Manchester: Primitive Methodism in Manchester 1906
Transcription of Article in the Primitive Methodist Magazine by W. Barker
BEGINNING purely and simply as an open-air evangelistic agency Primitive Methodism had to toil hard and long before buildings were obtained for public worship. Cottages, barns, cellars, and stables were utilised for religious services, and during the first decade of our history progress was comparatively slow. In 1818 Primitive Methodism had 5,000 church members, and the early preachers had only visited seven counties in the United Kingdom. Lancashire was first entered by our pioneers at Risley near Warrington. Lorenzo Dow preached here in1805, and in 1810 Risley appeared on the plan as a Primitive Methodist preaching station, with twenty people in church membership. The new evangelistic movement, however, reached Manchester not from the West but from the South; and it certainly accords with the fitness of things when we know that Manchester Primitive Methodism was born in the open-air.
A remarkable man heard Lorenzo Dow preach at the first Camp Meeting held on Mow Cop. Eleazer Hathorn was a native of Knutsford. He entered the army, obtained promotion, won a commission, and lost a leg on the battle-field. Hathorn was a man of good education, and he prided himself on his powers as a philosophic thinker. Renouncing Christianity, he became first a Deist, then an Atheist. In the good providence of God this ex-officer in the army heard Lorenzo Dow preach on Mow Hill, and he was so deeply impressed that he at once sought and found the way of salvation. Like many other new converts in early Methodism Hathorn almost at once began to preach and he soon became noted for his aggressive zeal and evangelistic power. He laboured with John Benton on the Staffordshire mission, and in 1814 he helped to open several new preaching stations in Cheshire and Derbyshire. At Weston-under-Wood John Ride, who afterwards became a famous missionary, was converted under Hathorn’s preaching.
The late Rev. Samuel Smith in his “Introduction and Spread of Primitive Methodism in Lancashire” says that Eleazer Hathorn, “Eleazer with the wooden leg,’’ was the first Primitive Methodist preacher to mission Manchester. Mr. Smith declares that Hathorn walked from Macclesfield one Sunday morning to Manchester, preached in the open-air during the afternoon and early evening at the New Cross, near the present Wesleyan Central Hall in Oldham Street, and then walked back to Macclesfield at night. By road it is over eighteen miles from Manchester to Macclesfield, and a thirty-six miles walk for a man with a wooden leg must have been very fatiguing.
Hugh Bourne states that Manchester was first missioned early in March, 1820. The weather, therefore, would in all likelihood be unpropitious, and early in the last century roads were vile and walking difficult. This leads to the conclusion that Hathorn did not perform the journey on foot when he introduced Primitive Methodism into Manchester. The Rev. George Herod asserts that Hathorn was immensely popular among the early members of our Church, and in their zeal and affection they bought him a horse so that he might ride to his preaching appointments with ease and comfort. Be this as it may we have the outstanding fact that Eleazer Hathorn introduced Primitive Methodism into Manchester by preaching in the open air, at the New Cross, early in the spring of 1820. As Hathorn was very friendly with Hugh Bourne we are not surprised to find that the ruling spirit of the new Church was led to send a preacher to conduct regular services in Manchester.
At first the evangelists preached in the open air, but a loft over a stable in Brook Street, and a cottage at Bank Top, where London Road Station now stands, were secured as mission centres. Soon afterwards the famous “Long Room” over an Ancoats factory was rented, and here hundreds of people were converted. In July, 1820, Ann Brownsword, a female travelling preacher, was stationed in Manchester, and, like Sarah Kirkland in Hull, this woman preacher had amazing success.
In her journals there are many records of power and prosperity. “I preached at the New Cross to a large congregation, and had a powerful time. At night the Long Room in New Islington was crowded from end to end.” “Such a moving in the Long Room! Sinners were crying for mercy on every hand. Ten souls struggled into liberty.” “In the New Islington Room we had a sin-killing, soul-saving, spirit-quickening time. Ten souls were born again. Glory be to God.” In an incredibly short space of time there were five Primitive Methodist society classes and eighty members in Manchester. Hugh Bourne visited the city in August, 1820, and preached at the New Cross and in the Long Roorn ; and in 1821 he raised Manchester to the status of an independent circuit.
The famous John Verity was appointed to the station for six months. Under the date of June 17th, 1821, Verity says, “I preached at New Cross to a large congregation and at night spoke in the room at New Islington. The place was filled with Divine glory, and twelve professed to receive pardon.” Persecution broke out. For preaching in the open air it Samuel Waller was sent to prison. But it all fell out to the furtherance of the Gospel.
Other mission stations were opened, and in 1823 the people began to build the first chapel in Jersey Street. For many years this famous old chapel was the head of the Manchester Circuit. The shell of the old building still stands, but long ago it passed out of the hands of the denomination. We still, however, remain in the locality of Jersey Street and New Islington Chapel is now the head of the first circuit.
In the first generation of Manchester Primitive Methodism the outstanding ministers were John Verity, Thomas Sugden, Thomas Holloday, T. Butcher, T. King, S. Smith, J. Macpherson, James Garner, W. Towler, W. Antliff, J. Judson, J. Oscroft, and G. Stansfield. Among the prominent laymen we find Samuel and Ralph Waller, Stephen Longdin, Walton Smith, Joseph Nall, Thomas Hewitt, George Allcock, Jonathan Heywood, James Holden, Jonathan Ireland, Nathaniel Taylor, John Turner, Thomas Sharrock, Samuel Johnson, Barnabas Parker, Charles Malpas, Job Williams, and John Wainwright.
The Second Circuit in Manchester sprang out of a small mission started in a cottage in Oxford Road. From this cottage the members migrated to a large cellar, and then to a loft over a stable. After this a commodious room, which had been previously used as a place of worship by an independent mission, was acquired and opened by special sermons and a public lovefeast. Thomas Sugden who had been a travelling preacher, but who had settled down in Manchester as a confectioner, and whose name appears on the Deed Poll, was appointed to lead the lovefeast. Mighty power descended on the assembled people. In an ecstasy of devotion the congregation were singing, “We are going home to glory,” when the floor gave way and the people fell into the cellar below. One man was badly injured, many were sorely frightened, and all were of the opinion that they did not desire to go to glory in that way. The next removal was to a building in Ormond Street, which was vacated by the Wesleyans when they opened their large chapel in Oxford Road. From Ormond Street the congregation moved to a new chapel which was built in Rosamond Street; and in 1849 to 1850 Upper Moss Lane Chapel was erected. In this Circuit the Revs. C. Jackson, J. Graham, W. Rowe, J. Garner, J. Macpherson, T. Hindley, T.H. Hunt, and many other eminent ministers have laboured.
Judging from its surroundings some would conclude that Moss Lane would surely be a decadent church. It is however, one of the most vigorous centres of aggressive Christian work in modern primitive Methodism in Manchester, and this is mainly due to the fact that the officials have catered well for the young people. There are nearly a thousand scholars and teachers now in Moss Lane Sunday School.
The Manchester Third Circuit mainly grew out of the continuous open-air work done by Jonathan Ireland, the street preacher. He was one of the most successful home missionaries of his generation. When converts multiplied a mission room was taken in Dale Street, Salford. This was followed by chapels in King Street and Blackfriars Street. The beautiful new church in Higher Broughton is now the head of the Circuit.
The Fourth Circuit has had a marvellous history. In the early days of Primitive Methodism a mission was opened at Ashton Street, which was subsequently swept away to provide a site for London Road Railway Station. In this mission men like Thomas Hewitt, B. Parker, Wildin Taylor, J. Candelet, D. Morton, M. Teasdale, and T. Oldfield saw the pleasure of the Lord prosper in their hands.
The owner of the Ashton Street Room, a Mr. Chadwick, proved to be a great friend to our people. In his will he made provision that the property should be leased to the Connexion for 400 years, and he left a legacy of £130 for a new chapel “if a new chapel should ever be required by the Primitive Methodists of Manchester.” This legacy prompted the officials to arise and build. A site was secured in Ogden Street and in 1850 the foundation stones of the new chapel were laid. The Rev. David Tuton stood on one of the foundation stones and preached a remarkably powerful sermon from the text, “Upon this rock-will I build My Church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” The Ogden Street Chapel was opened on the last Sunday of 1850, when the morning service was taken by the Rev. W. Howcroft and Miss Buck preached afternoon and night. The splendid Gothic church, with schools and minister’s house; at Higher Ardwick, superseded Ogden Street. Seating accommodation is provided here for a thousand people, but the premises cost over £15,000, and when the church was opened in 1878 the debt remaining was more than £8,000. The late Rev. John Slater laboured strenuously to reduce this debt, and he was followed by other earnest workers, but the incumbrance has not yet been cleared away.
All the remaining Circuits in Manchester – and there are now eleven, with the probability of a twelfth being formed at the forthcoming Conference – have sprung from the four that have been indicated. The first circuit has been the mother of all, and in addition Oldham, Bolton, Bury, Rochdale, Stockport, Stalybridge, Middleton, Heywood, Walkden, Littleborough, and even the Isle of Man all trace back to the open air mission conducted at New Cross by “Eleazer with the wooden leg.”
In the eleven circuits of Manchester the trust property has cost £90,000. There are now in the city area thirty-nine churches, with 2,852 members, thirty-nine schools, 960 teachers, and 8,785 Sunday School scholars, and the declared adherents number about 9,000.
We have no space to deal with the Manchester College which owes so much to the Rev. James Travis and the late Rev. J. Macpherson; and which, owing to the munificent generosity of Mr. W.P. Hartley, J.P., is now one of the finest denominational colleges in the kingdom. Neither have we space to deal with the loyal and true men who are not only advancing Primitive Methodism, but who are working to make Manchester a clean city of God. As typical of many others, mention is merely made of W. Dales, W. Walmsley, T. Jones, Richard Meredith, Henry Beales, William Windsor, W.E. Parker, G.A. Genney, F. Gibbon, C.S. Parkin, J. Sutcliffe, Joshua Longden, W. Bentley, J. Royle, T. Partington, J. Gerrard, J.Hibbs, W. Hughes, and T. Jackson.
The doyen among the ministers is the Rev. J. Boulton, who was born at Barwell, Leicestershire, before Eleazer Hathorn preached at the New Cross. He has now entered upon his ninety-second year. For forty-nine years Mr. Boulton travelled in the Nottingham and Sunderland districts, and he has been preaching for seventy years. When he first came to Manchester he took charge of the mission at Levenshulme and did good service until blindness ended his public work. In his early years he was associated with Hugh Bourne, Carthy, Gilbert, Flesher, the Antliffs and others who have long since gone to the service of the Church in Heaven.
The men who laid the foundations of our Church in this city have long ago passed to their reward. “Your fathers, where are they? and the prophets, do they live for ever?” The fathers and founders are gone, but the ancient spirit is not dead. Our Church has done well, and if we only wield the Pentecostal power which made the pioneers of Primitive Methodism mighty in pulling down the strongholds of sin we shall leave behind us a far more glorious heritage than any of our fathers ever enjoyed.
Primitive Methodist Magazine 1906/548