End of an era as landmark Wolverhampton church holds final service

Emotions ran high as a landmark Wolverhampton church held its final service after nearly 120 years.

Inside Darlington Street Methodist Church
Inside Darlington Street Methodist Church

Darlington Street Methodist Church was packed out for its final service on Sunday.

During the final service, the resolution to hand trusteeship to the Circuit Meeting was read aloud and signed by church minister Reverend Christopher Collins.

Members were asked to write prayers for the future on a blank card while candles were lit to be sent to each church in the Wolverhampton Circuit.

Reverend Christopher Collins said it was a 'very sad day and difficult day'
The church is likely to be redeveloped

Hymns included 'O for a thousand tongues to sing', 'Deep in the darkness a starlight is gleaming' and 'Love divine, all loves excelling'.

At the beginning of the service, Mr Collins said: "It is our final act of worship together in this building. We gather after nearly 120 years in this building, and 200 years on this site.

"Today [Sunday] is going to be a very sad day and difficult day for many of us."

The final service at Darlington Street Methodist Church
Darlington Street Methodist Church in the 1900s

The first church on the site opened in 1825 and expanded in 1851, while the current building was opened in 1901 at the corner of Darlington Street and School Street.

It was announced earlier this month that the church would close after approval was given by the Methodist District Synod.

The future of the Grade II listed building is not yet certain as discussions continue with property consultants Bruton Knowles, but it is expected to be redeveloped.

'One of a kind building'

Members of the church spoke of their sadness about the closure.

Rosie Bryan, who has been attending the church for around 14 years, said: "It is a sad day that it is the last service, but it is part of the life of a church – it is not realistic for us to continue with the issues we face in this building.

The final service at Darlington Street Methodist Church
Inside the Grade II listed church

"For me the church is not about the building, it is about the people. I have made great friends through coming here and hope that will continue."

Christine Kinch, whose late husband Tony was minister at the church from 1981 until 2008, said: "I have been coming here for such a long time – I am really sad. When we came in 1981 it was in a dreadful state, destined to be pulled down but the council changed their mind and now call it an iconic building.

Darlington Street Methodist Church, viewed from the roof of Beatties in 2007

"The church means a lot to me. I am glad my husband is not here to see it close, he passed away two-and-a-half years ago. He was very passionate about the church, very committed to the city.

"I hope the building remains, it is very important building – one of a kind in the city."

Ruth Williams, who was christened at the church as a young girl and was attending the final service aged 37, said: "It is a long family tradition of coming here. They have been coming here forever, my grandad and my mom come here and I came here as a young girl.

"In recent years I have not been here but it is the end of an era – I am sad to see it go."

'People have passed away and nobody has replaced them'

Kathryn Davies said: "I started coming here when I was nine years old and I am now 72. I met my husband, David, through the church and we were married here.

"The church has meant a lot to us. I am feeling very sad and can't quite believe it will close.

The final service at Darlington Street Methodist Church

"We have watched membership go down, people have passed away and nobody has replaced them.

"There are churches with smaller congregations – this is such a big building and we have worked hard over the years to keep it going."

Mr Collins added: "We faced a mounting bill for renovations which was just getting bigger and bigger, we needed between £3 million to £5 million to renovate the church to what it needed to be.

The final service at Darlington Street Methodist Church

"When we announced we were going to close, the amount of response we received – we had people saying they grew up in the church, their grandparents were baptised here, people walking past can't see the building leave the city.

"We spent a lot of time agonising over the decision to close but it became easier to make when it seemed to be the only thing we could do.

"The final service was emotional because there's that sense of what we did here today, we will never do here again. There's been a church on this site for nearly 200 years."

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