TOP in Olton Hollow

The Olton Project (TOP) was founded by a few local families, who were looking for a space to host their weekly spiritual gatherings, share books and learn about God. Over nine years, the number of classes and social events grew and grew, from teaching Quran and Arabic to all ages, to coffee mornings, parties and even fitness classes!

After knocking through several of the former offices to make space for our gatherings (thanks to our generous landlord), we realised we had outgrown the site in Olton Hollow. When the former United Reformed Church on Kineton Green Road came up for sale, TOP’s co-founder, Dr. Daniel Jackson, said it felt like it was meant to be. TOP’s founding families had grown up in the area, and the opportunity to build roots in the very heart of the community was too good to miss.

Anse Dr. Tamara Gray speaking at the new TOP, in 2019
Anse Dr. Tamara Gray speaking at the new TOP, in 2019.

Meeting the Church leaders

At our previous site at Olton Hollow, shortly after purchasing the new site, TOP hosted the first meeting with local church leaders from St. Margaret’s, The Olton Friary and The Olton Baptist churches. We made a promise to uphold the splendour of the building, and respect its history. It was an enjoyable evening of introductions, sharing food, and performances by the Academy students.

Some of our students performed for our neighbouring Church leaders, before we moved into our new premises
Some of our students performed for our neighbouring Church leaders, before we moved into our new premises.

Past, present and an exciting future at TOP

On the corner of Brookvale and Kineton Green Road, stands a characterful old church, which has been used for over a century as a meeting place. The story goes back to Victorian times, when a group of non-conformist Olton folk stood under an old oak tree, in nearby Gospel Lane, and listened to a charismatic Christian preacher called Reverend Thomas Hood, who arrived each Sunday on his horse!

By the turn of the twentieth century, the numbers had grown, and John Jessop generously gave some land for building a new church, designed by John Osbourne, who lived on St. Bernard’s Road. ‘Olton Congregational Church’, with its distinctive French-inspired tower, was opened for worship on January 1st 1901. It became fondly known as ‘The Church among the Trees’, and cost £3,500 to build.

During the Great War, the rooms were used as a hospital for nursing wounded soldiers. Local men who died during the conflict are commemorated on a plaque in church. During WW2, an air raid shelter was built for local people, in what is now the car park. Some older folk in Olton still remember gathering in ‘the Sunny Room’, and the comfort that brought to them during the war.

‘Olton Congregational Church’ became ‘Olton United Reformed Church’ in 1972. The buildings have served as a place of loving Christian outreach and worship for over 100 years, and have always been a central meeting place in Olton. The place has a long and fascinating history, and an exciting future as home to ‘The Olton Project’.

By Carol Andrews