Lancaster nostalgia: the PSA Brotherhood

Pleasant Sunday Afternoon 1922-23, Lancaster.
Pleasant Sunday Afternoon 1922-23, Lancaster.
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Historian Terry Ainsworth looks into the PSA Brotherhood from West Bromwich to Lancaster.

The father of the late comedian Kenneth Horne was a well-known Congregational Minister.

The opening of the PSA Institute in 1901 in Lancaster.

The opening of the PSA Institute in 1901 in Lancaster.

The Reverend Sylvester Horne, who once said of a West Bromwich man that: “He discovered the Sunday afternoon! There were many people who never discovered it; they had always slept through it! But on Sunday afternoons the whole manhood of the country was at liberty, and therefore it was the time to do a good work for humanity.”

The West Bromwich man to whom he referred was Mr John Blackham, of Hill Top, who in the 19th century was a leading light in the religious life of the town.

John Blackham was born in West Bromwich in 1834 and during the next 89 years his name was destined to become well known.

When he died in 1923 there was a great sense of loss in the town.

The PSA Institute as it was in 2015 in Lancaster.

The PSA Institute as it was in 2015 in Lancaster.

In 1870, he founded the first Adult School in the area outside Birmingham, and he was also responsible for the forming of an organisation known as the Home Mission.

His main claim to fame came about when, in 1875, he found himself locked out of a Moody and Sankey Sunday afternoon meeting in the Town Hall, Birmingham.

After enquiring as to the whereabouts of another Young Men’s meeting, he was directed to the Steelhouse Lane Congregational Church, where he joined with 30 other young men in a church that can hold 1,000.

When he thought of the crowd in the town hall and the handful in the church, John Blackham determined to return to West Bromwich andemulate the success of the meeting.

To do this, he and a few friends went into the streets of West Bromwich and such was their persuasiveness that on the following Sunday afternoon 120 young men gathered at Ebeneezer.

Shortly after this meeting had started it grew to such proportions that they had to move from the schoolroom into the church itself.

This then was the start of the Pleasant Sunday Afternoon Movement.

The name, however, came about through a train journey made by John Blackham.

So successful were these meetings that in the next 10 years they had spread throughout the Black Country.

On August 31 1901, the Pleasant Sunday Afternoon Institute was formerly opened in Lancaster on the corner of Rosemary Lane and North Road by Alderman N W Helme, Member of Parliament.

It consisted of many reading and recreation rooms and the marvellous Cromwell Hall which could seat 500 people.

After WWI in season 1920-21 they entered a team in the North Lancs League Division III under the name Centenary PSA and by 1923-24 they had two teams in Division III, Centenary PSA “A” and “B”.

In 1925, the Lancaster YMCA and the PSA Brotherhood amalgamated and the PSA name disappeared.

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