Nottingham - Primitive Methodism in the Conference City (2016)
Transcription of article published Primitive Methodist Magazine by Jacob Walton
THE Primitive Methodists of Nottingham rejoice in the opportunity of extending a hearty welcome to the delegates and representatives of the annual assembly. This is the sixth time the Conference has held its sessions in this famous lace centre of the Midlands, the previous visits being in the years 1826, 1848, 1850, 1870, and 1893. This year of grace 1916 is the Centenary year, and there is special pleasure that Primitive Methodists from the four quarters of the United Kingdom will be present to participate in the Centenary celebrations.
Under the blessing of God, the one hundred years have been years of steady progress, and to-day within the area of the six circuits there are 29 churches, 2,218 members, and 4,368 scholars. Through the years Nottingham has been the base from which neighbouring townships have been missioned, and in the earliest days it was the centre of spiritual energy that sent evangelists into Yorkshire and Lincolnshire. Hugh Bourne frequently made the town his headquarters, and here legislation was framed that remains in our Connexional life to this day. Circuit stewards, society stewards, leaders’ meetings, circuit committees, the Presbyterian form of church government, came into being from decisions arrived at in Nottingham.
A woman has the honour of being the first Primitive Methodist to enter Nottingham, On Christmas Day, 1815, accompanied by Robert Winfield, Sarah Kirkland entered the city. Her work gave birth to a mighty religious movement. Nottingham Forest was the scene of some soul-stirring camp meetings on a big scale. Conversion became the glorious commonplace.
Canaan Church is the direct outcome of this work of Sarah Kirkland. Not twenty yards from the scene of her labours this historic building stands, and through all the changes of one hundred years has preserved its identity. It has stood at the head of the great Nottingham First Circuit. It has been the mother of strong societies which to-day are grouped in separate circuits. To this day, for many members of the Church and for many who have removed from the city, “there is no place like Canaan.”
Probably it is true to say that Canaan Church continues its work only because of the sentiment of those who revere it. There is intense loyalty, and on this firm foundation a brave witness for Christ is made. The congregation is drawn from Primitive Methodist families residing in all parts of the city. Geographically the church stands on the edge of a moral desert. The Marshes district is notorious, and the question is: Should Primitive Methodism seek to transform the wilderness into a garden? Those who understand the situation say it should be attempted, on the ground that no church in Nottingham can do it better than Canaan Church. And certainly a finer suite of premises could not be desired. A noble building, spacious school premises—a fine framework for a great forward movement.
As this is the Centenary Year the officials have decided upon a great Centenary effort to reduce the debt by £800. This reveals courage and initiative, and the workers deserve success. Under the leadership of the present minister, Rev. Alfred Parkin, whose humanness and bonhomie are a helpful asset, a new tone has entered the life of the church, and optimism prevails. The Rev. James Flanagan, an old minister of Canaan, though now a supernumerary, is able to give most valuable assistance. The name of Mr. Flanagan in Nottingham is as ointment poured forth. No man in the city is held in higher honour than our friend. His soul-stirring evangelism in the Narrow Marshes and at the Albert Hall. in the eighties have left an indelible mark upon the religious life of the city. In the First Circuit are vigorous causes at Netherfield, Radcliffe-on-Trent and Gotham, which has the distinction of a week-night congregation of from seventy to eighty people. The names of Barnes and Allcock will long be remembered in Canaan Church for fine service in the past, and C. Ashmore still remains as an old earnest worker.
For a period of thirty years there was only one circuit in the city, but the workers were bold and unceasing in their labours. Aggression was the watchword of the day. Two town missions in the years 1836 and 1838 were very fruitful; and when the Wesleyans decided to vacate Hockley Chapel in 1839, it was purchased by the Connexion. In 1846 Hockley became the head of the Second Circuit. Rapid progress was made by the new circuit. It covered ground now occupied by Nottingham Third, Fifth, Sixth Circuits, Hucknall Torkard Circuit, and parts of Long Eaton Circuit.
During the last thirty years the principal hindrance to the work of the Hockley Society has been the heavy burden of debt. This has harassed the workers beyond measure. At one time there was a serious proposal to sell out, but the workers are reluctant to let go their hold on a piece of property that is rich in historic associations, and even though the conditions of work are those of a “down-town” church, there is the feeling that much can be done in the locality despite the difficulties of the situation. Rev. George Baldwin, the present minister, is bravely and ably handling the difficult situation. The Forster Street Church in this circuit has a fine site for a new church on the Radford Boulevard, and behind the site are fine schools which are worth £2,000. There has been splendid energy, and the way has now been cleared towards a scheme for church erection. It is hoped the near future will witness a realisation of the prayers of an energetic body of workers.
The year 1877 saw the formation of the Third Circuit with Forest Road Church at the head. Probably the dimensions of the Second Circuit led to the division. The membership of the new circuit was four hundred and thirty-two. In twenty-four years this had increased to seven hundred and seventy-nine. In 1901 it was considered the time had come for a further division. Hucknall Torkard became the head of a new circuit, and Hartley Road, Stapleford and Sandiacre are now parts of the Long Eaton Circuit. Great energy has characterised the labours of this circuit, and within its area during the last thirty-nine years the membership has doubled. Since 1877 new churches and schools have been built at New Basford, Hartley Road, Hucknall Torkard, Stapleford, Old Basford, Selhurst Street, Sandiacre, and Gladstone Street at a cost of £16,500. A very promising centre of work is the Gladstone Street cause. A school chapel built in 1908 serves at present in a great artisan population. It is hoped that circumstances will permit an early completion of the scheme by the erection of a church building. Forest Road is up to date and virile. Throughout the circuit there are manifest signs of spiritual quickening and pleasing financial progress. The Rev. Christopher Tinn is travelling a second term, and his past knowledge of the circuit is an important asset. He has also the valued assistance of the Rev. J.W. Lisle, supernumerary.
In 1883, six years later than the formation of the Third Circuit, Nottingham Fourth was formed under the superintendency of the Rev. S.S. Henshaw. A strong progressive element in the First Circuit saw the need of seizing the unique opportunity afforded by the very rapidly growing artisan district called the Meadows. A school-chapel already in existence was too small for the congregations. After a protracted series of discussions on the subject it was decided to build Mayfield Grove Church. The new church was soon crowded to overflowing, and as the population continued to spread towards the Trent, Radcliffe Street Church was built in 1887. Here a splendid work has been done, especially among the young people. Mayfield Grove Church is a commodious building accommodating eight hundred and fifty. The officials take a deep interest and practical part in the civic and social life of the city. The tone of the services is evangelistic, and there is an up-to-date spirit in the Sunday school. The grading system has been adopted with gratifying results. This church is under the energetic direction of the Rev. J.M. Gunson. Ruddington possesses a fine block of buildings valued at £2,580, and only £450 remains as debt. East Bridgford has fine traditions, and is the home of the Richardsons—sturdy Non-conformists of a good intellectual type. The West Bridgford cause, an infant society three years old, is already lusty, and promises to be of great strength and influence. The prophecy is that it will become one of the finest P.M. churches in Nottingham. The membership is already eighty. A first-class site has been purchased and paid for at a cost of £475. In the whole of the circuit there is a hopeful tone and a fine spiritual life. There is a strong circuit spirit; the possibilities of the future are great and, with wise and courageous leadership, it is felt much will be accomplished at the end of the War. The Rev. T.H. Kedward is the present superintendent minister, and it is due to his fine initiative that Primitive Methodism will soon have’a first-class cause in West Bridgford.
Nottingham Fifth Circuit has shown energy and resourcefulness during the last nineteen years. Mr. G.B. Gooch, Mrs. Gooch, Mr. Elijah White, Mr. Singleton and Mr. Richardson were deputed by the Hockley Society to hire Blue Bell Hill Board Schools. In two years they gathered together three hundred and fifty scholars, twenty-five teachers, and fifty members. The year 1889 saw the erection of Blue Bell Hill Chapel during the ministry of the Rev. T. Grainger. The cost was £5,000. The progress of the work in the circuit has been continuous, the membership has steadily grown, and though there has been a transference of two hundred and eighty members to Nottingham Sixth Circuit, and an inclusion of ninety-two members by the incorporation of Hartley Road Society, it stands to-day at two hundred and ninety-seven, which is a most satisfactory total. The circuit possesses good property at Calverton on the best site in the village. Hartley Road Society worships in a beautiful sanctuary, and for the children there is a spacious schoolroom with a good suite of class-rooms.
Amongst the loyal and faithful workers at Blue Bell Hill may be mentioned Mr. H. Clarke, Mr. R. Boot, Mr. E. White, Mrs. Gooch, Mr. H. Rogers, Mr. T. Parker and Mr. J.W. Bradbury. But this cause is labouring under serious difficulties. Assistance has had to be forthcoming from the District Building Committee and the General Committee. The debt has been too big for the local society. Fortunately Connexional institutions are stepping in, and a scheme has been prepared for the raising of £1,500. The General Chapel Fund has promised £275, the Insurance Company £200, Sir William Hartley has kindly promised ten per cent. up to £900, and there is a similar generous promise of ten per cent. from the late Alderman Hinton; altogether £685 are promised. The completion of the scheme will be the financial redemption of Blue Bell Hill. The circuit is under the capable direction of the Rev. W.H. Wright, superintendent minister.
The Sixth Circuit is the latest born of the Nottingham circuits. It has only had two years of existence as a circuit, but Bulwell, the head of the circuit, was entered by Sarah Kirkland in 1816, and from that day a Primitive Methodist society has continued to flourish. To-day there is a loyal membership; the Sunday evening congregations average five hundred people. Altogether Bulwell Society is one of the most vigorous churches in Nottingham. The Rev. J. Prince is exercising a useful and helpful ministry here.
Primitive Methodism makes its contribution to the civic life of the city. Alderman Wm. Ward and Councillors T. Barlow and H. Offiler are capable and worthy representatives. Mr. Lewis Spencer, J.P. was made a magistrate two years ago; he is the treasurer to the Notts Miners’ Association. If space permitted, a warm tribute of praise could be given to the fine loyalty of the officials of the respective circuits.
Primitive Methodist Magazine 1916/572