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Dewsbury

This early Saxon Christian centre and medieval market town had by the nineteenth century become a wool textile mill town. Benjamin Ingham was born at Ossett in the east of the parish and John Nelson in the adjacent Birstall parish. The development of local Methodism is complex and far from clear. Initially Birstall was the centre of Nelson's 'round', but from 1741 Methodists were also meeting in Dewsbury. John Wesley made the first of at least ten visits to Dewsbury in 1742; he also visited Daw Green, about three quarters of a mile to the south-west, about eight times. The first chapel was built at Daw Green in 1762 and replaced in 1784 by High Chapel in Webster Hill, nearer to Dewsbury. A crisis similar to the Birstall Chapel case involved the minister, John Atlay, and resulted in 1789 in the loss of the both this chapel and circuit status, which had been gained in 1785.

Circuit status was restored in 1791, following the opening of a new chapel in Westgate, which marked a shift away from Daw Green to Dewsbury. Under the superintendency of William Bramwell it was the origin of the great West Riding revival of 1794. This chapel was replaced by Centenary Chapel, Daisy Hill, in 1839.

There was an early MNC society in Dewsbury, which by 1807 was using Atlay's 'Salem' chapel of 1784. This and other chapels were recovered by WM, following litigation over the Brighouse Chapel Case in 1819. At this point the chapel may have passed to the PMs. If so, that may have been the occasion for the MNC moving from Daw Green to Northgate, Dewsbury. Salem MNC (1863, by William Hill) at Northgate is now a mosque. PM was probably established when William Clowes preached in J. Bootland's house, Daw Green, in November 1819 and returned the following May after a camp meeting at nearby Tingley Common. Dewsbury became a branch of the Leeds Circuit in 1822, but reverted to Leeds in 1829. In 1840 Daw Green, along with Dewsbury Moor, became part of the Leeds South Branch, which reverted to the Leeds Circuit a year later. A Dewsbury Branch was formed in 1845. In Dewsbury itself a society was established, from Daw Green, in 1849; the chapel, opened in 1850, became the head of the circuit soon after.There was also an IM presence in Daw Green by 1834. Their present Providence Chapel in Thornton Street was built in 1874.

The second half of the nineteenth century saw considerable Methodist expansion, including chapels at Saville Town (WM, 1875), Westborough (MNC, 1876) and Moorlands (WM, 1887). In 1971 five surviving societies came together on the Centenary premises, which were renamed Central Methodist.

Quotations

John Wesley’s Journal:

26 May 1742: 'At eight I preached on the side of Dewsbury Moor, about two miles from Birstall, and earnestly exhorted all who who believed to wait upon God in his own ways, and to let their light shine before men.'

28 April 1747: ‘...Dewsbury, where I was to preach at noon. But first I called on the minister, Mr Robson; and in an acceptable time. Abundance of little offences had arisen and been carefully magnified by those who sought such occasions. But we both spoke our minds without reserve, and the snare was presently broken.

‘After sermon, Mr. R[obson] having sent a note to desire I would call on him again, I went and passed such an hour as I have not had since I left London. We did not part without tears. Who knows how great a work God can work in a short time?’

10 April 1752: ‘I preached at Dewsbury, where the case of the vicar and his curate will not soon be forgotten. After a conversation I had with the vicar, above three years ago, he was deeply serious, till he conversed again with rich and honourable men, who soon cured him of that distraction. Yet in a while he relapsed, and was more serious than ever, till he was taken ill. The physician made light of his illness, and said he would do well enough if they did but keep those Methodists from him. They did so; however, in a few days he died... The curate who buried him sickening the same week, insisted that the Methodists should not be kept from him. About ten days after, he died, and, according to his desire, was ... laid in a grave close to that of Mr. Robson.’

5 July 1764: ‘In the evening I preached on the top of the hill near Dewsbury, one of the pleasantest towns in England. The congregation was larger than ever before. They filled the preaching-house at five in the morning.’

6 August 1766: ‘I preached ... in the evening at Dewsbury. The congregation was as large as at Bradford, and as attentive, although a few years since the people of Dawgreen were s eminently savage and irreligious as even the colliers of Kinsgwood.’

10 August 1766: ‘About one I preached at Dawgreen. I judged the congregation, closely wedged together,... amount[ed] to twenty thousand people.’

5 July 1770: ‘I preached at six at Dawgreen, near Dewsbury. All things contributed to make it a refreshing season; the gently-declining sun, the stillness of the evening, the beauty of the meadows and fields... , the opposite hills and woods, and the earnestness of the people, covering the top of the hill on which we stood; and, above all, the day-spring from on high, the consolation of the Holy One!’

9 August 1778:’I preached at eight in the market-place at Dewsbury to some thousands of serious people; as Mr. Powley would not permit me to preach in the church, because it would give offence!

Charles Wesley's Journal:

21 October 1746: 'Preached at Dewsbury, where John Nelson had gathered many stray sheep. The minister did not condemn them unheard, but talked with the persons wrought upon, and narrowly examined into the doctrine taught them, and its effect on their lives. When he found that, as many as had been affected by the prwaching were evidently reformed and brought to Church and Sacrament, he testified his approbation of the work, and rejoiced that sinners were converted to God.'

12 October 1756: 'Rode to Joseph Bennet's near Dewsbury, and preached very awakening to a mixed attentive congregation. My vehement exhortation to the Society was on the usual subject, "continuance in the word," and in prayers, family and public. Passed the evening with Jonas Eastwood. I would gladly part with five hundred Methodists, to be ordained, and useful like him.'

Sources

  • Luke Tyerman, Life and Times of John Wesley (1878 edition), III pp.551-60
  • William Blazenby, Rev. John Atlay, a Methodist minister (1908)
  • John Ryley Robinson, Notes on Early Methodism in Dewsbury, Birstal, and Neighbourhood (Batley, 1900)
  • William Beckworth, A Book of Remembrance, being records of Leeds Primitive Methodism... [1910]

Entry written by: DCD
Category: Place

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