Ludlow Circuit, Shropshire
Transcription of Article in the Christian Messenger by Rev A.H. Kynaston
THE town of Ludlow in South Shropshire is rich in historic association. In its famous castle kings kept court, and here Milton wrote his Comus. In the great hall, the walls of which are still standing, the play was first staged. Writing of Ludlow, the author of “In the Marchland Border,” declares it to be the prettiest market town in England. The association of Primitive Methodism with Ludlow goes back to the early twenties of the nineteenth century. In 1821 or thereabouts, Missionaries from Darlaston visited Ludlow and neighbourhood. The late James Tristram (Deed Poll member), who died in 1900, at the age of ninety-one, was a member from the beginning, and a local preacher for seventy-three years. The circuit which was formed in 1821, was first called Hopton Bank, probably because Hopton Bank was nearly halfway between the extreme points of the circuit, Kidderminster on the one hand, and Presteign on the other. Hopton Bank itself is not even a village, but a scattered hamlet on the side of the Clee Hills, a thousand feet above sea level. After a few years Hopton Bank gave place to Ludlow as the head of the circuit. In 1826 the circuit had six travelling preachers, Richard Jukes, the poet, a native of the circuit, being one of them. In 1828 Presteign became a separate circuit, and in 1831 Kidderminster followed. A circuit plan for 1846 shows three travelling preachers and forty-five places where Sunday services were held. As the years passed, the process of division continued, so that to-day, besides the mother circuit, there are ten daughter circuits, viz., Presteign, Knighton, Kidderminster, Leominster, Leintwardine, Weoblay, Bromyard, Worcester, Church Stretton, and Craven Arms. The present Ludlow Circuit comprises sixteen societies with two travelling and thirty-two local preachers.
In the town of Ludlow we have two churches. The one in Old Street, erected in 1870, taking the place of one in the same street now used as a Gospel Hall. This church has seating accommodation for six hundred and fifty. Its original cost was £2,796, and it is debtless. Old Street Church has had its bright and its dark days. Few churches have been hit as hard by deaths and removals. Of a dozen families who were staunch supporters, scarcely a single representative remains. During the present war practically all her young men have been called to the colours. But the loyal remnant keep heart and hope and our witness counts in the life of the town. The present membership is sixty. Congregations are fair. Financially offerings were never better.
Sandpits in the East Hamlet was built in 1881, and seats some four hundred. There is also a good school-hall and classrooms. For years this was a prosperous church, but suffered through death and the migration of its members. During-the past two or three years most encouraging signs of advance have been shown, and its present Sunday and week evening congregations are among the best on the circuit. The membership is forty. Tenbury, ten miles away from Ludlow, and the home of the second preacher, is a pretty little Worcestershire town surrounded by hop yards and orchards. The old chapel, built in 1863, is now used as a schoolroom and People’s Hall. The present Chapel, built in 1894, is a pretty and commodious building, and the whole premises valued at £1,200 are free from debt. We have always had a loyal people here. Though our number have never been large, our influence has been felt in the town, and on its public bodies our officials have served with great credit to themselves and their Church. Cleobury Mortimer is a small town on the extreme Shropshire border. Primitive Methodism has never been strong, but the loyal few have done yeoman service.
On the Clee Hill there are four small churches. At Hopton Bank, the mother church, the old chapel was built in 1837; it is now used for school purposes. The new Chapel, built in 1881, is a well-designed building of brick, and will seat three hundred people. Time was when Hopton Bank was a powerful church, but most of the old standard-bearers are gone. The young have yielded to the lure of Birmingham and the Black Country. But a few stalwarts remain, good congregations gather, and we look to the future with faith. Knowbury Chapel dates back to 1836. Here again many losses have been suffered in recent years, but congregations are well sustained, and on the whole we do well. The little iron Church at Knowle was built in 1870. Membership is small, but congregations are wonderfully good. With more workers gracious results would assuredly follow. At Angel Bank a substantial little brick Church was built in 1880. Fair congregations gather for the services. Our urgent need is active workers. All the hill churches are freehold, and the debt on the four estates is less than £40. When the war is past and we can again employ a lay agent to live and work amongst these churches a rich harvest should be gathered. Wyson Chapel was built in 1837. It seats one hundred and fifty, is in splendid repair and debtless. The society is healthy; congregations good, and we look to the coming days with confidence. In the little village of Ashford Carbonell, We have a well-built church dating from 1878, a loyal people given to hospitality, and most encouraging congregations.
Middleton is a little wayside Chapel dating back to 1869. It is well-served by faithful workers, good companies assemble, and the future is full of promise.
At Richards Castle our people worship in a rented room, often filled to overflowing. With the passing of the war we hope to rise and build. The membership is small, but none more true. Given a suitable building, this little church has a great future. Oreleton Common, built in 1841, is a little church in a scattered neighbourhood. Its membership has been sadly depleted by death and removal, but the faithful few still hold on, and pray, and hope. Bircher Common, as its name implies, is built upon a common, a favourite haunt of pleasure-seekers in summer, but dreary and difficult of access in winter. Renovated, enlarged, and made freehold in 1899, during the last year or two, membership and congregations have increased, and the outlook is full of promise. The Bickley Chapel is a small wooden building, built on leasehold land in 1878. The neighbourhood is sparsely populated. Membership is small, but congregations are fair. We are mainly dependent upon one family, but they serve us with rare devotion. Hope, built in 1883, is another wayside Chapel, dependent largely upon the loyalty of two or three families. Situated at the extreme end of the circuit, its pulpit supply is often a difficulty, but on the whole good congregations gather and we give a needed witness. The circuit is a typical agricultural circuit. Congregations often have to travel long distances to worship. The preachers, both travelling and local, have many long and heavy journeys. Weather conditions affect congregations materially. The constant exodus of young people to the town and city makes the filling up of vacancies in membership a hard task. The preachers’ plan is a constant source of anxiety. Of thirty-two preachers on the plan, eight are over seventy years of age. On the other hand, our people are very loyal. Many of them are the children and grandchildren of Primitive Methodists, and with splendid traditions behind them, loving their own church passionately, and ever having an open door for ministers and local preachers.
Given a greater security of tenure for the farmer, and a living wage for the labourer, the future of the circuit should be well assured. In the past it has sent out of its best to strengthen the town churches. In the future when it can keep its own, the old time glories will be renewed, and the record of its palmy days excelled. It would be difficult to find a Circuit of its size where all the trust properties are in such a good state of repair. On property, the present value of which is £7,300, the present debt is only £140.
Deservedly proud of the men and women who served it in the past, families such as the Froggetts, Whitemans, Hintons, Southwards, Webbs, Hartlands, Tristrams, Williams, Potts, and Preeces, whose association with Primitive Methodism goes back to the days of the Darlington Missionaries, it has no occasion to be ashamed of those who now hold office and serve within its borders. Both the Circuit Stewards, Mr. William Jones. and Mr. Caleb Anthony, were cradled in Primitive Methodism, and have always been true to the church of their youth. They have given ungrudgingly of time and substance, and have found their highest joy in the service of their church. Mr. H.J. Nott, J.P., is a worthy son of the late Mr. James Nott of Leintwardine Circuit. Successful in business, filling important County and District offices, he is loyal to his church, and seldom absent from its services. Mr. T. Meredith, the steward of Ludlow, is a son of the manse. He serves his church with fine devotion, and is ever willing to give of his best. His co-steward, Mr. William Parker, is one of the working-men to whose persistent work our church owes so much, always in his place Sunday and week-day, and counting no task too great. Mr. C. H. Corbishley, for many years has filled the post of School Superintendent for Old Street. In bright and dark days he has plodded on, finding in the work his joy. Mr. John Evans of Ludlow, is the senior local preacher on the plan. For more than seventy years he has been a preacher, travelling long journeys, always acceptable. It is his proud boast that in all the years he never neglected an appointment. At ninety-two he still stands erect, and is one of the most regular in his attendance at the means of grace. It is often the preacher’s joy to see him and his good wife, who is also over ninety years of age in the Sunday morning congregation. Over sixty years they have lived together as husband and wife. Councillor William Tristram of Sandpits Church, and Mr. Thomas Tristram of Old Street, are both sons of the late Mr. James Tristram. From youthhood they have been local preachers, and have rendered yeoman service. Age and bodily infirmity incapacitates William, but he still takes on occasional service, and his interest in all that concerns the larger life of the Connexion is still as keen as ever. Thomas and his wife (also a preacher) are happily still able to take a full quota of work. Alderman Weale of Sandpit, the father of that church, and an ex-mayor of Ludlow, is one of the old type Primitive Methodists. In his younger days he rendered magnificent service as a preacher; gifted with a fine voice, he was in his element in open-air work. It was his joy to serve not only in his own, but in other circuits as special missioner with great success. Head of a large business, busy with civil offices, his own church has always had of his best. Weight of years hinders his former activities, but he still serves, still he preaches and fins in it a great joy. His son, Mr. John Weale, is a worthy son of a worthy sire. Mr. C.H. Potts, of Middleton, is one of the younger preachers, his father and his grandmother were preachers before him, and he and his brother worthily maintain the family tradition. Hospitable, generous, gifted, we anticipate for him many years of useful service. Space forbids more than the mention of names equally worthy; Mr. G. Brockway, of Tenbury; Mr. T. Parton, of Clerbury Mortimer; Mr. A. Leek, of Bircher Common; Mr. J. Williams, and J. Rowe, of Hope; Mr. H. Preece, of Hopton Bank; all good men and true.
The circuit has been fortunate in its ministers. Among the men who have served it are some whose names are of Connexional repute, Revs. Joseph Preston, James Huff, S. Tillotson, T. Parr, G. Bagley, W. Jones, C. Temperton, A. Smith, and W. Clulow are a few of the past superintendents.
The circuit has given several ministers to our church, among the number, Revs. John Tristram, James Tristram, E. Millichamp, and J. Biggs. The present minister who commenced his probation on the circuit and is thus on his second term is serving his fourth year. The Rev. J. E. Ogden, the second preacher, who came to the circuit last July, is serving with much acceptance.
Christian Messenger 1918/74