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Northampton

By the eighteenth century the town was a stronghold of 'respectable' Dissent, notably during the ministry of Philip Doddridge. From 1752 the neighbouring Weston Favell was the scene of the Rev. James Hervey's evangelical ministry.George Whitefield made frequent visits; the first in 1739, when he preached on the racecourse. John Wesley's earliest visits were on his way to Donington Park to visit Lady Huntingdon. In 1745 he lectured to the students at Doddridge's academy. But the first Methodist society was not formed until around 1767, by a Captain Scott of the Royal Horse Guards. It met in the Regimental Riding School; then, after his departure, in other places including premises on the Green previously used by Presbyterians and Strict Baptists.

By 1793, when the first chapel was built in King's Head Lane, there were 55 members, which grew to 200 by 1813 and to 353 by 1821. It became the Sunday School when a larger chapel, designed by William Jenkins, was built in Gold Street in 1815. A second chapel, opened in Todd's Lane in the 1830s, was replaced by Regent Square in 1876, when a third chapel was built in Queen's Road.

PM was introduced from the Burland Circuit by James Hurd in 1834, but made slow progress until 1840, when the Horsemarket Chapel was built (rebuilt 1872; closed 1942). John Petty had a difficult ministry there 1842-44, but there was new growth later in the century and a second chapel was opened in 1880 at Kettering Road (later Queensgrove) with the support of Joseph Gibbs, a leading boot and shoe manufacturer. The circuit was divided into two in 1886 and two PM Conferences met there, in 1891 and 1918. After lengthy delay caused by the war years Park Avenue church opened in 1925. The WMA had a chapel, the Tabernacle, in King Street. In 1857 it did not join the UMFC, but formed a short-lived WR circuit. At the time of Methodist Union there were one WM and three PM circuits; after 1932 both circuits and churches were progressively amalgamated.

In 1929 two local PM businessmen, J.W. Arnold and C.J. Pearce, saw a local need for accommodation for elderly Methodists and founded the Methodist Homestead, anticipating the work of MHA. It has developed into a complex of 24 individual Homes, operating as a private trust.

Quotations

John Wesley's Journal:

September 1745: 'I left London, and the next morning called on Dr. Doddridge, at Northampton. It was about the hour when he was accustomed to expound a portion of Scripture to the young gentlemen under his care. He desired me to take his place. It may be the seed was not altogether sown in vain.'

November 1767: '…In the evening (our own room being far too small) I preached in the riding-school to a large and deeply serious congregation.'

November 1768: 'I preached … in the evening to many more than the house would hold at Northampton.'

August 1770: 'It being extremely hot, I determined not to be cooped up, but took my stand on the side of the Common, and cried aloud to a large multitude of rich and poor, "Acquaint thyself now with Him, and be at peace." '

October 1770: 'I rode to Northampton, where we had now a more commodious place to preach in, formerly used by the Presbyterians. The people heard with great attention, and many of them came at five in the morning.'

November 1777: 'I preached … at Northampton; and some of even that heavy congregation seemed to feel "The night cometh, when no man can work." '

November 1785: 'When I came to Northampton the new Presbyterian meeting-house was offered to me, twice as large as our own. The congregation was numerous and deeply attentive. Many attended again in the morning; I trust, not without a blessing.'

October 1788: 'I preached at Northampton, in the new Presbyterian meeting-house, a large and elegant building, I think not without effect…'

Sources

  • H.B. Kendall, The Origin and History of the Primitive Methodist Church(1906) 1 pp.416-9
  • George Lawton in WHS Proceedings, 25 pp.88-94, 104-7* Alan Bowles, One Hundred and Forty-two Years, being a history of the Wesleyan Methodist Chapel, Gold Street, Northampton [1816-1958] (Northampton, 1993)

Entry written by: JAV
Category: Place

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