Snow Hill Congregational Church

A meeting was held in September, 1846 to discuss the new project and contributions and subscriptions were sought. At the meeting £3,000 was promised and other subscriptions soon followed. At the beginning of 1847 land was purchased on Snow Hill from the Duke of Cleveland at £1 per square yard and the town's leading architect Edward Banks was engaged to design the new church and Sunday school.

Although 1847 started well, the summer and autumn were so wet that crops failed and a commercial depression followed. This led to difficulties with the new project and the Rev. W.H. Heuderbourck, lacking perseverance, could not face them. He quickly resigned and moved to Mount Tabor Chapel in St. James' Street. Luckily the other church members were made of stronger stuff and continued without him.

By the middle of 1848 the Snow Hill Sunday school was completed and opened on July 4th. The two story building included 12 classrooms on the top floor to be used for religious instruction for the elder scholars, without any disturbance from the children in the schoolroom below.

To celebrate the opening a tea-meeting was held on the first floor, during which the floor in the centre of the room began to sink into a six inch deep depression. Everyone quickly moved away from the centre of the room and the floor was quickly propped up from below. As a result the beams beneath the floor were strengthened to prevent this happening again. The total cost of the land and buildings at Snow Hill amounted to £8,562.

Snow Hill Congregational Church. 
From “Congregational Churches of Wolverhampton, 1662-1894” by W. H. Jones.

A papier-mâché plate from the church. Courtesy of Lawson Cartwright.

Snow Hill Congregational Church opened on 31st July, 1849 and the Rev. William Bevan was appointed as pastor. The old Temple Street chapel became a day school and continued in use for many years.

Reverend Bevan introduced a new type of service, similar to that used in the Church of England. Worshippers were asked to kneel during prayers and to stand to chant a psalm, all very different to the traditional nonconformist service where people would stand and turn their backs to the pulpit during prayer and not chant psalms.

Snow Hill Congregational Church.

Some of the older members refused to follow the new practice and some even published a pamphlet ridiculing the new ideas. In the fullness of time however, the new ideas were accepted by all and William Bevan's merry smile and warm personality attracted many newcomers. The church became a fashionable place of worship for some of Wolverhampton's leading families and a long line of waiting carriages on Snow Hill was a common sight during services. Even so the poorer families were not forgotten and many received regular visits from Reverend Bevan.

One of the most successful parts of the church was the Sunday school where many received their education. Much of this success was due to the school superintendent John Barker, who at the time ran the Chillington Iron Company's works in Wolverhampton. Things went well at the church until Mr. Barker's death in 1852. Much of the money for the new building had been borrowed and £1,500 still had to be paid. Mr. Barker's standing in the community gave subscribers much confidence but on his death this disappeared and many subscribers failed to fulfil their promises.

The Reverend William Bevan. From Congregational Churches of Wolverhampton, 1662-1894” by W.H. Jones.
Snow Hill Congregational Church.

From a church leaflet.

This caused great anxiety at the church and because of the unpaid debt, many of the leading families left the church and worshipped elsewhere. The annual interest on the loan was charged at 4¾ percent and it took 14 years to complete payment.

Mr. Bevan resigned in 1860 due to ill health and was replaced by Reverend J. Parnell Palmer who served until 1864. Some of the other ministers at Snow Hill were as follows:
1865 - 1872.
1872 - 1875.
1876 - 1881.
1882 - 1886.
1887 - 1893.
1894 - 1916.
1917 - 1921.
1921 - ?  
William Henry Charlesworth.
F. Sonley Johnstone.
Henry Irving.
Elvery Dothie.
William Henry Addicott.
Charles Frederick Bone.
John George McKenzie.
Eric Russell Thomas.

In 1868 members of the congregation thought that something should be done to provide a chapel for the rapidly increasing population of neighbouring Blakenhall. This resulted in the opening of a room in Cobden Lane which soon proved inadequate, and so land was purchased in Park Street for the building of a mission chapel. The chapel costing £650 was paid for by members of the Snow Hill congregation and a Sunday school added in 1876.

Another view of the church.

The interior of the church.

During Reverend Sonley Johnstone's ministry the neighbouring churches at Brewood and Wheaton Aston were going through difficult times and were without a minister. Snow Hill Church agreed to form a friendly alliance with them and supplied lay preachers until a pastor could be appointed.

In 1876 and 1877 the church was restored and improved. A new committee room, a ladies vestry and a chapel keeper's house were added and the interior was decorated throughout. A few years later improvements were made to the church heating system to make the building warmer in the winter, thanks to leading member Joseph Jones. Around the same time a women's school began to meet on Monday evenings.

As the end of the century neared, the membership grew and mid-week prayer meetings, lectures, and bible classes made the church a busy place. Links were formed with Merridale Street Mission and the new Congregational Church at Swan Bank, Penn. Free breakfasts and teas were provided for the poor and needy, and gifts were given to the Royal Hospital, and collections made for the widows and children of those killed in wars.

From the Wolverhampton Red book of 1913

By the end of the First World War, the school building at the rear, facing onto Tempest Street had been built. It can be seen on the left of the photograph below, which includes a sign, next to the school entrance gate, that describes the school as 'Snow Hill Memorial Hall Adult Schools.'

In 1924 windows of remembrance were installed as part of the church renovation and many new societies were formed within the church, such as the Boy's Brigade, the Band of Hope and the Young People's Guild. Unfortunately attendances at normal services fell and a visiting minister summed this up as "a small congregation in a large church".

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