From 1875, non-conformist worshippers: Wesleyans, Baptists and Congregationalists took turns to hold services in a hayloft above stables at the corner of Park Road and Back St. Annes Road West. Since two of the directors of the St. Annes-on-the Sea Land and Building Company, Mr. William Nutter and Mr, John Warburton, were devout Wesleyans it is not too surprising that the Methodists were the first to build a nonconformist place of worship in the burgeoning new town.
The foundation stone for the original church (which still survives as the main church hall today) was laid in the pouring rain on Easter Monday, 1877 to the accompaniment of the hymn: “Before Jehovah’s Awful Throne” sung to the tune, ‘Old 100th.’ The ‘Little Chapel in the Dunes’ was formally opened for Divine Service on 16th August, 1877.
By 1890, the ambition of The Drive Methodist Church had grown and with it came plans for a new, much larger, Gothic style church building. At a time when the population of St. Annes was a fraction of what it is today and the membership of the church was about the same size as it currently is, it is inspiring to learn that our forefathers laid the foundation stone of the new church on 29th August, 1891 intending it to have accommodation for 500 worshippers. In 1907, the church was yet further extended to seat a maximum of 720! There has always been a drive for growth at The Drive and, during the holiday season, a desire to welcome the many visitors to the town.
The First World War hit The Drive community hard. One member of the choir, Thomas Faulkner, and twelve old Sunday School scholars gave their lives in the conflict. They are commemorated, along with their photographs, on the memorial in church. The magnificent window in the chancel is also a superb memorial to their all too brief lives. Their names are written upon it, including that of Hardy Parsons VC, one of two brothers to be killed.
The unification of the Wesleyan and Primitive branches of Methodism and the social upheavals following the Second World War meant that two churches, The Drive and its near neighbour at King’s Road, were no longer needed. After much prayer and soul searching, on Covenant Sunday, 1969 the two churches united on The Drive’s premises.The ensuing forty five years have seen The Drive have its ‘ups and downs’ but, through it all, the people of this great church have been resolute in their desire to serve the Living God within the Methodist tradition. That desire remains as resolute today as it ever was: with our traditional way of worshipping and our packed calendar of social and outreach events, The Drive Church today has a robust and rapidly growing membership and a stout heart for the future.
The Drives’ Historic England listing can be found here (external link) https://historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list/list-entry/1393722
A book was published in 1977: Chapel in the Dunes. The Centenary History of The Drive Methodist Church, St Annes by Kathleen Eyre. It can still be found on sale from various second-hand book dealers.