Rev. William Basham
Bill Basham, minister at Bethesda from 1947 to 1952, held a series of 'people's services' to bring the church nearer the people. We have reports and photos of the invalids' service, the work service and the holiday service. We also have an article about the Five Sundays campaign held in January and February 1950.
I remember coming to Bethesda Chapel, with my parents, when I was a young girl. It seemed huge after being used to my ‘regular’ Church, which was Bourne Methodist Church in Longton. I think that we sat in the balcony – which was very impressive. My father, Arthur Morrey, was very interested in the organ, as he was an organist at many Methodist and Church of England churches in Stoke-on-Trent. I think that we came many times to Bethesda, but I only remember two of the many preachers I heard – Donald Soper and Leslie Weatherhead. They seemed so different from one another – but both wonderful: Donald Soper ‘strong and fiery’ and Leslie Weatherhead ’gentle and Christ-like’. I wish I could remember more.
When I was in my teens, Sunday evenings were special. Reverend William Basham was the minister. He had a vibrant personality and for years the chapel was filled with young and old.
We moved to live in one of the terraced houses close by Bethesda Chapel during World War II. Bethesda was at the end of my street, so naturally I soon found my way to the Sunday School, which housed more than 200 children in those days. Prizes were awarded for good attendance – I still have some of mine, one being a copy of the New Testament. It was a very happy place, and once the war ended we were taken on outings. A wonderful man called Enoch Shaw was the Sunday School Superintendent; his wife Nora also taught there. They were a lovely, happy couple and devoted their lives to the children of Bethesda. Other names that come to mind are Eva Barns and her sister Nellie.
As time went by, I too became a teacher in the Sunday School, as did many of its pupils. They were good years and stood us in good stead for the years to come. Going to the church became a natural progression, and it was here in Bethesda Chapel that many young people gathered and socialised. I am 70 years old now, but my memories are as clear as if it were yesterday. One hymn that was often sung was Tell me the stories of Jesus (click here with your speakers on, to hear this tune played). I don't often hear this now, but when I do the memories of the Sunday School come flooding back.
Jean Dodson (née Wilshaw)
The Bethesda I knew
Days of Bethesda, the days of my youth
Learning obedience, wisdom and truth.
Sweet Harvest Festival, masses of flowers;
Pleasures were few but the Chapel was ours.
What could we bring to the house of the Lord?
Little we had that was fill for his board.
A small tin of peas or a single red apple!
With these great decisions our minds had to grapple.
Anniversary Day! What a great festive jumble.
Though poor as church mice, yet we never did grumble.
We walked through the streets with our heads in the air;
Though our dresses were simple, we just didn't care.
Didn't care, did I say? No, we just didn’t know,
For the Chapel accepted the high and the low.
We acted in play and made things for charity;
There was laughter and joy, sometimes hilarity.
The Minister's task was to help and to guide us.
When we were cheeky he would look and he'd chide us.
What is there today to replace such a treasure?
It's a comfort unique; it's a power beyond measure.
Now a derelict building is all that is left;
Of Minister, people and prayers it's bereft.
Still its beauty shines through in the midst of the rubble –
Restoration plans will be worth all the trouble.
My name is Ann Heath and I live near Blandford Forum in North Dorset. I was most interested in reading other peoples recollections of Bethesda and thought I would add mine.
My father was Rev William Rutherford Basham minister of Bethesda (from I think 1948 to 1953) and I would have been 2or 3 years of age when we moved there.
My father was an effective orator and preached good sermons, but he also empathised with the sick and people with disabilities. I do remember the Peoples Services and the rather unusual Invalid Service. It was perhaps unknown to most people that as a child my father contracted TB and for most of his childhood lay on his back whilst his mother nursed him back to health and as a teacher, educated him.
I particularly enjoyed the annual event of the Sunday School Anniversary (it probably had more to do with the new dress I was bought for the occasion) and I do recall marching through the nearby streets with people carrying banners. I remember people were very friendly.
I can’t recall the names of many people but I do remember Cliff and Eleanor Haywood, Ernest Simpson (did he own a brickworks in Stoke?) and a Mr Rochelle who had a rather smart patisserie in Hanley. He once quite rightly reprimanded me for talking during the service!
I loved Sunday school and recall being in a play when I was dressed as a coin.
There was a fairly large youth group and I particularly remember twins called the Speed Brothers. I know my mother kept in touch with them for many years.
The Manse was 12 Regent Road South, opposite Hanley Park. I have three siblings – Bill, John and Peter – the latter born in Hanley in 1950. We attended Shelton School. It was a very old building opposite Shelton Church. I used to pass a pottery factory on the way to school.
In 1953 we moved to Newcastle on Tyne where my father became minister of a church in Heaton. He eventually entered the C of E and served in Hull and Scarborough. He died after a stroke in 1966.
Sadly, my mother Marjorie Ellwood Basham died in July 2001 at the age of 90. She had been an absolute rock to my father, my siblings and I.
My husband John and I run self catering cottages in Dorset, specifically for people with disabilities. Ellwood Cottages were named after my mother.
Please do get in touch if you have any questions.
Ann Heath (email available on request)
18 October 1996
If you have a memory or photo you would like to share, please e-mail our Memories Co-ordinator.