The History of Wilton Road URC
Taken from 'The Bridge' magazine published in October2011
Wilton Road, as in the case of South Aston URC, arose from the merger of two former Congregational Churches, namely Union Row, Handsworth and Westminster Road, also then, arguably in Handsworth.
When Handsworth was incorporated into the City of Birmingham in 1911, Union Row, founded in 1789 was the second oldest Congregational Church in Birmingham after Carrs Lane which was founded in 1748. Both dates are open to debate, as we will see later.
Union Row Church was originally a congregation of “Countess of Huntingdon's Connection” a Calvinistic movement within the Methodist Church. Selina, Countess of Huntingdon had become a member of the Methodist movement in 1739 and subsequently became involved with George Whitefield and John Wesley. She still remained an Anglican and insisted that the Anglican Prayer Book be used at services conducted at her churches.
She founded the Trevecca College in Brecon, South Wales, in 1768, for the purpose of training young men for the ministry. This college was transferred to Cheshunt in 1792 and from 1840 became increasingly more involved with the Congregational Union. Cheshunt College transferred to Cambridge in 1906 and was merged with Presbyterian Westminster College in 1967. The Countess had also been active in the foundation of the London Missionary Society although she, through inheritance, had been the owner of slaves.
Following her death in 1791 the churches, that she had founded or financed, were placed into trust but most became part of the Congregational Church. The London Missionary Society was also administered by the Congregational Church.
There are a few Lady Huntingdon Churched in existence, including on in Worcester which can be visited in the day.
Cardinal John Henry Newman is on record as saying of her:
“ She devoted her time, her means, herself and her thoughts to the cause of Christ”.
The original 'Handsworth' Church was demolished in the late 1870's when a much larger building took its place. Looking back 100 years the church boasted 268 members, together with 680 Sunday School pupils supervised by 50 teachers. The Minister, Rev. Granville Sharp took up his position in 1899 having previously been minister of Pembroke Congregational Church in Bristol.
By Comparison, 50 years ago, Rev. Percy Burnell was minister with a membership of 130 and 150 in the Sunday School overseen by 12 Teachers. Percy Burnell, who had worked for three years in British Guiana, also had responsibility for Lodge Road Church with a membership of 4 and a Sunday School of 116. Sounds like somebody had got their work cut out!
Research conducted by John Purchase
Union Road Congregational Church
86th Boys Brigade Westminster Road
Whose who? Where they now?