24 January 2023

How Wolverton once
had not just one but
two Methodist churches

Wolverton Methodist Church was rebuilt in 1892 to designs by the architect Ewan Harper of Birmingham (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2023)

Patrick Comerford

Wolverton once had two Methodist Churches, a Congregational Church, and Emmanuel Hall, which later developed into Wolverton Evangelical Church.

The founders of the Methodism, the brothers John and Charles Wesley, had notable early successes in their preaching in North Buckinghamshire, and the Wesleyans built a large number of new buildings in the area in the 19th century.

The first Methodist chapel in Stony Stratford was built in 1844 on what is now Silver Street. The Methodists in Wolverton at first went to the chapel Stony Stratford or met in one another’s homes. Within a few years, a reading room was converted for their use on Sundays and in 1870 a new Methodist church opened at the east end of Church Street.

Wolverton Methodist Church was rebuilt in 1892, designed by the architect Ewan Harper of Birmingham. Ewan and J Alfred Harper also designed the former Methodist Central Hall in Birmingham (1900-1903). The former Methodist Church in the heart of Wolverton once had a large Sunday School and it is one of the four major Grade II listed buildings in Wolverton.

The former Methodist Church on Church Street has interesting architectural features (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2023)

The former church has a gable end facing the street with a square tower at west side. It is built in red-brick with stone dressings, decorated tracery and other ornament, strings, kneelers and coping. The central gabled pinch has crockets and finials with recessed entrances on the left and right. There is an ogee hood mould below the gable over a pointed arch on stone columns.

Other architectural features include tall decorated lancets, round windows, lancets with hood moulds that flank the porch, a coped gable with pinnacle, a three-stage tower with a belfry, louvred openings in paired round-headed windows, corner finials rise, a short parapet an ogee hood mould at the entrance to the tower, and a tiled roof with a spirelet on the ridge. The planned steeple as never built, but it is possible to imagine how tall it would have been what it might have looked like by careful attention to its hexagonal stone base.

This east end of Church Street has a mixture of historic buildings from the 19th and early 20th centuries, including the former Saint George’s Institute and the Methodist Church. However, since it closed, the former Methodist Church in Wolverton has suffered decades of neglect: holes appeared in a roof that was not repaired, Victorian airways and vents were covered over, and rain and the lack of ventilation causing major dry rot, brown rot along and other damage.

Around 2010 or 2011, the King’s Centre decided to buy and restore the building. The centre is intent on restoring the large front half of the church to full use and carrying out major renovations so that once the building can be used as the King’s Church.

The former Primitive Methodist Church at the corner of Church Street and Anson Road was built in 1907 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2023)

Meanwhile, the scout cabin on Green Lane, originally a hayloft, was used by the Primitive Methodist as a chapel until 1907. The upstairs room, known as ‘The Cabin’, then became the headquarters of the Wolverton scout troop from 1916 until 1939.

The chapel on Green Lane was replaced by a second Methodist chapel at the corner of Church Street and Anson Road. This chapel was built in 1907 and opened as West End Primitive Methodist Chapel.

The Wesleyan Methodists, the Primitive Methodists and the United Methodists came together in 1932 to form the Methodist Church of Great Britain.

The former Primitive Methodist Church at the corner of Church Street and Anson Road is now West End United Church, a Local Ecumenical Partnership formed in 2005 by the Methodist Church and the United Reformed Church.

The United Reformed Church presence in Wolverton dates from the Congregational Church built in Wolverton in 1878. The red-brick church had a commanding position at the top of the Square, and there was a manse on Moon Street.

One of the pioneering ministers in the Congregational Church in Wolverton was the Revd Constance (Todd) Coltman (1889-1969), the first woman to be ordained in a mainstream Church in Britain

She had been brought up as a Presbyterian and was a suffragist and a pacifist. When she tried to explore a vocation to ordained ministry she met resistance from the Presbyterian Church of England. She then applied to Mansfield College, the Congregational college in Oxford, and was accepted because of her deep sense of God’s call, although there was no certainty that she would be ordained by the Congregationalists.

She was ordained alongside her fiancé, the Revd Claud Coltman, into the ministry of the Congregational Union on 17 September 1917. They married the following day, and Constance and Claud later ministered in Wolverton from 1932 to 1940.

The Congregational Church in Wolverton was pulled down in 1970 as part of the authorised demolition of Wolverton landmarks during the development of Milton Keynes. The church was replaced by a supermarket with some provision for church activity in an upper room.

Since January 2022, the minister of West End United Church is the Revd Jo Clare-Young, who trained at Westminster College, Cambridge. She is the Minister of Newport Pagnell United Reformed Church, the Mead Centre, Newport Pagnell and West End United Church, Wolverton.

West End United Church describes itself as ‘a friendly church aiming to serve the local community and encompassing all ages. Sunday services are at 10: 30am (with junior church), and the service on the second Sunday of the month is usually Holy Communion.

West End United Church in Wolverton is a Local Ecumenical Partnership formed by the Methodist Church and the United Reformed Church (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2023)

Praying through the Week of
Christian Unity and with USPG:
24 January 2023

‘He has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts. He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things’ (Luke 1: 51-53) … an image of the Virgin Mary in a quiet corner at the High Leigh Conference Centre in Hoddesdon, Hertfordshire (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

Christmas is not a season of 12 days, despite the popular Christmas song. Christmas is a 40-day season that lasts from Christmas Day (25 December) to Candlemas or the Feast of the Presentation (2 February).

Throughout the 40 days of this Christmas Season, I have been reflecting in these ways:

1, Reflecting on a seasonal or appropriate poem;

2, a prayer from the USPG prayer diary, ‘Pray with the World Church.’

However, the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity began last Wednesday (18 January 2023), and until tomorrow my morning reflections look at this year’s readings and prayers.

Later today, Churches Together in Milton Keynes continues to mark the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity this evening at 7:30 in Christ Church, Stantonbury, with an evening billed as ‘Any Questions?’

This has been a powerful week with great music, challenging ideas and powerful speakers. But, where next for ecumenical mission in Milton Keynes? This evening provides an opportunity to ask the big (or silly) questions? There may be a few answers, but this will definitely be a chance to shape the next steps.

The panellists include: the Right Revd Revd Alan Wilson, Bishop of Buckingham; Dorel Hayes, the Principal Officer for Ecumenical Development and Relations, Churches Together in England; Dr Fidèle Mutwarasibo, Lecturer in Work-Based Learning in the Faculty of Business and Law and Director of the Open University Centre for Voluntary Sector Leadership – Fidèle was a parishioner in Whitechurch Parish, Rathfarnham (Dublin), when I was a NSM curate there after ordination, and he has been a commissioner on the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission; and the Revd Tim Norwood, Area Dean of Milton Keynes in the Diocese of Oxford and chair of Churches Together in Milton Keynes, who led Choral Evensong in Saint Mary and Saint Giles Church, Stony Stratford, last Thursday.

The words of the canticle Magnificat carved on the wooden screen at the west end of the monastic church in Mount Melleray Abbey, Cappoquin, Co Waterford (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Day 7: ‘What is now does not have to be’


Job 5: 11-16:

So the poor have hope, and injustice shuts its mouth.

Luke 1: 46-55:

He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly.


Job was living the good life and unexpectedly suffered the loss of his livestock and servants, and endured the devastation of the death of his children. He was suffering in his mind, body, and spirit. We all have suffering that is manifested in our minds, bodies, and spirits. We may pull away from God and others. We may lose hope. Yet, as Christians, we are unified in our belief that God is with us in the midst of our suffering.

On 11 April 2021 in Minnesota, Daunte Wright, a 20-year old, unarmed African-American man, was fatally shot by a white police officer during a routine traffic stop. This incident occurred during the Derek Chauvin trial for the killing of George Floyd.

It is easy to feel hopeless when we are once again reminded that we live in a fractured society that does not fully recognise, honour, and protect the human dignity and freedom of all human beings. According to Father Bryan Massingale, a leading Catholic social ethicist and scholar in racial justice, ‘Social life is made by human beings. The society we live in is the result of human choices and decisions. This means that human beings can change things. What human beings break, divide and separate, we can with God’s help, also heal, unite and restore. What is now does not have to be, therein lies the hope and the challenge.’

In prayer, Christians align their hearts to the heart of God, to love what he loves and to love as he loves. Prayer with integrity therefore aligns the hearts of all Christians beyond their divisions, to love what, whom and how God loves, and to express this love in our actions.

Christian Unity:

The Magnificat is Mary’s song of joy for all that she sees God is doing: restoring balance by raising up the lowly; righting injustice by feeding the hungry; and remembering Israel, his servant. The Lord never forgets his promises or abandons his people. It is easy to overlook or undervalue the faith of those who belong to other Christian communities, particularly if those communities are small. But the Lord makes his people whole by raising up the lowly so that the value of each is recognised. We are called to see as he sees and to value each of our Christian brothers and sisters as He values them.


How can we come together in Christ with hope and faith that God will ‘shut injustice’s mouth?’


God of Hope,
Help us to remember that you are with us in our suffering.
Help us to embody hope for one another when hopelessness is a frequent unwelcomed guest in our hearts.
Grant us the gift of being grounded in your loving Spirit as we work together to eradicate all forms of oppression and injustice.
Give us the courage to love what, whom and how you love, and to express this love in our actions.
Through Christ Our Lord. Amen.

‘They meet with darkness in the daytime, and grope at noonday as in the night’ (Job 5: 14) … at night in Cosgrove, Northamptonshire (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2023)

USPG Prayer Diary:

The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity began last Wednesday (18 January), and the theme in the USPG Prayer Diary last week was the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. The theme this week is the ‘Myanmar Education Programme.’ This theme was introduced on Sunday with a reflection from a report from the Church of the Province of Myanmar.

The USPG Prayer Diary invites us to pray today in these words:

Let us pray for religious minorities persecuted for their faith. May their human rights be recognised and all forms of discrimination cease.

Yesterday’s reflection

Continued Tomorrow