new housing areas. In the same year land at the corner of Towcester Road and Southampton Toad was bought for £850.
George Baines and Sons, well known architects of very many Methodist Churches, were commissioned to prepare plans for a new "School-Church" on this land. (Their fees eventually amounted to £244.12.7!)
The contract was placed with the local firm of Henry Martin Ltd. at the beginning of 1923 for the erection of the new building in the sum of £3930.13.10. The iron railing and cupboards were extra to the contract and cost £126.7.6.
The Stonelaying ceremony took place on 7th July 1923 when £100 was raised on that day. Fundraising efforts continued and the new School-Church was opened on 31st January 1924.
The first preacher on that afternoon was Rev H.Q. Pickett, a former minister at Kettering Road Church and then Principle of Hartley College, Manchester.
The Henley Street Chapel was sold to the Salvation Army for £500. It was used by them for some years, until it was sold for commercial use. It was demolished in the early 70's to make way for the new industrial estate.
The old Henley Trust account was closed on 31st December 1923 with a balance in hand of £75.18.2. which amount opened the new Trust account of Towcester Road Church.
The remaining years of the 1920's were spent in enthusiastic fund raising efforts to help "pay off the debt". Two day bazaars, concerts and efforts of all kinds.
The remaining land at the corner of Towcester and Southampton Roads was now used as allotments by Joe Brookes and Charlie Coley, both Methodist stalwarts, the latter being Chapel Steward for very many years.
The early 1930's under the Rev W.B. Barton was the heyday of the Young Peoples Guild. Ambitious outings, quite far afield were held and a high standard of musical play produced each year.
In 1933 Rev B.J. Coggle came to Towcester Road from Warkden in Manchester and his name was soon well known throughout Northampton by his prolific writing to the press. He championed the cause of pacifism and total abstinence with amazing vigour. He took part in public debates at the Town Hall and earned the highest respect even of those who totally disagreed with him.
By this time the allotments were getting rather to much for Joe and Charlie and the Rev and Mrs Coggle felt the land should be an ornamental garden. Turf was cut from a field at Astcote and a lawn laid. Rustic arches were erected and on the 19th October 1935, hundreds of rose trees were planted by their donors at a Rose Planting Ceremony. Towcester Road became known as "the Church in the Garden".
Rev R.J. Connell (later to be General Secretary of the Methodist Homes for the Aged) was at Towcester Road in September 1939 and he and Rev T.D. Meadley carried the church through the difficult years of World War II. It lost all it's young people, but the older generation rallied and began and continued throughout the war a comprehensive News Letter Service and Gift Scheme which kept in touch with all members away on War Service.
The Primary Room was taken by the Local Authority as a school for evacuee children, and thus we acquired the small wooden chairs which still occasionally appear at our Auctions.
During the war the loan of £2500 to the Chapel Aid Association was repaid by a generous donation of £500 from Mrs J.C. Wareing, a well known Cotton family. The Thanksgiving Service for the extinction of the debt was held on 11th November 1943. It is interesting to note that between 1924 and 1943, as well as repaying the loan of £2500 we had paid £1195.14.6. in interest.
During the war the organ from the old Horsemarket Church was obtained and installed, with a dedication service on 11th February 1943.
In 1947 an emotional "welcome home" service was held in the church for all those members and friends who had returned from the war, saddened perhaps by remembrance of those who had not.
The Youth Club, under the enthusiastic leadership of Bert Berrill became a vitally important part of the church's life, as did other Young Peoples organization, and a decision was made to erect a temporary prefabricated hall. In 1948 the first Epworth Hall was opened by the Mayor, Mrs H Nichols.
In this new hall the young peoples organizations flourished, and in 1955, the decision was taken to build a permanent hall, again to be called the Epworth Hall.
The Stone Laying Ceremony took place on 30th June 1956 and the new hall was opened on 6th December 1956. The cost of the new hall was £4500 almost exactly the same figure as the building and equipping of the church in 1923.
From its opening the hall was in constant and effective use, and saw progress in Young Peoples work and that of the Sunday School. During those days the Towcester Road Mission Band was formed.