Story of the church

Taken from St Thomas Parish Magazine, June 1967:

The Rev’d J Turner remembered how the St Alban’s folders had mounted up since the first one marked “1957 PRELIMINARY” showed the plans of the project, which comes to fruition this month.

“This is the first stage - a church hall. Will the Parish Church (stage 2) be built beside it?” asks the vicar.

1957: Planning and discussion for a church to be built in Ashmore Park

1961: Preliminary sketch plans prepared by church architect, NF Cachemaille-Day, whose designs were later developed by Rev’d Anthony Hill A.R.I.B.A.

1963: The church's dedication (St Alban’s) was decided upon. The building project was launched by a Procession of Witness and open-air service, arranged by Rev’d Roger Bould of St Chad’s on the site next to the Ashmore Inn.

The vicar asked everyone to support the brick-a-week scheme as £40,000 was still needed in March / April. The Rev’d John Smart and his wife moved in to the St Alban’s house.  A letter from Rev’d Smart said he and his wife look forward to the dedication and opening of the dual-purpose Church hall. The date set is 22nd June which appropriately is St Alban’s day - and we shall be honoured by the presence of the Bishop of Lichfield.

Rev’d Smart writes that the children’s church is already flourishing in St Alban’s Primary School.

1967: On Thursday 22nd June - feast of St Alban – the building was dedicated and opened by the Bishop of Lichfield.  The Rev’d John Smart, first occupant of St Alban’s House, was given oversight of the new church.

The pattern of services on the first Sunday was:

  • Family Communion: 9:30am. Celebrant and preacher, the vicar
  • Evensong: 6:30pm. Preacher, Rev’d John Smart

A temporary church committee was formed to sit until the Annual General Meeting the following year.

October 1967 brought men and women of the Church Army to visit and inaugurate home meetings throughout the parish.

1968: The first official committee members were elected at the Annual General Meeting on 23rd April. The first anniversary of the dedication took place.

In July the Ashmore Carnival was run jointly by St Alban’s, Corpus Christi and the estate youth club.  1969 and 1970 saw the carnival continue, and the event was taken over the following year by Wednesfield Council.

1970: A playgroup was started. This ran 3 mornings a week starting in the September term.

1971: Rev’d John Tye succeeded John Smart.  A Girl Guide company was formed.  Later in the year Brownies, Cubs and Scout groups were formed.

1972: The loft above the Vestry is to be made into an upper room.

1973: The Upper Room was completed, the church committee thanked all church members for their hard work on completion of the upper room.

1974: The Upper Room is now open for use (via the back door) from dawn till dusk for anyone wishing to use it.

1975: All church groups running smoothly.

1976: Rev’d Max Welsh succeeded John Tye.  The new Series 3 communion service was introduced.  An 8ft cross was erected on the outside front wall in memory of Dere Southall for his hard work in the early days of the church.

1977: St Chad’s donated their church bell to St Alban’s.

1978: St Chad’s bell was installed in St Alban’s. Thanks were expressed to everyone involved.

1979: Big changes in the parish – from 1st January 1979 the resident ministers of St Alban’s and St Chad’s were to become team vicars and the vicar of St Thomas's will be Team Rector (Wednesfield Team Ministry).  Another change of face this year as the Rev’d Jonathan Cooper (Team Vicar) succeeded Max Welsh.  An addition to church worship was the purchase of an organ.

1980: This year saw two more firsts in our church, in March the Women’s World Day of Prayer was celebrated - women of all denominations were invited.  In June we had a confirmation service, at which Bishop Barry Rogerson presided.  It was a doubly happy event as it was also our patronal festival.

1981: In October St Alban’s was licensed to carry out weddings. The first wedding at St Alban’s was on 5th December between Jim and Betty Ainsley.  

Joan Winterbottom was licensed as minister-in-charge of Old Fallings United Reformed church and as a lay-worker.  She was also St Alban’s lay-reader.  The playgroup closed at the end of the summer term.

1983: Rev’d Colin Duncan succeeded Peter Beresford following the latter’s 1988 move to Rugby.  Rev’d Duncan's wife Virginia Duncan was ordained in July.

1991: Rev’d Virginia Duncan was appointed to serve full-time at St Alban’s Church.  Extensions and alterations took place – St Alban’s Room was added at the front, a large stage area on the side of the church and new toilets.

1992: The Memorial Garden was consecrated by the Bishop of Wolverhampton.

1999: …saw the retirement of Colin and Virginia Duncan.

2000: We were joined midway through the year by Duncan Clarke as a curate.

2002: Duncan Clarke was inducted in St Alban’s 20th September 2002 as team vicar, but at the end of the year he moved to take up an appointment in London.

2003: Rev’d Sue Gulliford took over from Duncan Clarke.

2004: Rev’d Joyce Ford joined Sue Gulliford on a part time basis at St Alban’s, but then Rev’d Gulliford decided to pursue other church avenues, so Rev’d Ford was inducted as team vicar on 4th May 2004.  St Alban’s was rewired and a smoke fire alarm system fitted.

2007: Rev’d Paul Parks succeeded Joyce Ford.  Rev’d Parks induction was on 29th August 2007.  

2008: A new heating system was completed in May.

2011: In 2010 the Paul Parks informed the church committee his last service would be in February 2011.  Rev’d Sam Leach was chosen to replace him and arrived in October 2011.

2012: Much pleasure this year with the arrival of Rev’d Sam and his wife Jo's twins Ellie and Isaac.

During this year work was started to upgrade the grounds and the building inside and outside with new windows, a new refurbished kitchen and the Pop-in room.  This work was completed in 2016.

While this was taking place at St Alban’s, St Chad’s church was closed.  This was a sad time, but many of St Chad’s members were welcomed to St Alban’s.  While the main church was being refurbished the Upper Room was updated with the help of the St Chad’s members.  The room is now St Chad’s Chapel and is used for morning prayer and quite meditation. 

The congregation had increased Sunday by Sunday but seemed to have plateaued between 60-70 each week.

2017: St Alban’s 50th birthday in June was marked by a big celebration and the installation of two pieces of artwork - a cross on the wall behind the stage, with each stone put in by a different person, and a tree collage on the back wall of the main hall. What will the next 50 years bring? Perhaps a congregation of over 100 worshippers, with prayer and God's help.

Raj Kumar, the popular proprietor of the hardware shop, died unexpectedly.  Rev Sam conducted an outdoor service in his memory, and more than 2,000 people attended.  The road behind the shops was renamed Raj Kumar Drive in his honour.

2018: At the Annual Meeting Rev Sam announced that he was moving to take up an appointment in Torquay, and he held his last service in July.

2019: After a vacancy of more than a year, Rev’d Tom Fish was licenced as Team Vicar in September.