From our own perspective – The early days of Northolt Methodist Church

The Early Days of Northolt Methodist Church Janet Bettaccini

Northolt Village (or Northala, meaning Northern Fields,) was mentioned in the Doomsday Book of 1086! Research shows Northolt was largely farmland for many years (all smallholdings) with mainly agricultural workers as its residents. A workhouse was recorded in Northolt as early as 1663 with agriculture listed as the only occupation of the residents. The last workhouse mentioned was housed on the site of the current Memorial Hall near St Mary’s.

Apparently Northolt’s rich clay soil meant the roads between farms were often difficult to travel through especially in bad weather and so there were few good local roads to carry ‘commercial’ traffic through Northolt and this delayed its progression. Various attempts to improve the highways were largely unsuccessful in the early days and so Northolt maintained its ‘village green’ appearance for many years. (I find it difficult to travel along Mandeville and Church Roads today but this is due to too much commercial traffic these days!) Northolt did have some brick works but they had closed before our church was built.

In the early 1930s Methodists in Northolt met in the Memorial Hall near St Mary’s church in Northolt Village until their new church, sited opposite the ‘Target’, a local Northolt pub, was built in 1933. Records from the time suggest the church was sited on a country lane surrounded by bushes and trees! By 1935, the A40 had been built (but do look at the pictures of this tranquil road carrying little traffic!) With better access, Northolt grew rapidly and there has been a busy road adjacent to ‘the church on the roundabout’ since the 1950s..

The far sighted architects designed this church with a retracting central ‘wall’ enabling the internal size of the building to be altered. Where we now have the altar there was a platform which was made up of sections which fitted together and had a wooden pulpit in the centre with a rail around the front edge. All this could be dismantled to give more room and together with the retracted partition, enabled the space currently used as the church and the Jesus Kids room , to be joined together to give much more space. There were no pews, just rows of chairs which could be rearranged to enable the space to be used for various activities. (I think history is repeating its self as several ministers have been keen to encourage us to revert to chairs instead of pews!)

On Wednesday 11th January 1933, the new but small Methodist Church at Northolt was dedicated by the Rev Dinsdale T Young DD. It was its first Minister, Rev A F Pentney, who had prepared the order of service for that day in which he warmly welcomed all worshippers. It is interesting to note the final statement on this commemorative document says “Again we Say Welcome”. How prophetic this has become at Northolt! It was always the intention to enlarge this church at a later date and build a hall but financial circumstances delayed this until 1965.

A very long serving member of this church, Jack Holliday, who joined the church shortly after it opened, was organist and Junior Church ‘Super’ at that time. Jack was also Property Steward / Treasurer / Youth Club Leader and more during his time at Northolt. The Youth Club met in wooden huts on the site of what is now the church hall. Functions were held there and occasionally the church was used for larger events.

Soon after the end of the second World War in 1945, evacuated children returned home and there was severe overcrowding at Northolt Village School. Northolt Methodist Church was used during weekdays as an annex to the school. One of our own members, Gladys Wiffin, sadly no longer with us, was one of the teachers. She told me that if teachers wanted to talk to their classes separately, (a class of 40 remember) was taken into the room we now called the Emmanuel Room! (Health and Safety would have something to say about that today!)

At about this period, Doreen Lippiatt (nee Cook) was a guide leader at Northolt (lovingly known as Cpt Cook!) On 12th October 1946, Doreen (later to be a long serving Welcome Steward) was married at our church by Rev Kingsley Turner and in 1949 her son was baptised here.

At that time, upkeep of the church grounds and boiler room plus all handyman jobs was done by the husbands of two of our members, Mrs Mary Baggs and Mrs Cowper. Mrs Baggs (a teacher) was a church steward for over 20yrs and was involved early on with the Youth Club. Mrs Cowper a communion steward for a similar period, arranged the flowers each week. Our font was donated by Mrs Cowper’s family, in her memory. Harry and Kitty Turner also played a huge part in the upkeep of the church a little later and our dusk to dawn lighting was installed in their memory.

Jack Holliday’s daughters Janet and Daphne were Junior Church teachers in the early 1960s although Daphne had left just before I arrived in 1964. Not sure how I got involved, perhaps as a replacement for Daphne, but Janet and I taught together in Junior Church for some years. I still write to Janet at Christmas!

I moved to Northolt from Pitshanger Lane in Ealing having attended Pitshanger Methodist Church. A friend (also still on my Christmas card list!) told me about the little church near the Target pub which she had heard was very friendly (how right she was) and I came one Sunday.

Harry Turner was also door steward and in his very welcoming Irish ‘twang’ (that I never really understood), gave me a firm hand shake and with his irrepressible smile, made me feel truly welcome. I needed an anchor at that time and like many others before and since, Northolt gave me this.

The interior of the church had been refurbished a few years earlier (permanently fixing the dividing partition to make the church and Jesus Kids’ room, the sizes they are today.) In 1965 the hall was built. The stage in the hall was first used at Christmas in 1965 to present a Nativity Play. I had photos but have sadly mislaid them. The children had to learn their lines in those days! It looks as though the children of this church have performed a Nativity Play each Christmas for at least the last 49 years!

I also recall a member from the Ealing Philanthropic Society giving a wonderful address each year just before Christmas and then collecting an abundance of toys and games that the Junior Church had brought to give to other children in Ealing who were less fortunate than themselves. The church used to be packed on those Sundays and it was always a lovely service. Some years later I took my own children to this service and they loved it too having spent hours beforehand deciding which toys they could part with! I always felt this service portrayed the true meaning of Christmas and giving.

Duties as a nurse at this time fluctuated and I was no longer able to commit to regular attendance. I came when I could. However once married and with children of my own to be brought up in the Roman Catholic faith, we went to church as a family but I was not comfortable and once the boys, had taken their first communion in the mid 1980’s, I came back to Northolt and became an ‘official’ member of this Church in 1986 and the Minister at that time was Rev Glyn Collins who is leading our 80th Anniversary service!

I think it was 1965 when Dorothy Horn first attended our church. Since then she has been one of our longest serving members having served in just about all positions (including painter and decorator with her husband Les) and a truly valuable member of this church.

In the early 1990s I recall suggesting to Chris Gibbs, the minister at the time, that we could do with a new carpet in the church as we only had faded red rush matting. I must have moaned a lot (then a now) as just before Christmas one year I came into the church and this wonderful red carpet had been laid! Chris made sure he was near the door as I came into church that day as he wanted to see my face. Hope you agree it still looks good and is as warm as the welcome you get here!

I used to bring my mother to the Sunday service when she came to see us and she loved this church too. She was a regular member of Bright Hour and when she died I had the Bible Marker made in her memory. It picks up the gold in the pulpit drop (commissioned for our Diamond Jubilee 20 years ago) and the red of the carpet.

I recall a funny story of Jesus Kids when Linda McMurray was our minister. Elizabeth, John and I had been trying to teach the Jesus Kids the Lord’s Prayer. In those days, Linda used to invite the children to come to the front and sit on the altar steps before going to their lesson and would have a few words with them. She had done her homework and had already asked us what we had been doing a week or so earlier and of course we mentioned the Lord’s Prayer. Linda asked the children what was meant by ‘learning by heart’. She got the answer she wanted and then asked if the children had recently learnt something by heart and one 10year old lad’s arm shot up. Elizabeth and I glanced at each other with satisfaction.

Imagine our consternation when the lad replied, “I’ve learnt my pin number at the bank Miss! Not quite the answer we had hoped for!

So I hope I have given you a few snippets of the early history of this church with others giving their special memories elsewhere in this booklet.

Happy 80th birthday everyone!