The building could seat 300 with a hall capable of seating 200. In 1934 when the Primitives and Wesleyans united, the congregation was about 70 and by the 1960s this had fallen to essentially 4 families: the Archers, Youngs, Thompsons and Robinsons; the membership no longer matching the size of the maintenance burden.
At this time a major housing development was taking place in Northallerton and Romanby (which was 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, internally about re-use of the South End organ and pews, the latter meaning 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 remained the regular organist (though she finally had to resign due to ill health in 2012).
Over the period 1995-2004, significant efforts were made to establish funding for redevelopment 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 continued its commitment to evening worship and over the last few years has formed a successful men‟s group. In 2012 a Circuit decision to limit each church to one planned preacher per Sunday led to Romanby forming a Local Arrangement Planning Group which has led to a Local Arrangement Service being planned and led by the group once a month. These are well-received and whether they are held morning or evening they are well-supported by the members and other people in the area as they have features which are not usually found in the regular worship. They are certainly not to be missed.
This article is a summary of “Romanby Methodist Church Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow”
Information is provided by the website: http://thirskandnorthallertoncircuit.org.uk/methodist-circuit-churches/romanby-methodist-church/
9 April 2019, 7:00pm Parish Office, 76 Ainderby Road