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‘Many of its inhabitants were avowedly infidels’ - Norwich Sunday school marks 200 years

PUBLISHED: 17:03 04 May 2018 | UPDATED: 18:29 04 May 2018

In the 19th century, scholars at the Rosebery Road (then Sun Lane) Methodist Church Sunday School would process with a band to Catton Park in an annual event that lasted more than 50 years. PHOTO: Rosebury Road Methodist Church.

In the 19th century, scholars at the Rosebery Road (then Sun Lane) Methodist Church Sunday School would process with a band to Catton Park in an annual event that lasted more than 50 years. PHOTO: Rosebury Road Methodist Church.

Rosebury Road Methodist Church

A Norwich church is preparing to celebrate the 200th anniversary of its Sunday School.

An old photograph of The Sun Lane Sunday School. PHOTO: Rosebery Road Methodist Church.An old photograph of The Sun Lane Sunday School. PHOTO: Rosebery Road Methodist Church.

The story of Rosebery Road Methodist Church began in 1818 when a Sunday School was held 
in a wash house of a cottage in Long Row, which leads off Angel Road.

The Sun Lane Centenary booklet said: “Catton at that time was a sadly neglected district... many of its inhabitants being avowedly infidels. The pioneers were subject to many insults and great abuse in going to and fro in the neighbourhood.”

The school became well known in the 19th century for its annual procession to play games in Catton Park before a tea party back at the premises.

From 1820 to 1971 the school saw extensive changes with the ebb and flow of scholar numbers.

1893 saw the highest number of attendees at more than 1,000 scholars each Sunday. They were also taught to read and write prior to the introduction of compulsory education.

John Clarke and Charles Turner, describing themselves as “poor labourers of God’s vineyard in the wilds of Catton”, rebuilt the school with Norwich architect Edward Boardman twice in 1870 and 1880, and introduced a library, several school rooms, and hot water and gas fittings.

One contributor to the building works was J J Colman, mustard manufacturer and philanthropist, who promised 5 shillings for every pound raised between 1880 and 1885.

Rosebery Road Church was built in 1908, and although the school continued for a while under its original name, eventually Sun Lane was dropped from the title in favour of Rosebery Road.

The Sun Lane premises was rebuilt in 1971 and renamed the Calvert Hall. Sunday School became Junior Church and it was customary for the children and young people to be in church for part of the service.

There is still a small group of young children at the church 
most Sundays.

The church will celebrate the anniversary with a flower festival on the theme of childhood today, tomorrow and Monday.

A history of the Sunday school will be available to purchase at the event, and the festival will include a historical exhibition.

It is hoped that as many former members of the Sunday School and Junior Church as possible will be able to join the church members for a celebration service tomorrow at 10.30am.


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