North Cave Circuit, Yorkshire
Transcription of an Article in the Christian Messenger by John Spensley
NORTH CAVE can hardly be regarded as a town. And yet it is the head of one of the most compact and comfortable country circuits in the Hull district; a circuit comprising twelve places all within a radius of six miles, some being only one, two, and three miles away. It nestles in the centre of scenery the most beautiful and magnificent in the East Riding of Yorkshire, with the ever-rolling Humber on one side, and the towering wolds on the other. The town itself – I beg pardon, the village – is some twelve or thirteen miles from Hull, and until recent years was the scene of great quietude and purely agricultural operations, with all the advantages of a pure and bracing atmosphere from Humber and hill. Recent railway extensions, however, have greatly changed the whole aspect of things. Where once the only sounds to be heard were the whistling of the ploughboys, the singing of the lark, the cooing of the dove, and the song of meandering streams, may now be heard the rattle of machinery, the rumble of rolling-stock, and the puff, puff, puff of the onward-rushing locomotive.
Primitive Methodism was first introduced into this part of Yorkshire early in the Connexion’s history, William Clowes being the first to mission the whole of this neighbourhood shortly after he entered Hull. Indeed, the first Primitive Methodist chapel in the East Riding of Yorkshire, it is said, was built at North Cave, in the year 1819, and was opened by Mr. Clowes himself. Old West-street chapel, Hull, was built in the same year, but was opened after the one at North Cave. When looking for a suitable site at the latter place, Johnny Oxtoby was present, and coming to the place where the old chapel now stands, Johnny threw up his arms, and shouting with all his might, said, ‘Praise the Lord, this is the place where God intends His Ark to rest.’ And he was right. How he knew is not for us to say. But it is well known that Johnny was a man of great faith and much prayer, and God had no doubt revealed this thing to him, as He had previously revealed to him many other things. Johnny Oxtoby walked and talked with God as few men do now-a-days, and often and again proved the truthfulness of that scripture which says, ‘The secret of the Lord is with them that fear Him, and He will shew them His covenant.’
The site of land thus fixed upon belonged to a Mr. Simpson, grocer and draper in the village, whose daughter afterwards became the first wife of the late Henry Hodge, Esq, of Hull. The word preached by Mr. Clowes led to Mr. Simpson’s conversion, who at once opened his house to the preachers, and made them a home to the end of his days, leaving instructions also with his son, that it was to be the preachers’ home as long as a Simpson remained in the village. He also handed down to his son the old arm-chair in which Clowes used to sit, and by which he always knelt to pray at the family altar. Shortly after his conversion Mr. Simpson built the chapel at his own expense, and allowed our people to worship in it for many years at a nominal rent. In a very short time it became the birth-place of scores of precious souls; and some of the most useful local preachers in Hull and other parts of the Connexion to-day, were brought to the Saviour here.
The revival broke out almost immediately after the chapel was opened, and spread with amazing rapidity to other places visited by Mr. Clowes. Soon societies were formed in most of the surrounding villages, and in due course suitable chapels were erected. At Elloughton, avillage of considerable size, and about five miles from North Cave, a marvellous work of grace was experienced, and several remarkable incidents occurred, one of which is certainly worth recording here. While Johnny Oxtoby and a Mr. Nicholson were conducting an open-air service in a gravel-pit, just outside the village, the power of God fell on the people in all directions, and the cry for mercy was heard on all hands and sides, many there and then finding peace with God through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. One man fell suddenly to the ground as if he had been shot, whilst Nicholson was preaching, and was in great distress of soul. ‘Hold him up,’ said Nicholson to Johnny, ‘and let me have another shot at him.’ ‘Nay,’ said Oxtoby, ‘he’s dead enough, tha need’nt give him another barrel.’ In a few moments, however, the man stepped into glorious liberty, and jumping to his feet shouted, ‘Praise the Lord, He has saved my soul.’
All the chapels built in this circuit in the first instance were comparatively small ones, and not very costly, which, in our judgment, was a wise policy to pursue. In most cases, however, these have been replaced by larger and more commodious ones. In some instances it was difficult to secure suitable sites, and for many years our people had to worship in cottages and rented rooms, and make the best of it. The opposition to dissent and dissenters was very strong in certain quarters, and some of our people suffered great inconvenience and loss through persecution. Sooner than give up their religious principles, and throw overboard their Nonconformist convictions and beliefs, they heroically sacrificed the favour of the big man at the Hall, the smile of the strutting squire in the village, and the annual church doles at Christmas time given away by the vicar and his lair lady.
At Hotham we had a long time to wait before the way opened for a chapel. Much opposition was offered, and one of our local preachers there told me not long ago that he was turned out of house and harbour because of his religious and political principles, and the owner of the property had the audacity and meanness to tell him that he was not the kind of man he wanted in the village. In the Providence of God, however, a little freehold estate in the village was or sale, and the brother purchased it before the big man at the Hall had really got to know it was in the market. For many years the Wilson family have been the mainstay of our cause at Hotham; and but for their strong and sturdy Nonconformity, it is just about certain we should have had neither chapel nor society at present. It was mainly through the influence, tact, and moral courage of Mr. B. Wilson that a site was ultimately secured, and paid for by Mr. Wilson himself, and a neat and comfortable chapel erected. Coming into possession of the property adjoining the chapel shortly after it was built, he also gave land for a Sunday school, and now we have both chapel and Sunday school in spite of parson, squire, and the devil, and few, if any, purely agricultural circuits can boast of better and more suitable chapel accommodation than may be found in the North Cave Circuit to-day.
For this improvement the circuit is greatly indebted, at least in two instances, to the great kindness, generosity and Christian enterprise of Messrs. Benjamin and William Walmsley, of Leeds, and other members of their family. Years ago, some of its chapels were somewhat heavily burdened, and but for the timely and generous aid rendered by the Walmsley family then, it is difficult to say what would have been the consequences.
It may not be generally known that the Walmsleys were born in the North Cave Circult, and in their early days were in very humble circumstances, which fact they are never ashamed to acknowledge. They were, however, honest, industrious, persevering, and religious withal; and all through their Christian life and business enterprise they have endeavoured to carry out the Scriptural injunction: ‘In all thy ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct thy paths.’ In recent years the Lord has wonderfully prospered them in business, and it is well known that they are great believers in the principle of proportionate giving, and practise it too. To show their appreciation of the Lord’s goodness, and their gratitude to Him for His guidance and blessing, they have consecrated a considerable portion of their wealth to various objects of charity and philanthropy, not losing sight of their own native circuit, and especially the immediate locality in which they were born. In Leeds they have two Orphanages – one for boys and one for girls – besides a large and prosperous unsectarian Mission Hall and Sunday school in a densely-populated district, and in connection with which scores have sought and found the Lord. The orphans, matrons, and the superintendent of the Homes worship at the Hall along; with the general public, and eternity alone will reveal the glorious results of such noble and Christlike work.
The gift of new chapels to the connexion is not an every-day occurrence. In this respect North Cave Circuit has been favoured above many. In 1892, the Walmsley family erected a ‘Walmsley Memorial Chapel’ at Newport, their native village, which cost close upon £1,000, and presented it to the Connexion free of debt. It is quite an ornament to the village, and is regarded as the most beautiful Nonconformist sanctuary in the East Riding of Yorkshire, having a fine spire, and fronting the main road.
The financial help the Walmsleys have rendered to the various Trusts in the circuit in recent years also calls for grateful recognition. They have generously contributed to the reduction of debts on nearly all the chapels in the circuit, enabling the trustees to considerably reduce their liabilities, and thus bring their respective Trust Estates into comparatively easy circumstances. Some £550 have been paid off the Trusts within the last three years, with the hope and prospect of further reductions in the near future. The Walmsleys are extremely anxious that all the debts in the circuit should be paid off ere long, and thus prepare the way for the employment of a second minister, in order that the circuit may be more efficiently and successfully worked. To bring about this desirable result they have promised forty per cent, in one case, twenty in another, and ten all round. As it proof of their deep and continued interest in the welfare of the circuit, they decided twelve months ago to erect another ‘Memorial’ chapel at Gilberdike, the adjoining village to Newport (a picture of which is here presented), and present it to the Connexion debtless, on the condition the trustees and friends raised £150, the cost of the schoolroom, vestry, and front boundary wall, and the whole of the premises, when finished, to be opened free of debt. This generous offer was heartily accepted, and on Thursday, June the 8th, eleven Memorial stones were laid, two for the chapel, by Messrs. Benjamin and William Walmsley, and nine for the school, by various friends, including Mrs. Walmsley, of Featherstone, Mrs. W. Walmsley and Miss Walmsley, of Leeds. A large number of guinea, half-guinea, and five shilling bricks were also laid, and everybody seemed delighted with the day’s proceedings, which, with the collection at the evening meeting, resulted in a grand total of £125. At this juncture there came to the friends a pleasing surprise, which literally crowned the effort with complete success. The Rev. W. Smith, of Hull, who has always taken a deep interest in the welfare of North Cave Circuit, announced that he had great pleasure in handing over to the Rev. J. Spensley a cheque for £25, which he had received from J. Rank, Esq., of Hull, towards the school building fund. Strange to say, this was the exact amount required to make up the £150, and thus enable the whole of the premises to be opened debtless.
Building operations went on rapidly and safely, and on Thursday, December 7th, just six months after laying the stones, the chapel was opened by the Rev. T. Whittaker, D.D., of Hull, who preached an able sermon in the afternoon, followed by a tea and public meeting in the evening, J.R. Ellis, Esq., of Leeds, presiding. Addresses were given by Messrs. T. Wilson, B. and W. Walmsley, and the Rev. T. Whittaker. The Rev. J. Spensley, superintendent of the Circuit, would also have taken part but for the sad and sudden bereavement he was called to experience in the death of his clear wife. The public meeting passed a resolution of sympathy with him in his great sorrow, and requested the Rev. T. Whittaker to forward the same to him in due course. The following three Sundays were devoted to opening services, conducted by Messrs. B. Walmsley, B. Smith (Hull,) and W. Kirby, (Hull). Services of song were also rendered by the Gilberdike and North Cave choirs.
The circuit, it is gratifying to say, will now be in a position to report to next Conference the following chapels debtless, namely, South Cave, Newport, Ellerker, Gilberdike, and Broomfleet, with the prospect at an early date of still further reduction, if not total extinction, of the debts on the Trust estates.
We close this account by wishing for the circuit increased spiritual prosperity. Material success is not enough. We must have spiritual success. To realise this there must be increased devotion and fuller consecration of ourselves to God – every member and official purged, cleansed, purified; and then every one filled with the Holy Ghost, and illumined with a flame of living fire from off God’s altar. Then would come to all a deeper, richer, fuller, spiritual life, and conversions in large numbers would be the rule, and not the exception, as now. In the home, in the market, and in our church life, let us be consistent. Pray for souls! Preach for souls! Live for souls! ‘He that winneth souls is wise.’ ‘ They that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament, and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars for ever and ever.’ Our watchword, then, must ever be, souls! SOULS! ! SOULS! ! !
Christian Messenger 1900/84