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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

See Deal

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Updated: 17 March 2018

Both Charles Wesley in 1736 and his brother John in 1738 landed at Deal on their return from America. A local tradition says that John Wesley preached in the town on some unknown date. But Methodism was not established in the town until the early 19th century. In 1805 a site was obtained for a chapel in Duke Street, built in 1806 at a cost of some £600-750, of which £448 was raised by private subscriptions. It was at first called ‘Ebenezer’. Considerable alterations and additions were made Between then and 1866, including a schoolroom at the back in 1835 to hold 150 scholars. A new school was built in 1860 in Union Road, just behind the chapel and on 7 February 1866 a new chapel was opened on the corner of West Street and Union Road. (Some of the stone used in its construction came from the demolition of Sandown Castle.)

The singing was at first led by a small orchestra of flute, clarinet and violin. An organ, built by the local firm of Browne’s, was not introduced until 1878.

About that time a small Primitive Methodist chapel was built in Park Street, seating about 100. The premises later housed Deal’s first public library.

In 1900 a scheme was launched to build what was opened as ‘Wesley Hall’ the following year. Some 150 Wesleyans from the Royal Marines Barracks paraded there on Sunday mornings and during World War I services were held there because of the difficulty of blacking out the church windows.

Two other Methodist churches were built in the area, one in Station Road, Walmer, popularly known as the ‘tin Tabernacle’,and one in Mill Hill, ‘Havelock Hall’, to serve the mining community there and named after the Rev. J.Havelock Thompson, who had been stationed locally in 1927-36 and retired locally.

In the early1960s, after much discussion, it was agreed that the three churches in Deal and Walmer should be replaced by one new church in Deal. On Easter Sunday 1965 the three congregations began worshipping together in Wesley Hall; on 18 June 1966 the foundation stone for a new church was laid, and in June 1967 this was officially opened on the West Street/Union Road site by the District Chairman, the Rev. Ronald Ducker, with an address by the Rev. Leslie Davison from the Home Missions Department. Deal and Dover Circuits became one that year and in the 1980s the Methodist and URC churches in Deal were united to form Trinity Church.

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Updated: 17 March 2018

Dover in the 18th century was divided for the most part between the main town below the Castle and along the river to the sea and an area to the west known as the ‘Pier District’ where many small terraced houses had been built (demolished in the mid-20th century). On the first of over 20 visits John Wesley preached in the Pier District in 1756, and again in 1759, where Methodists were meeting in various houses, including one in Queen Street. In 1760 his brother Charles was the first to do so in Dover town, opposite the Maison Dieu.

A chapel, converted from two houses in Limekiln Street, was opened in 1765 and a new chapel in Queen Elizabeth Square, seating 300, on 5 April 1790 – probably the ‘new chapel’ to which Wesley refers in the previous December. At this time most of the chapels in Kent were part of the London Circuit and Dover did not become the head of a separate circuit until 1799.

Just over thirty years later, the Queen Elizabeth Square chapel had become too small and was replaced by a new one in Snargate Street, opened on 2 October by Robert Newton. It had seating for 656, of which 130 were free, 72 for Sunday School children, and the rest to let, bringing in a yearly income of £403.6s.6d. There was a small graveyard behind the chapel, with a record of eight burials between 1834 and1849. Queen Elizabeth Square was sold by auction for £317 and was used by the Roman Catholics for a short time before becoming the Pier District’s Working Men’s Club.

A second Wesleyan chapel was built in central Dover town in 1808, on a road known as Shooters Hill, but later as London Road. It was later used by the Sunday School and became known as the Buckland Methodist Hall. In September 1839 the Circuit Quarterly Meeting agreed to the building of a chapel opposite the Hall, to be known as ‘Centenary Chapel’. It was opened on 19 December 1839 with seating for 472, including 149 free. In 1880 both Snargate Street and Buckland Centenary chapels were re-pewed at a cost of £1,809 and Buckland Chapel’s accommodation rose to 622 with 150 free sittings. Dover was the first circuit to which Hugh Price Hughes was appointed as a probationer in 1869.

In 1910 the Wesleyans felt that a ‘Forward Movement’ was needed in Dover and Wesley Methodist Chapel was built in a prime location near the town centre and opened on 10 November. Sadly, seven years later, during World War I, a large bomb hit the chapel and the manse next door. But repairs were made and the chapel reopened.

The earliest known Primitive Methodist building was built by a Mr. Igguilden in 1823 for dissenters from the Queen Elizabeth Square Wesleyans. It was in Middle Row, off Blenheim Square, near the harbour and was known as St. John Mariners’ Church, being used by seafaring families. It seated 600, but had been known to hold 1,000! It is unclear when this chapel was vacated, but in 1848 the Rev. John Crow from Ramsgate preached in the open air in the Pier District and the following year services commenced in a carpenter’s workshop in Limekiln Street.

The Primitive Methodists in Dover town met in various places, including a cottage in Paul’s Place, a loft in Round Tower Lane and a cow shed in Brook Street, before building their first chapel, Jubilee Church, in Peter Street in 1860. Extended in 1928, it closed in 1935 and its sale contributed to the London Road (Primitive Methodist) Church, which had been opened on New Year’s Day 1902 at the junction of London Road and Beaconsfield Road. (This later became Dover Central Church.) Meanwhile another PM church had been opened in 1880 in Belgrave Road, of which little is known except that it closed and was sold in 1964.

Following Methodist Union in 1932, the two Dover circuits did not become one until 1938. Buckland Centenary church then closed and amalgamated with the former PM London Road church nearby, though its sale was delayed by World War II until 1947. Its premises were meanwhile used by the amalgamated congregations until bomb damage to the London Road church had been repaired.

Wesley Church experienced a second bombing in 1941, but was repaired and did not close until 1 November 1981, when its remaining members joined other Methodist congregations in Dover and River. On 28 August 1961 Snargate Street church closed after 127 years, its members joining Belgrave Road, Wesley or London Road churches.

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Updated: 17 March 2018

There is evience, at least in the Black Country (e.g. Bilston), of a superstitious belief that a sure cure for fits was to obtain a 'sacrament shilling' and get it made into a ring and wear it. 'One of the scholars [at Bilston] was wearing one and told the rest what it was for and took it off for their inspection, when she cried out,"Oh, I feel one coming" and so hurried to put it on.' (Edward Loxdale)

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Updated: 22 February 2018

Bristol merchant and Wesleyan (not to be confused with John Irving, London merchant and slave-owner), was born at Dornock, Dumfries-shire, on the Solway Firth. After a sound parish education he left Scotland and migrated to Bristol. In his teens he served on ships trading with Jamaica. He rose to be master by 1810 and then by 1815, having gained some capital, he entered the Bristol merchant elite. In any one year between 1815 and 1860, he had up to seven vessels trading chiefly with the West Indies and Canada, but also by the early 1850s Australia and the South Seas In the 1830s he added emigrant passages to his trading voyages. Though apparently never owning a steamship, he evidently had a share in one on which the Rev DrJabez Bunting and his party of Wesleyan dignitaries returned after a farewell to missionaries bound for India in September 1837. Besides vigorously defending the port of Bristol in its rivalry with Gloucester, after the opening of the Gloucester & Berkeley Canal in 1827, Irving sat on the committee of ten merchants and capitalists who in 1836 sponsored Isambard Kingdom Brunel’s Great Western steamship (which made its first transatlantic crossing in 1838).

Through his first wife Elizabeth (d. May 1819), whom he married c.1808-9, he joined the Wesleyan Methodists. By her he had three sons and two daughters, which possibly motivated his quick second marriage, to Mrs Elizabeth Cottrell of Arlingham, on the Severn, in October 1819. She died in June 1841. In June 1842 he was married a third time, to Mrs Mary Gillatt, widow of Joshua Gillatt (d. 1840), a Sheffield dispensing chemist and Wesleyan.

His contributions to Wesleyan Methodism were numerous and varied. He was on the managing committee of the Bristol Methodist Sunday School Society (established 1804). As on later occasions for various voyages, in 1818 Irving gave free passage to the West Indies to nine Wesleyan missionaries. The following year he joined the national committee of the Wesleyan Methodist Missionary Society, and served intermittently between 1819 and the 1850s. In many years he made sizeable donations to the WMMS, having a special interest in the West Indies. To the Wesleyan Centenary Fund of 1839-44 he donated £1,500, the largest sum listed. Through his influence, £6,000 of the £221,939 collected for the Fund was spent on purchasing and fitting out the missionary ship Triton for service in the Pacific islands, which he oversaw. He sat on the Polynesian Missionary Ship sub-committee of the WMMS, 1840-55. He was a general treasurer of Kingswood School, 1835-65. On his death in Bristol in 1865 he left £8,000.

His eldest son, John William Irving, educated at Trinity College, Cambridge, became a priest in the Church of England

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Updated: 17 February 2018

WM draper, was born at Tipton, Staffordshire, youngest of eight children of David Jevons, draper and class leader and trustee of the WM society in Tipton. At the age of twelve Solomon was apprenticed to Messrs Farnell & Cattell, hosiers and haberdashers of Worcester Street ,Birmingham. Attendance at the Birmingham meetings of the revivalist American preacher James Caughey in 1845 led to his conversion.

He joined one of his former employers in the partnership of Farnell & Jevons at the corner of Worcester and Phillip Street, Birmingham. In the next fifteen years he expanded the business by adding a wholesale warehouse, visiting Paris and Berlin to secure his supplies of wools and fancy goods. Postal orders significantly increased his trade. . He bought out the ageing Farnell and moved house to Edgbaston and his WM membership from Cherry Street chapel to the new one in the Bristol Road. A breakdown in health persuaded him to move to Erdington where a near neighbor Sir Josiah Mason allowed Methodist services in the hall of his first orphanage at Erdington. Later a separate WM chapel was built. Despite forming a partnership with John Mellor, the demands of business wore down his health and in 1878 he retired prematurely. Thereafter he devoted himself to religious and philanthropic concerns. Practising systematic and proportionate giving, he reportedly laid a foundation stone at eighty places of worship, as well as donating to many other causes in the home and foreign mission fields. His largest gift, £10,000, was made in 1878 to the Wesleyan Thanksgiving Fund, providing that the Fund matched it, for the establishment of the Princess Alice Orphanage, particularly for the children of church-going parents.

In pursuit of warmer weather Jevons moved to Moseley, where he died in 1904, leaving an estate of £32,154.

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Updated: 1 February 2018