Around the turn of the century a Mutual Improvement Class was formed for the purpose of helping each other to practice speaking and self-expression. Teachers received training, some men became local Councillors, and some became local preachers.
One of our members, now dead for many years, used to tell of her 21st birthday at the beginning of this century; she was given as a present a golden sovereign – a large amount of money in those days – and her mother made her put not one tenth, but the whole of it into the “Sermons” collection. Sacrifice indeed!
Before the First World War, and afterwards until 1921, two Sunday afternoon classes were held in the Chapel basement which was divided by a wall into two rooms. All the scholars met in the Chapel for the opening, hymn and prayers; the Young Ladies’ Class then left by one side door to walk outside down to their classroom in the basement; young children went out by the other side door to the other basement classroom; the Young Men’s Class went into the middle vestry, and the remaining scholars held their lessons in groups along the sides of the Chapel.
A similar arrangement carried on until after the Second World War, when the Minister’s Vestry was also used as a classroom.
Older members like to recall how, as young lads, they enjoyed the preaching of a certain Minister who was at Holcombe Brook just before the First World War. He became very enthusiastic in the pulpit, waving his arms about to such an extent that his stiffly starched loose cuffs (then the normal form of dress) flew to his finger tips and had to be captured and replaced on his wrists. The boys in the congregation eagerly awaited this point in the service, knowing perfectly well what would happen. Apart from this, that Minister was a greatly respected and popular man, and regarded by all as an excellent preacher.
During the First World War special collections were made once a year to donate money to local hospitals. Prior to the War a Christmas Watch Night service was held every year, but in 1916 this was cancelled owing to lighting restrictions. The following year it was decided that these services should be discontinued for the duration of the War and Carol singing abandoned. In 1919 the Watch Night services were resumed. Every Sunday a Prayer Meeting was held in the Minister’s Vestry at 5.30 p.m. before the evening service. Members of the Chapel and Congregation organised concerts, the main purpose being the raising of money to send parcels to members of the Forces. One Christmas all such members were sent Bibles. A young man, Mr. Holt, was one of those recipients. Eventually he moved away from Holcombe Brook and subsequently formed a Concert Party in the area of his new home. Many years later they came to give a concert in the Chapel and, after the usual vote of thanks; Mr. Holt brought out the Bible and said “That is why we came – to repay Holcombe Brook for what it did”.
It was about 1916 when Mr. R. Schofield, the Sunday School Secretary, died at home, not as a casualty of the War. The present Christening Font was given in his memory by Mr. E. Schofield and his family.
After the War there were, sadly, those who did not return, a tragedy common to all towns and villages. The men from our membership whose lives were taken from them were:
John H. Booth
An important entry, dated April 28th, 1921, in the Church Minute Book reads: “Consideration was given to the formation of a Primary Department to our School.The number of scholars in the Infants was increasing every week and the work was becoming ever more difficult for one teacher to carry out the duties successfully’:
The wall dividing the basement into two classrooms was pulled down to make a room large enough to accommodate the newly established Primary Department. During the next year an envelope system of regular giving was introduced, as that was thought to be the only way to raise the money needed by the Church to carry out its duties and responsibilities properly.
In this same year, 1922, “The Married Ladies” (now the “Ladies Fellowship”) passed a resolution at their meeting that money should be raised to install a new organ as a memorial to those killed in the 1914/18 War, for, it was decided, the old organ was no longer of service. The money was raised by members of the Church, a great part of it by the Ladies’ Meeting and also by voluntary subscription and loans. The final decision to purchase the organ was taken in October, 1923.
A Communion Rail was also bought and, at the same time, the platform was altered so that it should be collapsible. The pulpit was moved to the side and the organ placed in the centre, its present position.
Celebrations were held in November, 1924, to mark 50 years of Methodism in Holcombe Brook. A Reunion of old scholars, teachers and Officers took place on Saturday, 15th November. Special Jubilee Services were held the following day with Rev. W. C. Jackson, B.A., as preacher, and also on November 23rd, when the preacher was Rev. W. J. Hopper.
Over this period of 50 years social activities were developing for, at that time, most entertainment, particularly for young people, was provided by Sunday Schools. At Holcombe Brook scholars were performing little plays in the early part of this century. A date around 1925 saw the first dramatic production, “Colleen Baun”, when the members made and painted new scenery. At the same time extensions for each side of the platform and an apron for the front were also made, forming a good, big stage. These activities attracted outsiders who then became members of the Church. For concerts and pantomimes, footlights and overhead lighting consisted of long pipes with holes into which were screwed gas mantles with metal cups. One young man had the responsibility of inspecting these gas mantles during the interval and replacing any which had burnt out. After a Saturday evening concert all the scenery and stage extensions had to be taken down, put away, the Chapel swept and tidied, and left spick and span to be ready for the Sunday morning service. The parts making that same stage were still used long after the Second World War.
A group came together going, after the evening services, to sing in various houses. One particular host would never allow them to have supper until they had sung the “Hallelujah Chorus” – without music – hence their name – “The Hallelujah Gang”.