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Romanby Methodist Church
Address (Click for Map): Harewood Lane, Romanby, DL7 8BB
Is located just a mile outside Northallerton and was purpose built on a new housing estate following the sale of a former chapel in the town. Prior to having a building, “Sunshine Corner” was held on the grassy site of the proposed building or in the old cricket club pavilion. The building was completed in November 1964. The society is an active one working closely with their ecumenical colleagues and in the local school.
A Brief History of Romanby Methodist Church
At this time a major housing development was taking place in Northallerton and Romanby (still a distinct entity). In 1952 the scheme to infill the area around the Fairway, Manor Green and Cherry Garth included a site designated to be a Church, but not Church of England.
Methodism was also developing an extension policy of “planting” new churches and a committee was set up to consider the options in the area. The Harewood Lane site was recommended and acquired at no cost and with no time limit to build to allow funds to be raised. This was an act of faith since recorded Circuit assets were £89! Ten years passed before the project moved forwards.
In 1962 the South End Church members resolved to sell the property and provide the funding for the Romanby site. The building was sold to Maxwells as a storage facility for the electrical retail business and the building was closed on November 15 1964.
Prior to having a building, a Church was started with Amy and Malcolm Dennis starting “Sunshine Corner” on the grassy site of the proposed building or in the old cricket club pavilion (the dairy car park), the seeds of a very large Sunday school in 1964.
The designs for a building were commissioned following a meeting in February 1962. By May a scheme was put before Chairman of the District Rev. F. Pratt Green for a Chapel seating 80 with a sliding door allowing a further 80 with a target cost of not more than £10 000. Even with the sale of the South End building, a shortfall of £3100 existing and a fundraising campaign initiated.
The architectural design, with sharply pitched roof, brick faced interior and light cheerful atmosphere met critical acclaim and was seen as innovative and ahead of its time.
On 4 March, the building contract was awarded with a proposed completion date only 8 months away. The inaugural bricklaying ceremony took place in May led by Rev. Robert Barker, a brick being laid on behalf of Mrs Mary Smith, 84, who had taken part in the opening of the South End Chapel in 1899.
There was debate with the Council about car parking and internally, about re-use of the South End organ and pews, this meant that chairs had to be borrowed for the opening ceremony on 21 November 1964. Mr J.W Barker (the longest serving local preacher, Rev. Lawrence Larter (Circuit Superintendent) and Rev. Ian Mason, the newly appointed Minister opened the Church building. The Chapel was consecrated by the Chairman of the District and a concert given by the Bedale Male Voice Choir. By this time costs had risen to £13,000 leaving a debt of £3000 to overcome.
In the following September a harmonium replaced the piano used in early services, to the great pleasure of Nora Smith, whom 40 years later remains the regular organist.
The unique design of the building caused immediate problems, with leakage between the steep pitched roof and adjoining flat room of the hall. The windows in the chapel and hall roof lights also caused problems throughout the life of the building up until the present day, with attendant arguments between architect, builders and maintenance craftsmen over responsibility.
Not all the South End members sought to join the Romanby Church. Some went to “Wesley” others attended churches more conveniently located to their homes. Growth was seen through the Sunday school and Circuit Youth Group, but adult mission was less successful. Young people were a key part of the Church and in 1970 the 2nd Company of the Boys’ Brigade was formed, but was to close later due to lack of leaders.
Church membership remained steady at around 70, but concerns were expressed that the “strategic” move to Romanby was having little impact on the village community and its awareness of the Church.
A change in direction brought about the letting of the hall, opening up the building to the wider community of Romanby, but primarily to meet the burden of high maintenance costs of the building (heating and water ingress).
Over the period 1995-2004, significant efforts were made to establish funding for re-development of the building, including provision of firstly re-decoration of the Church and secondly improved access and toilet facilities to match changing legislation. The momentum was there. It was also a rich time for youth development and inclusion in Church life with growing numbers. The well-established Ladies Meeting and Family Meeting increased in numbers. However, personalities clashed, people left and the constructive and creative period died away. The energy for the second phase of the project was lost.
Legislation became imminent and a project emerged to tackle the residual building issues and provide additional accommodation through the Garden Room. The fundraising process re-commenced, providing common purpose and grants were secured from many sources.
This project was completed in time to meet the 40th Anniversary celebration and was officially opened by Chairman of the District Rev. Stephen Burgess Over the 40 years of its existence, the Romanby Church has seen 8 ministers, who have made their own impact upon the quality of service. Membership has risen and fallen as people have come and gone, but the Sunday School and Ladies Fellowship remain constant features despite name changes. Romanby continues its commitment to evening worship and over the last few years has formed a successful men’s group.