Grimsby First Circuit, Lincolnshire
Transcription of Article in the Christian Messenger by Arthur Jubb
During Primitive Methodism’s earliest years, some wandering evangelist preached in Grimsby. He was a Primitive Methodist, but where he came from, or who he was, no one certainly knows. One thing is certain – that Thomas King, appointed to Market Rasen Circuit, and hearing of Grimsby, bent his steps thitherward. On October 31st, 1819, he stood on a wheelbarrow and preached, thus and then laying the foundation of Primitive Methodism in the town. The grandmother of Rev. George Shaw was present at that service. Mrs. Shaw and other members of the family are members in the circuit to-day. In the afternoon another open-air service. Was held. William Holt – a well-known farmer of Old Clee – was present, and afterwards took the missionary to his home, where for many years all Primitive Methodist preachers were sure of a welcome. Mrs. J.H. Robinson, William Holt’s granddaughter, is in membership with us, so we have at least two links with that memorable day in 1819.
Three days after a society of eight members was formed. For a time they held services in a stable, then they rented a warehouse, by the side of a short road that leads to the old river clock. The nickname of “ Ranter‘s Wharf ” is perpetuated to this day, that being now the official name of the thoroughfare. Less than three years ago, one who went when a little boy told me that the children attending the services in the old warehouse had to sit upon the floor. In 1839, an old chapel – originally built for the use of some Calvinists – was bought, and here much splendid work was done. Of the noble women of those days, two names are still fragrant, Mary Emerson and Sarah (“Sally”) Moody. There still lives one woman, Mrs. T. Campbell, now nearly ninety-five years of age, who was a member in the forties. She tells of quaint and striking incidents. One Sunday evening, an anxious mother prayed for her son. Her prayer revealed the limitations of her vocabulary. For this is what she prayed: “Oh, Lord, save our Jack! He’s a bad lad, but Thou canst save him. Lord, make his heart as soft as a boiled turnip.” Many things said and done were as unconventional as this, but a spirit of zeal possessed the people, and Primitive Methodism became a growing force in the town and district.
In 1821, Grimsby became the head of a circuit. In later years, Grimsby Second, Grimsby Third, Tetney and Cleethorpes Circuits have been made from the original Grimsby Station. It was in 1859, during the superintendency of Hugh Campbell, that the present Victoria Street Chapel was built. For many a year the society here was strong and influential. The church was diminished in numbers when Hainton Avenue Chapel was erected, and still more so when Flottergate Church was built. But to stalwarts like Alfred Robinson, now at the head of the list of local preachers; to John W. Emerson, for many years Trust treasurer and Society steward, and one of the finest Christians that ever lived; to John H. Doughty, zealous and consecrated and called home in his thirty-fourth year, the church owes an incalculable debt. The office of steward is now filled by John W. Emerson, the younger, with Arthur Watson as co-steward. Messrs. H. Whiting and ]. Barker serve the trust as secretary and treasurer. Mr. Collins conducts the Band of Hope, and Messrs. C.W. Overton and A. Norton are superintendents, and F.H. Doughty secretary of the Sunday School. Mr. and Mrs. Grey devote themselves with unflagging zeal to the Junior C.E. Rev. N.M. Cuthbert is in his third year as minister – having pastoral charge and oversight – and though the mother church is beset with difficulties, there are some stalwarts left, who are rendering splendid service.
During the ministry of Rev. Robert Harrison, Flottergate Church and Schools were built at a cost of £5,000 To-day the same buildings would cost probably £8,000 or more. The church will comfortably seat over 1,000 people, and is one of the finest churches in Primitive Methodism. The superintendent minister has had pastoral and financial oversight of this church since its erection, and splendid service has been rendered by R. Harrison, J. Wood, D.D., J.P. Bellingham, H.G. Button, J.P. Langham, W. Jones Davies and J. Bradbury.
There have been many devoted laymen amongst them Henry Smethurst, G.S. Dobson, W. Mudd, Joseph Robinson, George Shankster and J.C. Wright. For years it has had the largest Free Church congregation in Grimsby, and at one time it was said that a Town Council meeting could be constituted out of the congregation – so many aldermen and councillors being in it. To-day we have three magistrates connected with the church; Mr. H.E. Knott, who for many years served the church as Trust secretary; Mr. T.R. Watkinson, one of the most popular preachers in the town and district, and Councillor Joseph Barker, who has been for many years a superintendent of the Sunday school. His colleague in the school is Mr. J.W. Willows, who has just served a term of years as Circuit steward, and is now co-steward with Mr. Fred Archer, who is also one of our chief workers in the C. E. and Young People’s Institute. Mr. J.R. Plaskett and Mr. S. Lindup – both generous and devoted – are the Society‘ stewards, and Mr. J.W. Stothard is a most effective President of the Band of Hope. Messrs. T. Hicks and J.T. Kime are Trust treasurer and secretary. The church has a number of noble women, one of whom – Mrs. C. Thompson – has been President of a Women’s meeting for eleven years, and has won much influence in the town by her devotion and gifts as a speaker. The church sends £66 a quarter to the Quarterly Meeting, and has a magnificent position and splendid prospects. Rev. T. Storr, now superannuated, is associated with the church, and renders good service to the circuit.
To Mr. John Barker, who was a bank manager and an official at Flottergate, belongs the honour of founding Lord Street Mission. To his son – Charles William Barker – who died four years ago, the mission owes a debt that is incalculable. He was the incarnation of sanctified common sense, and was a leader and an inspiration in every department of work. Six times the premises have been extended, and in 1910 there was built a splendid primary schoolroom, that will easily accommodate 150 persons. The work grows and prospers. The first Class leader, Mr. George Young, is still with us, and in the class is assisted by his son Benjamin, who is also steward, along with Mr. F. Dent. Mr. A. Scoffin is mission treasurer and school superintendent, and Mr. W.B. Mason is organist, choirmaster, trust secretary and superintendent of the primary department. There is a membership of nearly 150, and a Sunday evening congregation of over 300. This mission is under the pastoral care of Rev. R.W. Callin, who also oversees the new mission at Stortford Street. Here we have a magnificent site and a big schoolroom. Rev. R.F. Wearmouth spent his four years of probation in charge of this cause. Messrs. W. Waddingham and W. Clark were taken from Flottergate to be Society steward and Class leader. Both men have rendered generous and unstinted service, and Mr. W.B. Bailey now serves as secretary and steward. The need of more rooms here is keenly felt, but in coming years there will probably be found here a big church and a strong society.
Four villages are in the Circuit. Habrough, eight miles out, is not so flourishing as once it was, but in Messrs. E. Rhodes, W. Clark, C. Bell, and G. Dales, it has four pillars who have borne the burdens for many years. Thirty-six years ago a lad named John Wm. Robinson was converted here. Shortly afterwards he removed to Grimsby, and for many years has been one of the most influential preachers of the Circuit. Others have gone to strengthen our Churches in Leeds, Fleetwood, Hull, and other parts.
Scartho is a village two miles from Grimsby. Thirty-five years ago we had a strong cause here, but it has strangely fluctuated since. For years everything depended upon one woman – Mrs. Capes – and she proved herself a host. We have a good chapel and schoolroom. Mr. Waltham is steward, and we at present have ten members.
At Great Coates we worship in a galvanised iron building on rented ground, and have a healthy society. Mr. Jesse Wardle and Mr. Martin Bacon are the stewards, and Mr. T. Collingwood is Class leader. The Wesleyans are forbidden by a clause in their lease to hold a Sunday school on their premises, so the two societies unite in the school work, which is carried on in our chapel.
Healing is practically a garden village, three miles from Grimsby. For several years we worshipped in a disused carpenter’s shop. Then in 1899 a good chapel was built, and mainly through the efforts of Alderman J.C. Wright, then Circuit steward, the whole cost (£670) was raised. In 1910, new school premises were added, on which the present debt is £260. For years Mr. John Laceby was steward, treasurer, and school superintendent. Then, in a time of difficulty, Mr. Hy. Chapman filled the same positions, his son being organist at all services. Since he removed, J. Epton, R.W. Walsham, and J. Kemp have served as stewards, W.R. Noctonas treasurer, with Mr. T. Clark as secretary. Before this church there is a great future, and its premises are very complete.
In town and village, manifold service has been rendered for many years by the Walsham family. Honoured and full of years, William Walsham and his wife are with us. Five sons and three daughters are in membership in the Circuit. Two are local preachers, four fill the office of Class leader, one is Society steward, another is secretary of Flottergate school, and the youngest son is organist and choirmaster of Victoria Street Church.
The Circuit has had an honourable history, and has been served by some of the most devoted ministers in our church. Parkinson Milson served in three terms a total of eight years, two terms of two years each being on the original circuit. To Joseph Wood, D.D., belongs the honour of having been superintendent for seven years, more years than any other, John Bradbury being second with six years. The present writer completes his second term in July this year, and will have had nine years on the station, being more years than have fallen to the lot of any other minister. If the devotion of the ministers and members be equal in coming years to the devotion of the past, Grimsby First will have a successful and shining future.
Christian Messenger 1914/55