In 1999 Bradley Road Baptist Church celebrated its centenary. The following is a short history of the church compiled by Mr Brinley Hughes, a long-standing member of the church.
In the latter half of this the twentieth century, Wrexham has seen the development of housing estates such as Erddig, Borras, Bryn Offa etc. These estates have, as yet, retained their names whereas there was a housing development in the latter half of the nineteenth century the name of which is hardly ever heard these days. This is the area around Bradley Road and Victoria Road known as Newtown. It was out of a need for the spiritual well-being of the people of Newtown that members of Chester Street Baptist Church decided to erect a Mission Church in this area. This concern led to the birth of Bradley Road Baptist Church.
G. Vernon Price, a member of Chester Street and local historian, wrote in his book entitled “The Old Meeting”
“The church had conceived it to be her duty in conjunction with other sections of the Christian Church in the town to provide for the spiritual needs of this people who were continually teeming into the new neighbourhood of Newtown. A suitable site for a Mission Chapel consisting of 991 square yards of land with a frontage of 80 feet to Bradley Road was, therefore purchased for £148.”
This purchase as stated in the conveyance was made on the 18th November, 1895. The transaction was between the widow and agents of the late Benjamin Piercy of Marchwiel and the Rev. John Hobson Thomas the Minister of Chester Street Church and others of his congregation, namely John Davies of Victoria Road, William Jones of Percy Road, Edward John Roberts of Bersham Road, Thomas Searell of Rhosddu, William Thomas of Hill Street and Robert Carey Thursfield of Fairy Road. It is interesting to note that most of these lived in Newtown, the proposed church’s catchment area.
It was these people with other worshippers who were committed to the building of Bradley Road. Their first intention was to build a schoolroom followed by a chapel but G. Vernon Price reports
“The object in view was to build first a schoolroom and ultimately a Chapel in front but it was decided later to erect the Chapel first.”
Commitment meant the finding of money to carry out the project. Typical of the time, perhaps, many ways were found for raising these funds. From “The Old Meeting” the book quoted above, a Christmas Bazaar held for obtaining money to decorate the Chester Street Church is reported thus:-
“Of the proceeds of this Bazaar £100 was voted for the decoration of buildings and the balance to the proposed Mission Church. The Patrons of the Bazaar included The Right Honourable George Osborne Morgan Q.C., M.P., Sir Robert A. Cunliffe, Bart. of Acton Park; Philip Yorke Esquire of Erddig Park, Mayor of Wrexham and several well known friends from far and near.
(Note:- For convenience the book “The Old Meeting” by G.V.Price will from now on be referred to as T.O.M.)
The land had been purchased, building was underway and it was now time to commemorate these events with suitably engraved stones.
Below is an extract from the North Wales Guardian of Friday, 21st October, 1898.
“This (Friday) afternoon at 3.30 a pleasing ceremony will be performed when the foundation stones of a new school in connection with the Bradley Road Baptist Mission Chapel will be laid. The building is estimated to cost £800 and the contract has been placed with Messrs. Davies Bros., Builders. After the stone-laying an adjournment will be made (at 5.30) to the Baptist Chapel, Chester Street where a programme of vocal and instrumental music etc. will be gone through. It is hoped that friends desirous of showing their sympathy with this undertaking will take tickets for the conservazione (1s. each to be had from Mr. Ivor Rowland, Ruabon Road). In the course of time we hear a chapel will also be erected.”
and from T.O.M.
“Five memorial stones laid in the following order:-
(1) By the Rev. J. H. Thomas, Pastor of the Chester Street Church.
(2) By Mrs. Lyon in memory of her late husband, the Rev. John Lyon, a former Pastor of the church.
(3) By Lady Osborne Morgan in memory of her late husband, The Right Hon. Sir G. Osborne Morgan, Bart QC., M.P. who for 29 years served the cause of religious equality in Parliament.
(4) By Alderman Simon Jones, J.P. who had been a faithful officer of the church for a long period.
(5) By Mr. John Sudlow, the oldest member of the church.
Two of these stones were damaged and/or mislaid in the demolition of this original building but stones (1), (2) and (4) can still be seen set in the boundary walls.
The laying of these stones is a strong link when considering the chain of events as they were originally set just below windowsill height and would, therefore, indicate that as 1898 came to a close there must have been excitement and expectation that the new building would be completed in 1899. It is estimated that worship commenced in 1899 but sadly no supporting evidence can be found.
The West Midland Baptist Association wrote to the church in October 1996 stating:-
“Unfortunately there does not appear to be any information on the actual date of opening of the building in Bradley Road.”
The strongest suggestion that worship began at the completed church in 1899 is to be found on the memorial plaque now mounted in the new church. The inscription reads:-
In memory of Thomas Copleston one of those who commenced divine worship in this church and remained faithful for 37 years, 1899 – 1936.
“Well done thou good and faithful servant. Enter thou into the joy of thy Lord”
Such men as this around at the time is an indication that the church was grounded in good doctrine and sincere spirituality. This is confirmed by the appointment in 1900 of Bradley Road’s first pastor.
“… the Mission at Bradley Road decided to offer a call to the Rev. Joseph Beaupre of Spurgeon’s College, London.”
and from the Wrexham Advertiser for Saturday 28th July:-
“New Minister. The Rev. Joseph Beaupre of Spurgeon’s College, London, has accepted with unanimous and hearty invitation to the pastorate of the three English Baptist Churches at Bradley Rd, Wrexham, the Lodge (Brymbo) and Holt. For a number of years Mr. Beaupre was a missionary in South Africa and he commences his ministry at Bradley Rd on Sunday next.”
and a week later in the same newspaper:-
“A New Ministry … The new pastor although a young man was trained at Spurgeon’s Pastors College London. Last Sunday he commenced his ministry by preaching two sermons in the Bradley Road Chapel. He belongs to the evangelical school of preachers as was gathered from his evening discourse. “Why we preach Christ crucified” from 1 Cor. 1 v.23 was the subject. ‘We preach Christ crucified’, said the preacher ‘because it brings before our minds the holiness of God. We preach Christ crucified because it is the doctrine which reminds us in a sense of the horribleness of sin. We preach Christ crucified because that is the way we discern the Grace of God. We preach Christ crucified because it is the power, and the wisdom of God. As I commence my ministry here, trusting with many prayers that my message may be a blessing to God’s people and lead to the salvation of many in our midst. I know that it will only be accomplished in preaching Christ and Him crucified. I trust that I will always have your loving sympathy and prayers in that.’ ”
Mr. Beaupre did not stay long in Wrexham, he went to America in 1901 to take up a pastorate at Wincanton. Thanks be to God, however, the stalwarts at Bradley Road, Thomas Copleston, Sem Williams, Thomas Lewis Jones and others led the church through the early decades of the twentieth century. They were kindly supported and helped by the mother church of Chester Street upon which Bradley Road became reliant until its autonomy in 1968. The early history of Bradley Road has been succinctly recorded in a book entitled “A History of Wrexham” edited by A.H. Dodd and first published in 1957:-
“The pioneering labours of Messrs. Thomas Copleston and Sem Williams together with the generosity of Mr. T. Lewis Jones did much to uphold the Mission. In addition to the normal work of the Church, special services were held from time to time with successful results. The Gospel Mission of 1935 organised by the Pilgrim Preachers had to be extended owing to the increasing interest of the people. The Rev. Joseph Beaupre was appointed Pastor in 1900 but remained only a few months. In 1935 the Rev. Charles Nicholas undertook the charge of the Church for three months. Apart from these the Church has been under the joint ministry of the mother church at Chester Street. The oversight is now with the pastor of Chester Street, ably assisted by Mr. W. G. Manson and others.”
(Mrs. Nicholas, widow of the above Rev. Charles Nicholas, attended our Ladies Meeting until her passing quite recently.)
The Wrexham Museum has in its archives a hand written, unpublished diary by G. Vernon Price and some entries are now quoted to bring attention to some significant names and events at Bradley Road.
|3.11.1906||Billy Mcleod’s Mission commenced at Bradley Road on 4th November,1906.|
|18.4.1908||Bradley Road 9th Anniversary Services, 12th April, 1908. (so the church must have opened in 1899)|
|12.12.1908||Bradley Road Baptist 7th December 1908 Public Tea Meeting and Service of Song. “The River Fingers” was performed by the united choirs of the chapel and the Lodge Baptist Church, Brymbo under the conductorship of Mr. Thomas Copleston. Mr. J. Bates was the accompanist and Mr. D. J. Morris gave the readings. Ten years ago the debt on the chapel was £1,000; they were now working to pay off the last £200.|
|29.11.1922||Bradley Road deacons appointed – Messrs Sem Williams, Mr. E. Crease and Mr. J. Bates|
and after the Pilgrim Preachers Mission mentioned earlier
|15.2.1935||The Gospel Mission was extended to Wednesday 13th February owing to increasing interest of Wrexham people. The services will long be remembered by the church and congregation in Bradley Road. The missioner (Mr. Ivor Powell, Cross Keys, South Wales) is but a young man but his experience in every part of the country makes him a truly fearless exponent of the “Old Faith.” His description of the Gospel scenes are captivating and above all the non-sectarian methods in which he conducted the meetings, made a strong appeal to the religious life of the town.|
|25.12.1936||Thomas Copleston died 17th December, 1936 … Mr. Copleston was one of a small group that left Chester Street Baptist Church for Bradley Road 38 years ago. He was of a bright disposition and revered by all who knew him.|
|6.5.1940||Bradley Road Baptist. Death of Sem Williams … 3rd May 1940 … a great loss to the church … He was Secretary, Deacon, Sunday School Teacher and Superintendent and in charge of Bradley Road Church since the death of Thomas Copleston.|
|1.8.1947||Joseph Bates died in hospital on 18th July, 1947 after a fall in his warehouse. Age 86 of Tenter’s Square, a widower his wife having predeceased him by 6 years. He was the oldest coal merchant in Wrexham and a member of the Wrexham and District Coal Traders Association. He was a deacon at Bradley Road for 45 years and Sunday School Superintendent for 14 years.|
Thus the era of these faithful pioneers was coming to a close but the good work continued by persons of whom some current members and associates of the Bradley Road Church have personal memories. On the occasion of Mr. Bates 86th birthday it was recorded that presentations were made to him by the pastor, Mr. J. Driver, Mr. Anderson, Mr. R. Davies, Mrs. Palmer and Miss Sherwood. The last Will and Testament of Mr. and Mrs. Palmer was to play an important part in the completion of the new schoolroom built in the 1970’s. In 1956 the local newspaper carried an account of the retirement of Mr. R. H. Jones (The father of Eva Harding and Ron Jones). This account finishes thus:-
“He has been secretary of Bradley Road Baptist Church for a number of years, a position he still holds.”
The pastorate of Chester Street (and thereby Bradley Road) in the early 1950’s was held by the Rev. Ralph Drake who was a great encouragement to the young people of the church at that time. It was Mr. Drake who baptised Mrs. Eva Harding (née Jones), her brother Ron Jones, Mr. David Wynn (now Minister of Ebenezer Baptist Church, Mold), Mrs. Glenys Hughes (née Wynn), Mrs. Arfona Olyott (née Phillips, now of Aberystwyth), Mrs. Eleanor Badwick (née Smith), Mrs. Margaret Kerry (née Clays, now of Sidcup) and many others.
In the 1950’s National Service conscription was still in force. This meant that many young Christian men were stationed at various barracks in and around Wrexham and some gave invaluable service to the work at Bradley Road.
The induction of the Rev. W. Derek Thomas into the pastorate of Chester Street took place on the 13th March 1965 and it was Mr. Thomas that took part in the wedding of Mr. Stephen Olyott to Miss Arfona Phillips and officiated at the weddings of Mr. Brin Hughes to Miss Glenys Wynn and of Mr. Tom Badwick to Miss Eleanor Smith.
During the time of Mr. Thomas’ pastorate, the church secretary for Chester Street, Mr. Maelor Griffiths, was in charge of receiving articles and reports from his own church and from the secretary of Bradley Road for publication in the monthly magazine. Mr. R. H. Jones, mentioned above, was still secretary at Bradley Road when it was reported for December, 1965:-
“We pray for every blessing on Miss Arfona Phillips and her fiancé for their coming wedding”
and thus Mr. Stephen Olyott is introduced to the church. Mr. Olyott was to play vital roles in the next few years. From the church magazine of April 1966:-
“The Annual General Meeting of Bradley Road Church took place a fortnight ago. A letter of resignation was accepted from our secretary Mr. R.H. Jones who has held the position for 25 years.”
This report was submitted by Mr. Ron Jones, his son, who has been appointed Church secretary. In that same report:-
“We have welcomed Mr. Stephen Olyott into the Sunday School.”
Brother Stephen’s main work for his Lord at Bradley Road in the early days of his short time with the church were the Sunday School, organ playing and the setting up of a boys mid-week youth club. As the decade entered its latter years and into the early 70’s, Stephen steered the church through demanding and changing times.
Alongside Stephen there were two other men from 1967 on as was reported in the Church magazine November, 1967:-
“At a Church meeting last week three deacons were appointed in place of the previous Church Council. They are Mr. Stephen Olyott, Mr. Brinley Hughes and Mr. Ron Jones. The appointments were by unanimous vote of all the members present. The Building Fund now stands at nearly £200 and it is good to see that gifts are given for it every week. As the children’s mid-week numbers increase and the Sunday School classes become larger the sooner the building is erected the better for all concerned.”
However, before moving on to the events leading up to this new building there was another dominant issue and that was the autonomy of Bradley Road as a church in its own right instead of under the influence of Chester Street. It was Stephen who met with the officers of Chester Street to convey Bradley Road’s desires and although members of Chester Street were, understandably, reluctant to let Bradley Road, their “Mission Church”, go, Bradley Road Church did get its independence.
Shortly after this the Church at Bradley Road was found to have extensive dry rot and was put in the position of having to go ahead with not an extension to the existing building but demolition and a completely new building. In the late 1960’s and early 1970’s a Christian architect came to Wrexham and he confirmed the poor structural condition of the 1899 building. His report began thus:-
1. The common boundary wall is severely affected by dry rot … Its extent is the whole length and height of the wall and has probably affected abutting walls.
2. Other structural members affected by this condition is the pole plate, end of all rafters and laths and one truss given to serious decay at its bearing end.
3. The gutter which has had remedial treatment appears to be functioning although the treatment is suspect.
On receiving this report worship at the church ceased and continued for a few weeks in a disused shop on the corner of Princess Street. Rentokil, on further inspection agreed with the architect and they could not guarantee any remedial work. Demolition began but because the vestry, kitchen and toilet at the rear of the building were unaffected by the dry rot and their layout making them structurally stable they remained standing. The Local Authority allowed the church to continue meeting there while the future was considered and actually until the first phase of building work was completed. Bradley Road had 14 members at that time (1971) but as Stephen wrote in his article submitted to the Evangelical Times:-
“Dry-rot a blessing? We had only £548 in the kitty but an increased trust in the Lord.”
With faith in a God of grace and provision the church launched out and began to build. God did not let his people down. Today, many in the church remember how God’s provision and timetable was beyond human expectation and understanding. The new building was to be in two stages – firstly a schoolroom with hall, toilets, kitchen and vestry and later the main church building.
God’s first provision was to send to the fellowship men who understood the building trade or had experience in plumbing, electrics etc. In answer to prayer God continued in . The delivery date for bricks He brought forward although there was a long waiting list due to strikes, and so the story unfolds. Praise His Name.
The main steel beam was to cost the church far beyond their means but Mr. Albert Hughes, a church member, had worked for a local civil engineering company, giving loyal service for many years. The company knowing his commitment to the church supplied the beam, ready welded, providing the transport of it to Wrexham and its erection and all completely free.
The church was now up to roof height but there wasn’t enough money for the roof. Mr. and Mrs. Palmer, already mentioned earlier, were called to glory and unknown to the church they had bequeathed money to Bradley Road; it was the exact amount to cover the cost of the roof.
These are “big” provisions but it must not be forgotten that during this time the widow’s mite had played a large part especially as, during the time of building, the church had only four members in full-time employment. Stephen was not at Bradley Road for its actual completion as he had moved to Aberystwyth with his work but he did attend that joyous day in October, 1975 when on Saturday 11th the new church hall was opened. The preacher was Stephen’s brother, Rev. Stuart Olyott, Liverpool, and on the Sunday the Rev. David Wynn, Mold.
A year later the church gave a call to the Rev. J. L. Harding of Dudley and he was inducted on 25th September 1976. Under Mr. Harding the church saw an increase in the congregation and youngsters were baptised as they came to faith under his ministry and through the local branch of the National Young Life Campaign. Y.L. as it is now known meets regularly at Bradley Road.
Mr. Harding gave 10 years of faithful and balanced ministry to the church and retired from the pastorate in 1986 and from the eldership in 1988.
The church had now decided to build the long awaited second phase, that of the main church building and again God’s people dipped deep into their pockets as God prompted them again in His providing grace. Half way through the building project, however, the church gave priority to calling a pastor and it was again amazing how God enabled this small church to support Rev. Stephen Green and at the same time continue the building.
Pages could be written on how God’s timetable unfolded during the building period and it was another God-glorifying day as, with gratitude and joy, the church was opened on 11th November, 1995 with Pastor Green leading the meeting at which the Rev. G. Thomas, Aberystwyth, preached.
Mr. Green has moved to a church at Hitchen which leaves the church currently under the leadership of three deacons, David Neal, Peter Hiles and Brin Hughes. This is almost an exact reflection of 1899 when Tom Copleston and his fellow deacons began worship at Bradley Road.
As the church celebrates its centenary this November (1999) the deacons and other brothers and sisters in Christ look to the future with the same visions, prayers and longings as those first pioneers. What were they and what are they? Some reminders to finish as previously quoted from T.O.M.:-
“The church had conceived it to be her duty … to provide for the spiritual needs of the people … of Newtown.”
and from the Rev. Beaupre’s first sermon:-
“We preach Christ crucified because it brings before our minds the holiness of God – the horribleness of sin – that is the way in which we discern the Grace of God – it is the power and wisdom of God – a blessing to God’s people and lead to the salvation of many in our midst.”
Now thank we all our God
With hearts and hands and voices;
Who wondrous things hath done,
In whom His world rejoices;
Who, from our mothers’ arms,
Hath blessed us on our way
With countless gifts of love,
AND STILL IS OURS TODAY.