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The 1950s


The Thirtieth Anniverary of the foundation was celebrated on 23 October 1951. A lecture was delivered by the Revd WF Howard, formerly Principal of Handsworth College, who had recently come to retire in Cambridge where his elder son was senior classical master at The Leys School. The subject of the lecture was "New Testament Studies from 1901 to 1950."


Frank Morgan, the House's first Senior Porter died of a sudden heart attack in the summer of 1953.


A need for more ministers in Circuit and a growing awareness that the Church needed to be more flexible in accepting a wider range of (still male) candidates for the ministry was made clear in reports received by the Conference as early as 1948 and again in 1952. The Conference of 1954 received a report that noted that the selection and training of ministers should be elastic enough to allow older and married men into training. 'The sole condition of a man's acceptance for the Ministry should be evidence of God's call.' Questions of age and marriage should be secondary. The direction of travel was clear.

Of course this movement would pose great issues for Wesley House. The previous homogeneity of the intake would be altered. Not to mention the lack of suitable accommodation and the question of what if students had families as well. Wesley House did not address these issues seriously until the 60s.


Nationally there were also financial problems in terms of Ministerial training. In 1953 there were approximately 300 students in training for the Methodist ministry in the UK at an annual cost to the Church of £260 per student. 


The staff of Wesley House tried to avoid going to national funds. There was hot water for baths one night a week The buying of books for the library was cut back. Every student was urged to contribute all they could to the cost of their training. 


1955 Flew announced his retirement. He had been a member of staff for 27 years. Gordon Rupp wrote of him in the college magazine "There must be scores of men engaged in fruitful research who were given the initial direction, impetus, even their theme by Dr. Flew, in advice based on uncanny insight into their own capabilities and capacities and awareness of the gaps in the golden curtain of ecumenical scholarship.' It must have given Flew great pride to announce in his final report as Principal to Conference that a Wesley House student had achieved the only first in Part II of the Divinity tripos that year and another student had been awarded the University prize for work on the Greek Testament.

At a farewell ceremony for Dr Flew on 26th May a portrait was unveiled, and again Frank Salisbury was the artist. The ceremony was held in the Lecture Room and many representing the University, Methodism, the Ecumenical Movement and Wesley House spoke in warm appreciation of Dr Flew's many-sided activity. The Vice-Chancellor, the Rt Hon Sir Henry Willink, Master of Magdalene College, was among those who spoke, and the Bishop of Ely, Dr Edward Wynn, gave a Blessing at the end.

The Revd WF Flemington became Principal, retaining the William Greenhalgh Chair of New Testament Language and Literature.

The Revd Philip S Watson, who for the previous four years had been Principal of Handsworth Methodist Ministerial Traning College in Birmingham, became Tutor until he departed in 1959 to become Professor of Theology at Garrett Theological Institute, Evanston, Illinois.


The Revd Michael Skinner, an old boy of The Leys School (his father had been Chaplain there for nearly 30 years), is appointed as Tutor. He had read History at Jesus and had trained for the ministry at Wesley House. With extensive experience in Circuit Skinner was to revolutionise the pastoral training of students at Wesley House over the next 20 years.

The John Newton Davies Trust was established on 31st December 1959 by Mrs Sarah Davies in memory of her husband, Rev. John Newton Davies. A £6,000 endowment and income generated from it was to be applied “for such charitable purposes in connection with the Methodist Church in England as the Managing Trustees shall in their discretion from time to time determine, including the provision from time to time of bursaries prizes and scholarships for students undergoing training at Wesley House as candidates for the Methodist Ministry and the provision of financial assistance for any such students as are or may be in necessitous circumstances.”


WF Flemington

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