Wellington Methodist Church

The Methodist Church in New Street is home to three Great War memorial plaques, including the first to be unveiled in the town — which occurred before the conflict had ended. However, it is not the original site of all the commemorations currently held there.

Background

At the time of the First World War, Wellington was home to two Methodist churches. The top of New Street was the location for the imposing Wesleyan church, which opened March 1883 and was rebuilt in 2004. It had a large and socially active congregation that, in May 1919, organised a private ‘welcome home’ party for ‘men belonging to their church’ at the Wrekin Buildings, which was attended by 200 guests. Just round the corner, in Tan Bank, was the Primitive Methodist Church and Sunday School. This religious movement was begun by a group of lay Methodists in the Potteries of north Staffordshire around 1800 and a ‘camp meeting’ was first recorded locally, on The Wrekin, in 1808. A chapel was erected on the corner of Tan Bank in 1826, roughly opposite where the foundation that stood at the time of the Great War (now Telford Central Mosque) was erected in 1898. In 1919, the chapel was the focal point for a circuit of 160 members that also included smaller societies at Ketley, Hadley and Leegomery. The Wesleyans and Primitive Methodists amalgamated in 1966 and the Tan Bank site was sold in 1977.

Lance Corporal ‘Jack’ Evans

A brass tablet commemorating the life of Lance Corporal John ‘Jack’ Evans was unveiled by Mrs JO Owen at the Wesleyan Church in September 1918 following a service by Reverend W. Wakeman Corin — it is the first recorded Great War memorial in Wellington. The youngest of five children born to John and Ellen Evans (who were resident in King Street at the time of the War), Jack was killed in action while serving with the 13th Cheshires at Ovilliers during the Somme offensive on 17th October 1916, aged just 20. His body has no known grave.

The Memorial to Jack Evans

During the conflict Mrs Owen, a fabled and gifted speaker who led the men’s Bible class in the church from 1891 to 1941, wrote many inspirational letters to former pupils on the frontline. At the aforementioned ‘welcome home’ party one of them, Mr D Harris, revealed how those missives had been passed on to his comrades who he said ‘also derived pleasure and encouragement from them’. Her skills were brought to the fore once again at the service, where she paid testament to Jack’s ‘bright and vivacious character, his popularity and his valued service as a member of the choir’. Accepting the tablet on behalf of the trustees, which was placed in the church by Mr and Mrs Evans, John Wesley Clift also bore testament to the ‘gallant lad’s attachment to the Sunday School in which he was a scholar for many years’.

Wesleyan Sunday School Memorial

Led by the indefatigable John Wesley Clift, who presided over the foundation for half a century, the Wesleyan Sunday School was 500 strong by the advent of war in 1914. At the time, it was still based at the rear of the former Wesleyan Church on the junction of High Street and St John Street in what was then known as the Central Hall. It was a regular venue for ‘smoking concerts’ in the first two years of the conflict but in 1916 was sold to a soft toy manufacturer (Messrs Johnson Brothers of Birmingham), which no doubt benefited from the wartime ban on German imports! Most of the children were relocated to Edward Cranage’s former Gospel Mission that lends nearby New Hall Road its name until new premises (in the form of two former Great War camp huts from Cannock) were sourced by Clift in 1920. A brass tablet dedicated to seven officers of the Sunday School who fell in the Great War (including Jack Evans) was unveiled at the Wesleyan church in January 1925.

The Memorial to the Officers of the Wesleyan Church Sunday School

Primitive Methodist Memorial

A brass plaque commemorating six fallen men connected to the Tan Bank  Primitive Methodist Church and Sunday School (the latter being located in a separate building next to the church, now occupied by the Bethel United Church of Jesus Christ Apostolic) was unveiled in the vestibule of the place of worship by Dr. George Hollies on 25th September 1921. The memorial also bears the name of a further 48 members of the congregation who served in the Great War between 1914 and 1919. 

The Memorial to fallen members of the Primitive Methodist Church and Sunday School

Surgeon Probationer Maurice D Cadman

On 1st December 1918 a separate memorial to Surgeon Probationer Maurice Danks Cadman (who is also listed on the 1921 plaque) was unveiled at the Primitive Methodist Church in Tan Bank by Reverend Tom Butterick. Maurice was the third of eight children born to Thomas and Betsy Cadman of Alexandra Road. The family were related to Reverend Samuel Parkes Cadman, who achieved lasting fame in America through his weekly national radio broadcasts, and also preached at the Tan Bank church during his regular trips back to England during the conflict. Maurice was killed at sea in 1918 while serving with the Royal Navy Voluntary Reserve and his body was never recovered.

Wellington Methodist Church

At the ceremony, Reverend Butterick referred to the ‘brilliant scholastic successes’ of the young sailor (In 1916 he won a scholarship to study at Christ Church, Oxford) and ‘the high opinion entertained of him by the governors of St Thomas’ Hospital London’, where he trained as a surgeon. That sentiment was patently shared by Maurice’s colleagues in the Navy, as the inscription on the memorial — the whereabouts of which are currently unknown — attests:

‘To the glory of God and in memory of Surgeon-Probationer Maurice Danks Cadman of this town who was killed at sea on HMS Rival on June 4th 1918 in his 21st year, this tablet is erected by the officers and men of the ship, who held him in high esteem’.

For more information about Jack Evans and Maurice Cadman, visit the Wellington Remembers resource at: www.shropshirearchives.org.uk

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