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Church has had many 'faces during its 100 years of history - Queensway Methodist Church
A place with real history: Bletchley's Queensway Methodist Church

2009 was the centenary of Queensway Methodist Church, which before renaming Bletchley Road as Queensway, on July 1st 1966, was known as Bletchley Road Methodist Church.

During 1813, with a small burial ground atached, the construction began of a Wesleyan Methodist Chapel in the High Street. It cost £688 13s 4d.

Despite a complete refurbishment of the Chapel and new seating in 1882, an alternative site for a chapel was considered and land in Bletchley Road was purchased in 1907. The Methodist Trustees decided to build a church to seat 350. With tenders examined the lowest, of £1851 10s was accepted, and 250 circulars were sent out to solicit subscriptions.

On July 10th, 1909, the stone laying ceremony took place and in November 1909 the door was opened by Mr J Turney, using a silver key inscribed with his name and the date.

Interestingly, in 1966, when she came to Woburn Sands from London, the key was discovered amongst his effects by his daughter, Miss E Turney, to be subsequently kept in the church safe.

The old chapel was sold in 1912 to Barbers Picture Palaces.

It became a favoured venue for entertainments not least during World War One, when the town hosted a large presence of troops.

One of the Royal Engineers stationed at Staple Hall would be Captain R E Priestly, who having been on the Shackleton Antarctic and Scott Antarctic Expeditions gave a lecture there on his exploits.

In 1919 a recreation room, 'The Hut', was erected at the back of Bletchley Road Methodist Church providing much-needed accommodation for the Sunday School and social functions.

But with the outbreak of World War Two, following the arrival of hundreds of evacuees in the town it became the Rest Centre, or 'Bletchley Refugee Reception Centre.'

On land acquired from the Trustees was erected an ARP equipment store and (as detailed in a previous article) a British Restaurant.

By the beginning of April 1941 plans were advanced to remove the 'Rest Room' - provided for the benefit of evacuees - from St Martin's Hall Reading Room to the newly built 'Evacuations Centre,' situated next to the Bletchley Road Methodist Church. In May a proposal that refugees using this Rest Room and social centre should be provided with tea free of charge was heavily defeated and it was agreed that tea at the Rest Room would be Id a cup or ½ p a cup on 'milkless days.'

At The Hut bunks were to be fitted and children's clothes were still required, and would be distributed during July and August.

For the benefit of evacuees, in January 1942 the Rest Room was still open from 2pm to 6pm, with the emergency feeding and rest centres for Bletchley having been established as The Hut and the Temperance Hall.

With the launch of the German V weapons campaign the need for refugee accommodation again became necessary and responding to the emergency were the WVS who, under Mrs Taylor, were now running the Methodist Centre in Bletchley Road as additional accommodation to the Temperance Hall.

Henry Fuller would have personal experience of a V2 rocket attack. A former steward of the Bletchley Road Methodist Church, he left the town in 1931 to become the caretaker at Whitfield Memorial Church, London.

Unfortunately he was in the building when it was hit by a V2. He survived and returned to Bletchley in 1949.

Someone with a long standing connection with Bletchley Road Methodist Church was James King, who died in 1945 aged 82.

Born at Simpson, he became a member of the old High Street Wesleyan church and would be involved with the building of the Bletchley Road Methodist Church. Employed for many years at Wilkinson's, (later Cutler) Stores, he drove a horse and cart until the age of 60 when he learnt to drive a van!

During 1946, the trustees of the Bletchley Road Methodist Church benefitted by £50 as the price the Council agreed for a plot of land at the rear of the premises, but the following month it was announced that the church was to lose the services of the Reverend Holdsworth as Minister.

Aged 24, Edward Wilson, an ex-RAF man (in fact having been released from the service the previous week) would then fill the position, having first become a local preacher at the age of 17.

The influx of evacuees during the war had been a precursor to the expansion of the town's population, and by 1951 there were 1,591 children attending the five schools in the town. Due to this, the Bletchley Road Junior School was therefore using not only their own premises but also the upstairs and downstairs of the Spurgeon Baptist Sunday school, as well as St Martin's Hall and the Bletchley Road Methodist hut.

However, in time new housing estates and the corresponding facilities would be built, whilst for the Bletchley Road Methodist Church a long standing ambition would be fulfilled when, on the adjoining land, work began to build a Sunday School hall.

One Saturday afternoon in July 1960 four foundation stones were laid, and with the work undertaken by the firm of Tranfields, at a cost of £5,500 the new centre was opened on December 2nd 1961.

Initially only church activities were allowed on the premises, but at The Hut church activities came to an abrupt close when, due to suspected arson, it was burnt down in mid 1971.

The site has now become part of a car park, but the Church and the adjoining hall continue to flourish, and provide a much needed service for the local community.