Memories of Elmfield 6

Little Stonegate Chapel

Transcription of article published in the Primitive Methodist Magazine by An Old Boy

MY memories of Elmfield would be very incomplete without some mention of our Sundays at York Chapel. We walked in all weathers to the city twice every Sunday, and worshipped in Little Stonegate Chapel. The march in military step and line was physically useful, and many a boy’s carriage today is the better for it. Away we tramped up the long road, past a gentleman’s residence which I recall as having a splendid greenhouse generally full of gorgeously beautiful flowers, and then past the minster to the chapel. There a portion of the building in the gallery was set apart for our use, and under the eyes of the masters we joined in the service.

I had all my boyhood worshipped in a little country chapel, and to me Little Stonegate was a magnificent building, and the organ a marvel. Mr. Davies, son of the Rev. Richard Davies, was the organist. The singing I found most inspiring, and many of the tunes were quite new to me. Of the preachers I remember Thomas Newell best. His massive sermons, delivered with marvellous unction and sometimes eloquence, deeply impressed me. I remember when, years afterwards, I appeared before him as a candidate for the ministry, I preached from one of his old texts and next morning reminded him of the fact. I was indebted to him for the text, but that was all. His was a fine, manly, fruitful ministry.

Then Thomas Dearlove was another minister I remember. His favourite theme was the Apostle Paul, and he never tired of discoursing from the Epistles. I was too young to follow sermons with much grip of mind or perception of plan and sequence, but I knew what I liked, and of these two famous men my preference was for Thomas Newell. Then Alexander McKechnie was travelling on the Easingwold Branch, and at stated times occupied the York pulpit. What a racy, pawky, humorous preacher he was to be sure, and often delighted the boys with his playful sallies. I heard also frequently Rev. John Swales, who travelled in York as a probationer, and recall vividly a powerful sermon he preached on one occasion on the Great Alternative.

One Sunday morning the Rev. Edwin Dalton preached, but whether he had then actually entered the ministry I cannot be sure. He delivered a solid, earnest sermon which, however, gave little indication of the amazingly popular qualities he afterwards developed. Other preachers I recall, and among them John F. Parrish, who was very popular in the city, and John Spensley.

Among the occasions of special interest were the Lovefeasts. They were great times, and quite a number of people came in to them from the country. Many of the experiences tried our risibilities terribly, but as other people laughed sometimes we were at liberty to laugh with the rest. What odd things were often said, and I guess the minister conducting was often thinking of the college boys and feeling a bit nervous. But I do not remember that these comical experiences ever had any injurious effect on my mind. Young though I was I could make allowances, and understand that agricultural labourers could not be expected to express themselves in correct English, or hide their individuality by adopting a conventional mode of speech.

In the afternoons we learned the Catechism under the masters, and I hope it did us good. Really a decent catechism does not as a rule make any very profound impression on the mind of a child. It is only when sectarian narrowness is incorporated in it that it may do him harm. And yet perhaps I am wrong. A simple statement of the great doctrines of the faith well learned may give a child a grip of these subjects that will abide through after years. I rather think that when I came to prepare for the Local Preachers’ Plan the Primitive Methodist Catechism stood me in good stead.

How well one came to know the congregation at Little Stonegate by sight at least. Personally I knew very few of the seat-holders, perhaps not more than two or three. But I knew their names, and can still recall the position of their pews. Their life stories, too, I could recite, and some of them were tragic. But the same might be said of every congregation in the land.

Sir James Meek attended the chapel in those far-off days, and I remember how he entertained the Prince and Princess of Wales while he was Lord Mayor. But his connection with the chapel for some reason was somewhat nominal by that time. I remember hearing Captain McCulloch preach one Sunday morning, and among anniversary preachers was Rev. William Jones, then at the height of his wonderful popularity.

Occasionally distinguished ministers came to the College and took part in morning or evening worship. Among them were Colin Campbell McKechnie, Robert Key, and Thomas Southron, – who remembered the fact that he had baptised me, – and Ralph Fenwick.


Primitive Methodist Magazine 1908/697

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