15 November 2023

Queensway Methodist
Church in Bletchley was
built in 1908 but has a story
dating back to 1813

Queensway Methodist Church is the main Methodist church in Bletchley (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2023)

Patrick Comerford

Queensway Methodist Church is the main Methodist church in Bletchley, a constituent town of Milton Keynes. Bletchley is in the south-west of Milton Keynes, and the town is split between the civil parishes of Bletchley and Fenny Stratford and West Bletchley.

Bletchley is best known for Bletchley Park, the headquarters of the codebreakers during World War II and now a major tourist attraction.

Queensway is the main shopping street in Bletchley. Bletchley Road was renamed Queensway after a royal visit in 1966 and part of it was redeveloped as Stanier Square. This area became the new high street in Bletchley with wide pavements where there were once front gardens.

Before Bletchley Road was renamed Queensway in 1966, Queensway Methodist Church was known as Bletchley Road Methodist Church. But the history of the church goes back to 1813, when a Wesleyan Methodist Chapel was first built on the High Street in Bletchley in 1813.

The Methodist Chapel on the High Street was rebuilt in 1845 and was refurbished in 1882, with new seating for at a cost of £155. A site for a new church was bought in Bletchley Road in 1907 from a Mr Lee and the trustees of the Duncombe Estate, and the Methodist trustees set up a committee in 1908 to build a church with seating for 300.

The new church was designed by the Birmingham architect Ewen Harper at an estimated cost of £1,851 10s.

Ewen Harper (1853-1920) was born in Darlaston, Staffordshire, on 31 May 1853 and was articled to David Smith & Son in Birmingham in 1870. He also attended Birmingham School of Art. He was awarded the Queen’s Medal in 1872 and won a South Kensington Art Master’s prize in 1875, having been a teacher of science and art for some years while studying architecture.

Harper established his own practice at 27 Bennett’s Hill, Birmingham, in 1875. He was in partnership with his brother, James Alfred Henry Harper (1866-1952), from 1897 as Ewen & J Alfred Harper, also known as Ewen Harper, Brother & Co, at Ruskin Chambers, 191 Corporation Street, Birmingham.

The Harper brothers were fervent Methodists, and most of their work was in the Birmingham area. As well as designing many commercial, industrial, public and domestic buildings, they designed a large number of non-conformist churches.

Ewen Harper was elected a Fellow of the Royal Institute of British Architects (FRIBA) in 1907. When he retired in 1919, his son Leonard Ewen Harper (1886-1954) became a partner in the practice. Ewen Harper died in Birmingham on 5 February 1920. The firm continued as Ewen Harper, Brother & Co, until 1937.

Works by Ewen and J Alfred Harper include: the Wesleyan Chapel, Willenhall (1889); Hart Memorial United Methodist Chapel, Gravelly Hill (1890); the Wesleyan Chapel, King’s Norton (1891); Wolverton Methodist Church (1892); the Baptist Church, the Green, Stafford (1895); the Wesleyan Methodist Chapel, Waterloo Road, Smethwick (1896); Headless Cross Wesleyan Methodist Church, Redditch (1897); the Mission Hall, Hockley (1897); Friends’ Institute, Balsall Heath (1897); Birmingham Town Mission, Tindal Street, Birmingham (1897); Bournville Almshouses (1897); Ruskin Buildings, Corporation Street, Birmingham (1899); the former Methodist Central Hall, Birmingham (1900-1903); the Wesleyan Methodist Chapel, Llandrindod Wells, Wales (1903); and the Methodist New Connection Church, Blackheath, Rowley Regis (1904).

The former Methodist Church in Wolverton is one of the four major Grade II listed buildings in the town.

The Methodist church in Bletchley was designed by the Birmingham architect Ewen Harper (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2023)

By 1909, 250 circulars had been sent out seeking subscriptions for the new Methodist church in Bletchley. The foundation stone was laid on 10 July 1909, with music from the Luton Town Band, and singing by the Wolverton and Woburn Sands choirs. There was a similar ceremony at the official opening then church by the Revd William Perkins in November 1909.

Meanwhile, the older Methodist chapel was sold in 1912 to Barber’s Picture Palaces. It became a popular entertainment venue during World War I, when a large number of troops were based in the town.

A recreation room known as ‘The Hut’ was built at the back of Bletchley Road Methodist Church in 1919, providing accommodation for a Sunday School and social functions. A wooden hut in the grounds was used by the Methodist Girl Guides from 1934.

At the outbreak of World War II, hundreds of evacuees arrived in Bletchley and ‘The Hut’ became the Rest Centre, or Bletchley Refugee Reception Centre. The large vestry room was also used in the early months of the World War II to cope with the evacuees arriving in the town.

For the most part the evacuees received a genuine welcome in the town. But when the hut began to be used as the ‘Bletchley Refugee Reception Centre,’ the notices were ripped down.

The wooden hut was destroyed by fire in 1955. The foundation stones for a new Sunday school hall were laid in July 1961, and it was built alongside the church.

When Bletchley Road was renamed Queensway after a royal visit in 1966, Bletchley Road Methodist Church was renamed Queensway Methodist Church.

As for the cinema in the former Methodist chapel in Bletchley, it was known successively as the King George Cinema and the Picture Palace, and then became the County Cinema in 1932. County Cinemas were taken over by the Oscar Deutsch chain of Odeon cinemas in 1941.

The cinema closed in 1957. The building was empty and unused when it was demolished ca 1972, and the Durrans Court housing development was built on the site.

The Revd Edson Edson Dube is the Methodist minister in Bletchley and Superintendent Minister of the Milton Keynes Methodist Circuit. Queensway is grouped with the Freeman Memorial Church and Newton Longville Free Church. Sunday worship in Queensway Methodist Church is at 10:30 am and 2:30 pm. Weekday church activities include ‘Queensway Toddlers’, prayer, Bible study and fellowship meetings, coffee mornings with books and fellowship, and Bible study meetings.

Bletchley Road Methodist Church was renamed Queensway Methodist Church in 1966 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2023)

Daily prayers in the Kingdom Season
with USPG: (11) 15 November 2023

Inside the Basilica of Saint Bartholomew and Saint Gaetano in Bologna (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

In this time between All Saints’ Day and Advent Sunday, we are in the Kingdom Season in the Calendar of the Church of England. This week began with the Third Sunday before Advent and Remembrance Sunday (12 November 2023).

Before today begins, I am taking some time for prayer and reflection early this morning.

Throughout the rest of this week, I am resuming my theme of Italian cathedrals and churches, and my reflections this morning are following this pattern:

1, A reflection on a church in Bologna;

2, the Gospel reading of the day in the Church of England lectionary;

3, a prayer from the USPG prayer diary.

The Basilica di San Bartolomeo, behind the Two Towers in Bologna (Photograph: Georges Jansoone/Wikipedia CC BY 2.5)

The Basilica of Saint Bartholomew and Saint Gaetano, Bologna:

The Basilica of Santi Bartolomeo e Gaetano (Saint Bartholomew and Saint Cajetan) is a Renaissance style church near the Due Torri beside the Strada Maggiore in central Bologna.

A church dedicated to Saint Bartholemew had stood on the site since the fifth century, and it may have been built on the site of an even older church. The church was rebuilt in the 13th century and housed a community of Benedictine monks until the 16th century.

The present church was designed by Giovanni Battista Falcetti with elaboration by Agostino Barelli. It owes its awkward fa├žade because it was built in 1517 at the site of a palace begun by Andrea da Formigine for the Gozzadini family. The project is seen in the single-storey portico along the exterior, but soon after the side portico was completed the project was interrupted by the death of the patron.

The church came into the possession of the Theatine order in 1599. The Theatines, officially the Congregation of Clerics Regular (Ordo Clericorum Regularium, CR), were founded in 1524 by Saint Cajetan (Gaetano dei Conti di Thiene), Paolo Consiglieri, Bonifacio da Colle, and Bishop Gian Pietro Carafa, later Pope Paul IV. The future pope was Bishop of Chieti or Theate, a city in Abruzzi, and the order took its specific name from the diocese to distinguish it from other similar orders.

In 1627, the Theatines commissioned a complete rebuilding of the complex by Giovanni Battista Natali (‘Il Falzetta’) and by Agostino Barelli.

When San Gaetano (Saint Cajetan), the founder of the Theatine order, was canonised in 1671, his name was added to the dedication of the church. The bell-tower and final chapels were completed by 1694.

The ceiling of the central nave depicts the Vision of San Gaetano (1667) by Angelo Michele Colonna and Giacomo Alboresi. The second altar on the right has an image of Saint Charles Borromeo at the cemetery of Varallo (1614) by Ludovico Carracci. The fourth altar on right image of the Annunciation (1632) by Francesco Albani, who also painted the frescoes depicting the Nativity and the Dream of Joseph (1633).

The ceiling of the transept depicts the Glory of San Stefano (1695) by Giovanni Antonio Burrini and Marcantonio Chiarini.

The apse has a depiction of the Martyrdom of San Bartolomeo and Two Miracles of the Saint in frescoes by Marcantonio Franceschini and Luigi Quaini (1685). The cupola was decorated by Giuseppe and Antonio Rolli in 1691. The chapel in the left transept shows Beato Paolo Buralli (1772) by Ubaldo Gandolfi and the Madonna with a sleeping Christ Child by Guido Reni (1632).

The lunettes of the portico were decorated with scenes from the life of Saint Cajetan, including one by Lucio Massari. The Baroque interior also has paintings by Alessandro Tiarini, Ercole de Maria and Carlo Baldi.

The church was dedicated as a minor basilica in 1924. The bell tower is 52 metres high and stands in Via San Vitale.

The Basilica of Saint Bartholomew and Saint Gaetano has richly decotrated cupolas and domes (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Luke 17: 11-19 (NRSVA):

11 On the way to Jerusalem Jesus was going through the region between Samaria and Galilee. 12 As he entered a village, ten lepers approached him. Keeping their distance, 13 they called out, saying, ‘Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!’ 14 When he saw them, he said to them, ‘Go and show yourselves to the priests.’ And as they went, they were made clean. 15 Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice. 16 He prostrated himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him. And he was a Samaritan. 17 Then Jesus asked, ‘Were not ten made clean? But the other nine, where are they? 18 Was none of them found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?’ 19 Then he said to him, ‘Get up and go on your way; your faith has made you well.’

An icon of the calling of Simon Peter and Andrew in the Basilica of Saint Bartholomew and Saint Gaetano (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Today’s Prayers (Wednesday 15 November 2023):

The theme this week in ‘Pray With the World Church,’ the Prayer Diary of the Anglican mission agency USPG (United Society Partners in the Gospel), draws on ‘A Prayer for Remembrance Sunday and International Day of Tolerance’. This theme was introduced on Sunday.

The USPG Prayer Diary today (15 November 2023) invites us to pray in these words:

We pray for interfaith initiatives around the world. May we seek out friendships with people of other faiths and learn more about other religions.

The steps of the pulpit in the basilica … the Theatine order emphasised evangelisation and preaching (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

The Collect:

Almighty Father,
whose will is to restore all things
in your beloved Son, the King of all:
govern the hearts and minds of those in authority,
and bring the families of the nations,
divided and torn apart by the ravages of sin,
to be subject to his just and gentle rule;
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

The Post-Communion Prayer:

God of peace,
whose Son Jesus Christ proclaimed the kingdom
and restored the broken to wholeness of life:
look with compassion on the anguish of the world,
and by your healing power
make whole both people and nations;
through our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

Additional Collect:

God, our refuge and strength,
bring near the day when wars shall cease
and poverty and pain shall end,
that earth may know the peace of heaven
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Yesterday’s Reflection

Continued Tomorrow

Getting ready for Advent and Christmas … a side altar in the Basilica of Saint Bartholomew and Saint Gaetano in Bologna (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicised Edition copyright © 1989, 1995, National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. http://nrsvbibles.org

The Basilica di San Bartolomeo is close to the Piazza di Porta Ravegnana, with the Two Towers, symbols of Bologna, and a statue of San Petronio, the city’s patron saint (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)