Maryport Circuit, Cumberland
Transcription of Article in the Christian Messenger by Rev. George Davies
MARYPORT, on the shores of the Solway, commands a splendid view of the Scotch coast. On a clear day one can also easily discern the Isle of Man, eighty miles away. The town, which has a population of about 11,000, is situated on the site of an ancient Roman Camp, founded by Agricola, 79 A.D., during his famous march through Lancashire to Carlisle, via the Lune Valley. Surrounded by collieries, the major portion of the population earns its livelihood in the mines. Forty years ago there was a thriving shipbuilding industry, but this has long ago become extinct.
Just when Primitive Methodism first came to Maryport, one cannot be certain. Those most likely to know support the tradition that it was first missioned in 1835 by Mr. John Sharpe, and Miss Mary McDowall. For four years meetings were held in a small room over St. Mary’s Place in Kirkby Street. A Chapel was built on the opposite side of the street, in 1839; in 1870, this was enlarged, and is the building in which our people now worship.
Besides Mary port, we have six other churches, Prospect, Crosby, Ellenborough, Flimby, Crosby Villa and Grasslot. Our present membership is three-hundred-and-seventy. The value of our Church properties is given at £5,380, and our total debt, including the manse, is £803, so that the circuit may be said to be in easy financial circumstances. We have a few families with “means,” but our people mainly are miners, evangelistic, hospitable, and lovers of their Zion.
Time was when the circuit was not so compact. Illustrious men who have laboured on it remember when it was included in the Whitehaven Circuit, under the able superintendency of the Rev. Adam Dodds - a beloved and saintly man and faithful in all his work. Between 1861-4, Maryport was made a separate circuit. It was on Good Friday, 1864, at a tea meeting at Crosby that the late Rev. William Johnson, ex-Principal of Hartley College, commenced his ministry. At that time the circuit: included what are now the Wigton and Cockermouth Circuits; the former being made a circuit in 1883, with the Rev. Ralph Shields as its first Superintendent. To this happy consummation Mr. Joseph Jopling, a popular Weardale Evangelist, rendered conspicuous service. Cockermouth became a “Branch” of the Maryport Circuit in June, 1893. Just a year later, Dearham Society having been incorporated, it became an independent station with our present Connexional Editor as its first Superintendent.
In those days (1864) the preachers had to walk to Keswick, twenty miles either from Maryport or from Wigton, for the Sabbath and Monday night, then preach their way back through the country up to Thursday or Friday night, covering in the journey about seventy miles. This journey was taken by the ministers fortnightly in their turns. The Rev. M.T. Pickering (Book Steward Elect) who laboured on the station from 1890-1893, two years with the Rev. W. Brass, and one with Rev. W. Spedding (former Connexional Sunday-school Secretary) declares that though the journeys were long, even then they were not at all disagreeable or unduly taxing. There was much to make the work joyous. The scenery was of the best and a warm hospitable welcome greeted the preachers everywhere. The outstanding note of the circuit in those days was its evangelistic fervour which made preaching easy. Camp meetings were a most popular feature of the day and conversions were frequent. The Camp Meetings are still continued, though perhaps, not with the same vigour, and are still a means of blessing.
Of the men who contributed greatly to the early success of the circuit one hardly dares to write-—there were so many of them. The Rev. W. Spedding spent a most successful term. Greatly interested in young people and an able preacher, he was most popular, and is spoken of to-day in terms of the highest esteem. At his farewell service the church was crowded, and many representative people of the town were present. The Rev. W. Spivey, brusque, outspoken, but good-hearted, and living the true life, also helped the cause much. Prominent among the laymen was Isaac Mossop, the father-in-law of the Rev. M.T. Pickering. For long he was a recognised leader – a strong man, perhaps the strongest on the circuit. Quiet, thoughtful, reliable, he was a great asset to our Maryport Church. Then there was Peter Messenger, a noted Camp Meeting Preacher. He had a strong, powerful voice, and was in great demand for open-air services. He, too, did a lot of hard and useful work in West Cumberland for the church and community. John Rook, alert and keen, somewhat critical, but kind-hearted, served as Circuit Steward for many years. James Lancaster rendered yeoman service in the Sunday-school. William Scott, the father of Mrs. John Cartmer, was also a loyal and devoted member. It is the loss of men like these, men who were hard to follow, and whose places our Maryport Church has not been able to fill, that we feel to-day. There still remains a faithful remnant though, who stand by the cause, and notwithstanding heavy losses by deaths and removals, the present outlook of the Church is brighter than it has been for some years. We have recently lost Mr. T. Greenhow, who was Circuit Steward for over sixteen years. The Fergusons, Gaskarths, Cartmers, Hines, Lyalls, T. Colman and J.S. Head, continue to do their bit. Mr. J.G. Head, brother-in-law to Rev. T. Barnes of Ashington, is one of the most acceptable local preachers in the district. He and Mrs. P. Hine are in constant demand to supply the pulpits of neighbouring churches.
Of leaders in other places Richard Tiffin, “Dickie,” as he was familiarly called, stood out prominently at Crosby. He was brother-in-law to Rev. J. Snaith. Quaint, quiet and original was Richard. His was the home for the preacher. For years he was the stay at Crosby. To his memory there may be seen in the chapel a brass tablet which tells how he fought the battle and “won the victory” for religious liberty in the erection of the Church in face of bitterest Anglican opposition. For fifty years he was a member, and for upwards of fifty years a local preacher. It is interesting to record that the Rev. John Graham of Salisbury, was formerly a scholar in the Crosby Sunday-school, and went “on note” with Richard and was sent by this circuit into the ministry. John Pattinson is still with us as constant and devoted as ever, a true minister’s friend, and beloved of all. Said he to the writer: “I’ve worked under twelve of you and I’ve been friends with you all.”
At Prospect we have a handsome church and school and a flourishing society. The church and school were enlarged under the able ministry of the Rev. J.G. Cushing in 1911, at a cost of £800. Mr. T. Laidlow and family have stood loyally by the cause, and last year the debt was liquidated. We get a splendid congregation of young people. The Christian endeavour is one of the brightest and most helpful meetings of the church. Mr. W. Douglas renders faithful service as Steward.
At Flimby we have a vigorous village society. Here are men whose story of sin and experience of salvation is equally as thrilling as any character to be found in “Broken Earthenware.” The chapel, which has to serve as a school also, was built in 1862. The accommodation for the scholars is totally inadequate. Any Sunday no less than two hundred scholars may be seen assembled. This lack of suitable accommodation greatly hampers our work. In 1915, a valuable site for a new church and school was purchased. The trustees have about £300 in hand, and but for the War the scheme would have been carried into effect. The Stewards are Mr. J.J. Woods and Mr. J. Bowden. Mr. Duncan McNaughton, a Scotchman, sane and sensible, loyal to the ministry and connexional in spirit, is proving a worthy successor of the Listers and Hollidays.
Crosby Villa has had a checkered history owing to fluctuations of population. It is largely owing to the devotion of Mr. T. Osborne, a buoyant personality, a keen evangelist, a local preacher of fifty years standing, and a Sunday-school enthusiast, that the cause has been kept together, In his prime, Mr. Osborne was one of the few men who could arrest an outside crowd. His enthusiasm for Camp Meetings is still unabated. This church has just suffered one of its heaviest blows by the unexpected decease of Mr. William Gilbertson, a quiet but ardent worker who had a disposition which endeared him to all who were privileged to know him. But though God buries His workmen He carries on His work, and in Mr. W. Hodgson we have a young fellow of great promise who is putting his heart into the service of the church.
Grasslot is the child of the circuit. For years this society, under the guidance of Mr. Jacob Frazzer, met in an upper room close to the Crossings. Several very effective revivals took place. It was here that Mary Ridley of Prospect, did a good work as an evangelist. In this upper room, too, our present Connexional C.E. Secretary preached his first sermon. In 1912, a great advance was made under the direction of Rev. T. Dickinson, when the present church which seats about two hundred people, was purchased from the Baptists. The church is situated in a thickly populated neighbourhood. The Allisons, Grahams, and Arnisons are most devoted to this little Bethel, which, with wise leadership is sure to prosper.
By far the greatest romance of the circuit is the growth and development of Ellenborough, where we have one of the healthiest churches in West Cumberland. A bonnier village church can hardly be found in Primitive Methodism. It is regarded as the Cathedral of the Circuit and was built eleven years ago at a cost of £1,500, during the ministry of the Rev. R. Crewdson. In an old magazine, over the signature of Rev. Adam Dodds, it is illuminating to read “Our new chapel at Ellenborough was opened for divine service on Sunday, February 10th, 1861, at a cost of £156, including deed store, &c.” The account closes with a prayer, “May it prove the birthplace of many souls!” That prayer has been abundantly answered. Always renowned for revivals, in the year 1905, while the Rev. R. Crewdson was labouring on the station, a remarkable revival broke out which cannot be better described than in the words of the late W.M. Patterson. ‘‘Immediately the people flocked to the services, and so dense did the crowd become that the preacher having forced his way into the pulpit, was unable to sit or leave it for hours. Traps, cycles and motors brought numbers nightly from distant places; and, while services were going on in the chapel, open-air meetings were held, and from eight to twelve cottage meetings were proceeding at the same time. Every household was gripped by the mighty impulse, every church was quickened, men who had lived ungodly lives were in such distress about their souls that they could not work, and something like three-hundred-and-fifty persons professed conversion.“
That revival, following closely upon the Welsh revival, was one of the most permanent ever known. Two years later the present handsome church was erected, and has now a debt of £425. Many of the most promising workers are the fruits of this revival. The church has suffered heavy losses by the passing of men like J. Greenhow, J. Fawcett, father of Rev. G. Fawcett, W. Hewitt, Alan Cameron, G. Thompson and W. Coulthard, to name only a few of the men who were mighty in faith and good works, but they have left a large and loyal band of men and women with whom to work is a delight. Never had a minister a more appreciative, or warmer-hearted people. It is no difficulty to raise money. The Sunday-school has just made a gift of £8, the first contribution towards a Building Fund for a new Sunday-school. The last Harvest Festival conducted by Councillor Doidge and Mr. Peter Robson realised the splendid sum of £27 10s. A large congregation assembles every Sunday, and forty and fifty regularly remain behind at the prayer meeting, and how they do sing! One purposely refrains from mentioning the workers by name; there are so many of them. Under the guidance of the present Stewards, Mr. J. Ritson and Mr. J. Thompson, the church was never in a healthier condition.
Of the circuit as a whole, our prospects were never brighter, numerically or financially. There is a loyal Connexional spirit, much zeal in missionary and temperance work, and notwithstanding the heavy drain made upon us by the war, the Endeavour movement is fairly vigorous. We are labouring and praying for a renewal of Pentecost in our midst, and have no doubt of its coming. May it be soon!
Christian Messenger 1919/263