In 1997 the management of the Southdown Methodist Church premises was transferred from the Southdown Methodist Church Council to a Circuit appointed group of Managing Trustees comprising members from churches in the Bath Circuit.
Saturday 19th May 2012 saw the culmination of some 15 years of discussion, debate and planning by the Managing Trustees as to the future of the building and the site.
The discussions in between took many shapes and with many shades of opinion and viewpoints. They ranged from partial to total demolition of the premises; from private residential to Social Housing provision and discussions with two Social Landlords. Eventually a new and exciting way forward opened up when Oldfield Park Methodist Church Council brought forward a request to sell their property and put the proceeds into the site at Southdown.
This really was the wheel turning full circle, as in 1950, when the first phase of the building of a new church at Southdown was completed, a group of 13 members from Oldfield Park transferred their membership to Southdown. Conversely when the decision was made by the remaining members at Southdown to cease to meet as a Society in 2003, most of them transferred to Oldfield Park. And now they are back again, as members of the Horizon Methodist Church, the successor Society to Oldfield Park Methodist Church.
We have benefitted over the past 15 years from the experience of two local Architects, David Stapleton , who took us through the initial feasibility stages and the subsequent discussions with Orbit and Somer Housing Associations and the initial design for the current scheme, and then Stride Treglown Tektus (Phillip Fawkener-Corbett) who took on the final design and contract management process. We were well served by these two professionals.
The final design was subject to a number of financial paring exercises to keep the construction costs within the available budget but eventually we reached a point where further cuts would have eaten into the very essence of the design.
On the financial side , as well as benefitting from the proceeds of sale of the Oldfield Park premises and site we were fortunate to be able to tap a number of very supportive Charitable Foundations, and much to the delight of the Managing Trustees and the astonishment of a lot of well wishing supporters, Colin Smith and his Fund Raising Team had a success rate of well over 70% in their applications for financial help.
And so with all the paperwork completed and Contracts signed the work started on site in May 2012.
But who were these Contractors who had won the Contract, with their bright red hoardings and site accommodation. Seddon Construction have been established for a long time but were relatively unknown in this part of the country. They originated in Stoke on Trent in the 1890s and then later, set up another branch in Bolton. The local operation came about when about 12 years ago they bought the Wootton under Edge Building Contractor Jotcham and Kendall Ltd, and set up a Bristol Office.
The work proceeded steadily, and not without some minor disruptions on the way, such as the inadvertent discovery of a live gas service pipe which no one, not even British Gas, knew about! The wet weather in the summer months of June and July, and some particularly vicious storms, caught the builder a little on the hop on a couple of occasions and brought out the “Dunkirk Spirit” from the kitchen staff.
The excitement grew as the work progressed and we were given glimpses, courtesy of the contractor, with hard hats and visi jackets, of the progress of the work, from time to time.
By October the majority of the first phase work was complete and then began the transition from existing to refurbished so that the building work could continue. Luckily for us the weather during November and the early part of December was not too cold and we survived with the use of portable electric heaters until the new heating system was powered up. But then we did have a building which had been insulated to modern day requirements so the heat loss was not what it might otherwise have been.
Once again the building began to come alive with activities starting up again.
The last couple of months saw Seddon put the final touches to the refurbishment and then in late January the kitchen fitters moved in to carry out a complete refit.
By this time the heating system had been in operation for a few weeks but we were still learning the intricacies of the state of the art computerised technological control on the wall of the vestry. We are still on a steep learning curve on how to fine tune the system to make the best use of it.
The system itself consists of Air Source Heat Pumps sited on the flat roof of the rear part of the premises. It is somewhat like a reverse refrigeration unit, so instead of cooling the building it heats it. And how!!
In February Horizon Methodist Church made a significant journey from their half-way house at St Joseph’s Catholic Church to the refurbished premises and then over the weekend of 18th to 20th May the formal rededication of the premises for God’s work in and around the Southdown and Whiteway area of the City of Bath.
On Friday evening we had a splendid concert given by the Bath Community Gospel Choir supplemented by free burgers and hot dogs. An attendance of well over 100 people from around the local area enjoyed both the music and the food.
On Saturday we were graced with the presence of the Mayor of Bath, Cllr Bryan Chalker with the Mayoress Mrs Chalker, as well as the MP for Bath Rt.Hon. Don Foster.
The cutting of the ribbon to formally open the building was performed by Michael Francom representing the Community, The Mayor representing the City and Deacon Sue Culver representing the Methodist Diaconal Order.
Deacon Sue in her address referred to the involvement over a number of years of Deacons serving the community from this place, particularly Deacon Joy Newbold, Deacon Joan Nicholson and Deacon Janice Hacon who came to Southdown in 1993 with the Rob Frost Seed Team and really started the ball rolling with community involvement, which has culminated in the work of the Southdown and Whiteway Church and Community Partnership.
Over 170 invitees turned up, some having travelled from all parts of the country to share in the celebration
Sunday afternoon was given over to an Open House for the community to share and look around the building and partake of some rather nice Scones, jam and cream. Finally the weekend concluded with a Circuit Service.
This brief review would not be complete without paying tribute to the members of the North East Somerset and Bath Circuit for their encouragement and additional financial support, enabling us to see the project to its conclusion.
We must also of course not forget the very happy and co-operative relationship built between the Church Centre Management and the Contractor. This was in no small part due to the Site Manager Simon Stevens and Contracts Manager Richard Williams .