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John Wesley preached in the town for the first time in 1765. Encouraged by his visit to the area, a schoolmaster named Thomas Coleman, a native of St. Nicholas, moved down from London the following year and built a small schoolroom in Love Lane, using it also for preaching. Its location was in Meeting Court, an area then known as Puddle Dock. He also preached at Birchington and St. Nicholas. Disagreement between him and the Canterbury preachers caused the latter to take over the work in Margate and in 1785 they built a chapel in Hawley Square, which was opened by Wesley on 1 December 1785.

In 1810 Hawley Square chapel was found to be unsafe, land was bught to the east and the chapel rebuilt on a larger scale. Further enlarged in 1844 by the demolition of property in Princes Street, it was reopened by Dr. Robert Newton on 11 July. Further extensions, including new galleries, took place in1896. New churches were opened at Cliftonville in 1878 and at Buckingham Road in 1898.

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Updated: 6 June 2018

Born in Sweden, the son of a Lutheran minister on the island of Gotland, he responded in 1775 to the ‘call of the sea’ and sailed under the captain of an English timber ship who duped him into entering into a four-year apprenticeship. Finding himself in Portsmouth, he took the opportunity to become a rigger in the dockyard and eventually saved enough to buy a small boat and set himself up as a fisherman and waterman in Portsmouth harbour.

Soon afterwards a fellow dockyard worker invited him to go and hear the Methodist preaching and in 1787 he was converted under William Ashman and began to preach himself, chiefly to the farm labourers in the outlying villages. At one such village, where the work was being given up because of fierce opposition, he volunteered to go and his calm determination to stand his ground in the face of hostility led to an invitation to return, so that regular preaching was resumed.

His wife was a native of Portchester and had inherited property there. So in 1803 they came to live in the village and he began to hold meetings in their home. Growing numbers encouraged them to move into a hired room and eventually he built them a chapel in Castle Street in1818. It remained his private property until transferred, free of debt, to the first Methodist trust in 1826.

Marblestone was long remembered as’eminently a cheerful, happy and contented man’, grateful for the many blessings and deliverances of his life. He died on 17 Aprill 1839.

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Updated: 6 June 2018

Opened in 1858 in Grace’s Alley, East London, as part of the Old Mahogany Bar, the music hall became part of the East End Mission in February1888 under the pioneer minister Peter Thompson. It reached it peak in the 1930s under the leadership of the lay pastor G.F. Dempster, with many forms of social outreach, But heavy bombing of the area during World War II followed by slum clearance left it in a dilapidated state. It was sold to a rag merchant, but under the leadership of the conservationist John Betjeman was saved from demolition and bought in 1964 by the British Music Hall Society.

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Updated: 5 June 2018

Primitive Methodist local preacher, Liberal politician with advanced views, and temperance advocate, was born at Dye House near Hexham. He worked on his father’s farm until sixteen when along with his brother he moved to Blaydon and became a butcher. Initially he attended a Newcastle Baptist chapel, but soon united with the Primitive Methodists and became a local preacher. He retired from commercial life in 1857. In 1834 he joined the Moderation Temperance Society, which permitted the drinking of beer and wine but not spirits. He served as the Secretary of the North of England Temperance League, was a Vice President of the United Kingdom Alliance, and also a good Templar and Rechabite.

Having moved to Gateshead, he was elected to represent the West Ward in November 1867 and continued on the borough council until his death on 15 September 1885. He was Mayor of Gateshead in 1873 and again in 1874, and was elected to the aldermanic bench in 1876. He also was for a time a Poor Law Guardian.

A drinking fountain was erected to his memory in Saltwell Park about 1886.

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Updated: 11 May 2018

Primitive Methodist coalminer, draper and politician, born in July 1816 at Percy Main, near North Shields, one of seventeen children. At nine he became a trapper boy in the pit, opening and shutting doors for the men to push the tubs of coal to the shaft. In 1826 the Primitive Methodists missioned the colliery village and this led to his conversion. At twenty-one he left the pit and began a small drapery business in Percy Main, then in 1845 moved to North Shields. He was elected to the Board of Guardians in 1864 and so continued until at least 1889. Elected to the borough council in 1870, he was mayor in 1881 and an alderman from January 1884. He was also a director of the Primitive Methodist Insurance Company.

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Updated: 11 May 2018

A Winchester ironmonger who overcame his prejudices against Methodism after discovering that John Wesley’s teaching agreed closely with the doctrines of the Church of England. He and his wife with two others met at first in his mother-in-law’s summer house. By 1765 their numbers had risen to 12, reinforced by military groups stationed in the city. Winscom became the leading figure in the Winchester society and took it upon himself in 1785 to buy a place of worship in Silver Hill, which then had to be sold because of debts. He corresponded quite frequently with Wesley, who learned from experience not to trust him, and was often at loggerheads with the local itinerants. As a local preacher he monopolised the services at the town chapel until Wesley insisted that he exchange with them from time to time. But a business trip the Isle of Wight and contacts with soldiers posted to Gibraltar and Jersey enabled him to play a part in the spread of Methodism to those places.

In 1787, following the death of John Haime, he retired to Whitchurch, offering himself a year later as a itinerant. Wesley was at first inclined to put him in charge of the Salisbury Circuit, which at that time was still extensive, including most of Hampshire and Dorset as well as southern Wiltshire and needed strong leadership, but on second thoughts made him one of the junior preachers and then put him down for Oxfordshire in 1790. By 1791 he had chosen to abandon the itinerancy and return to Whitchurch, where he continued to take almost all the services, as he had done in Winchester. He died in 1809, and his burial is recorded in St.Maurice’s parish, Winchester on 19 January.

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Updated: 3 May 2018

This was a weekly newspaper published throughout 1885 alongside the Methodist Recorder. Both the names of its contributors, its advertisements and much of its contents clearly reflect its Methodist origin., as does the fact that it was published from 161 Fleet Street, the address of the Methodist Recorder at that time.

Contributors to the first issue include J. Robinson Gregory and notably a sermon by Dr. R.W.Dale of Carrs Lane, Birmingham, which is give pride of place. The Editorial gives no indication of the individuals responsible for its genesis, but declares: ‘Our main design is to address ourselves to the intellectual and spiritual improvement of the Christian congregation rather than to the plant and politics of the cause. It seems to us the great need of the times is the enrichment of the soul of the people; in this direction we will do whatever is in our power. The Christian Church has suffered immensely by forsaking the highest platform, and wasting time and force in controversies which are little more than beating the water into foam. No doubt the trumpet as well as the trowel plays its part in the development of the kingdom of God; the trumpet, however, is generally in request, and wind is apparently the last thing that will be wanting; so we are content to address ourselves to the humbler task of the trowel.’

Later issues included articles by J.H. Rigg on ‘Wesley as Preacher’ and ‘Wesley’s Itinerancy’; but reports also on the Wesleyan and other Methodist Conferences and the Anglican Convocation, clearly indicate the intention to present an interdenominational coverage, The final issue on 30 December 1885 states that the Recorder ‘will in future include some of the features of this Journal, and which from the first inst will be permanently enlarged’.

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Updated: 29 April 2018

Part of an area on the Surrey/Hampshire border long known as 'the Methodist Desert', Godalming had a chapel as early as 1792, to which a young missionary was appointed in 1793. It became the 'Godalming and Crowdhill Mission in 1797 and the 'Surrey Misssion' in 1809, with various preaching places, including a former Congregational chapel in a back street. Lay pioneers in the area included James Horne of Flexford and Nomandy, whose preaching 'created an unofficial circuit' and Isaac Austen of Godalming.The old chapel was not replaced until the present H.P.Hughes Memorial Church was opened in Bridge Road in 1903.

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Updated: 27 April 2018

Born on 16 July 1827 into a Wesleyan Methodist family at Doddington, Shropshire, he was the son of William Smith (1798-1879), an iron founder, builder and property developer. In 1853 he joined his father’s business and by 1858 was managing the foundry. In 1860 he moved the business to Mill Street and Castle Street, Whitchurch. The London Gazette of 4 December 1860 listed a ‘patent applied for’ by Robert Thursfield Smith and Thomas Suckley, Agricultural Implement makers of Whitchurch, for ‘an improved apparatus for smutting and screening grain and distributing other granular substances’. In the 1871 Census Robert is recorded as an ‘Iron-founder, Civil Engineer, and Timber Merchant employing sixty men’, and by 1879 he had built a foundry in Talbot Street close to the railway. He died at Whitchurch on 12 March 1907.

Robert and his wife were members of and great supporters of the Wesleyan Chapel in Whitchurch (1810-1879) (now the Whitchurch Heritage Centre). They were heavily involved in raising funds for St. John’s Wesleyan Church, Whitchurch. Mrs Sarah Smith (nee Savage, 1832-1894) raised over £1,000 by organising a 4-day bazaar. The Church was opened on 24th April 1879.

Robert had a passionate interest in the Wesley family and Methodist history and amassed one of the largest collections of Methodist manuscripts, including 60 John Wesley letters, his Georgia Journal and a large library of Wesley Hymns and other Methodist books. Part of his collection consisting of 858 items dated from 1735 to 1898 was purchased by Mrs Enriqueta Augustina Rylands in 1903. The collection was gifted to the John Rylands Library, Manchester in 1908 and became the foundation of the largest and world-famous collection of Methodist manuscripts, printed books and memorabilia.

Several members of the Smith family are mentioned in the stained-glass windows in St John’s Methodist Church, Whitcurch.

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Updated: 22 April 2018

The pulpit in the parish church at South Leigh near Oxford bears a plaque claiming that John Wesley preached there for the first time on 19th September 1725, after his ordination as a deacon on the previous Sunday. This is an error based on a statement by Wesley in his Journal many years later under the date 16 October 1771: ‘I preached at South Leigh. Here it was that I preached my first sermon six and forty years ago.’ Wesley meant ‘the first sermon I ever wrote’, not ‘the first time I preached it’. During the week after after his ordination his Diary is blank, with no reference to any sermon preparation. But a week later, on Sunday October 3rd he records preaching at Fleet Marston, west of Aylesbury in the morning and at nearby Upper Winchendon in the afternoon. Thus began a memorably long and active ministry, which ended with his sermon at Leatherhead on the 22nd February 1791. The occasion at South Leigh to which Wesley refers many years later was not until 12 February 1727, and by then he had preached the same sermon thirteen or fourteen times.

St. Mary’s, Fleet Marston is now little more than a shell, in the hands of the Redundant Churches Trust, but can be visited by arrangement.

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Updated: 17 April 2018

See Mission House

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Updated: 17 April 2018

The first Wesleyan Methodist church that can be traced in Hungerford was built in Church Street in 1807, named 'Ebenezer'. Thit is said to have been on the site of an earlier one for which no details can be traced, so it may well have been a private house licensed for worship. The Ebenezer’s foundation stone, rediscovered in 1994, is now in the Bridge Street church. At the time of the 1851Religious Census, 160 free sittings and 156 ‘others’ were recorded, with standing room fort 50. Attendances were 173 in the morning and 153 in the evening, with 79 in the Sunday School. In 1869 the congregation moved to a new church built in Gothic style in Bath Road.

In 1833 Thomas Russell and John Ride from the Shefford PM Circuit arrived in the town and established a Primitive Methodist society which met in a house at the town end of Salisbury Road (then known s Moon Lane). In 1868 this was replaced by a chapel in Bridge Street, quite close to the Bath Road Wesleyans. A schoolroom was added and alterations made to the church facade in 1907.

Despite Methodist Union in 1932, the two congregations remained separate until Bath Road was closed in 1970. Its site is now occupied by a residential development called Chapel Court. In 1993 the Bridge Street premises were refurbished, with chairs replacing the pews and other improvements.

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Updated: 12 April 2018

Primitive Methodist itinerant and geologist, one of the eleven children of the Rev. Richard Howchin (1803-1874, em 1828) was born at Norwich on 12 January 1845 and educated at the Academy, Kings Lynn. He left school to become a clerk and then was a printer’s apprentice at Great Yarmouth. He seems to have trained for the ministry at Elmfield College, York. From an early age he developed an interest in geology and this was strengthened by his itinerating in the north east, including the coal measures of the Carboniferous age, glacial sediment and the flint implements of Northumberland which would lead In turn to studying those of the Australian Aborigines. He was elected a fellow of the Geology Society of London in 1878.

Contracting what is thought to have been tuberculosis, in 1881 he moved to Australia, serving as a minister in South Australia until 1903. For a time, he was the editor of The Christian Colonist and served for sixteen years as the secretary of the Adelaide Children’s Hospital. From 1899 to 1904 he held the post of lecturer in mineralogy at the Adelaide School of Mines, and then from 1902 to 1918 in geology and palaeontology at the University of Adelaide. Retiring in 1920. he held the post of Honorary Professor, continuing his researches. He died at Adelaide on 27 November 1937.

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Updated: 5 April 2018

Gifted pianist and composer, born at Horbury, near Wakefield on 26 March 1899, the son of George William Baines, organist at the Primitive Methodist chapel and pianist at local cinemas. He showed early musical talent and had piano lessons from his father and then at the Yorkshire College of Music in Leeds. By the age of 12 he had begun to compose hymn tunes and chants and in his teens acquainted himself with the orchestral repertoire by attending perfomances of the Bradford Permanent Orchestral Society. With the family’s move to York in 1917 he became a professional musician. He was already performing a number of his own compositions. He was called up in the closing months of the war, but hospitalised almost immediately with septic poisoning. After his discharge he resumed his composing and recitals, including one in Bournemouth at the invitation of Sir Dan Godfrey, but died from tuberculosis on 6 November 1922. Among the subscribers to a memorial plaque, now in Horbury Methodist Church were the Archbishop of York and Gustav Holst.

Among his 150 compositions were a number of orchestral and chamber works and many piano pieces; also a symphony in C Minor, not premiered until 1991 at the Grassington Festival.

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Updated: 3 April 2018

Trade unionist and MP, born on 17 March 1873 at Furnham, near Chard, Somerset, the tenth of eleven children of William Bondfield, foreman laceworker of yeoman stock, who was left in straightened circumstances when his firm folded. Her mother was the daughter of a WM minister, the Rev. George Taylor.

After limited schooling she taught for a year in a boys’ school, then at 14 was apprenticed in a Brighton shop for five years. Moving to London, the work conditions for shop assistants made her a keen member of the newly formed National Union of Shop Assistants. Two years’ involvement in a survey for the Women’s Industrial Council cost her her own job. She became acquainted with such leading figures as G.B. Shaw and the Webbs and shared platforms with Keir Hardie, George Lansbury and Ramsey Macdonald. In 1899, as assistant secretary of her Union, she was the sole woman delegate to the TUC. She was involved in the long struggle for a Shop Hours Act. As a close friend of Mary Macarthur, she helped to found the National Federation of Women Workers in 1906, becoming its secretary in 1915 and on its amalgamation in 1921 with the National Union of General and Municipal Workers its chief woman officer.

In 1918 she was elected to the Parliamentary Committee of the TUC and became its first woman chairman in 1923. In that year she was elected MP for Northampton, after twice being unsuccessful, She became Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Labour in 1924. Re-elected for Wallsend in 1926, she became the first woman to enter the Cabinet and piloted an unemployment insurance bill through Parliament. She lost her seat in the general elections of 1931 and 1935 and in 1938 retired from her trade union work. From 1939 on she was Vice-President of the National Council of Social Service and Chairman of the Women’s Group on Public Welfare.

Despite failing health her interest in public affairs continued, sustained by her strong faith. She received an Honorary LLD fron Bristol University in 1929 and the Freedom of Chard in 1930, and was appointed Companion of Honour in 1948. She died at Sanderstead, Surrey, on 16 June 1953.

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Updated: 2 April 2018

Methodist doctor and local preacher, born in Bridport, Dorset on 21 April 1766, the son of Richard Roberts, landlord of the Ship Inn. Rejecting several alternative apprenticeships as unacceptable, he turned to the gypsies to learn from their tradition of herbal medicine. Retuning home, he set up business in his native town and the surrounding countryside, with such success that a group of the local gentry enabled him in 1794 to study at St. Thomas’s and Guy’s hospitals in London and to receive his ‘licence to practice as apothecary, surgeon and physician’. Two years later, in 1797, he received an honorary MD from the Royal College and University of Aberdeen.

For the next 37 years he busied himself both as a local physician and surgeon and also ‘a local preacher of great force, originality and eloquence’ both in Bridport and beyond. With the formation of a Wesleyan society in Bridport in 1808, it was natural that he should ally himself with it; and when the Methodists of Burton Bradstock found themselves hounded by the local curate, he lost no time in going out to support them with an impassioned sermon on Acts 17.6 which was remembered by those present for many years.

He died on 16 September 1834 and , in the absence of a graveyard at the Methodist chapel at that time, was buried at St. Mary’s churchyard with a reading from Ecclesiasticus 38 to honour his life of service to his fellow men

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Updated: 31 March 2018

Novelist and journalist, born in Burslem on 27 May 1867. He was brought up in a staunchly Wesleyan family but, like Edwin, the young hero of Clayhanger, reacted strongly against being sent throughout childhood to Sunday School, that powerful institution of Victorian religion.. He rejected its influence at the age of 21, but immortalised the ‘Five Towns’ of the Potteries, in his fiction. His wry, ironic attitude to Wesleyanism comes out clearly in some of his novels, , such as the ‘Clayhanger’ trilogy and is examined in the opening chapter of Margaret Drabble’s biography. Although he inherited many of the Methodist strengths of character, the religion was more than he could stomach, finding Wesleyanism in Burslem small-minded, bigoted and censorious. The pride of Wesleyan architecture in Burslem, Swan Bank chapel, is demoted in the novels to ‘Duck Bank’.

Nevertheless, though he spent much of his later years in London and Paris, he was shaped by the Potteries and by its Methodism in ways that were decisive for his whole life. He imbibed the spirit of Wesley’s injunction, ‘Never be unemployed; never be triflingly employed’, was disciplined in his use of time and a great self-improver , a prolific author throughout his adult years and generous to others in need. He died in London on 26 March 1931.

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Updated: 20 March 2018