Calling the faithful city back to the faithful God

What about the Sunday School – quite remarkable in terms of numbers. Let’s look at this branch of the work over a period. Remember that in the early days there was both morning and afternoon school plus of course the main evening service (morning worship didn’t start until Red Hill became an independent church in 1983 – up until then those who wanted a morning service were encouraged to attend at Sansome Walk). In passing we are told in Mr Mayglothling’s 1903 Souvenir that among the pioneer workers of the Swinesherd school were George Farrant, John Middleton, Henry Viles, John Lane, Thomas Smith and Thomas Longmore. The author goes on to say that in the later Red Hill days James Jones, George Matlock and Charles Burden deserve honourable mention as SS Superintendents and Josiah Everitt as Secretary for 12 years. ‘Mrs Baldwyn (nee Hughes), Miss James and Mr F.G. Viles also rendered conspicuous service and the present Superintendent [1903] was Mr C.H. Stevenson with G.W. Foss as assistant and T.J. Griffiths as secretary’.

In 1890 the numbers on the SS roll were 105 with the average attendances 59 in the morning and 74 in the afternoon. Numbers increased quite dramatically over subsequent years:

  • 1895 – 181 total (85 average in the morning and 120 in the afternoon, with 20 teachers).
  • 1896 – 190 although only 16 took the Scripture Union exam and 56 were members of the Int. Bible Reading Association.
  • 1897 – 231 (100/150 plus 17 teachers)
  • 1900 – a staggering 250 (same averages but 23 teachers).

The annual Prize Distribution in February 1895 included prizes to 33 scholars for regular attendance during the previous year. While this doesn’t quite tie in with the numbers mentioned already, it’s interesting to note that ‘Five children who travel from Swinesherd to Red Hill received a Bible each for making a fair number of attendances, considering the long distance for them to come.’  At the same occasion Miss James was presented with a silver-mounted inkstand by the Young Men’s Bible Class ‘in appreciation of the esteem in which she is held by her class’.

We have recorded a list of the teachers in the SS in 1900:

 Miss Ellison Mr F.G. Viles
 Miss James Mr W. Wimblett
 Miss Hulin Mr F. Wheeler
 Miss Nicholls Mr H. Denmed
 Miss J. Wood Mr H. Dolloway
 Miss L. Tomkins Mr H. Viles
 Miss H. Handy Mr Craig
 Mrs Burden Mr W. Evans
 Miss Mears Mr W.Blake

plus Miss M. A Hawkins (organist)

It was still 250 in 1904 with averages of 80 and 160 but for some unexplained reason the next year saw a tremendous drop to 107, though the averages were still healthy at 90 and 96. 1910 – 130 and 1915 – 175, going up again.

And there the detailed records seem to stop. Indeed it’s interesting to note that there is far more information available about the work at Red Hill and the other parts of Worcester Baptist Church at the beginning of the 1900s than in any of the subsequent years. Perhaps the First World War took its toll?

Some other fascinating titbits stand out from the records about the Sunday School. At the 1893 prize-giving William Woodward and Annie Glover had the full number of attendances – 104 – every morning and afternoon possible! Then we read in the August 1895 Banner concerning the SS Anniversary that:

‘the rain fell in torrents and thinned the afternoon congregation but the chapel was crowded at night. The scholars under the leadership of Mr Burden and Miss F. Hawkins rendered their songs well, the anthem being specially well rendered. Rain fell in torrents the previous year but it takes a lot of rain to damp Red Hillers down and all seemed to thoroughly enjoy the day.’

In August 1896 the SS joined with all the other Sunday Schools in the city for a day at Madresfield Court by invitation of the Mayor, Earl Beauchamp, and on 5 October of the same year the Teachers Quarterly Meeting was held at Red Hill. It appears that all the teachers from Sansome Walk and the branch fellowships met together every quarter and at that particular meeting a paper on the aim of SS teaching was given by Rev J. Bell-Johnston ‘and tea was provided’.

The annual SS treat was always arranged for the Whitsun bank holiday Monday and for many years Crookbarrow Hill, Whittington (more familiarly known as Whittington Tump) was the venue. In one account of this in 1908 we read ‘We started at 1.30 pm from the school and marched to Whittington, the infants being conveyed there on a dray kindly lent by Messrs Barnett Ltd.’  Our oldest member, Beat Clinton, who started going to SS in 1915 at the age of three, recalls the annual treat with great affection. She remembers the use of Mr Gammon’s dray to transport the children at 1pm. Tea was at 4pm and races at 6pm followed by a football match for all the fathers, everyone returning home about 9pm. Later venues included Cudleigh Court Farm at Spetchley and wider afield, the delights of Severn Beach, near Bristol.

Beat Clinton also recalls the older children (12+) being taken each Easter Monday (and some Saturdays too) by their teacher, Mr Yates, to Ankerdine Hill where they enjoyed a picnic dinner and tea in the woods.

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