Grantham Circuit, Lincolnshire
Includes an account of the imprisonment of John Wedgwood
Transcription of Article in the Christian Messenger by Rev H Peach
The history of this Circuit begins with the year 1817, when the holding of a famous Camp-lovefeast at “Priest Hill,” Ratcliffe-on-Trent, in the adjacent county of Nottingham, led to the call of John Wedgwood into that county. The above meeting awakened inquiry, curiosity and enthusiasm, and gave to John Benton more invitations by farcomers than he could accept by half; so John Wedgwood and others were called to assist.
By the middle of August Wedgwood was dragged down from the Market Cross of Grantham. That cross has since been removed, and now lies in a builder’s yard awaiting re-erection; but that eternal cross Wedgwood proclaimed is neither moved by the demolition of the material cross, nor obscured by the persecution of its preachers.
But before this date Wedgwood had evidently more than once visited Grantham. In the open space at the south end of Inner Street he preached, after which Mr. Bailey invited him to dinner, and this became his home on later visits: and the chair in which he was accustomed to sit has found an honoured place in the rostrum of our Commercial Road Church, giving us a sense of consecration as we often sit therein. Why the civic fathers forbade at the Market-cross what they permitted at the town end, may be due to the interest and excitement of the Inner Street service, and not improbably to ecclesiastical apprehension. But when Wedgwood was dragged from the Market-cross to the Guildhall he looked less like a misdemeanant than the constables who dragged him off, and evidently felt less like one, for he sang out of the heart of the swelling crowd:
“Wicked men I scorn to fear,
Though they persecute me here,”
and triumphantly finished the service. Arrived at the Guildhall, Wedgwood “had to sit in the prisoners’ chair with a man to guard him as though he had been a highwayman.” He took all in good heart, and knew the crowd surging at the door would put all Grantham into commotion, and further the spread of the Gospel. The magistrates soon decided his fate. He was committed for trial at the next quarter sessions, and detained in custody.
The news reached Mr. Lockwood at East Bridgford, who at once drove straight to Grantham. He began a service at the cross, but was soon stopped, and hurried before the magistrates. His mittimus would have made him Wedgwood’s fellow-prisoner, but not desiring prison-life, and having business to attend to, he entered into his own recognizances to appear at the next quarter sessions, but failed to persuade Wedgwood to do so.
As Wedgwood was the first Primitive Methodist to undergo imprisonment and was of that apostolic type who admonished magistrates, exhorted turn-keys, and prayed with fellow-prisoners, the whole Primitive Methodist community was deeply moved. At Tunstall, where he was well known, Thos. Woodnorth wrote on the event 170 lines in rhymed couplets in heroic metre. He writes of Grantham’s “belial throng ” and the doings of its “Grandees.” But sympathic Tunstall freed William Clowes to go to Grantham and learn how it fared with Wedgwood; and it enabled that “apostle of fire” to spread the revival. Meanwhile Wedgwood made himself as comfortable as possible.
Little Sammy Bailey, aged ten, who had sung him to the Guildhall, and Sammy’s sister, brought him his breakfast next morning. Well done, Sammy! Others offered more help than needed. Sarah Kirkland “found him happy in God.” After more than a fortnight, at the persuasion of Benton, and that he might help at Buckminster camp meeting, he gave the required bond and was liberated.
The story of Sir Wm. Manners attending this camp meeting, and driving Benton in his carriage to a stone pulpit erected on his own land near the Guildhall for our preachers, has lost its lustre, seeing it was but to irritate the Grantham burgesses who had rejected Sir William’s favourite parliamentary candidate. No wonder the stone pulpit perished, and the Grantham folk became suspicious of the aristocratic entanglement, and that a permanent cause was not yet established.
At the Quarter Sessions Lockwood and Wedgwood were found “Not guilty,” and the magistrates were “saddled” with the costs. Meetings were afterwards held at the cross without interference, and of Sunday, April 26th 1818, Hugh Bourne himself says, “I got to Grantham in Lincolnshire camp meeting. In the afternoon we stood upon the Market Cross, the place where John Wedgwood stood when he was taken up.”
But not till 1833 was a permanent cause established, though Nottingham Circuit in June, 1824, authorized its committee to send a missionary to Grantham. In December, 1825, Bro. Whitby is to spend ten pounds in fitting up a room. But in 1834 Bottesford was made a branch of Nottingham Circuit under Rev. A. Worsnop, and in April, 1835, he re-missioned Grantham, and after 21 weeks’ services at the cross the Old Granary at the “Blue Sheep” was secured at the corner of Harlaxton Road and Wharfe Road, since removed for the construction of the railway.
About this time Robert Parks began his mission work here, and to him and Worsnop Bottesford and Grantham owe much. The people said, “Parks “shoots the birds, and Worsnop comes along and picks them up, so that between them and the Lord they make a good bag.” By the close of 1835 Grantham had 70 members, one of the first being Samuel BaiIey – Breakfast Sammy – who visited Wedgwood 18 years before. On June 4th, 1837, a commodious chapel was opened in Commercial Road – since improved at a total cost of £2,772. In 1864 Grantham became independent of Bottesford, with Revs. R. Robinson and T.H. Richards as Ministers.
Broad Street Chapel was built in 1886, and contains a united church, but has not as yet fully answered sanguine expectations. Its site for a new church is a splendid one. Gt. Gonerby Chapel was built in 1873, and cost of £900; with a school opposite built in 1886 at a cost of £358. Gt. Ponton Chapel was built in 1858 and cost £125, Burton Coggles in 1870, cost £169, and was preceded by services held in Mr. Todd’s house. Gonerby Hill Foot Iron Chapel, erected 1905, cost £472. Somerby Chapel”, erected 1900; while Hougham services are held in a rented room with Mrs. Winter as stewardess.
The Circuit has had excellent ministers throughout, including :- Revs. W. Clayton, G.W. Turner, J.T. Neale, J.C. Antliff, S.F. Whitehead, T. Kent, W. Sharman, J.G. Smith, J. Thomason, W. Whitby, J.T. Parr, I.R. Barnsley, W.L. Spooner, N. Haigh, R. Bryant, T. McKenzie, W.T. Healey, and D. Mayes.
The present superintendent is Rev. H. Peach, LL.D.
Its eminent historic laymen include W. Neale, for many years “realected” (as the minutes say) Branch Steward, S. Bailey, F. Rick, S. Turner, J. Swinden, W. Gibson, J. Bailey, W. Bailey, J. Hoyes. J. Ashbourne, I. Shelford, Jas. Read and S. Stafford (sometime in the ministry).
Notable present officials are:- T. Tinsley, Senior Local; J. Johnson, Circuit Steward; T. Geeson, House Treasurer; and Messrs. R.W. Peet, G.H. Neale, W. Jackson, ]. Butler, and J.H. Hutchinson, Locals and Class Leaders; W. Ingledew, Treasurer; and Messrs. J.W. Allen, J.W. Bitten, G. Muxlon, W Russell and G. Howitt, Society Stewards ; and many other “coming ” though unmentioned men.
Abnormal mortality and removals have heavily smitten the Circuit in recent times, taking away many of its finest men and women. The town’s dependence upon one industry, which while world-famed for its excellent manufactures, yet affords no employment for young women, places it at a disadvantage. Notwithstanding, with a little more “go” and continuity, and a greater faith in our own church – in its high mission and destiny – there is no reason why Primitive Methodism in Grantham should not be a power to be reckoned with. We believe it will be.
Christian Messenger 1911/22