The History of the Wootton Station Road Methodist Church Society

Chapter 6


From Mrs A. E. Rickards

The Womens Work 'Bright Hour' from 1937

Formed on January 28th, 1937, the first president to be elected was Mrs J. Wadham. There were 20 members and 6 visitors. By March of that year, membership had risen to 40 and 2 visitors were at the meeting. By the end of their first year, the roll consisted of 70 members. The National Sisterhood Movement accepted them and it was agreed that members would pay 1 d per month to help pay expenses!

The first birthday party was held at the W.I. Hall with 70 - 80 guests and members. Miss Hayter made 2 cakes - in case 1 wasn't big enough! The first sick visitor was appointed in 1940, but activities were curtailed due to wartime conditions. Some members had been evacuated. Those that were left started to knit "war comforts" and 132 garments wer knitted in that year. The summer meetings were held in the garden.

1941 saw the first visit to Binstead where an American tea was held and 3 ministers turned up. The minutes of the time noted that Mr Osborne (Coal Merchant) was thanked for lighting the fires each week and the cost of the coal was 3s.9d. Charitable giving still continued even in wartime when donations were sent to Mrs Churchill's 'Help Russia Fund'.

Party time again in 1942 - Miss Hayter read her 5th birthday poem! There was a competition for knitting on matchsticks! Meeting were closed early due to blackout restrictions. On May 4th in that year, heavy bombing had demolished a house, Ryde Cottage, killing 6 out of 8 children and the meeting donated £6 to the parents. Annual Garden meetings were held at The Spinney, with 100 guests at the 1943 meeting. Donations were made to the Leprosy Fund and to The Prisoner of War Fund. In May 1943, Thanksgiving Services were held for the winning outcome of the battles in Tunisia. There were a number of joint meeting and services with Binstead, Chafe, Newport, Cowes and Gunville.

Throughout 1944, despite wartime rationing, mention is often made of "splendid spreads" at Birthday teas and, in one case, Miss Hayter's cake was spoken of as "Pre-war quality". One member donated 3 sponge cakes for prizes. 1945 saw the ending of the war in both major theatres but help for overseas was even more needed and the meeting produced 127 knitted garments for liberated children in Europe and Russia.

Now that the war had ended, the Bright Hour meeting could have an outing. Three coachloads went at a cost of 4s Od for the fare and 1s Od for Tea! During this year, the C.E. Rector, Rev Genower spoke to the Ladies for the first time. In 1948, Miss Eva Booth, daughter of the Salvation Army founder visited Newport Quay Street to talk about her imprisonment in Germany. Two years later, Miss Gladys Aylward and her mother visited the meeting, staying wth Mrs Farrow. She spoke of her trip out of China to safety in Thailand with 83 children in tow and only managing to take a cooking pot.

As a means of collecting money for donations, members saved all the "bun" pennies for leprosy and blind charities. ('Bun' pennies were a particular issue of Queen Victoria coins which showed her hair tied in a bun) During this year of 1951, Mrs J. Wadham died and Mrs Farrow succeeded her as President. The outing that year was to Bournemouth. The folowing year, Mrs Leal presented the meeting with a piano. Mrs Dodd, who had been secretary for many years, retired and was replaced by me (Mrs Rickard).

Meetings continued at Station Road until 1981 when, with mixed feelings, we moved to High Street, chiefly because of better heating and catering facilities. The meeting closed down in 1983.

Some memories of the Station Road Society by Mr D. Boyce

I remember joining the Sunday School in 1948 and being taught by John Wadham, Ian and Bob Barton, on Sunday afternoons. There were sports days held each summer with the venue rotating around the local village churches in the section, Rookley, Merstone and Arreton. Any reasonably flat farmers field was used with 'cow pats' liberally distributed to make interesting obstacles to negotiate. One of the highlights was watching David Creighton and, latterly, Tony Lake competing in the slow bicycle race. The word race was a misnomer because they could both balance on their bicycles for ages without moving forward until all the other competitors had completed the course! In the early 50's, Wootton Recreation Ground was improved, with regular cutting and became popular as a permanent venue.

In 19??, the West Wight Circuit Sports were held at Cowes High School when the village churches did quite well. For a few years, swimming sports were held in the West Wight pool, the Station Road entrants performing very well against the teams from the larger churches. In the 50's, Sunday School anniversaries were preceded by a march from Hendy's corner,(now known as Fryer's corner) to the Church, led by the East Cowes Boys Brigade Band. The Church was always packed and the side seats put up for this service. I remember Gordon Creighton with his orchestra, playing for the Christmas Carol Service - this orchestra - led service moved to High Street in the 60's, I think.

In the mid 50's, John Dodd was the Sunday School Superintendent, who was a member of Havenstreet where, for some reason, the Sunday School was largely made up of girls while the Station Road Sunday School was largely boys. John Dodd, the founder of "Langley Homes", helping discharged prisoners to be re-habilitated and helping ex prisoners-of war from Changi Jail, hired a 'Dormobile', (would now be referred to as a mini-bus) from Harwood's each week and collected children from the out-lying district and took them to Havenstreet to Sunday School. When the Superintendent position became vacant, John took the job on and amalgamated the two Youth Clubs, which were effectively the two Sunday Schools. Many happy hours were spent in church and youth club activities,with visits to Billy Graham and Mildenhall, etc. Eventually, John stopped working for Avery Scales and moved to the mainland to further his career with Langley Homes. John was the subject for a "This is your Life" programme and also awarded the MBE. A biography of his Singapore experiences are recorded in a book called "Road from Singapore", published in 1970. Latterly, John and his wife, Alison, worshipped at the Chandlers Ford Methodist Church and lived near the Langley home in Otterbourne. John's guiding light and inspiration was his mother who worshipped at Station Road.

In 1950, Gladys Aylward came to stay with Mr and Mrs Farrow for 6 months, after her return from China as a missionary. Gladys Aylward's life story (plus a romance) was used in the film "Inn of the Sixth Happiness". Gladys was always upset by the inclusion of the romance in the film.

In 1965, the plan to close Station Road was at its height, with plans made and buyers found for the heating system and the pulpit. However, thanks to Tony Lake's petition and the eloquence of Mr Fred Hollis at Synod, the circuit was asked to think again and Station Road lived to fight another day - thank you Tony! In the later 1960's, there was a proposal to buy the plot of land adjacent to Fryer's from Mr Harwood for £400. This plot, like that of Wootton High Street, has a vein of shifting sand running through it. The officials of the day were unwilling to attempt to raise the £12,000 needed to build a chapel on suspect land. The small estate was then built, now known as Kennedy Close. That plot was probably the last affordable plot in the centre of Wootton on which to build a church. With the expansion of Wootton since the early 1960's, it was hoped that membership would increase and many influential people have attended the church but the membership has stayed around 25.

With the re-development of the coalyard into the new Wootton Station, the old station was under the road bridge, with the rail culvert now filled in on the Newport side of the road. The Church has benefitted from the train passengers for coffee mornings and week-end activities. There is some potential for fund raising during the summer months, with the train passengers joining us for coffee and lunches etc.

Returning to the 50's and 60's, I remember Mr Oliver would repeat the choruses at the end of a hymn. When the last chorus was finished, he would sing the first few words of the chorus again and the congregation of perhaps 30 to 40 and the organist, would join in. One of the things that I miss from the old days, are the full churches at United Services, Anniversaries and Christmas with, what to me, was superb singing and you couldn't hear the organ! I suppose, for me, the most influential church members were:-
Annie Gallop, Bob Barton, Albert Oliver, John Wadham, his Mum and Dad (Viv Wadham), Gordon Creighton, John Dodd, Tony Lake and my father, Ron Boyce.

There have always been a group of very practical people at Station Road, willing to turn their hand to anything that needed doing. There have been periods when our spiritual aptitude has been considered by some to be lacking. Thankfully, those days have now passed!