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Mansfield, Notts

George Whitefield preached in the town in May 1750. WM was introduced in 1788 when John Adams, a Nottingham local preacher, conducted an open-air service in the Old Market Square and the first society met in the home of a Mr. Finch on the Rope Walk, Stockwell Gate, then in a barn in Quaker Lane. The first chapel, 'neat, commodious, stone-built', on the corner of Stockwell Gate and Rosemary Street, was opened by John Beaumont in 1791, but taken over by the MNC in 1797 (see below). The remnant of the WM society met in George Thomson's house in Boarding School Yard, then in a loft over a joiner's shop in Toothill Lane, until their new Back Lane chapel was opened in 1800. The first Sunday School began in 1804 and Mansfield became a separate circuit (from Nottingham) in 1807. Stanhope House, the one-time home of the Earls of Chesterfield, was converted to provide Bridge Street chapel, opened in 1812 by William Bramwell. Despite the devastating effect of the Reform agitation of 1849-1851, it was replaced in 1865 on the same site by the present building, which remains little changed externally. This remained the dominant Methodist presence in the town, with a flourishing Sunday School and affluent members like the Alcock, Maunder, Meggett and Fish families among its worshippers in the late Victorian and Edwardian years.

A second cause, Wood Street chapel, was opened in March 1901 by the President of the Conference, Dr. Thomas Allen, with a corrugated iron hut behind it to accomodate the Sunday School. It closed in 1968. The Central Hall was built in 1887 primarily as a day school, though also used for chapel activities.

In 1797 the MNC decimated the WM society and took over its chapel, but had only limited success. A new MNC chapel on Catlow Street (St. John Street) opened in 1839, but had the lowest Methodist attendance in the town at the time of the 1851 Religious Census and closed 20 years later.

The PM preacher Sarah Kirkland visited the town in 1816 and a society was formed, but made an unimpressive start due to internal dissension. It first met in Back Lane West (Clumber Street), then in Ratcliffe Gate. Cottages in the Lawn (Union Street) were converted into a chapel c.1830. The cause progressed after the opening of Queen Street chapel in 1842. A larger, more imposing chapel in Leeming Street was built in 1887 and a smaller one in Nottingham Road in 1896, to serve the growing population in that area. Mansfield became a Branch of Nottingham Circuit in 1824, but only 'for one quarter, on trial'. It became a separate circuit only in 1826.

Between 1850 and 1852 WM membership at Bridge Street dropped from 1,116 to 655 because of the WR movement. The Reformers met in the lecture room of the Mechanics Institute before their chapel was opened in 1851. The society joined the UMFC in 1857 and made steady progress. The building survives as the Clarkson Street Hall.

In the rationalization that followed Methodist Union in 1932, the PM church closed. Bridge Street (WM) and Nottingham Road (UM) survived and are still the head of their respective circuits.

Sources

  • John R. Raynes, History of Wesleyan Methodism in the Mansfield Circuit, 1807-1907 (Mansfield, 1907)
  • Ralph J. Pritchard, 'Extracts from an Old Mansfield Diary', in WHS Proceedings, 27 pp.98-101

Entry written by: DMG
Category: Place

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