Woodley, and two of its sons: Revs Thomas Bramall and Luke Stafford
A Venerable Pair
Transcription of Sketch In the Christian Messenger by Rev. James Dickinson
We are often reminded that many of the great leaders of our Free Churches have had their training in village schools. This is notably the case in Primitive Methodism. It was the joy of the ministers in the early days of our church to travel from village to village preaching the Gospel of God, and by this means they laid the foundations of our church’s success.
Woodley, a little township within the borders of Cheshire, but not far from Manchester, was the birthplace of two of our Ministerial Deed Poll members. It was here they received their early training, and it is interesting to have the record of their early life in this village society, and to know something of their subsequent wide-reaching influence.
Thomas Bramall, the elder of the two, was born at Woodley, April 12th, 1833, so is now in his 90th year, and while not “hale and hearty,” is still able to take an occasional service. He attended the Conference at Sheffield in 1921. His parents were Congregationalists, but living near to the Primitive Methodist School and Chapel, Thomas was sent there. He was converted in a class-meeting led by Henry Stafford, when fifteen years of age, and on October 27th, 1850, took his first appointment at Styal, near Stockport, and for three years served as a local preacher. On May 12th, 1854, Mr. Bramall left Woodley when Rev. James Macpherson was Superintendent Minister at Stockport Circuit, to become a travelling preacher, and two days afterwards, May 14th, 1854, preached his first sermon as a minister at our church at Shebdon Camp Meeting in Wrockwardine Wood Circuit. In those early days of Primitive Methodism the work was hard, for the stations were wide, the salaries small, and at times the homes were not all that could be desired. None but men of strong conviction were equal to the test. Mr. Bramall is distinctly a link, one of the last we imagine, with the founder of our church. He can definitely remember listening to the Rev. Hugh Bourne preaching at Woodley, and says: “after the service he put his hand on my head and said; ‘Now you be a good boy.’ ” From the time of his conversion in 1848, there has never been a break in his connection with Primitive Methodism, and from that date till now, he has never doubted that God has been in his life, and that it was a Providential Hand that led him when so young to be a Minister of the Word. In Wrockwardine Wood, Cwm, Prees Green, Newcastle, Oswestry, Market Drayton, three times, Hadnall, Bromsgrove, Coventry, Shrewsbury, Ramsor, Stafford, Chester 2nd, Llanymynech, Silsden, Preston Brook, he served with an unfailing common-sense and devotion. He was superannuated in 1896, and became a “Deed Poll” member in 1910.
Luke Stafford, the son of Henry Stafford, who for forty-five years was a Class-leader, Sunday-school Superintendent and Local Preacher in Stockport Circuit, was converted in his father’s class-meeting on January 23rd, 1849, and he would then be about fourteen years of age; and from that time he has received and carefully preserved the tickets of membership, and has them in one bundle numbering 292. Very soon after his conversion, he was appointed a teacher in the Sunday-school at Woodley, and encouraged to take part in the prayer-meetings. He did not go to a day-school until he was eleven years of age, and then only half-time, having to work the other half. Mr. Stafford, in his reminiscent moods will tell of the time when bad boys were made to stand on a form on one leg, with dunce caps on the head, B, for blockhead on one side of the cap and D, for dunce on the other. He says it is just probable that the boy who suffered this indignity took possession of the cap for he never saw it afterwards. He greatly appreciated the Bible-class conducted by his uncle, Mr. W. Stafford, where he received his first lessons in grammar; and also the mutual improvement class, a laudable feature of which was that the older brethren of the church gave instruction to the young men, five of whom entered the ministry, viz, Samuel Stafford, John Stafford, and his brother, Samuel, Thomas Bramall and Luke Stafford. At 7 a.m. the “Revival Band” would hold services in what was called the Market Place. Greave was missioned by the Band services being held in cottages, and in course of time a chapel was built, the jubilee services of which have recently been held, conducted by the Revs. Thomas Bramall and Luke Stafford.
At the call of the December 1854 Quarterly Meeting, Mr. Stafford was asked to supply the place of the second minister who had retired from the ministry. He was to begin in January, 1855, and reside at Boncharrats between Stockport and Cheadle. The following Conference stationed him at Northwich, under the superintendency of the Rev. Matthew Lee. Rochdale, Douglas, Manchester 2nd, Preston, Stalybridge, Ashton-under-Lyne, Ramsgate, Alston, Penrith, Spennymoor, Knaresboro’, York 2nd, Southampton and Baldock, have had the benefit of his heroic and faithful services. Our church has seen 67 years of Mr. Stafford’s ministry. The Conference of 1912 elected him as a permanent or “Deed Poll” member.
We are glad these aged brethren are still with us “witnessing” to the triumphs of Christ in our church. It is well to ponder over the dangerous fact that is threatening, upon which both put their ?nger; “people to-day love excitement, change, novelty, and inventions to meet the demand are numerous. What shall the churches do? Shall they cater to the demand and convert themselves into variety palaces to provide entertainment?” These men who have known the way in which the Lord our God has led us through the wilderness say to us “ Be true to yourselves, your principles, and above all, to your God Who has done such great things by you, and the old success, it may not be the old scenes, will again be ours.”
Christian Messenger 1922/360