Historic church forced to close
A HISTORIC Birmingham church has been forced to shut its doors for the last time following a dramatic drop in congregation numbers.
The United Reformed Church in Newton Road, Great Barr, needed substantial investment to maintain the building which the small congregation was not able to afford, so the decision was made to close it.
The church’s roots stretch back to the 1750s after it grew out of the Methodist congregation that met in Bishop Francis Asbury’s childhood cottage home nearby.
Former members of the church recently published a booklet commemorating their century of service to the Newton area of Great Barr. Newton Congregational Church, as it was first known, was started by Lillian Powell in 1917 in a building known as The Institute on the opposite corner to the present building.
The Institute had originally been built by the Methodists in 1808 by a congregation that had grown out of the cottage meeting at the home of Frank and Eliza Asbury, the parents of the American evangelist Bishop Francis Asbury.
Miss Powell’s nephews, Frank and Harry Allen, both wealthy businessmen, offered to build a new church in honour of their late parents, providing it was known as The Allen Memorial Congregational Church, Newton Road.
The new church was opened in September 1932 and during the Second World War the guildhall was pressed into service as an Air Raid Precautions (ARP) post and designated an emergency feeding centre.
In 1974 the church changed its name for the third time when the Congregationalists joined other non-conformists and became known as the “Newton Road United Reformed (Allen Memorial) Church”.
By the 1980s there were growing concerns that the church was no longer growing and actually losing members.
Then in early 2017 a survey revealed the extent of the building work which was required.
> The United Reformed Church in Newton Road, Great Barr, has closed after 100 years