Upper Ettingshall's Sodom Chapel


Sunday the 24th and Monday the 25th of Septmeber 2000, saw the culmination of celebrations to mark 150 years of continual worship at Upper Ettingshall Methodist Church in Coseley. Dominating the corner of Paul Street and Upper Ettingshall Road, this monument to our local heritage bears witness to a century and a half of change.

Back in the early years of the 19th century where the church is presently located,the locals were in fear of their lives. This was a hot bed of villainy, where it is said notorious highwaymen would be lurking, ready to pounce on unsuspecting travellers!. The place to avoid, so the local folklore goes, was Cathems Corner (Ettingshall), and up through Can Lane (Hurst Lane) to Gospel End.

The founding father of the church was Thomas Nicholds. He was a local man, born in 1790, who began the long tradition of worship at the so-called 'Sodom Chapel' in a makeshift building in 1823. By 1829 sufficient funds had been collected to enable the congregation to purchase 'The Norwoods' a plot of land owned by Joseph Pearson, for nineteen pounds and ten shillings, roughly covering 174 square yards. A single storey church was finally replaced by the building we see today in 1850.

Joseph Nicholds (1784 - 1860) was also prominent in the early fortunes of the church. He was a famous man of the time and became a successful composer. Many of the early recitals of his work paid for the initial building of the construction and then the upkeep of the church. His most famous composition is 'Babylon-An Oratorio'. It is this music that contains a special and almost unique piece for the curiously nicknamed instrument, 'osse's leg'. This brass rarity is called a ophyloliede and from all accounts was a very difficult object to blow. Sadly his music is very seldom heard these days, but the enthusiastic members of the church will often sing these very rare, but very local hymns.

On Sunday the 24th September the church reverberated to a packed congregation. The weather may have put a dampener on any outdoor activities but inside 'Sodom Chapel' there was Happiness and colour in abundance. The children aged between seven and fourteen put on a theatrical extravaganza, charting the path of history for the past 150 years. The pageant filled the front of the chapel and was expertly choreographed by Mrs Jennifer Hill, who also read the notices and was ably assisted by other prominent members of the church. The lesson was given by the incumbent minister at the church The Reverend Alan Fisher.

One of the highlights was described by Mrs Betty Hill, no relation to Jennifer Hill, a senior member of the congregation, she said "The children were wonderful and performed their play with such perfection, But for me the highlight was being able to hear and sing the anthem 'Chepstow' written by Joseph Nicholds. This church, threatened recently with closure, has so much to offer the community and to be able to cellebrate one hundred and fifty years, singing one of Joseph Nicholds own local hymns was marvellous. It's a building worth keeping and we must look after it for future generations."

Article published in the Black Country Bugle Setember 2000


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