Lincoln (Portland Place) Circuit

Lincoln Portland Place Primitive Methodist chapel 1874
Christian Messenger 1906/107
Lincoln Portland Place Primitive Methodist chapel 1905
Christian Messenger 1906/107

Transcription of Article in the Christian Messenger

It is not a very pleasant sight to witness the demolishing of the home in which one has been reared. There is certainly a touch of pathos in the scene. One does not let go the things of the past – the removing of the old landmarks – without feelings akin to regret.

Who can view with composure the pulling down of the cottage in which one was first ushered into this world? It is enough to move almost the hardest to tears. This is even more true in regard to the building in which one has received spiritual birth, and the first impressions of life which are the most lasting and abiding. However, in this age of enterprise, we cannot stand still. We must move with the times, or we shall be moved by them.

This is the experience of the Lincoln First Circuit in regard to their head church (Portland Place), the foundation stones of which were laid in the year 1874.

Since that date Lincoln has made rapid strides – its manufactures have developed until they are known in far distant lands; its population has increased by leaps and bounds – and consequently the services of electrical trams have been requisitioned, which has necessitated the widening of roads, and this has resulted in the sale of the present building and site in order that the required alterations might be made.

The history of Primitive Methodism in Lincoln extends over three-quarters of a century. The first chapel or room in the city occupied by the Church was erected in 1819 in Mint Lane (so named because of the Mint there situate), though the building was known as Hungate Chapel. In 1823 there were no less than six preachers on the stations for Lincoln Circuit, which covered a wide area. Shortly afterwards the boundaries of the Circuit were reduced, but in the first period of its history many of the Connexion’s leading ministers laboured in it. In 1833 the membership of the Lincoln Church totalled only fifteen and three on trial, and the quarterly income for the Church was the modest sum of £1 10s. 7½d. Progress, however, had been made when the first Portland Place Church was built. For a number of years the cause remained stationary in the city, and the Circuit generally was in a depressed state. Then things revived, and in 1854 Portland Place Chapel was enlarged, a piece of land being bought from a Mr. Bunyan, said to be the lineal, if not the last, descendant of John Bunyan. In 1874, the chapel was entirely rebuilt. Primitive Methodism to-day is well represented in Lincoln, our Connexion having no less than seven places of worship. There are two Circuits, the first (with which our article deals) extending about thirteen miles in a southerly direction, and comprising thirteen places, with a membership of upwards of 700, of which close upon 300 are attached to Portland Place.

In the schools there are 1,292 scholars, and 227 teachers. The chapels are valued at £17,335, the total number of sittings is 2,816 and the number attending the principal services 2,015.

The work is carried on by Revs. J. Keightley, J. W. Grayson, and W.B.W. Bilbrough, who are ably assisted by a noble body of local preachers, also earnest mission band workers. The office of Circuit Steward is ably filled by Mr. T. Clark, who has satisfactorily carried out the duties for a great number of years, his assistant being Coun. C.T. Parker, who is also Society Steward.

The School Superintendents are Mr. W. Bell, Mr. J.C. Timson, and Coun. C.T. Parker; the first-named, however, after having done yeoman service has found it necessary to retire from active work owing to the weight of years. Mr. Bell and Mr. Timson have both filled the office of President of the local Sunday School Union.

The school is in a robust and flourishing condition with close upon 100 teachers and upwards of 400 scholars. The teachers take their duties alternate Sundays, and many obtain certificates for not losing a minute throughout the year, while several have received the long service medal given by the proprietors of the Sunday Companion.

In connection with the Sunday school there is a Band of Hope for the juniors, a Temperance Society for adults, an Orchestral Society, and, with the view of retaining the elder scholars and acting as a link between the school and the Church, an Institute has been inaugurated.

There are also C.E. Societies, as well as a branch of the Bible and Prayer Union.

A word anent the choir. The Rev. F.B. Meyer, B.A., says: “Which is the most important person in the Church. I will not dispute. Without doubt, if I were to say the minister, you, my friends, would find serious fault, for what is the minister without choir and organist, or what is the Church without an organ ?

The singing at Portland Place has been noted for its congregational character, and the Choirmaster (Mr. W. Pearson) has carried out his duties in an unostentatious manner for a period of over forty years.

Another veteran connected with the choir is Mr. A. Birkbeck, whose tunes, “Sunbeam,” “Monks Abbey,” &c., have been heartily taken up by the congregation. For many years prior to the adoption of the present Hymnal, he kept all the manuscript books in order, which entailed a vast amount of labour. “Sacred Rest” (635), “Christian Submission” (659), as well as other tunes in the Hymnal are from the pen of his brother.

It would only be fitting to mention that one of the chief builders of Primitive Methodism in this ancient city was the late Joseph Broadberry, ].P., the ?rst working man raised to the magisterial bench in the city. He was an ardent worker in the cause he loved so well for close upon half a century, ’

A tablet in the church shows the appreciation at the Ladies‘ Sewing Committee in regard to his “unwearied labours for her several institutions, having so enshrined himself in affections of her officers and members.”

He laid one of the foundation stones in 1874 on behalf of himself and the Sunday school. He was chairman of the Hospital Saturday Working-men’s Committee, and took a leading part in everything for the uplifting and well-being of his fellow men.

His widow, who survives him, for many years, along with Mrs. W. Bell, was teacher of the Senior Class of young women. lf
“ To live in hearts we leave behind
Is not to die,”
then Mr. Broadberry still lives in a very positive manner.

The site of the new church is in the main street of the city opposite the Unitarian

Chapel, and not far distant from a Norman building, John O’ Gaunt’s Stables, as it is erroneously called, and which is mentioned by Leland, as “a faire guildhall, ’longing to St. Ann’s Church.”

Outside one of its windows, Lord Hussey was beheaded, in the reign of Henry VIII., for taking part in a rebellion, in which several other Catholic noblemen joined, with a view of impeding—if they could not undo—the work of the Reformation.

Within a stone’s throw is St. Peter at Gowt‘s Church, which place gained considerable notoriety a few years ago in connection with the charge of ritualistic practices made against the present Bishop of Lincoln.

The ceremony of laying the memorial stones of the new church took place on Wednesday, May 24th, 1905, the first stone being laid by the member of Parliament for the city (Mr. C.H. Seeley), who was presented with a mallet, suitably inscribed, by the city Sheriff (Mr. F. Stephenson, an old scholar and worker of Portland Place). In the evening a public meeting was held, presided over by the Liberal candidate (Mr. C.H. Roberts, M.A., J.P., since returned as M.P.), when rousing addresses were delivered by Rev. A.T. Guttery, Dr. Pigott, and other Free Church ministers. The total proceeds of the day came to £953, which, with the £8,000 received for the present building, leaves a debt of about £5,000 on the new building.

The distinguishing feature of the church now being erected will be a dome tower 100 feet in height, giving the church a stately appearance which does not often enough attach to Nonconformist places of worship. It will be built of Ancaster stone-coins, ?lled in with red sandstone. The capacity of the church can be gathered from the seating accommodation which will be for 900 to 1.000 worshippers. The front of the building will face High Street, with five windows in the front, with key stones, and between the three centre ones will be ornamentation in the shape of circular columns of Ancaster stone. The entrances from the front of the church will number five, and will include an open porch. The gallery inside will go all round the building, supported by iron pillars, and it will be reached by stone staircases at each corner of the church. The choir will be accommodated in a position facing the pulpit, with the organ and chamber at the rear. The schools, &c., will be situated behind the church. On the ground floor there will be a room forty-eight feet by twenty-seven feet, which it is proposed to make into divisions for a lecture room, infants’ room, ladies room, kitchen, &c. Over this room will be another of similar size, suitable for meetings.  Here a platform will be erected, and it will be reached by a stone staircase. The minister’s and other vestries will be placed underneath the gallery on the ground floor, while in the basement there will be provision for heating apparatus, &c.

An article dealing with Lincoln would not be complete without some slight reference to the historical associations of which few English counties have more. Britons, Romans, Saxons, Danes, and Normans have all left traces of their occupation of it, and the tide of battle has swept over it at critical periods in the nation’s history.

One writer says: “Boston, the capital of the Fenland, has given its name to the ‘hub of the universe’ on the other side of the Atlantic, John Robinson, the leader Mayflower expedition, according to tradition was born at Lincoln. He certainly preached at Gainsboro’, whence he fled to Holland to escape persecution. Thence he sailed to found the United States. Bolingbroke, on the borders of the Fenland, has given its name to a line of English kings. But far greater men than any English kings – men who became rulers in the empire of thought —were natives of Lincolnshire.

Isaac Newton, John Wesley, and Alfred Tennyson were Lincolnshire men born and bred. Charles Darwin also came of a Lincoln family. Sir John Franklin, too, hailed from this historic county, and some of his brave crew who perished with him on his final voyage to the Arctic seas were also Lincolnshire men.

Thomas Cooper, one of the leading Chartists, was also born at Gainsboro’, and the Baptists have erected a chapel to his memory in Lincoln. For a long time he lived in close proximity to our Portland Place Church.

Regarding Lincoln and its Cathedral, John Ruskin wrote: “ I have always held, and am prepared against all comers to maintain, that that the Cathedral of Lincoln is out-and the out most precious piece of architecture in the British Islands, and roughly speaking, worth any other two Cathedrals we have got; secondly, that the town of Lincoln is a lovely old English town, and I hope the Mayor and Common councilmen won’t let any of (not so much as a house corner) be pulled down to build an institution, or a market, or a penitentiary, or a gunpowder and dynamite mill, or a college, or a gaol, or a barracks, or any other modern luxury.”

Among the Bishops who have presided over the See of Lincoln may be mentioned the celebrated Cardinal Beaufort; Richard Fleming, founder of Lincoln College, Oxford; Thomas Wolsey, founder of Christ Church in Oxford; John Williams the sturdy opponent of Archbishop Laud; John Kaye, previously master of Christ’s College, Cambridge, and Bishop of Bristol;  John Jackson, afterwards Bishop of London; and Christopher Wordsworth, previously master Harrow School and Canon of Westminster.

Among the many other places of interest are the ruins of the Episcopal Palace, in which many of our kings were sumptuously feasted by the prelates, where Bishop Longland entertained Henry VIII. and his ill-fated bride, Katherine Howard, in 1541, and James I. dined with Bishop Neale in 1617; the Castle ; the Jew’s House, a fine specimen of early Norman domestic architecture. Its doorway and one of its windows are surmounted by semi—circular arches, the moulding of which has caused it to be attributed to Saxon days. The house is said to have obtained its name from the fact that one of its tenants, in the reign of Edward I., a Jewess, named Beleset de Wallingford, was hanged for coin clipping; the Stonebow or Guildhall, the lower portion of which it is thought was erected about the time of Richard II. ; the Newport Arch, which was described by Dr. Stokely as ‘ ‘the noblest remnant of this sort in Britain, as far as I know.”

It is exceedingly cheering to find in such an ancient city where ecclesiasticism has so long held sway that Nonconformity has obtained so firm a foothold. This is to be accounted for in a great measure by the noble men who have occupied the pulpit from year to year, which have included such as the now sainted Revs. J. Timmins, G.R.D. Austin, J. Hadfield, W. Alton, and T. Pigott, as well as Revs. J. Wenn, I.J. Hardy, F. E. Heape, G. Ford, W. Jones, T. Mackenzie and Dr. Pigott.

We hope, under the more up-to-date conditions and better accommodation for carrying on the work, a new era may be entered upon which will stand out conspicuously in the history of our Connexion. TOM S. BALL.

P.S.—Since writing the above, Mr. Thos. Clark (Circuit Steward) at the ripe age of 75 years, has been called to the higher service. Coun. C. T. Parker, who has ‘done valuable work as Junior, takes his place, while Mr, P. Horton (an ex-member of the Corporation, also President of the Sunday School Union) has been appointed Assistant. T.S.B.


Christian Messenger 1906/107


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