What was a District Meeting like?
The Hull District meeting at Scarborough May 1876
The heading is “Plan of the Religious Services in connection with the Hull District meeting to be held at Scarborough.” It is a plan for only six days in May 1876, Thursday May 4th to Tuesday May 9th. Retrospectively the ability to make available six consecutive days, and the commitment to do so is impressive and perhaps was in itself self-limiting on the lay delegates who could attend. The meeting (or should it be meetings, for that is what it was), covered the then Primitive Methodist District, including the North Lincolnshire circuits of Grimsby (2) , Louth, Winterton, Brigg, Scotter. Market Rasen, Alford, Tetney, Gainsborough, and Epworth, the East Riding circuits, and then down to include Doncaster (2), Mexborough, and Retford. It was based on the three P.M. chapels in Scarborough, St Sepulchre St., Jubilee and Falsgrave, (of which the first two have been demolished). The plan belonged to one of the lay delegates, that of the home Scarborough delegate a Mr W. Mayman. The plan which also served as a calling notice informed him that he had kindly been offered entertainment by a Mr. Best of the Bacon Store, St Thomas St. It asked him to inform his host when he would arrive. One wonders if this was a much sought after lodging? Although it is not indicated on this plan, on other contemporary circuit plans, it is found that Mr. Mayman was a local preacher from East Ayton, five miles distant from Scarborough.
He attended this District synod as a lay delegate, one of 22 lay delegates representing the circuits, together with 10 travelling preacher delegates from within the district, one district committee representative, and one general committee delegate. They were joined by the three circuit ministers of the Scarborough circuit and two ministerial candidates. Of the latter two, more later.
The plan assumes knowledge of the way District Meetings worked, which would have been true of the original recipients, but is not transparently clear today, but it appears to be as follows. Though the plan is only for the six days there was a full agenda. After an opening meeting at Falsgrave on the Friday evening, there was a Friday evening Temperance meeting at St Sepulchre Street, and evening communion at Jubilee on the Saturday. The Camp Meeting in the cricket field, on North Marine Road was on the Sunday- morning and afternoon, and with an early start. The prelude was for three processions to commence at 8.30 a.m. from the three chapels, each conducted by three of the travelling preacher delegates, and to include five addresses in the streets. These were to meet in St Helen’s Square at 9.30 a.m. where the Rev J. Wilson (not a member of the meeting, but presumed to be the Rev J. Wilson 1799-1876, who died at Barrow on Humber that year, an elder statesman of the district) was to ‘deliver an address for fifteen minutes.’ The whole procession then moved to the Camp Meeting ground.
The second part was the morning camp meeting, where the two stands were to be conducted by a travelling preacher, with four lay delegates to preach, or at stand two, two lay delegates and a travelling preacher (was he allowed or expected to be lengthier)? These were each supported by praying companies of four lay delegates.
The afternoon commenced with a gathering at 1.15 p.m. in the Jubilee chapel, another procession to the ground, this time without the street addresses but friends would ‘sing in procession to the Camp Ground.” Then the same arrangement as the morning, with the exception that the two candidates were both included on the list of preachers, and both listed as first in the order for their respective stands.
The fourth part was the holding of public love feasts at the three chapels at 6.00 p.m. all three of which were to be conducted by travelling preacher delegates. The word ‘conducted’ perhaps reflecting what may have been an outpouring of testimony from the day’s events. One wonders if anyone in the locality could not have been aware of the Camp Meeting and associated processions taking place that day.
The Monday had a Public Tea meeting at 4.30 p.m., prior to a Public Meeting at 7.00 p.m. led by four travelling delegates. The two candidates were to relate their Christian experience. The final event was another Public Meeting on the Tuesday evening at St Sepulchre St., ‘for the promotion of Scriptural holiness’, where one of the five designated speakers was a lay delegate.
What did this mean to Brother Mayman? According to the designated contributions he appears to have had a light load. He had only to be a member of the praying company for the first morning stand at the Camp Meeting. Others had a heavier burden, so for example Brother Wadsworth from Doncaster 1st. circuit was to speak at the Temperance Meeting, deliver an address in the street on a morning procession, and be a part of the praying company for stand 2 in the afternoon. Similarly Brother Horsfield of Driffield spoke at the Temperance meeting, gave a street address in the morning and preached at the afternoon stand two Camp meeting.
What did this mean to the two candidates? Both were accepted. William Hayton was a man of thirty at the time of this District Meeting, and had already served in the Market Rasen and North Cave circuits. He was to go on to serve in a total of 12 circuits, of which 8 were in this Hull district. George Lee was 25, but he too had served in Sunderland, North Cave and Selby, and he was to go on to serve in 18 circuits, of which seven were in the Hull district.