Wakefield First Circuit, Yorkshire

Christian Messenger 1921/314

Transcription of Article in the Christian Messenger by Rev. James W. Cotton

The City of Wakefield – notwithstanding the fact that Leeds has enormously outgrown it – still remains the Capital of the West Riding of Yorkshire. It is referred to in Doomsday Book as Wachefield, and in the neighbourhood are traces of the Roman occupation. The beginnings of

Primitive Methodism in the city are somewhat obscure. The Rev. William Taylor of the Sheffield Circuit is stated to have preached in one of its streets on September 1st, 1820, but there is no record of the immediate formation of a Society. Subsequently, however, Wakefield was missioned by the Barnsley Circuit and formed into a Branch, and before the Conference of 1822, it had become a separate circuit. The first meeting-place was an upper room in Quebec Street, off Westgate. The substantial edifice in Market Street was originally built in 1838, but in 1880 it was largely reconstructed and improved. Amongst the laymen who played a great part in the past history of the church and whose memory is still revered, were Samuel Seal, to whom a mural tablet is erected, Messrs. John H. Rowbotham, John Fallas, James Jordan, the Brothers Joseph, William and Charles Carr, and Jesse Newton, who has this year been called to his reward. Amongst the ministers to whom the elder people in the circuit often refer with glowing enthusiasm, were William Bennett, Jonathan Ayrton, Harvey Leigh, Thomas Rushworth and William Robinson. Wakefield First has been a prolific circuit, for there have sprung from it the Wake?eld Second, Horbury, Ossett and Normanton Circuits, all of which are in a healthy and vigorous condition, while the parent circuit consists of eight prosperous churches.

In recent years the circuit has gone from strength to strength. Its Missionary Revenue has gone up by leaps and bounds, reaching in 1921, a net total of £134, an increase of £40 upon the previous year. The circuit has greatly improved its standing in the Leeds District, and is amongst the foremost in its support of Connexional objects. It has this year had the honour of entertaining the District Synod. Time after time the Market Street Church proved too small to contain the congregations. Mighty spiritual influences rested upon the services and in connection with the evangelistic service conducted on the Sunday night by Revs. H. Semper and D. Bradbury some twenty-four persons spontaneously surrendered themselves to Christ.

The improved condition of the circuit is due in no small measure to the indefatigable Circuit Steward, Mr. W.H. Lawrence, who lives to promote its welfare, and has a valuable coadjutor in every member of his household. Mr. Lawrence keeps in touch with every department of the work and always has a word of appreciation and encouragement ready for the workers. It was thoroughly characteristic of him to get up in the Quarterly Meeting and move a hearty vote of thanks to the local preachers for the valuable service they had rendered during the year.

Market Street stands well amongst the Free Churches of the City and its congregations and finances have undergone marked improvement. The debt upon the property, which a year ago stood at £410, has been entirely liquidated. This is largely due to a great outburst of generosity amongst our own people, though tribute is gladly borne to the stimulus provided by the generous gifts of Sir William P. Hartley, and S.S. Seal, Esq., Barrister-at-Law, who in his boyhood was a scholar in our Sunday-school. The church is splendidly officered. As School Superintendent, Trust Secretary and Class Leader, Mr. F. Laughton is a tower of strength. Under Mr. H. Dawson’s wise guidance the C.E. Society increases its usefulness, and is brought into sympathetic relations with Circuit and Connexional objects. The Rev. R. Wycherley, advanced in years and  experience, renders valuable service as a Class Leader, and, in Mr. Abel Hughes, has a genial and willing helper. One of the most recent recruits, of whom great things maybe expected, is the Society Steward, Mr. W.E.J. White, who is gentlemanly, alert, and zealous for the Kingdom of God. As for his assistant, Mr. G. Smith, he is, in spite of his grey hairs, the youngest of us all. Lest someone should wonder what has become of Mr. Frank Firth, who rendered so many years of noble service, all and sundry are hereby informed that he is very much alive, keeps smiling, and regularly attends public worship though he never hears a word.

While the church recognises the manysidedness of life, and is not afraid of providing recreation for its young people, it gives the supreme place to the spiritual. Its monthly Devotional Meetings, in the hands of Mrs. Lawrence and Miss A.T. Carr, bring together large numbers of people; and a sight that cheers the hearts of visiting preachers is the fact that the young men and women stay to the Sunday night prayer meeting. It will readily be understood that a church of this type gives a fine lead to the circuit.

The New Scarboro Mission Church, in a western suburb of the city, has had a varied history. It has to-day a good choir, and its Sunday-school and C.E. Society, in the hands of Messrs. Brownlow, Blackburn, Lunn and Garwell, are in a distinctly hopeful condition.

The strongest village church is in the populous industrial district of Outwood, and has in every sense outgrown the structure in which, for the time being, it worships. Fortunately, land has been secured for new buildings, and funds for this purpose are steadily accumulating, hence the future is full of promise. The church is fortunate in having as its officials men of strength and experience. Mr. Walter Saxton, the Society Steward, is loyal and generous, and gives a fine lead. Mr. B. Caines, who for some years rendered excellent service as Circuit Steward, has a great heart and serves in several spheres. Mr. John Bennett, who has been an active local preacher for forty-seven years, is a wide-awake Trust Secretary. The Sunday-school has a splendid band of workers, amongst whom are men of the calibre of Messrs. William Armitage and James Chambers, while in Mr. H. Holliday it possesses an alert and capable Secretary. During the sessions the building, unfortunately, is fearfully over-crowded. It is the case of a difficulty being occasioned by success. Since Mr. H. Gleghorn has been at the head of the C.E. Society he has endeavoured, without making it less spiritual, to make it more educational. More strength to his elbow! There is also a vigorous Junior Society conducted by Messrs. W. Lunn and G. Walker.

At Stanley Lane End is a church which, if not boisterous, is steady and reliable. Mr. George Spurr, owing to the state of his health, has had to seek release from the Society Stewardship in which he has served faithfully for many years: but he still maintains his interest and exerts a beneficial influence. His successor, Mr. Charles Beales, is rapidly getting into his stride and gives promise of leading the church forward. The recently formed C E. Society is, in the hands of Messrs. Ephraim Ward and Clarence Asquith, making gratifying progress. Mr. Joseph Lodge is an excellent Trust Treasurer. If all account-books were kept like his the annual audit would be a means of grace. Mr. G. Sheard, the Class Leader, is a man of that plodding type which has played so important a part in the upbuilding of Primitive Methodism.

Kirkhamgate, about three miles north-west of Wakefield, is built on the top of a hill and commands a magnificent view. It is a delightful rural spot inhabited chiefly by Broadheads, several of whom are connected with our church. Mr. George William, the valued Society Steward, is at present incapacitated by illness, but is cheered by the knowledge that Mr. Samuel and Mr. Robert are bravely carrying on. The C.E. Society is being ably run by Mrs. Robert and Mrs. Thomas, while Miss Doris is in at almost everything. Miss Susan Ainsworth is promising well as Sunday-school Secretary, and Mr. and Mrs. Butcher are transforming caretaking into an act of worship.

Bottom Boat is fortunate in possessing, in addition to its church building, admirable school premises which were erected as recently as 1913. The church is still reaping the benefit of the evangelistic and consolidating work done by Miss Harland some eighteen months ago. Amongst other capable leaders in Church, School and C.E. are Councillor Walter Dyson, JP., and Messrs. Walter Jennings and Abraham Tate. Some of the recent converts are giving promise of great usefulness.

At Lingwell Gate, or The Nook, as it is familiarly called, we have a faithful Steward in Mr. Thomas Hirst. In view of the line work which is being done amongst the children and young people by the Misses E.M. and T.A. Fielding, it would seem that for this little church the best is yet to be.

The conditions of Lofthouse Gate are somewhat unique. When my excellent predecessor, the Rev. J. Bilton, came to the circuit, the Society was in low water. A revival, however, broke out, and Mr. Bilton, greatly daring, manned the church with the new converts. They brought to their task an enormous fund of energy, and, considering that they had no experienced captain, it is remarkable that they succeeded so well. It has not, of course, been all smooth sailing, but, in spite of everything, there is to-day a church of fifty members, and in all departments there are signs of life and vigour, while there are few village churches with a finer opportunity. Amongst the most energetic workers are the Messrs. Hemingway, W. Woolford, J Shepherd, T. Hartley, J.W. Bedford and H. Smales. The hospitable Mrs. Sharphouse bears her eighty years lightly, and is a delightful link with the past. The church has fortunately caught the missionary spirit, and the box of one young collector, Master Clifford Woolford, this year contained £10 and held the premier place in the circuit.

From the village of Lofthouse we have been compelled, owing to the unsafe condition of the wood chapel, to withdraw in favour of the Wesleyans, who have an excellent building, but notwithstanding this withdrawal, the circuit is reporting an increase in almost all departments of its work.

In this hasty survey much has necessarily been left out, and amongst the names which have had to be omitted are many which are worthy of honourable mention. The choirs and their leaders deserve an article to themselves, while to the many excellencies of the devoted women of the circuit no article could possibly do justice.

In view of the manifest tokens of the Divine presence, and the unlimited possibilities which present themselves, we thank God and take courage.


Christian Messenger 1921/314

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