Church’s WW1 memorial recreated 

Words and photo by Dave Barry 

A World War One memorial from a demolished Scarborough church has been lovingly recreated.

The original was in Wesley Methodist Church in Hoxton Road, which was bulldozed in 2011. Wesley Court flats were built on the site.

By the time the church closed in 2006, it had 31 members on the books and only half attended.

The survivors migrated to other Methodist churches including Northstead, Queen Street and Westborough.

The latter’s minister, Rev Peter Cross, has had the memorial recreated, based on a photo of the original.

It was in two parts: a framed poster which recorded the names of men from the church who fought and returned; and a large, heavy brass plaque with the names of those who died in the war.

Part of Westborough Church is to be refurbished and named the Wesley Room, after the church which closed. The poster, which was saved, and the new plaque will be mounted in it.

Rev Cross plans to rededicate the memorial on or before Remembrance Day in November, to coincide with the 100th anniversary of the end of the war.

He is trying to trace relatives of the men named on the plaque, to invite them to the rededication service. The names are Arthur G Burnett, Walter Burrows, William H Clarkson, William Harris, Rev R Wilson Hopkins, Fred Hunter, JE Lancaster, Harry Leefe, Robert Livingston, Frank Newton, Charles Owston, Ed R Reed, Thomas W Reed, Charles Rowlay, Charles Smithson, Robert Smithson and Charles Wilson.

A similar plaque wasn’t created after World War Two because only one church member was killed. Rev Cross is trying to find out his name, which wasn’t recorded in church archives.

Wesley Church’s former congregants joined a social group at Westborough Church which has met for coffee once a fortnight for the last 50 years, initially as a young-wives group.

This illustrates Rev Cross’s point that, “The church is the people not the building”.

Harry Watkinson built the first Wesley Church on Nelson Street in 1861. In 1905, the congregation had become so big that it moved to bigger premises in the next street, Hoxton Road. The original building has had several uses since it was a church. It was used to put up evacuees during WW2 and is now a nursery.

Two of Harry’s great great grandchildren, Jean Purdy and Brian Watkinson, are among the Wesley survivors. Jean attended for 60 years - longer than any of the others. Her grandparents were the first to get married at Wesley Church. Jean was christened there, went to its Sunday school and youth club, married her husband John there in 1957 and had their son Stephen christened there.

Brian and his wife Jenny (née Hughes) were christened and married at the second Wesley Church. They had two of their three children christened there and took them to the church’s mums-and tots-group, on the first floor. “We played badminton upstairs when the church moved downstairs because it was cheaper to run”, Brian remembers.

Jenny's mum, Beryl Hughes, 96, was a church regular. She lives at Ravensworth Lodge nursing home.

The second Wesley Church was the first church in town to get an electric organ. It was made by Jennings and played by former warden Jean’s father, Frank Bremner, who was also a preacher.

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