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Sheffield

A society was formed in 1742. Their first chapel, in Pinstone Lane, was destroyed by the mob, with the encouragement of the local magistrates, in 1745. In 1780, on one of his several visits, John Wesley preached at the opening of Norfolk Street Chapel and was the guest of Thomas Holy. Carver Street Chapel (1805) hosted no fewer than 13 WM Conferences between its opening and 1922. Holy also laid the foundation stone of Ebenezer WM chapel in South Parade, Shalesmoor, opened in 1823; the gallery collapsed, but no one was hurt. The Cole family was influential in establishing Board schools and also Wesley College (1838), which was transferred to the local education authority in 1905 as part of the King Edward VII Grammar School. Among its governors were Samuel Dousland Waddy (1844-1862) and William H. Dallinger (1879-1888), who also preached in the local PM chapels.

The Central Mission was formed in 1901 by separating Ebenezer Chapel, Shalesmoor from the circuit and renting the Albert Hall. In 1906 Norfolk Street chapel was demolished and replaced by the new Victoria Hall, opened in 1908. This was the centre for a wide range of social work, together with open-air meetings and services. The interior was completely remodelled in 1966.

In 1797, following his expulsion from WMA. Alexander Kilham took with him part of the Norfolk Street congregation, taking over the Scotland Street Chapel built in 1764 for an earlier dissident, Thomas Bryant. This closed in 1973. Banner Cross UMC (1929) was one of the best inter-war churches in the city. Notable among MNC laymen were the Firth family and J. Ward. No fewer than 24 Conferences of the MNC, the UMFC and the UMC were held in Sheffield.

In 1819 a certain John Coulson from Sheffield was moved by the singing of PM hymns at Worksop and on arriving in Hull asked William Clowes for a preacher to be sent to Sheffield. As a result Jeremiah Gilbert (1789-1852; e.m.1819) of Caunton, Notts, was sent and was gaoled several times for preaching out-of-doors. After various temporary preaching places around the city centre, in 1820 they took over a former nonconformist chapel in Coalpit Lane (now Cambridge Street) and acquired a site for their own chapel in Coalpit Lane in 1835, doing much of the building work themselves. A Sunday School building was added next door in 1852 and the first Sheffield temperance society was formed there. The 1850s were a time for expansion, with meetings being held around the city; thirty new chapels were built in the next forty years. Ebenezer chapel at Walkley started as meetings in homes in Dark Lane (now Heavygate Road) in 1847. A small chapel was built on a site bought in 1856 on Heavygate Road, opposite the top of Greenhow Street; replaced by one at the junction of Greenhow Street and South Road in 1890 (now student flats). The congregation now uses the Sunday School building that was added in 1905. Six PM Conferences were held in Sheffield.

The Sheffield WM Circuit was one of the largest in early Wesleyanism. Even after the Rotherham Circuit was formed in 1793 and the Doncaster Circuit in 1797, it still had 67 preaching places on its plan, with Norfolk Street as the circuit chapel. By the time of Methodist Union in 1932 there were 6 WM, 7 PM and 5 UMC circuits in the city, the non-Wesleyans equalling the WM in ministers and members. They were reorganized into eight new geographically-based circuits, in response to the rapidly expanding and diversifying conurbation. By 1997 Carver Street Chapel was no longer a place of worship and Methodism was involved in the Inner City Ecumenical Mission, in the Urban Theology Unit and in theological education in co-operation with Cliff College, the Church Army and the University of Sheffield.

Quotations

John Wesley's Journal:

June 1742: 'Having great desire to see David Taylor, whom God had made an instrument of good to many souls, I rode to Sheffield; but not finding him there, I was minded to go forward immediately; however, the importunity of the people constrained me to stay, and preach both in the evening and in the morning.

[Next day] 'He came. I found that he had occasionally exhorted multitudes of people in various parts; but after that he had taken no thought about them; so that the greater part were fallen asleep again.

'In the evening I preached on the inward kingdom of God; and in the morning … on the Spirit of Fear and the Spirit of Adoption. It was now first I felt that God was here also…'

May 1745: 'I ... rode … to Sheffield, where I preached on the floor of the late house (which the good Protestant mob had just pulled down), to the largest and one of the quietest congregations I ever remember to have seen there.'

October 1745: 'We were much at a loss in the evening what to do with the congregation. They stood above stairs, and below, and in the yard; but still there was not room.'

April 1752: 'In the evening I preached at Sheffield, in the shell of the new house. All is peace here now, since the trial at York, at which the magistrates were sentenced to rebuild the house which the mob had pulled down. Surely the magistrate has been the minister of God to us for good!'

June 1755: 'In the evening I preached at Sheffield. In the morning I examined the members of the society, and was agreeably surprised to find that though none had visited them since I did it myself two years ago, yet they were rather increased than diminished in number, and many of them growing in grace.'

March 1764: '… I preached … in the evening at Sheffield, to many more than could hear, on "Now is the day of salvation." In the morning I gave a hearing to several of the society who were extremely angry at each other. It surprised me to find what trifles they had stumbled at; but I hope their snare is broken.

'In the evening, while I was enlarging upon the righteousness of faith, the word of Gos was quick and powerful. Many felt it in their inmost soul; one backslider in particular, who was then restored to all she had lost, and the next morning believed she was saved from sin.

[Next day] 'I met those who believe God has redeemed them from all their sins. They are about sixty in number. I could not learn that any of them walk unworthy of their profession. Many watch over them for evil; but they "overcome evil with good." I found nothing of self-conceit, stubbornness, impatience of contradiction, or London enthusiasm among them. They have better learned of Him that was meek and lowly of heart, to "adorn the doctrine of God their Saviour." '

March 1765: 'The house here is full twice as large [by the addition of a gallery] as it was; and so is the congregation. The little differences whioch had been for some time among the people were now easily adjusted; and I left them all united in love, and resolved to strengthen each other's hands.'

March 1766: 'There has been much disturbance here this winter; but tonight all was peace.'

July 1774: 'I went on to Sheffield, and on Tuesday met the select society. But it was reduced from sixty to twenty; and but half of these retained all that they once received! What a grievous error, to think those that are saved from sin cannot lose what they have gained! It is a miracle if they do not, seeing all earth and hell are so enraged against them; while, meantime,so very few, even of the children of God, skilfully endeavour to strengthen their hands.'

July 1779: 'I preached in Paradise Square, in Sheffield, to the largest congregation I ever saw on a week-day.'

June 1780: 'I went on to Sheffield. But the house [Norfolk Street chapel] was not ready; so I preached in the Square.

[Next day] 'In the evening I preached in the old house at Sheffield; but the heat was scarce supportable. I took my leave of it at five in the morning, and in the evening preached in the new house, thoroughly filled with rich and poor; to whom I declared, "We preach Christ crucified"; and He bore witness to His word in a very uncommon manner.'

July 1780: [Sunday] 'At eight I preached at Sheffield. There was afterwards such a number of communicants as was never seen at the old church before. I preached again at five; but very many were constrained to go away. We concluded our work by viusiting some that were weak in body, but strong in faith, desiring nothing but to do and suffer the will of God.'

July 1782: 'Coming to Sheffield just at the time of the Quarterly Meeting, I preached on Acts ix.31: "Then had the churches rest … and were edified; and walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Ghost, were multiplied." Thios is eminently fulfilled in all these parts; at Sheffield in particular.'

July 1784: 'I went on to Sheffield, where the society is increased to near some hundred members. How swiftly does the work of God spread among those who earn their bread by the sweat of their brow!

[Next day] 'It was supposed there were a thousand persons present at five in the morning.'

July 1786: 'In the evening I spoke very plain to a crowded audience at Sheffield on "Now it is high time to awake out of sleep." One of the hearers wrote me a nameless letter upon it. But he could remember nothing of the sermon, but only that "rising early was good for the nerves!"

{Sunday] 'I read prayers, preached, and admnistered the sacrament to six or seven hundred hearers; it was a solemn season. I preached soon after five in the evening on "There is joy in heaven over one sinner that repenteth." Afterwards I gave an account of the rise of Methodism (that is, old scriptural Christianity) to the whole congregation…'

[Monday] 'We had our Quarterly Meeting, followed by a lovefeast, at which many spoke without reserve, and several of them admirably well; showing that with the fear of the Lord is understanding.

[Tuesday] 'I met the select society, most of them walking in glorious liberty… I preached … in the evening to the well-instructed and well-behaved congregation at Sheffield. Oh what has God wrought in this town! The leopard now lies down with the kid.'

Sources

  • James Everett, Historical Sketches of Wesleyan Methodism in Sheffield (Sheffield, 1823)
  • James H. Rigg, Wesleyan Methodist Reminiscences Sixty Years Ago (1904) pp.34-36
  • T. Alexander Seed, History of Norfolk Street Chapel and Wesleyan Methodism in Sheffield (1907)
  • John J. Graham, A History of Wesleyan Methodism in Sheffield Park, Sheffield (Sheffield, 1914)
  • J.L. Spedding, 'Scotland Street Methodist New Connexion Church, Sheffield', in WHS Proceedings, 21 pp.113-15; also 36 p.7
  • Conference Handbooks, 1922(WM), 1940
  • George Sails, At the Centre: the story of Methodism's Central Missions (1970), pp.90-1
  • Nicholas Farr, At the Heart of the City: a Methodist Mission in the Twentieth Century [Victoria Hall] (Sheffield, 1991)

Entry written by: ANC
Category: Place

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