The New Chapel

Land for the new chapel was purchased for £52.10s. and building work quickly commenced. Like the old meeting house, it was a square brick building without any decoration. The inside was plain with a pulpit fixed against the back wall and complete with a sounding board above and a clerk's desk below. The chapel was surrounded by a graveyard, where many members of the congregation would be buried in the fullness of time.

The chapel opened for worship in 1782, the first 18 members being from the old St. John's Lane meeting house. They were as follows:

Lydia Butler, John Evans, John Hasbury, James Higgins, Charles Hunter, Elizabeth Hunter, John Johnson, Jane Kenrick, Esther Mander, John Mander, Elizabeth Orme, Esther Parrock, Mary Rooker, John Smith, William Stone, Sarah Stonely, Mary Thompson, and Thomas Thompson.

The location of Temple Street Chapel. From the 1842 tithe map.
The minister and his wife were James and Mary Wraith. James was born in May, 1734 at Elland in Yorkshire. He became the village preacher and continued as such for 15 years until he received an invitation to preach at Bolton Congregational Church, where he remained until the commencement of his appointment at Grey Pea Walk on 7th June, 1782.

In 1788 the chapel was put in trust and a number of trustees were appointed. Mr. Wraith appears to have been popular with the local Christian community and parents travelled from all around to have their children baptised by him. They came from as far afield as Bilston, Brewood, Brierley Hill, Bushbury, Sedgley, Shareshill, and West Bromwich.
He stayed in Wolverhampton for 10 years before moving to Hampstead, where he died in 1815. Mr. Wraith's replacement was John Godwin, a strong, warm-hearted Calvinist. He quickly appointed two new deacons, Benjamin Mander and William Foster, to increase the number of deacons to 4. The existing two were John Mander and John Smith.

The French Revolution in 1791 caused great excitement in the country and the "Church and King" riots occurred in Birmingham. Many of the meeting houses were pulled down, and the library and scientific works of Joseph Priestly were burnt by the mob. The people still worshipping in St. John's Lane held the same religious opinions as Dr. Priestly and were subjected to similar treatment. Although the chapel in Temple Street escaped this fate the congregation were subjected to much abuse and persecution. The windows at the front of the chapel were protected by shutters and young gentlemen would frequently knock the shutters with a stick to disturb the preacher during a service.

James Wraith.  From Congregational Churches of Wolverhampton, 1662-1894” by W.H. Jones.
After the end of the Napoleonic Wars in 1815, the country went into a depression. It was a wet summer and crops failed making food prices extortionately high. Taxes were also at a record high due to the war and so was unemployment. The congregation at Temple Street were so poor at the time that they were unable to find the pastor's salary of £40. On hearing the sad news, John Godwin replied "Give me a crust and I will never leave you; I will share a crust with you" and he remained as preacher at the chapel until his death in 1829.

It would seem that worshippers slowly tired of Mr. Godwin's services and numbers dwindled. The possible cause could have been his failure to administer the sacrament, aided by the fact that he did not consider the congregation to be Christians. For whatever reason the congregation continued to reduce in number and even some of the original founders moved elsewhere.
The Princess Street Chapel by
A. Bradney Mitchell.
John and Benjamin Mander sometimes attended services at Pountney's Fold and considered themselves as occasional members of that chapel, and full members at Grey Pea Walk. They also became disillusioned with Mr. Godwin and John purchased a piece of land in Princess Street on which to build a larger chapel for the Pountney's Fold congregation.

The new chapel opened in 1809 and John and Benjamin Mander eventually left the Temple Street chapel to become full members of the Princess Street congregation.

It appears that the new chapel was a great success and the congregation grew too large for the building. John purchased a piece of land on the corner of Market Street and Queen Street on which to build a new congregational church. The Princess Street premises were sold back to him for £400 to help finance the venture and the Queen Street Congregational Church opened in September, 1813.
In order to help with finances, John rented out the vaults in the new church, and much to the dismay of some of the congregation he let them to a wine and brandy merchant.

The story goes that one morning the following was found written on the door:

"There are spirits above and spirits below;
There are spirits of joy and spirits of woe.
The spirits above are spirits divine;
The spirits below are spirits of wine."

The Queen Street Congregational Church. From “Queen Street Congregational Church Wolverhampton” by Henry A. May.
The Final Years at Temple Street

During the last few years of Mr. Godwin's life the number of people in the congregation fell to an all-time low and after his death in 1829 the chapel remained without a pastor until the appointment of Mr. Henry Rogers in 1832. He introduced a form of prayer similar to that used by the "Lady Huntingdon's Connexion", but the congregation preferred the simple form of worship with which they were familiar.

During his time at Temple Street the old fashioned windows and shutters at the front of the chapel were replaced and the front of the building improved. Unfortunately the number of worshippers continued to fall and when Mr. Rogers left Wolverhampton in 1843 they consisted of just 11 people, and the chapel remained without a pastor until 1846.

Meanwhile things were going wrong at Queen Street Church. 48 members of the church and two deacons walked out in August, 1845 following a difference of opinion over the settlement of a minister. They formed themselves into a new church, meeting at the Music Hall in Cleveland Street.

After about three months they were approached by the members of the Temple Street Chapel to ask if they could join forces and a united fellowship was formed. During a service at Temple Street on 6th November, 1845 both groups entered into a covenant promising that in the future they would be one church and one people. After the union was established the original trust deed of the Temple Street chapel was examined. Only one trustee, Mr. Charles Mander remained and so new trustees were appointed as follows:

Thomas Adams, cabinet maker; John Barker, ironmaster; William Corns, coffee mill maker; Edward Cook, gentleman; Sidney Cartwright, toy maker; Henry Fearncombe, japanner; Edward Jones, japanner; Charles Mander, varnish maker; J. Newey, pork butcher; Rob. Smith, draper; S. Walters, carrier; and Martin Wilkes, confectioner.

In 1846 the Rev. W.H. Heuderbourck became pastor. He was an energetic, hard working and industrious man who greatly inspired the worshippers. Every Sunday he opened the Sunday school at 9 o'clock and afterwards conducted the morning service. At 2 o'clock he gave the Sunday school teachers a model lesson for the following Sunday , conducted the evening service, followed by a short prayer meeting.

He urged the church members to erect a new noble chapel, saying that "We need a chapel that shall far outshine the old-fashioned barn-like places our fathers built; a proper Gothic stone building; a church." They took him at his word and soon the project got underway.

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