Longbridge Christadelphians - History

Longbridge Christadelphians History Page


The following account of the history of the Longbridge Christadelphians has been written by Barry Parkes, a member of the group for many years, still regularly attending today. He has also written and collated a pictorial history with photographs, maps and pictures as well. Please click here to view this!

The account has been written under the following broad headings:

A The Ecclesial Hall
B Preaching Through The Years
C An Expanding Community
D The Start Of Longbridge Sunday School

A. The Ecclesial Hall

A Friends Meeting House, built by the Quakers, on a grant of land by a local farmer in 1890, the original building forms the central part of the present building. Extensions to both front and rear have been made over the years, but in general the original shape remains, as the painting of the hall in 1942 by Brother H. Hallam (hung to the left of the entrance) testifies. The deeds of the Ecclesia are of historical interest as they were signed by the 20 members of the Birmingham council of Quakers which included the signatures of both George and Elizabeth Cadbury.

The entrance to the first building was via a small vestibule which stood where the first window on the left hand side, facing from the front, now exists. There is now a narrow drive down the left side to a small car park at the rear. The car park itself was originally used by the Quakers as a memorial garden for deceased members of their community, but all memorial stones were removed by them as a condition of sale of the hall to our community, which sale occurred as a result of their diminishing numbers whilst Christadelphian members were increasing in the Longbridge/Rednal area.

Click to see photpgraphs of the hall

B. Preaching Through The Years

Preaching events began in the area as early as the first few years of the 20th century.

1905 was a significant year for the area as Herbert (later Lord) Austin purchased the land behind the hall on which was a small bicycle factory and began to make motor cars to his own design. The history of the Austin Motor Company, its contribution to employment, and its impact on the growth of the area has been well documented.

The same year (1905) there appeared an appeal in the Christadelphian Magazine for help in supporting public meetings in the Rednal area. Such was the interest generated that on 12th January 1911 the now small Ecclesia adopted a statement of faith at a regular meeting of the Ecclesia. Public preaching has continued to this day using many forms, which include a weekly public talk at the hall, billing, exhibitions, billboard advertising, open days, co-operation with other local ecclesias, local Birmingham campaigns and much more. (See Section D for details from key ecclesial records).

The account in Appendix 1, found in the ecclesial records, gives a flavour of the times and the area when the ecclesia was in its infancy. It is unsigned but clearly written by one of the sons of Brother F.G. Owen, Stanley or Norman. The prose, according to those who knew them both, strongly suggests that Norman was the author.

C. An Expanding Ecclesial Community

Numbers gradually increased after the first public meetings in 1905 so that on the 12th January 1911, in the first recorded minutes of the ecclesia, there was an adoption of a Statement of faith and supplementary questions. Brother Morgan was appointed Recording Brother in place of Brother Beard, who was presumably acting in that capacity until that time.

Around this time, a Sunday school had been established with the first Sunday school outing taking place in I925. A very interesting account of this was written for the C.I.L. news page in January 1936 by Brother F.G. Owen, the father of Brethren Stanley and Norman, in whose car the children were transported.

Click to see a photograph of the first Sunday School Outing

This text is attributed to either Brother Stanley Owen or Brother Norman Owen.

Longbridge Ecclesia

For the first time I became conscious of something called “the ecclesia”. In this case it was the Longbridge ecclesia and as far as I could see it was an old chapel down a long lane from the Longbridge tram stop where a group of old people held long meetings on Sundays. What was more, we had to go to a thing called a Sunday School in the afternoon, run by a lady called Isabelle Tomkinson who came on a bicycle with a loud bell. It was not long before we coined the question: “Is-a-bell-necessary on a bike?” Her husband was the very austere gent in pin stripes and spats who seemed to be the boss of this austere assembly, a fellow named Jack Tomkinson. Soon I was aware that my mother and father were very respected members of this community, and when I learned that my dad was an A.B. (an Able-bodied something or other, I thought) I was proud of going to that funny place down Longbridge Lane where the Christadelphians met. In truth, they were a kindly bunch. There were the Tomkinsons, the Perrymans, the Overys and the Coxes. There were some nice youngsters too, and I fell in with a young couple, brother and sister, Austin and Dorothy Eyre. Austin and I became buddies for the next four years; it was Austin – of whom anon – who pulled me from the quarry pool.

Just about this time I learned that I was an oddity, a unique specimen of the human race. I could froth at the mouth at the touch of a tiny cube of chocolate or a boiled sweetie. I could swell up and seize up and defy the wisdom of the ancients. I could bring bewilderment to the doctor who twice examined me – always too late of course, when the swelling and sickness had died down. The first time mother and I were walking down the lane from the tram, relishing a bit of choc. By the time we were home I was a writhing mass of ugliness. I knew little of death, but it would have been a happy release. By the time the witchdoctor arrives I was contentedly sitting up in bed supping my bread and milk! The next week I went to a party, at the little house of Sis. Doris Lloyd at the end of the road. A great time was had by all until, following the passing around of the sweeties; I was carried home on the arms of two burly youngsters. Again, I was in fine fettle when the medic arrived.  But a judicial enquiry established that a common factor in both occurrences was the presence of a Brazil nut in the chocolate and the boiled sweet. Subsequent events confirmed that the same trick could be worked with almonds and walnuts, though monkey nuts, for some dark Darwinian reason, were not so potent. Whoops! This was living; I had an allergy; I was unique! Life took on new meaning.

D. The Start Of Longbridge Sunday School

The Start of Longbridge Sunday School - This text is attributed to Brother F.G. Owen.

It was about ten or eleven years ago that the Longbridge Ecclesia decided to commence a Sunday School. The members small meeting were scattered, and some of the children who might attend a school were quite young. However, it was felt right to make a start, under the supervision of the writer.

We were favoured with having a nice quiet room in a country lane – the meeting room of the Ecclesia then and now – In which to hold the school. The “difficulty” of getting the younger children safely to school and back was overcome by the co-operation of parents, teachers and the older scholars.

We commenced the school with about a dozen children but it was soon increased. Some circularizing of our Estate nearby and the conversation of members with neighbours, brought a number of children so that the numbers soon grew to twenty and more. A great work can often be accomplished through children, and no opportunity of getting them to a Sunday School should be lost.

A calendar was drawn up, giving the title of the lesson, the hymns, reading and proofs for each Sunday. We commenced as we think should always be done with a new school, with lessons from the book of Genesis. Here of course, we have the foundations of the Gospel truth, and the facts cannot be over impressed on the young minds.

The school was opened with: singing, reading the Bible, and prayer, and was closed with singing and prayer. During the early years of our school we only sang a small number of hymns, repeating them frequently with the idea of learning the words and tune.

Short verses from the Bible were learnt by Sunday School scholars which we consider an essential part of Christadelphian school work. The question of prizes, of course, arose, and we were strongly of the opinion that every child should be encouraged, so prizes were given, differing in value according to the merit of the work.

So our school commenced and went forward in its work, and we are happy to know that this branch of service to the Lord has been carried on continuously ever since at Longbridge, and that many of the original and early scholars of that school are now Christadelphian members awaiting the greater service of the Kingdom. God be thanked for all the blessings!

Click to see photographs, maps and paintings