My intention, throughout this book, has been to provide a picture and a feeling for the churches in the Nottingham City centre which have been part of the Nottingham Central Methodist Mission. The Albert Hall together with the Institute building played a very major part in Methodism from 1900 to 1985. Aspley Hall, Bestwood Hall and King's Hall were part of the same circuit but the latter two have closed and Aspley has left the circuit. Parliament Street Church, which had been head of the Nottingham East Circuit, amalgamated with the Albert Hall Society in 1985 and, together with Bridgeway Hall, the two societies now form the Nottingham Central Methodist Mission Circuit.
It may be asked: "What is a Mission?" In the context of Methodism, the Rev. J.E. Rattenbury in 1902 wrote that "The difference between a mission and a church is one of emphasis. A church ought to be a mission and a mission must be a church. The ordinary church emphasises most distinctly the work of building up adherents into oneness with Christ, while a mission persistently spends its force in breaking up new ground and appealing to them that are without [outside the Church]". It was the Institute building, with all the multitudinous activities that were carried on there, that had the most significant impact on the church's work as a "Mission" because it provided fellowship and material help not only to the members of the church, but also to anyone else who wished to take advantage. There was a positive attitude of trying to reach out to people outside the church and to cater for their physical as well as their spiritual needs. Just one example was the Used Clothes Store which operated for many years to the advantage of thousands of poor people outside the church. An "ordinary church" may be less able or inclined to provide as much outreach. For most of the first sixty or seventy years of the Nottingham Central Methodist Mission (from 1901 onwards) there were very active groups of people who went out to people's homes and urged them to come to the Missions (Albert, Aspley, Bestwood, Bridgeway, and King's Halls) The movement, during the 1980s and 1990s, towards the inward-looking "club for members" attitudes in Missions and churches is one which is completely contrary to the idea of the "Mission" as seen in the earlier days of the Mission Halls.
One intention has been to try to show how the lives of individuals in the Circuit have been influenced by Christianity and how, in turn, their lives have influenced the Church. My way of showing this has been through using their actual words where possible.
My research and writings have gone through three major stages.
Firstly, I had intended to publish a short history in 1998 of the Parliament Street Church when it would have been the bicentenary of the first Adult School in the country which was commenced in 1798 in the schoolroom on Methodist New Connexion premises in Parliament Street by William Singleton, a prominent member of that denomination, at whose home Alexander Kilham stayed on one of his visits to Nottingham. Also it was nearly 125 years since the present building was opened on 27 May 1875. However, source material was not as accessible as had been expected so I extended by researches. This took much longer than anticipated.
Secondly, these researches led me to realise that the lives of other churches in the area had a very important part in the life of one another and the life of the city. Therefore, I extended my researches to include the Albert Hall Mission Circuit. This was a very important area of Methodism in Nottingham and its history appeared not to be recorded in any great amount of detail, although we all know how important the books of Mr. R.C. Swift are.
Thirdly, having recorded all the data in the form of a book consisting of some nine hundred pages of A4 and three hundred photographs, I realised that a book of that size was too large for most readers to cope with. The market for such a book would be very limited and would not warrant the printing costs. Therefore, I decided that I would treat that as a "Limited Edition" and use this base data as the source material for a short history with a suitable number of photographs to enhance the written word. Some of these photographs are not of good quality but, contrary to advice, I chose to include them because they provide the best evidence I could find, especially of the interior of buildings, which otherwise you would not have seen.
This short history is virtually an abridged edition of the "Limited Edition" and the pages are smaller, so I would point future researchers to access that document for what I would modestly suggest is a useful record of Methodist work by the Parliament Street Church and the Albert Hall Mission Circuit.
I have received tremendous help from members of these churches who have lent me their prized memorabilia and given me tape-recorded "interviews". The Nottinghamshire Archives staff have, over the last four years, provided me access to virtually all the documents relating to the Albert Hall Mission Circuit. I also thank the staff at the Local Studies Library, Angel Row, for their help. The source of data is given in full in the "Limited Edition". In this book I simply acknowledge my grateful thanks for permission to publish.
My wife, Barbara, has read every word of the "Limited Edition" and this book, offering very helpful critical appraisal and advice.
Where a reasonably lengthy piece of text is quoted verbatim, the words are in italics, and I have inset that piece by 0.5 cm. Where I have added personal comments to the text, these comments are written in italics and are within square brackets, e.g. [my word]. The following gives examples of these:
I hope you enjoy reading this book and find the contents as interesting and informative as I have in writing it.
|Last amended 23-Feb-2012 14:28||Copyright © Ian Grant - Web implementation by Eric Foxley||Visits OK|