3. “A Converting Furnace”

Transcription of article in the series “one Hundred Years Ago” by H. Bickerstaffe Kendall

THE Quaker’s apt description of a Methodist chapel as a “converting furnace” was very applicable to the room in the Broad Marsh, Nottingham. The converted factory became a converting furnace and, as such, was in active operation from the very day of its opening when, as we have seen, sixteen souls were converted, ten of whom afterwards became local preachers. What we have to figure to ourselves is no short-lived blaze of straw, but a converting furnace in full blast. The revival went on intensifying and spreading. The evidence for this is conclusive, though we may hope additional details may be recovered during the next few months, when interest and research will be stimulated by the Centenary celebration. Be that as it may, we have the unimpeachable witness of George Herod, who tells us: “The revival increased, and some of the most notorious sinners in Nottingham became reformed characters.” Then, referring to the timeliness of the revival in counteracting the pernicious doings of the Luddites, he goes on to say:—“However, some hundreds were convinced of sin by the instrumentality of the missionaries and became pious and useful Christians.”

The conversions continually taking place in Broad Marsh became the talk of the town and countryside. They talked of them in the factories and workshops, and in the great market place on the market days. The news was carried to the surrounding villages, so that many persons came in from the country on the Lord’s Day “to see and hear for themselves; and it was not unusual for them to return home sinners saved by grace.” Such is Herod’s testimony. In March, 1816, he would be a youth between eighteen and nineteen years of age, having his home at East Bridgeford. He was one of the many villagers whom the fame of what was going on in the Broad Marsh had reached and drawn to the spot, in order that they might “see and hear for themselves.”

We get an authentic glimpse of two or three men afterwards of note in the Connexion. First, we see at these rousing services two men of commanding stature and fine bearing. We cannot help noticing them, for they are conspicuous in their uniform of the Queen’s Bays, then stationed at Nottingham. One is Private Nathaniel West, and the other Corporal Evens of the same famous regiment. They, too, had heard what great things were being done by the Primitives in the conversion of sinners, and so were attracted to the services. Herod well remembers being present at a prayer meeting when his attention was held by seeing West on his knees, humble as a child, pleading with God to have mercy on his soul. He returned to the barracks rejoicing in God. Nathaniel West and Corporal Evens soon began to preach, and the former especially. became very popular. Then the regiment was moved on to Leeds, where we shall meet these Christian soldiers again,

Thomas King, a young married man, was induced by his wife to attend the services. He was a Methodist who, on account of his character and ability, had been deemed eligible for the foreign mission field. But the influence which came upon him at the services, and his recognition of the good they were doing, gave a new direction to his life. Whole-heartedly he cast in his lot with the Primitives. It was he who was sent from Nottingham to secure William Clowes as missionary for Hull, and in August, 1819, he went forth on his mission to North Lincolnshire and Grimsby. Fifty years after, he took part in the great public meeting of the Grimsby Conference of 1869. His body rests in the graveyard of Castlegate Congregational Church.

References

Primitive Methodist Magazine 1916/172

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