Methodist Ministers’ Housing Society celebrates 75 years

05 June 2023

As it celebrates its 75th anniversary, Clive Price shares the story of the Methodist Ministers’ Housing Society

Welfare State pioneer Nye Bevan was an early champion of MMHS. Son of a Methodist mother, Bevan intervened when planning permission was refused for an MMHS housing scheme for retired ministers.

A large house with lots of land had been left to MMHS in 1948. Planning permission was sought ‘and at first refused’ – according to MMHS archives – but through Bevan’s intervention ‘finally succeeded’.

 As a result, stone-laying took place. Foundations were prepared for 20 flats, arranged in a horseshoe shape. MMHS was born – thanks partly to the father of the NHS.


That’s just one of the stories discovered as Methodist Ministers’ Housing Society marks its 75th anniversary. It started with one property, to help retired presbyters and deacons ‘of limited means’.

By 1953 MMHS had 60 properties – with a large waiting list of ministers hoping to be housed. By 1956 only 12 out of 45 districts had a home in their area – so a great expansion was launched. Just over ten years later, there were 200 properties on MMHS’s books.

The waiting list had disappeared. Still, rapid growth continued. By 1973 MMHS had 333 properties, by 1989, 700, and numbers continued to rise into the 21st century. Ministers can choose a place of their own and make it their ‘castle’. They pay an affordable rent, and MMHS do the rest.

Residents share remarkable stories from their past when you chat with them. Of course, the retired ministers play it all down.

They’ve served others throughout their lives. Now it’s the privileged of MMHS to serve them and to discover their histories.

Take Barbara Brandom, for instance. She talks plainly about it now. But King George VI’s signature was often on her desk. The royal autograph would be handed to her, under a cloak of blotting paper.

Barbara worked in the War Office during World War II – the first female in her branch of the Military Secretary’s Department. Now Barbara has just celebrated her 102nd birthday – in the same year as MMHS’s 75th anniversary.

She now lives in an MMHS property. Barbara retired there with husband Harold, who died in 2000. ‘We were very happy here,’ she said.

The residents’ influence extends beyond these shores. MMHS resident Revd Dr Emmanuel Jacob helped lead the fight against South Africa’s apartheid system.

Mannie became involved in student protests alongside the likes of ‘black consciousness’ leader Steve Biko. ‘We felt we were not being given the freedoms – let alone privileges – that white students had,’ he recalled.

At theological seminary, he met librarian Lynn. They fell in love, but had to leave South Africa to enjoy a legal wedding ceremony. They moved to England where they married in 1981. Mannie was ordained the following year.  (Top image shows Lynn and Mannie.)

Now they enjoy retirement at an MMHS property. ‘Even though we don’t own the house, it feels like ours,’ said Mannie. ‘We still look at each other and say, “Isn’t this lovely”.’

So how important is the work of MMHS?

Former MMHS board member Revd John Harrod said, ‘The home, a physical thing full of physical things, can be sacramental, feeding our wellbeing. And, of course, the converse is true. The lack of a home seriously undermines our wellbeing.’

Writing in the summer 2016 edition of the MMHS newsletter Roof ‘n’ Roots, John added, ‘All this means the work of MMHS is not peripheral to the mission of the Church. A concern that people have an adequate house should be at the heart of our Christian commitment. This is because the business of Christian faith is salvation – our wholeness. And that involves the house – the home.’

Chief Executive Mairi Johnstone echoed that belief in a video for the launch of our 75th anniversary year at Daffodil Day. In a three-minute video screened at Methodist Central Hall, Westminster, Mairi shared plans for the anniversary, including – an online service, celebration event and a specially written song.

‘We provide much more than a house – we provide a home,’ said Mairi. ‘Your home is your sanctuary.’