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CHAPTER 1
GENERAL  HISTORY

Nottingham has been a significant town for over one millennium.

About a thousand years ago Edward the Elder ordered the construction of a bridge over the River Trent.

In those early days the two sandstone cliffs on the north side of the Trent valley were the sites of two settlements. On the lower and more easterly of them, St. Mary's Church was the late medieval successor of an earlier one that had stood there in Anglo-Saxon days.

On the more westerly and prominent of the two cliffs was the Norman castle which William the Conqueror had built. The area had been a borough since before the Norman Conquest in 1066 after which a new French settlement sprang up. For centuries you could look out from the Castle to the south and see the meadows rolling away to the Trent. In the spring they were covered with purple crocuses. It was not until the middle of the nineteenth century that the crocuses disappeared when houses replaced the beauty of nature.

Gradually the two towns had come together to form the borough of Nottingham, then a mayor-town in 1283, and about the same time became a parliamentary borough.

In 1740 Nottingham was described by some chroniclers as a Garden City, and Celia Fiennes who visited Nottingham in 1697 commented that "the town of Nottingham is the neatest town I have seen" .... and the Meadows as "rich and fruitful  ... so green with fine cornfields of barley and other grains .. and great woods". She was particularly impressed with the fine crocuses and the large flocks of sheep and cows which grazed on the rich lush pasture made immensely fertile by the annual flooding of the River Trent which itself abounded in salmon, trout, barbel, carp and other species which flourished in the crystal clear waters. Others, however, describe how walking up from the River Leen to St. Peter's Church in wet weather was almost impossible due to mud and dirt. Bogs and cesspools were undisturbed; systems of sewage were unthought of and sanitary science was unknown. 

In 1780, Nottingham was still contained in the area between these two traditional focal points, being bounded to the north by what is now Parliament Street and to the south by the line where the sandstone hills descended to the meadows.

The entrance to the town from the west was through a deep and narrow way, called the Sand Hills, "from the top of Derby Road to Chapel Bar". From the south one came in up Hollow Stone, which had been a dangerous defile, cut through the rock, only wide enough for one carriage to pass at once.

In 1739, the population of the borough of Nottingham had been 9,890 but in forty years it had doubled to 17,791 (occupying some 3,000 houses many with their own extensive gardens and paddocks); in 1793 it was 25,000. The adjoining parishes were also densely populated. By the early 1800s factories had begun to spring up in Nottingham producing lace, cotton and woollen goods for home consumption and export. At the same time farm labourers were being dispossessed of their land in the countryside and began to flock into the town seeking work in the mills. In 1801 the population had increased to 28,861; in 1811, 34,358; in 1821, 40,505; in 1831, 50,206; in 1841, 53,091; in 1851, 58,530; in 1861, 75,765. The whole population was forced to live within the old town boundaries.

In 1845 the Prime Minister, Robert Peel, set up a Royal Commission to investigate the state of "contrys, large towns" and the Inspector who carried out a survey of Nottingham was shocked and stunned by what he saw. Mr. Martin described Nottingham as "one great nuisance" completely devoid of the basic necessities of life. He reported that there were 8,000 back-to-backs built in the form of courts entered by a tunnel 20-30 feet long and 2½-3 feet wide. The houses consisted of two or three rooms, each about 11 feet square, and a small closet under the stairs for coal and food. There was no kitchen or scullery and the "privvies" consisted of large bins situated at the end of the court where they were shared by 15-30 households. When the bins were full people stole out at night to tip the contents into the River Leen or a nearby canal. The density of population was higher than that of London; in the poorer districts 4,200 people lived in an area of 220 square yards, i.e. one person for every 10 square yards.

The streets were piled high with rotting rubbish and there were no pavements, street lights or metalled roads. Rats abounded and this, plus a poor diet of bread, potatoes, milk and herrings and dirty drinking water made people easy prey for cholera. The average life expectancy was a mere 22.3 years on average, but in St. Ann's Ward lower still at 18.1 years.

In the early 1800s, Nottingham was surrounded by a green ring of fields, open meadows and waste lands comprising over one thousand acres of which 334 acres were known as The Meadows. The owners of this land, the Duke of Newcastle, Lord Middleton, Mr. Musters and others, were willing to sell for building purposes but time after time they were blocked by the Town Councillors who stood to lose from lower rents from already existing slums, and valuable rights of free pasturage on The Meadows. So Parliament stepped in and, under the General Enclosure Act 1845, forced the sale of this land. Commissioners from London arrived to decide who owned what, where the roadways should be and to fix regulations so that no more slum properties would be erected. This work was to last twenty years, and only then was it allowed to begin. When it did start, two of the first large buildings to be erected were St. Saviour's (1863) and the Arkwright Street Methodist Church (1864). As this work was being carried out, hundreds of little town planners began to fill the lush green Meadows with houses, shops and public houses.

The beginning of Methodism in the United Kingdom

I commence my story by taking you back in time to the start of Methodism. John Wesley was the brain-child.


Badder and Peat map of Nottingham
Market Ward, 1744
John Wesley, the founder of Methodism in 1739, first visited Nottingham in 1741. He was an extempore preacher. He must have had a strong voice because once he spoke to over 12,000 people in Gwennap Pit in Cornwall. He travelled between four and five thousand miles a year, initially on horseback and then, as he grew older, in a specially adapted coach. During his life he probably travelled a quarter of a million miles on horseback. See the Badder & Peat 1744 maps of Nottingham Market Ward (right) and North Ward (left).

The 1746 Conference stipulated that preachers would constantly move over a very wide area (a circuit consisting of several counties), hence the term "itinerancy". A circuit's preachers would be changed every month. However, by 1765 a preacher's term in a circuit had settled down to an annual one and by the time of the 1784 Deed of Declaration a maximum term of three years was stipulated, although even by 1791 the annual move was still quite normal.

The ownership of property was an important consideration. In order to place responsibility in the hands of suitable people, "Trustees" were appointed. They often served until they died. The surviving members renewed the trust and on each successive renewal a larger proportion of local members took on the role. The title deeds, therefore, transferred land and buildings to the Methodist Church, not to a named individual. Later, the "Model Deed" was introduced which made transfers even simpler.

The entry in John Wesley's diary on 12 May 1746 recorded that the third Methodist Conference was held at Bristol. In the "Minutes" of this Conference we are first informed of the number and extent of Circuits. They were seven in number:- 1st London, 2nd Bristol, 3rd Cornwall, 4th Evesham, 5th Yorkshire, 6th Newcastle, 7th Wales.  Some idea of their extent may be formed from the fact that the Yorkshire Circuit is said to include "Cheshire, Lancashire, Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire, Rutlandshire, and Lincolnshire".


Badder and Peat map of Nottingham
North Ward, 1744
The entry in John Wesley's diary on 2 June 1748 recorded that there were then nine Circuits: 1st London, 2nd Bristol, 3rd Cornwall, 4th Ireland, 5th Wales, 6th Staffordshire, 7th Cheshire, 8th Yorkshire, and 9th Newcastle. The Cheshire Circuit included 1st Cheshire itself, 2nd Nottingham, 3rd Derbyshire, 4th Lancashire, and 5th Sheffield.

For many years a very large area in this part of the country, including Nottinghamshire, Derbyshire, and Leicestershire, had been comprised in what was called the Derbyshire Circuit; but in August 1776 it was divided into two parts, Nottingham taking one half and Leicester the other. The newly constituted Nottingham Circuit embraced the towns of Nottingham, Derby, Mansfield, Belper, Ashbourne, Ilkeston, Newark, Bingham, Melton Mowbray, and Loughborough.

By 1765 each of the thirteen circuits, that there were then, were subdivided from two into eight circuits, making a total of 39 in the British Isles as a whole, served by 25 Assistants and 49 "other Travelling Preachers", some of whom were actually in charge of  one-man circuits. The number of circuits gradually increased, mainly by division, so that in 1791 there were 114 in the British Isles, including 27 in Ireland.

On 2 March 1791, John Wesley died, aged 88. During his lifetime he had been perpetual President. On his death the preachers, for the first time, had to choose one from among themselves. ­­

On 26 July 1791, the 48th Methodist Conference elected William Thompson as President and Dr. Coke was appointed Secretary. The same Conference felt that it was absolutely necessary to devise some plan for providing constant superintendence over preachers and people during the year. The result was that circuits were formed into districts, and district meetings instituted. The three kingdoms were divided into districts: England into nineteen districts; Scotland into two; and Ireland into six. The Nottingham District included four circuits; viz. 1st, Nottingham; 2nd, Derby; 3rd, Leicester; and 4th, Northampton.


Smith & Wild plan
1820, Castle Gate

Smith & Wild plan
1820, St. Mary's

Staveley and Wood map
1830
Other contemporary Nottingham maps


Basement

Ground floor

Gallery and mezzanine
Wesley Chapel, Broad Street, floor plans


Wesley Chapel, Broad Street: communion table
The "Broad Street" table is now in use at
St John's Methodist Church on Standhill Road in Carlton.

In 1792, Chairmen of the Districts were first appointed by the Conference to the several districts. Mr. Joseph Taylor, superintendent of the Ashby-de-la-Zouch Circuit, being made the Chairman of the Nottingham District.

The whole body of the general Methodist Church in Great Britain is called the "Connexion". During the decade after John Wesley's death there were power struggles throughout the country. Nottingham suffered perhaps more than most.  On 31 July 1797 the 54th Conference brought about regulations for the management of finance, the power of the superintendents, and the privilege of laymen, and had settled the disciplinary arrangements of the Connexion. But this was not enough to satisfy the democratic faction. On 9 August 1797 Rev. Alexander Kilham led the "New Itinerancy" (later called the "New Connexion"), formed at Leeds, with him as its guiding genius in a split from the Wesleyan Methodists. The Nottingham Society was no exception, and they too became divided into the old "Wesleyans" and the "New Connexion" and the unity was not restored until the 1930s. Alexander Kilham's name will appear prominently when we look at Parliament Street Methodist Church whose society merged with that of the Albert Hall Mission in the 1980s. He was stationed at Nottingham, where he became minister at the Hockley church. Kilham was a friend of the first of many members of the Barnett family. However, his travels damaged his health and just before he died he carried out a tour of  Wales, where he suffered a serious collapse. He died on 20 December 1798 aged thirty-six leaving a wife and ten children. He was buried at Hockley Chapel, Nottingham. There was a plaque in the old Parliament Street Methodist Church but it was lost when the building was refurbished in the 1980s.

The beginning of Methodism in Nottingham

The Methodists first came to Nottingham in the year 1740 at a time when the people's habits were said to be debased, and cock-fighting and bull-baiting were favourite amusements. The Market-place was only partially paved, South Parade was a nasty swamp, public lamps were not introduced until more than twenty years afterwards, so to walk along the filthy and unpaved streets and lanes at night required courage and dexterity.

John Wesley first visited Nottingham in 1741. The initial meetings of the Methodists were held in private houses. In Nottingham, about 1764, a room at the top of Bottle Lane was used. John Wesley's converts to Methodism built their first Nottingham Church in the Milton Street area. In the register of places of public religious worship in Nottingham there is an entry dated 11 October 1764: "A tenement called the Tabernacle, near to Boot-lane; denomination Protestant Dissenters. The persons who certified were John Nixon, Richard Ankers, Thomas Smith, John Blomel, Benjamin Smith, and Richard Fenton".  It had eight sides, which was what John Wesley thought a suitable shape for acoustical and comfort reasons, so it was sometimes known as "The Octagon". There are various descriptions as to where it was, but Roland C. Swift refers to Octagon Place, between Milton Street (then called Boot Lane) and Mount East Street.  The builder was John Nixon, and it cost £128. 2s. 7d. The door faced the pulpit. After the opening of the Tabernacle, Nottingham became a centre of evangelizing operations and Methodism prospered.

 The Society steadily prospered and in 1782 they moved into a larger church, Hockley Chapel in Goose Gate, which was opened on 4 April 1783. When John Wesley preached at the opening dedication service, he together with Rev. Dr. Coke, wore the usual official garments of the Church of England. It was a brick building, 52 feet 9 inches by 51 feet 2 inches, with a large gallery, holding one thousand persons.

The New Connexion took over Hockley Chapel together with 19 leaders with a majority of the trustees, and 320 members. The Rev. Alexander Kilham was the new minister. 280 members and 8 leaders remained loyal to the Wesleyan Methodists but were without a place to worship. The division in the town was for a time disastrous, although nearly all the rural churches remained with the Wesleyans.

The "Old Wesleyans" bought some land in Halifax Place, which at that time was all mansions and gardens. On 13 June 1798 Mr. Tatham laid the foundation stone of the New Chapel in Halifax Place, then called Halifax Lane, otherwise Jack Nuttal's Lane, and on 2 December 1798 it was opened by the Rev. Dr. Thomas.

By 1828 the Nottingham Circuit, apart from the city centre, also included some thirty smaller societies outside and had 2,950 members. The Nottingham city-centre society was shortly split and given their own circuit, South (Halifax-place Chapel, etc.) and the North (Wesley Chapel etc.).

The trend in membership was not always one of increase. By 1849 South Circuit had 1,560 members and North Circuit 1871; but by 1856  South Circuit had 1,040 but  North Circuit only 944. By 1863 North's had increased again to 1,339.

In 1796 a Methodist preacher with a wife, family and servant, were paid £25 5s. 8d per annum. This covered food for five persons (the maid inclusive) and all the wearing apparel necessary for the wife and three children. The [preaching] plan of the Nottingham Circuit "only permitted him to board at home every third week. During the two weeks he was away from home, he was entertained by the societies where he happened to be preaching and, therefore, received no pay. For the third week, which he spent with his wife and family, he was allowed by the Nottingham Stewards, the prodigal sum of 10s. 6d.!"

Wesley's body of workers consisted of  preachers, helpers and assistants. The helpers could be either laymen or Anglican priests. Some laymen remained in their own locality to become what they are today  -  Local (lay) Preachers. Others travelled the country preaching, and in the process of time became identical with the full-time ministers, though they were only ordained at a much later date. The senior ordained "helpers" came to be called "assistants to Mr. Wesley", and these were the forerunners of the present-day Superintendents. All, however, came under the umbrella title of "preachers".

The minutes of the First Annual Conference, Friday 29 June 1744, set out the Twelve Rules of a Helper. A revised Rule 11 in 1753 stated that "You have nothing to do but to save souls [the title of this book]. Therefore, spend and be spent in this work. And go always, not only to those who want you but to those who want you most."

Bristol was the centre of Methodism, operating from the New Room. They had the usual problem: they were in debt. At a meeting on 15 February 1742 called by John Wesley, one of the leading members, Captain Foy, suggested that every member should give a penny a week towards the debt. This was the birth of the "Class". The whole society was divided into "little companies or classes  -  about twelve in each class". The title "class" implied no teaching element, but was simply the English form of the Latin classis or division. The "Leaders" not only received the weekly contribution but also watched "over the souls of their brethren".

The "Methodist Society" were the "Members" of the class (or the smaller "band"). Class tickets were taken to the member's house four times a year, as part of the pastoral care. Later, at an official gathering of classes John Wesley or one of his deputies would inquire about each individual and would then present him with his new class ticket. The following are two examples:

Wesleyan  Methodist Church.
Quarterly  Ticket  of Membership.

MARCH 1903.

Thy  God  hath commanded thy
strength : strengthen, O  God, that which
Thou hast wrought for us.  - Ps. lxviii. 28.
D
Thomas Pearson
J.E.R.

In Nottingham, of 1,863 Sunday School children ("students") in the year 1800, the Methodists had 900 on their registers, Church of England had 400, General Baptists 275, Independents 150, and Particular Baptists 138. The Methodists had used the Exchange Building [the Corporation building erected 1724-25] for Sunday School work but the New Connexion erected a two storey school-house in East Street which was used until the youth work was transferred to Parliament Street Methodist Church, where it has been ever since (except that the Sunday School is now called the Youth Church).  The Wesleyans, on the other hand, rented rooms in 1803 on the west side of Boot Lane (later Milton Street) which they fitted out for school purposes.

In the 1960s there were seven Divisions of  Methodism. These were departments which administered the Connexion. They were: Home Missions, Social Responsibility, Finance, Overseas Missions, Education and Youth, Property, and Ministries. These were departments each of which had its own staff and responsibilities.

The majority of the following chapters of this book will concern the Albert Hall Mission and the other churches which came in its circuit. The Albert Hall was one of the largest and most prestigious in the country. The Rev. George W. Sails, B.D., was Superintendent Minister there from 1959 to 1966 and went from there to work in the Home Missions Department. While there he was invited to report on the work of the Missions. This he did and his report is entitled At the Centre, the story of Methodism's Central Missions. I quote verbatim from this report.

The Central Halls were a relatively late feature in the history of Methodism.    The earliest buildings were erected towards the end of the nineteenth century, with the majority of the present Halls appearing in the early years of the twentieth.    There is, however, a sense in which the great Forward Movement which produced the Central Halls was foreshadowed by the very creation of the Home Mission Department itself in 1856.    It was Methodism's increasing concern for the great unchurched masses of the population that led both to the creation of the Home Mission Department and to the establishing of Central Halls in all the major cities of the country.

By the mid-nineteenth century Methodism was going through a critical phase in its history. Wesleyan Methodism had lost 100,000 members in five years and it was obvious that there was a growing indifference to the claims of Christianity particularly among the poorer classes.   An analysis of the census figures of Sunday 30th March 1851 strengthened this judgement and confirmed the leaders of Methodism in their conclusion that "a fearfully large proportion of the English people habitually neglect the public services of religion".

This drift from the churches was particularly noticeable in the large cities and towns.   People were occupied, on Sundays, with leisure activities instead of attending church services. Faced with this situation of declining  membership and increasing indifference, the Conference in 1855 appointed a Select Committee to consider and mature a plan for carrying on the Home work with greater efficiency.    The outcome of the Committee's deliberations was that in 1856 the original "Contingent Fund" became "The Home Mission and Contingent  Fund for the support and spread of the Gospel in Great Britain and Ireland".

Thus began Methodism's special and positive concern for the great and growing areas of population where eventually the Central Halls were to be built.

It was clearly stated that any new enterprise of an aggressive character, although conducted in harmony with the working of the circuits, must have separate arrangements until such times as its prosperity made its incorporation into a circuit desirable and practicable.   It was also made evident that the Home Missionary minister was to be employed wholly in the distinctive work to which he was seconded and that he was not to become an assistant circuit minister.

The individual duties of the Home Mission ministers were defined in equally direct terms.   They were to preach out of doors on every suitable opportunity, "especially in the thickly populated and destitute parts of our towns and also in villages not at present visited by our ministers".   In addition to visiting the sick and dying they were to visit daily from house to house "until all have been visited".

The scriptures were to be read, tracts distributed and prayer offered whenever practicable.   The minister was further charged to reprove open vice, profaneness, intemperance, and Sabbath-breaking, but was to take care to avoid all unnecessary controversial political topics, or subjects calculated to produce irritation!

While invitations were to be offered to services in existing places of worship, every effort was also to be made to obtain rooms for short evening services of an "extemporized and informal nature".

Finally, each Home Mission minister was required to keep a Journal in which he recorded with the strictest accuracy the number of visits paid, religious services held, numbers of adults and children persuaded to attend public worship, together with general observations on the work of the Mission.

The great impetus of the Forward Movement in London came with the Rev. Hugh Price Hughes.   In the pages of the Methodist Times, which he launched as a weekly newspaper in 1885, he kept up a constant pressure on the Church to take seriously the need to treat the working classes as human beings and as God's children.

It was also Hugh Price Hughes who saw the possibility of persuading the working classes, who would not go near a church, to attend services in a neutral building such as a Theatre or a Public Hall.   It was he, too, who led the attack on the itinerant system and pleaded the need for a concentrated ministry in mission situations, a principle to which Conference eventually and somewhat reluctantly yielded.

It was now acknowledged that the work in the city centres required a special technique with a concentrated, sustained ministry that could best be exercised independently of the traditional circuit system.   Although the Manchester and Salford Mission was in existence as early as 1872, the first appointment of a minister to a provincial Mission was that of the Rev. Charles Garrett, who was appointed to the Liverpool Mission at the Conference of 1875.   He was to work under the direction of the Chairman of the District, and was to be based at the Pitt Street Chapel in the Liverpool (Grove Street) Circuit.    Four lay missionaries were associated with the Mission and their responsibilities were similar to those of the original Home Missionary ministers.   They did house-to-house visitation, held open-air services, including meetings in dockyards, started cottage meetings and distributed tracts.   In addition, midnight meetings were held for the benefit of fallen women and in the first year of the Mission twelve "Cocoa Rooms" or "British Workman Public Houses" were opened.   In the first two years  60,000 tracts were distributed, 24,000 visits paid, 1,065 cottage meetings conducted, and 310 open-air services held.   Furthermore, the long-standing debt on Pitt Street Chapel was paid off and the Chapel itself altered and adapted for Home Mission purposes!

 The newly formed Central Missions, some of them working from purpose-built halls, others from modernised circuit chapels, were left in no doubt concerning the gigantic problems confronting them.    The success of their efforts can be judged from the following paragraphs in which the story of the Missions is told.

 In the beginning of the Central Hall Movement, Methodism exploited to the full the fact that there were many people who would never worship in a traditional church, but who would attend a service on neutral ground, in a theatre or public hall.

 There is no better illustration of this truth than that which is to be found in the experience of the Leeds Mission.   When the old Oxford Place Chapel was closed for cleaning, the Coliseum seating 4,500 people was used for services and was crowded every Sunday night, with many turned away because of lack of accommodation.   When Oxford Place, which was only half the size of the Coliseum was re-opened, it was not full, although the service and the preacher were exactly the same.   In the event, within a few years not only was Oxford Place crowded every Sunday night, but the Empire Theatre which, by 1900, had been rented for services, was also filled to capacity.

It is a significant fact that in almost every major city in the country the building of a Central Hall was preceded by the establishing of weekly services in theatres or other public buildings.   One point in connection with the use of public buildings for Methodist worship remains to be noted, and it is something to which sufficient attention has not always been paid.    The building of the Church Halls, and the gathering in them of large congregations did not mean the abandonment of services in the public buildings.   In Manchester, for instance, when the Central Hall was built in Oldham Street in 1886, the services in the Free Trade Hall were still maintained, and indeed continued for many years to draw crowded congregations.

There were obvious limitations to the usefulness of rented halls, theatres and similar premises. They provided ideal centres for the great Sunday services, but apart from the fact that they were usually only available on a regular basis on Sundays, they lacked the facilities which a Mission required.   It was to meet the twin needs of a large auditorium for the Sunday services of worship and of adequate facilities for the extensive religious and social programme of the Missions that the Central Halls, seating around 2,000 people, with extensive ancillary premises, were established.   The aim was to provide a building different from the traditional chapel and as much like a public hall or theatre as possible.    The Central Hall became a half-way house for the diffident, the uncertain, and the cautious.

Dr. Stephenson, when setting out his ideas for the City Road Chapel in London, declared inter alia it must have the "Mission spirit" which included making "the place cheerful so that people shall be glad to come to it".

One means of going to the people was through open-air meetings and services.   It is not being suggested that open-air meetings were not held by circuit churches, for they had always been a part of Methodist witness, but the Missions paid particular attention to this form of evangelism and carried it out with a frequency and intensity that would  have been difficult for the normal church to sustain.   The Missions' open-air meetings were held several times a week, sometimes daily, in most cities, and were almost without exception well attended.   In Nottingham, for instance, four open-air meetings a week were held during the winter and extra meetings in the summer, all of them drawing "immense crowds".

The Central Halls maintained the policy of pastoral visitation both as a means of keeping in touch with members of the Mission and with new converts and as an  avenue of direct personal evangelism.   One of the most important, though by no means the only, contribution of Wesley Deaconesses to the work of the Missions, has been in the field of visitation.   Without motor cars and often without bicycles the Sisters, as they trod the city's streets, played their vital part in bringing the Mission to the people, becoming familiar and welcoming visitors not only on the doorsteps of homes, but in the Public Houses and at factory and prison gates.

Of all the ills that afflicted society at this time, strong drink and gambling accounted for the greater part of the misery of numberless families.   Hundreds of homes were without furniture, thousands of children were almost naked and short of food, yet the people, women as well as men, would have drink.   Throughout the country gambling was widespread.   "Bookmakers are everywhere.   They haunt the club, hang about the factory doors, loaf at street corners, and even take the pence of women and children.   Their victims are legion.   The public would scarcely believe the stories of distress that come to us from respectable families where sons have got into trouble through this accursed thing." Little wonder, then, that much of the work of the Missions was an attack on these two evils.   The Band of Hope and the Temperance Society feature prominently in the reports of all the Missions.

One of the outstanding contributions of the Missions was in the provision of Temperance Public Houses and Coffee Taverns.    The conviction was that people do not necessarily require intoxicating drinks in their social life and pastimes and the conviction was justified by the popularity of the alternatives made available by the Missions.

Where there is drunkenness, unemployment or poverty, children are usually first to suffer, and much of the relief work of the Missions in the early days was directed towards the children in the cities, many of whom were in desperate plight.

 The Central Mission movement represented an attempt by Methodism, on a comparatively large scale, to reach both religiously and socially the masses of Great Britain who had no inclination for the Church and little interest in religion.  In the late 19th and early 20th centuries they drew crowds such as the churches had rarely seen and deepened spiritual life of the country and when other churches experienced the long painful years of the drift away from the churches, the Missions held on to their congregations was well as any and better than most.

So far as their social work is concerned, it is not too much to claim that by arousing the conscience of the nation and by their pioneering efforts the Central Missions were one of the largest single agencies to pave the way of the Welfare State.   As for the social work of the Missions, much of this has been rendered unnecessary [because it has been taken over by Central and Local Government], but no one will pretend that the Welfare State has been able to meet every social need. The British Council of Churches Bulletin for May/June 1970 quotes a figure of three million people in Great Britain who are said to be  living in "slum, near slum or grossly overcrowded conditions".   It takes little imagination to picture the social needs created by and arising from such a situation.

It will be the task of the Central Missions Committee, in response to the request of Conference, to seek to understand the changing situation in the cities and to guide the Central Missions into their future responsibilities.

The Rev. Sails quotes the following Mission Statistics for 1970:

Branch Number of Members Sunday Congregations
    am pm
Albert Hall 643 250 700
Aspley 217 80 75
King's Hall 108 20 60
  .. .. ..

During the twentieth century, Methodism in Nottingham has been blessed with some wonderful men and women. Mrs. Hilda Miller, who has been the editor of Central News, the magazine of the Nottingham Central Methodist Mission in the 1980s and 1990s, wrote an article (part of which is quoted here) in that magazine about Jesse Boot who was one of the great benefactors of the Albert Hall Mission.

Back in the mid-1700s, when the town was a stronghold of Methodism, a young boy named John Boot was living over the other side of the Trent.   His mother would take him with her when searching the countryside for herbs which she would make into medicine cures for her friends and neighbours.  Her son grew up to be a farm labourer, as was her husband, and they were all staunch Methodists.  John married and came to live in the Hockley area of Nottingham, then an overcrowded place, filled with back-to-back houses, with no sanitation, and sickness and disease everywhere! Unfortunately, his young wife soon succumbed to the poor conditions of the times, but in due course John married again and had a son whom they named Jesse.  By that time John, a devoted Christian and church worker, became more interested than ever in herbal cures and was absolutely captivated by John Wesley's book on Herbal Physics  -  remedies he had collected from all towns and villages he had visited.   He decided to open a little shop in Hockley, quite near the Chapel, and tried to sell his cures to folk who could not afford to visit a physician.  He was strongly supported by the Methodist community, and history started to repeat itself.   Young Jesse was taken round the Trent Valley to help his mother gather the healing herbs for his father to compound into medicine.  After the death of his father, Jesse and his mother continued to promote the business, and through the ensuing years other shops were opened and factories built.  Jesse became renowned for his philanthropy, and a knighthood was bestowed upon him.

Not only did he contribute a very large amount of money over the years but he also offered a rent-free house for the minister, and provided the services of his company's printing and shopfitting departments free of charge. He gave the Binns organ and paid the fees of the organists (including Bernard Johnson) for many years.


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Fore-
word
Intro-
duction
Chapters Epi-
logue
Appendices Acknow-
ledgements
 
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4 
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6 
7 
8 
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