Cannock Wood Methodist Chapel
A delightful little church. Fully functioning with Christenings, Weddings and Funerals and, until recent times, a Sunday School.
There has been a Church (gathering of people for worship) in Cannock Wood since 1803. At that time Edward Jackson the preacher held meetings at the home of Samuel Craddock. Samuel was a carpenter on the Marquis of Anglesey’s estate and also Steward of the “Club Room” in the Park Gate Inn, Cannock Wood. Once several neighbours were converted, Methodist Services and meetings had to be held in the “Club Room”. Eventually Samuel decided it was wrong to allow the “Club Room” to be used for dancing and amusement, knowing that the next day it would be used for divine worship. So, on the 6th January 1810 he licenced his own home for services. However, by September 1810 Samuel moved to Brereton, where he established a carpentry business.
In July 1810 Hugh Bourne’s house was also being used for worship. William Clowes started preaching in the Cannock Wood area in 1811. His influence persuaded John Linney to licence his house for worship in Cannock Wood on the 1st November 1811. Mr Turner (who worked in the kitchen at Beaudesert Hall) followed suit with his old thatched cottage at the foot of Castle Ring.
Joseph Richards (the keeper of the Park Gate Inn) was originally a Primitive Methodist too. However, he transferred his loyalty to the Wesleyan Methodists and on 11th May 1815 he registered a house for worship at Cannock Wood. This could have signalled the end of the Primitive Methodism: by 1834 this form of worship around Cannock Wood had ceased, despite the early pioneering.
Mrs Elizabeth Birch, a wealthy spinster of Brereton, who was one of a number of worshippers meeting at the Park Gate Inn, offered to pay for the building of a chapel and the site was decided. The land belonged to Samuel Craddock, but he would only sell to Irishman, John Scott, a local preacher, butcher and farmer at Armitage. The chapel was finally opened on 27th June 1834 at a cost of £84 to Miss Birch. Eli Birch (no relation) of Cannock Wood as teacher and Sunday School Superintendent, but in 1841 he and many of his relatives joined the Primitive Methodists at Bloxwich; indicating disputes within the chapel! However, in 1859 the chapel was attracting 80 people to worship.
The Chapel is a white stone building 41 feet x 18 feet, with rounded windows (listed Grade 2) and a tiled roof, with a door opening directly onto the lane. There have never been any extensions to the chapel, due in part to the fact that it posessses only one yard/metre of ground all round for maintenance purposes. The iron railings on top of the dwarf wall were commandeered by the government during the Second World War.
The inside of the chapel is divided into 2 rooms, the smaller room being the school room, divided from the main room by a removable set of windows and door, enabling more people to fit in on occasions! There is a centre aisle, with the pulpit and communion table in the centre at the north end. Behind the pulpit in blue and gold letters are the words ‘Watch and pray’. In the 1970’s the straight-backed wooden pews were replaced by more comfortable red chairs and the marble topped communion table was replaced by one of polished wood. The pulpit is the original.
The chapel was originally called ‘Hackwood’s Chapel’ The Hackwood family lived in the house at the side of the chapel and were effectively unpaid caretakers. In the 1930’s Mr & Mrs harry Hackwood and their daughter Miss Ethel Hackwood lived there. A shop attached to the house sold groceries and sweets, but not on Sundays. Water was not connected to the chapel until the end of the 1960’s, so it had to be carried from the Hackwood house. As there were no toilet facilities in the chapel until the late 1960’s an old earth closet in the Hachwoods garden was used by Chapel members and Sunday School scholars! Thus, the Hackwood family were associated with the chapel from its beginning until 1970’s.
The heating system consisted of a large coal fired iron stove in the centre isle with the chimney going straight up through the chapel roof. If the wind was in a certain direction then the chapel would be filled with smoke, much to the discomfort of the congregation. The stove was eventually replaced by electrically heated pipes in the 1960’s. However, candles at Christmas ensure that the experience is repeated yearly!
Miss Ethel Hackwood was the organist in the 1930’s, being replaced by Mrs Violet Westwood, who was followed by the present organist (2021) Mrs Gerion Piper. The original organ was a harmonium which was finally replaced by an electric organ in the 1970’s. In 2008 a digital organ took its place.
In the 1920’s the Cannock & Rugeley Colliery Company built nearly 100 three bedroomed homes for miners and their families at Rawnsley New Village better known as ‘Prospect Village. This brought to the Sunday School numbers up to 75-100 children and 6-8 teachers. Primary children meeting in the school room and the older children meeting in the Chapel, the boys sitting on one side and the girls on the other. The older children sitting at the back and the younger ones at the front.
In the 1930’s two services were held, at 11am & 6pm. If the peacher was to lead both services then they would be looked after by the Hackwood family in between services. At the end of the 1930’s Sunday School attendances declined as the scholars were called up to fight in the 2nd World War and a Sunday School was opened up in Prospect Village Hall. In 1940 the chapel seated up to 80 people. By the end of the war the Sunday School had declined further. Evening services were moved to an afternoon service because blackout curtains were deemed too expensive. During the 1950’s the west wall was replaced as it bulged and was considered unsafe. The expense was met by the National Coal Board because it was proved that the damage was due to mining subsidence. During these repairs’ services were held in the school room.
The current minister (2021) is Revd Anthony Brookes who is also responsible for 3 other churches. Our Stewards are Mrs Beryl Nicholls and Mr Anthony Toye. The circuit Superintendent is Revd Anthony Hick who manages 21 churches in the circuit. Today the chapel is carpeted, there are chair cushions, two large tapestries, one depicting ‘The Last Supper’ and the other ‘The Good Shepherd’ The heating works well, the flower arrangements are beautiful, the toilet clean and the lights bright!
There is a little booklet with more information about Cannock Wood Village, the people and the chapel freely available. Donations go to the chapel.
Christ Church, Gentleshaw
Although situated in the village of Gentleshaw and the ecclesiastical parish bears that name, Christ Church Gentleshaw also serves the more populated village of Cannock Wood and is only separated from that village by the civil parish boundary which runs down the centre of the road.
The church is open on Saturday afternoons from 2pm to 3pm for anyone to visit, either for a time of quiet reflection and prayer, or just to look around and enjoy a cup of tea or coffee and a chat.
Our services are each Sunday at 9.45am and 6.30pm with varying services available. On the morning of the 1st Sunday of each month we normally have All Age Worship or “Family Service” as it is known by most. On the 3rd Sunday of each month there will be a traditional service of Holy Communion using the 1662 Book of Common Prayer.
On Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday mornings at 9.15am there is a short spoken service which includes the daily liturgy, psalms and bible readings. This is followed by coffee and fellowship. All are welcome to attend. For details contact Fran on 01543 674993. Each Wednesday at 10.00am there will be spoken service of Holy Communion.
Priest in Charge:
The Reverend Lynn McKeon, The Vicarage, Buds Road, Cannock Wood, Rugeley, Staffordshire, WS15 4NB
Telephone: 01543 670739
Mrs Marion Tait 01543 682701
Mr Alan Blank 01543 671161
Visit the Christ Church website.