SUTTON COLDFIELD METHODIST CHURCH
75th ANNIVERSARY CELEBRATIONS : 2011 / 2012
SEVENTY FIVE YEARS ON – THE METHODIST CHURCH IN SOUTH PARADE, SUTTON COLDFIELD
PAGE 2 :
WATSON HOUSE : 1948 TO THE END OF THE 1980’S
In the autumn of 1948 Sister Irene Bryan was appointed as Sister-in-Charge of Watson House as a separate Branch of NCH by the Principal at that time – the Rev. John H Litten. It was a formidable task but Sister Irene was a determined lady with a vocation to love and care for children. She remained in this position until her retirement in 1973.
Watson House was a lovely old Victorian building in its own grounds situated in the Birmingham Road halfway between the Horse and Jockey and Wylde Green Road. Forty children were accommodated under its roof living in four ‘family groups’ of ten boys and girls aged from four to sixteen at that time. There were two members of staff to each group with occasional extra help. Each ‘family’ was allotted its own living quarters although all the children mixed freely together.
It was at the end of 1949 when, as a recently ordained Sister, I was sent to Watson House, Mary (Greenfield) was transferred from Bramhope branch in 1954 and Enid (Howles) came as a Candidate in 1956, was at College 1958/9 , returned to Watson House and was ordained in 1961. Also Eve Valley (nee Taylor) spent a year at Watson House prior to being ordained in 1958.
By the 1960’s children as young as eight months had joined the ‘families’ The pattern of our NCH family life changed little until early in the 1970’s.
This is the period in the history of Watson House on which I will concentrate as it was the time when close bonds were forged between the Branch and members of South Parade Church.
One of the first things Sister Irene arranged was that children and staff should attend Church at South Parade each Sunday morning and the children went to Sunday School in the afternoon. A sudden influx to an already well attended Church! ‘Our’ children joined the uniformed organisations
Members of the Church helped in all sorts of ways. Just one example. The children attended various local schools and took part in all sorts of activities. I remember the headmistress of the Town School (now the Baptist Church) produced wonderful historical pageants. One of our small boys was cast as a knight involved in a jousting tournament. Providing the necessary ‘chain mail’ was a daunting problem! I shall always be grateful to Dawn Francis who said “I think I could do that for you “and what a miracle she wrought with dishcloths dipped in silver paint.
The children benefited greatly through the musical expertise of Jean Broome and Denise Hyett at Sunday School events and Jean helped us with singing at the Branch. Church members supported us generously at our annual Fetes. We enjoyed ordinary family events at Watson House. Every child had a birthday party, cake and presents inviting friends from school and church. Christmas with forty children in the house was magic and unforgettable. The week before we always presented a Nativity play on two evenings followed by coffee and cakes. Some people will remember this.
We had ‘ups and downs, successes and failures’ and dealt with accidents, the memory of which now ‘makes my hair stand on end!’ We took the children on holidays when they could not go to their own homes. Friends from Church also helped us in this respect and took them out for days.
At the end of the war a number of children from Germany came to England for educational purposes; they were placed in various Branches of NCH throughout the Country. Three teenage boys came to Watson House, one of whom was Fritz Penner who later became a Methodist Minister in this country. He was happily married but unfortunately died when he was quite young
Between 1973, when Sister Irene retired and 1979 when the big house was demolished a bungalow for incoming governors and their families also two purpose built houses for children and staff were built in the back garden opening into St Bernard’s Road; this new complex was known as Watson Close. Mary was in charge of one of these new houses: Enid and her family group remained in the old house until it was demolished. The number of children decreased during this period and the Branch closed at the end of the 1980s. There were three governors during this time. Mr Woodman, Ron Holt and Richard Scott. Several children thoroughly enjoyed the activities of the church Badminton Club, including Stella Pike and John Rowe. The children continued to attend Church and Sunday School during this later period and personal contacts with members of the Church were maintained. Until the end of the 1980s when the Branch closed Gerald and Barbara Steel and other friends took the children swimming and this was much appreciated
Three of the former Watson House children were married at South Parade and the two children of one couple were christened there.
Sister Irene died in 1984. Her funeral took place at South Parade. The Church was packed with friends and many of the ‘old boys and girls’ and members of staff came from near and far.
In January 2009 Mary (nee Jackson) – later known as Marie Sinclair – died at a comparatively early age. She had come to Watson House as a little girl of six. She was married at South Parade and had three children. For some years she worked at a local Home for those with learning difficulties and associated problems. She had a great talent for making them feel secure and happy. Before her death in Lichfield she expressed a wish to see the Minister of South Parade Church and that her funeral should take place there. Her wishes were fulfilled... Many came to the funeral including those who had grown up with her at Watson.
We are still in close contact with a good number of our ‘old boys and girls’ (now grandparents) who remember South Parade so well...
Marjorie Wakeford (with the help of Mary and Enid)