Laying the Foundations - Part 2

On the 1st August 2016 the church celebrated the 150th anniversary of the laying of the foundation stone by Sir Francis Lycett and the account which follows draws material from three contemporary newspaper reports.  These extracts are largely reproduced verbatim to give a flavour of the period.

On the same day as the stone-laying, and on the two following days, a Bazaar was held in the Winter Promenade and Gymnasium at Townshend House in College Road, by kind permission of Dr. Grindrod.  Townshend House had been built in 1851 when the Doctor, known as a temperance and social reformer, started his practice in the town and the large property included a 150 foot long winter garden; there was also a library, news room, grotto and bowling green.  The announcement of the stone-laying revealed that ‘by the liberal arrangements of the railway companies, special trains at cheap fares would be run to Malvern Link on the day, from Birmingham, Wolverhampton, Tipton, Dudley, Stourbridge, Kidderminster, Newport (Mon.), Abergavenny and Hereford, and also to Malvern Wells station [the Midland Railway station on Hanley Road] where passengers could rebook to Great Malvern at a trifling charge, from Bristol, Stonehouse, Gloucester, Cheltenham and Tewkesbury’.  [Note that excursion trains were not allowed to intrude on the genteel surroundings of Great Malvern but had to terminate at Malvern Link and Malvern Wells!]

The proceedings commenced with the singing of a hymn, after which a portion of the Scriptures was read by the Rev. J. Knowles of Tewkesbury.  The Rev. C. Prest (an ex-President of Conference) gave a short address, and F. Orme, Esq., gave a sketch of the history of the undertaking, and the reasons for commencing the building. 

It was then announced that the bottle which was to be laid under the stone contained copies of the Methodist Recorder and other newspapers, the current coins of the realm, the names of the trustees and the president and secretary of the Conference for the time being.

Mr. Lycett then proceeded to lay the stone, saying that he felt very much obliged to Mr. Orme and the Trustees for the kind presentation of the very handsome trowel.  He would rather the honour had fallen to him of presenting one of them with the trowel, but he left himself in the hands of the trustees.  He would assure them that he felt very happy at meeting them on that day, which had been looked forward to with much anxiety.  He was sure that it would long be remembered as one of the best and happiest days of their lives.   On the trowel was the following inscription:  ‘Presented by the Trustees to Francis Lycett, Esq., of London, on the occasion of his laying the foundation stone of the Wesleyan Chapel, Great Malvern, Aug. 1, 1865.’  All being ready and the stone suitably poised, Mr. Lycett laid the mortar and the stone was lowered into its place, and Mr. Lycett, having  tested it with the level, declared the foundation stone to have been laid, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, the congregation singing the doxology.

Mr. Lycett then said, “My Christian friends, in laying the foundation stone of this sanctuary we have been performing one of the most important works that members of a Christian church can engage in.  We wish it to be distinctly understood that we have no feelings of hostility towards the Established Church, or to any of our congregational friends who have chapels in the town or neighbourhood.  The improved and increasing population of this place renders it necessary that there shall be increased church accommodation.  We have found, since we opened a temporary chapel in Lansdowne Crescent, that not a few who have been accustomed to worship with us in other towns, and many others resident, have been anxiously waiting for a chapel to be constructed.  I think it is our imperative duty, as members of the Church of Christ to use our best endeavours to aid the progress of Christianity in the land.  We are greatly indebted to the Punshon Fund which has been raised by that gentleman’s indefatigable exertions inasmuch as we have been promised £800 towards the erection of our church.  Let me also tell you that when the chapel is opened the liturgy of the Church of England will be read every Sunday morning and the Gospel faithfully preached, not with an uncertain sound.  You need not be afraid of hearing in the morning Popish or Tractarian views, or in the evening the ...[indecipherable]..... but what will be preached will be repentance towards God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.  We shall not only have the same religious teaching, the same discipline and the same religious and social privileges, but we shall sing the same hymns which are sung in every village in England and not only throughout the length and breadth of the land but in every one of Her Majesty’s colonies ........   For these and other reasons I am a Wesleyan, and I am anxious that Wesleyanism shall be extended to a greater number of my countrymen, and I pray the great Head of the Church may smile on this undertaking and that the blessing of God may rest upon our church, which will not only be an ornament to this town but prove a saviour of life . .. to many who are living here.  I trust that within its walls many may be saved from sin to the love of God.  We are greatly indebted for the work to Mr. Orme and those others who have laboured and contributed so largely to the creating of our building, and I trust that at the last great day we shall all rejoice together.”

Collections were then made, Mr. Lycett contributing £50.

Addresses were then delivered by the Rev. J. Rattenbury (an ex-president of Conference), Mr. Davis, and Bishop James of the Methodist Episcopal Church of America, the representative to the English Conference.

After this, the company partook of tea in a large tent which had been erected in an adjoining field.  This concluded, a sermon was preached by the Rev. Gervase Smith.

The Bazaar, intended to increase the building fund, was held in the Winter Promenade of Townshend House which was elegantly and tastefully decorated for the occasion with flags, flowers and evergreens.   The stallholders were Mrs. Orme, Mrs Blanche, Mrs. Fiddes, Mrs. Coefield, Miss Thirlwall, Miss Evans, Misses Williams, Miss F. Lees, Miss Reeve and other friends from a distance.  A large mass of really valuable articles was got together, and roughly estimated there must have been quite £200 worth of goods.  During the afternoon Miss Howe, accompanying herself on the piano-forte, sang several pieces of music with great taste, and the Malvern Rhine Band, stationed on the lawn outside, played at intervals during the day a variety of popular, operatic and other works.

Christopher Davis

Church Archivist

(Some photos of the contents of the time capsule found when the cornerstone was recently refurbished can be found on the photos page -Ed)