Aenon Chapel 1858
Our Church History
The Particular Baptist Church was formed in Madeley on October 26th 1856 when a group of people interested in starting a church met in the County Court Room at Madeley. This was to be their meeting place for the first eighteen months until a new chapel was built. Joseph Morgan, who had for many years been Pastor of Donnington Wood, but had retired through ill-health, was the leading figure in the establishment of the new church, and his death only two years later was a severe blow to the cause.
In January 1857 the Rev. Evan Jenkins, a student of Pontypool College, was appointed leader of the Fellowship. On August 25th 1857 the foundation stone of the Baptist Chapel was laid by Mr. J.H. Hopkins of Birmingham, a leader in the Midland Baptist Association. The service was conducted by the Rev. C.T. Keen of Bridgnorth, the Rev. T. How of Claremont (Shrewsbury) and the Rev. J. Judson of Wellington. A collection on the site raised £7, and Mr. Hopkins was presented with a silver trowel to mark the occasion.
Seven months later, on April 2nd 1858 (Good Friday), the new chapel was officially opened. The chapel was named Aenon (Now John also was baptising at Aenon near Salim, because there was plenty of water, and people were constantly coming to be baptised. John 3:23). The church was built of yellow brick and slate with cast iron window frames and a very graceful classical front. The total cost of the land and building was £490. By the opening day £150 had been contributed, leaving a debt of £340, a considerable liability for the membership of thirteen.
The preacher at the opening service was the Rev. Charles Vince of Graham Street Baptist Church, Birmingham, considered to be the ablest Baptist preacher in the Midlands.
On that Easter Sunday three services were conducted by Dr. Thomas Thomas of Pontypool and the collections for the day amounted to £33. The next day there was a tea party, followed by an evening service, at which the Rev. Evan Jenkins was formally recognised as first pastor. The Rev. Henry Lawrence of Shrewsbury presided. The charge to the ministry was delivered by Dr. Thomas and there were addresses by Rev. C.T. Keen and Rev. T. Skemp of Dawley Bank.
The first year in the new chapel produced encouraging results, for the membership increased by five to eighteen. In 1860, attendance at the Communion Table was opened to non-members by a majority of five at a meeting attended by fourteen members. By 1867 the membership had risen to forty. On December 29th 1869 a bazaar was held to celebrate the removal of the final debt of £100 on the chapel. Unfortunately the membership did not rise further, but steadily fell until in 1898 it was back again to eighteen.
The years 1863 to 1865 are recorded as being an unsettled period. In 1863 the Rev. Evan Jenkins resigned the Pastorate, "feeling his work in Madeley was done". The Rev. W.H. Knight was minister from 1864-5, but then in 1865 Rev. Evan Jenkins was invited to resume his ministry. This he did until he resigned again in 1868, only to return again as Pastor in 1872 for a year and then again from 1876-81. During the intervening years, 1868 to 1871, the Pastor was Joseph E. Sargent. In 1872 the churches at Madeley and Oakengates united to support a minister, and the Rev. T.L Smith of Whitebrook, Monmouthshire, was chosen as pastor. He remained for four years, and this was the first of several joint pastorates with other local Baptist Churches.
In 1881 the Rev. E. Spanton, minister of Dawley, was requested to provide supplies for the pulpit and to conduct meetings. From 1882-1888 the Rev. Thomas Whittle was minister of Madeley and Shifnal. For the next seventy years most of the ministers shared their pastorate with that of Broseley.
The vestry at the back of the church had always been used as a Sunday School, but it was very small and totally inadequate. In 1931 a schoolroom was built next to the church at a cost of £800. It was opened on September 30th 1931 by the Rev. E.G. Cole of Shrewsbury.
In the 1930's the chapel had a thriving Girls' Life Brigade. The 1st Madeley Company was run by Mrs. Emmie Moore, Miss Dorothy Moore and Mrs. Ivy Dorsett, and met every Monday evening in the schoolroom. They had a summer camp every year at seaside resorts such as Borth where they went with the Wolverhampton Battalion.
One of the results of the formation of the New Town of Telford was the opening of a Pastoral Centre at Woodside in December 1969. This was under the care of the Madeley minister, the Rev. Gordon Tubbs until it became self-supporting.
Madeley Church was also affected by the new town in 1968 when the manse was subject to compulsory purchase and subsequent demolition. The church received £2,000 compensation which was invested by the Baptist Union. This grew to £15,000 and was used towards the refurbishment of the chapel in the year 2000. In this refurbishment the rotting floor and pews together with the organ were removed. A new floor was laid and carpeted, the walls re-plastered and new lighting was installed. Chairs were purchased to provide comfortable and flexible seating for eighty people and new entrance doors fitted. The whole of the interior was then repainted in attractive colours. The total cost was £22,000.
The refurbished chapel was reopened by Mr. Bruce Grocott, then MP for Telford, on February 26th 2000. This was followed by a day of celebration shared by congregation, friends and members of local churches. The day culminated in an evening service at which the speaker was the Rev. Brian Nicholls, General Superintendent of the West Midland Baptist Association.
The church is a founder member of the Heart of England Baptist Association and plays an active part in the Shropshire Group of Baptist Churches. It supports ecumenical work in the area through the South Telford Association of Churches.
Although the church has never had a large membership it has for 150 years been a witness to the Christian faith in Madeley High Street, and the recent renovation of the chapel has prepared it for the challenges that lie ahead in the 21st century, and we have seen our membership increase by 60% in the last few years...