The Methodists established themselves in Beverley in the 1750s, firstly in a house in Wednesday Market where John Wesley preached on his first visit on Saturday July 14th 1759. ‘I preached at eight in Mr Hilton’s yard, near the great street in Beverley; and was surprised to see so quiet and civil a congregation, where we expected nothing less. All the men were uncovered, and the whole audience was attentive from beginning to end; nor did one person give us a rude word while we rode from one end of the town to the other. This, with the large and earnest congregation at York in the evening, made me forget all my labour.’
In 1760 George Whitefield preached in the courtyard of the Hotham family’s house in Eastgate. The congregation was superintended from Hull, and a building in Wood Lane was bought in the names of leading Methodists of that town in 1781.
Wesley visited Beverley again fifteen times between 1761 and 1790 as recorded in his journals:
Saturday 27th June 1761 ‘I was constrained to leave them (Hull) early in the morning. At seven I preached in Beverley.’
In July 1761 Wesley records preaching at Beverley on texts – 2 Cor. 8 v 9 and Jer. 8 v 22. This may have referred to the June visit.
Wednesday 11th April 1764 ‘Between eight and nine I began preaching at Beverley, in a room which is newly taken. It was filled from end to end, and that with serious hearers.’
Thursday 17th July 1766 ‘In the way to Beverley I called upon Sir Charles Hotham and spent a comfortable hour.’ The Hothams were close friends of the Wesleys and Charles’s hymn ‘Jesu lover of my soul’ was set to the tune Hotham after this family whose estate was in South Dalton but who kept a house in Eastgate.
Thursday 21st June 1770 ‘I preached at Hull in the evening (20th) and the next at Beverley.’
Tuesday 23rd June 1772 ‘About Eleven I preached at Driffield. The sun was extremely hot; but I was tolerably screened by a shady tree. In the evening I preached at Beverley.’
Thursday 7th July 1774 ‘I preached at Beverley and Hull, where the house would not near contain the congregation.’
Tuesday 13th May 1777 ‘I preached… in the morning at Beverley; and in the evening at Hull, on ‘Narrow is the way that leadeth unto life.’
Thursday 1st July 1779 ‘ This was the first of eighteen or twenty days full as hot as any I remember in Georgia (USA); and yet the season is remarkably healthy. I preached in Beverley at noon.’
Monday 30th May-Saturday 4th July 1781 ‘In the evening to York. Hence I took a little circuit through Malton, Scarborough, Beverley, Hull and Pocklington, and came to York again.’
Wednesday 15th May-Sunday 26th May 1782 ‘I set out for the other side of Lincolnshire… I went by Hull, Beverley, Bridlington; and then hastened to Newcastle upon Tyne.’
Tuesday 22nd June 1784 ‘About one I preached to a large and remarkably serious congregation at Beverley.’ From notes – ‘Beverley had dinner, conversed, 1 Cor. 13 v 1 etc chaise (travelled in?) Hull.’
Saturday 17th June 1786 ‘I found Mr Parker at Beverley in a palace. The Gentleman who owned it being gone abroad, it was let at a moderate rent. I preached here at twelve.’ From notes – ‘9.15 Inn; 10 chaise; 11 Beverley, at Mr Parkers, sermon; 12 dinner; Matthew 4 v 10! Christened; 1.30 chaise.’
Thursday 19th June 1788 ‘As soon as the service (at Malton) was over I hasted away and reached Beverley (28 miles) in good time. The house here, though greatly enlarged, was well filled with high and low, rich and poor; and (it being the day of the Archdeacon’s visitation) many of the clergy were there. I rejoiced in this, as it might be a means of removing prejudice from many sincere minds.’
Friday 25th June 1790 ‘About noon I preached at Beverley to a serious, well behaved congregation, and in the evening to one equally serious, and far more numerous, at Hull.’ (Thomas Taylor, who was then assistant in the Hull Circuit, refers to this visit in his diary. He and many friends from Hull met Wesley in Beverley and dined with him at an inn there.)
The progress of Methodism was not without its troubles. In a letter of 1770 Wesley hoped that ‘the little debates which were some time since in the society at Beverley are at an end’, and he was later reputed to have reminded the firmly conformist corporation of its duty to protect worshippers at Wood Lane from molestation. The first quarter of the 19th century was a period of great activity for the Methodists in Beverley. They moved to a larger building in the centre of the town and soon afterwards began missionary activity in the largely industrial area near the beck. Services were started in Beckside c. 1810 and the work was consolidated by the almost simultaneous building in the 1820s of a Sunday school and a chapel. For a short period services were also held in the workhouse. The success of the Beverley society led to the division of the Hull circuit and the creation of a Beverley circuit in 1824.
Other congregations appeared in consequence of the secessions from the main Methodist body which occurred after Wesley’s death. The Primitive Methodists already had c. 70 members by 1829, compared with the older Methodist society’s 200 or so. Congregations of Association, New Connexion, and Reform Methodists were recorded in the mid century. The last mentioned may have drawn its membership largely from the industrial east side of the town. Leading members were the agricultural implement makers Thomas and William Sawney, the builder of the congregation’s chapel Robert Pape, and men from Grovehill.
For the Methodist society in Beverley perhaps the most damaging secession was the foundation of a local Church Methodist movement. In 1824 Mark Robinson, a leading Methodist in the town, criticized the government of the Methodists as unrepresentative. He and his supporters also wanted Methodism to be returned to its original role as an auxiliary of the Established Church, and they cited the example of a numerous body of ‘Church’ or ‘Primitive Wesleyan Methodists’ in Ireland and the system of lay preaching established there to supplement Church services. After attempts to exclude Robinson from the society he and about 40 others left and formed a body of Church Methodists the same year. Robinson’s chief supporter was Anthony Atkinson, deputy registrar for the East Riding, and another founder member was the iron founder William Crosskill. About 1825 chapels were built in Beverley, Cherry Burton, and Woodmansey, and another was bought in Hull. The Church Methodists also obtained possession of the Wesleyan school in Holme Church Lane and held services there. At the request of the Beverley society the Irish Methodists sent preachers in 1825 but almost immediately ‘unpleasant differences’ arose with them and the Irish Conference over the constitution of the local body. In 1826 the trustees considered selling the Beverley, Cherry Burton, and Woodmansey chapels, in 1827 Church Methodism was said to be ‘nearly become a nonentity’, and in 1829 Atkinson and Robinson were said to ‘occasionally preach to a few’. The Landress Lane chapel was said in 1831 to be used by the Church of England. It later stood empty. In 1837, after Robinson’s death, Atkinson proposed its use as a ‘church’, presumably a chapel of ease, but he was opposed by the vicar of St. Mary’s, in whose parish the chapel stood, and in 1839-40 he co-operated in the demolition of the chapel and the use of its materials to build a chapel of ease to the minster in Lairgate. Of the other chapels Cherry Burton passed to the Wesleyans and Woodmansey was used by the Church of England. Within months of its purchase in 1826 the chapel in Osborne Street, Hull, had been secured by William Mac Conkey, who had been dismissed by the Beverley society. The congregation there later became Independent Methodist under MacConkey. In 1829 he preached to a group of ‘Irish Church Methodists’ in Beverley, of which no more is known.
In the later 19th and early 20th century the work of the chapels was extended by the foundation of youth, clothing, and other societies. The various sects also competed with one another in responding to the steady growth of the town with programmes of rebuilding and renewed missionary activity. Between 1867 and 1910 the chapels and schools of Primitive and Wesleyan Methodists, Congregationalists, and both Baptist societies were all rebuilt or replaced on a larger scale. Both Primitives and Wesleyans opened new missions in the period, at Norwood in 1881 and Keldgate in 1899 respectively, and the evangelical efforts of the Primitives were also expressed in annual camp meetings on Westwood.
METHODIST BUILDINGS BEVERLEY.
Premises there were used by the Wesleyans for services from c. 1810; they were replaced by the Sunday school in Holme Church Lane c. 1822.
Blucher Lane, Beckside.
A chapel was built by the Wesleyans in 1825. It was replaced by Flemingate in 1882, sold the same year, and later demolished.
A chapel was built by the Wesleyans in 1881-2 to replace Blucher Lane. It is of red brick with blue and white brick banding in a plain pointed Gothic style. The building, which was soon afterwards enlarged with a schoolroom, provided 250 seats.
A house in Hengate was registered in 1758, by Methodists. Another house in St. Mary’s parish was registered in 1764 and that, too, may have been in Hengate, where a room was said to have been used by the Wesleyans until replaced by Wood Lane c. 1781.
Holme Church Lane.
A Sunday school built by the Wesleyans c. 1822 was used for services before Blucher Lane was built in 1825. The Church Methodists evidently gained possession of the building and were said in 1829 to have held services there occasionally. After the collapse of the movement, it was used for a minster Sunday school and a day school in the 1840s and was later owned by a temperance society and the Particular Baptists.
A mission hall was built by the Wesleyans and opened in 1899. The hall, which accommodated 120, was closed in 1963 and demolished in 1971.
A room in Turner’s Yard was opened as a place of worship in 1842 and registered the following year. The congregation was variously described as New Connexion Methodist and a temperance branch of Primitive Methodist.
A Gothic-style chapel seating c. 800 was built in Landress Lane in 1825-6 by the Church Methodists. It was used until the failure of the movement c. 1830 and later demolished.
A Sunday school opened by the Primitives in 1881 was also used for services and was alternatively described as a mission chapel with c. 200 seats. It is a plain building of red brick with stone dressings. A chapel adjoining the school was added in 1901. Also of red brick with stone dressings but in a simple Gothic style, it was designed by Mr. Petch of Scarborough and provided c. 250 seats. It was used in 1987.
A church was designed by B. W. Blanchard of Hull and opened in 1961. It was closed in 1982 and later demolished.
In 1829 the Irish Church Methodists were said to use a room in Wilkinson’s Yard.
In the 1840s the Association Methodists had a chapel there, which was replaced by Wood Lane.
Toll Gavel, Wesley Church.
A church was built in 1890-2 to replace the Walkergate chapel. The site, which had mostly been a burial ground, was enlarged in 1901. The building, designed by Morley & Woodhouse of Bradford, is of red brick with an Italianate stone front. It provided c. 900 seats. The congregation may have been joined in 1926 by former worshippers at Trinity Lane. It was united with those of Wednesday Market in 1955 and the United Reformed Church, Lairgate, in 1976, and the church was thereafter called Toll Gavel United Church. Registers of baptisms for the Beverley circuit survive from 1827.
A chapel was opened by the Reform Methodists in 1856, replacing Well Lane. It seated 500 and was adjoined by a Sunday school. From 1857 the chapel was used by the United Methodist Free Churches, of which the Reformers were founder members that year. It became part of the United Methodist Church in 1907. The chapel is of red brick with a stuccoed front, which has a pediment supported by Corinthian pilasters. It was closed in 1926 and sold to the freemasons, who used it in 1987. Members of the congregation may have gone to Toll Gavel from 1926.
A chapel was built by the Wesleyans in 1804 and opened the next year, replacing Wood Lane. The site had been enlarged by 1821 with a house in Toll Gavel, given by Thomas Thompson of Hull, later the manse; part of the site was used as a burial ground from c. 1830 until its closure in 1858. The chapel, with a heavy classical facade, provided 700 seats. A Sunday school was added in the 1820s and the chapel was enlarged in 1836-7, when services were temporarily held in the guildhall; it later accommodated c. 800. It was replaced by a chapel, built on the former burial ground and facing Toll Gavel, in 1892. It was demolished and its site used in 1903 for a new Sunday school, later called the Wesley Lecture Hall.
A house licensed in 1757 was for Methodist Worship.
A chapel was built by the Primitives in 1825 seating c. 400; it later included a Sunday school. It was rebuilt on an enlarged site in 1867-8 to designs by Joseph Wright of Hull. The Romanesque building, which included a Sunday school, had 700 seats. The school was enlarged in 1903. The chapel was closed in 1955 on amalgamation with Toll Gavel and was later demolished.
The Temperance Hall in which the Reform Methodists held services in 1856 was presumably the one in Well Lane. It was replaced by Trinity Lane.
A building there was bought by the Wesleyans in 1781 and largely rebuilt as a chapel, registered for worship in 1782. It was replaced by Walkergate in 1805 and sold the next year.
The Association Methodists apparently replaced Toll Gavel with a chapel in Wood Lane before 1856, when it was recorded as closed.
The Opening of Toll Gavel Chapel
Saturday, October 11, 1890 – Beverley Independent
Wesleyan Methodism in Beverley.
Past and Present
The ceremony of laying the foundation stone of a new Wesleyan Chapel, in Beverley, which passed off so successfully last week, naturally suggested thoughts regarding the rise and progress of the connexion in Beverley, and as pressure upon our space prevented our giving publicity to certain facts in relation therewith, we now present them, as we promised, to our readers.
The cock pit in Wood-lane, after it came into the hands of the Wesleyans, was christened the “Beverley Preaching House.” In 1787 a piece of ground adjoining to this “House” was purchased of John Courtney, Esq., on which stables were built. Mr Terry, solicitor, prepared the Trust Deed; the cost of registering was 4s. 7d. The little society in Wood-lane was persecuted. Its worshippers were often disturbed. It was said by old Methodists who recollected these days, that a pump stood near the chapel gate and mischievous men and boys of the baser sort would assemble when the congregation were engaged in God’s worship, and raise a dam across the street, a few yards on each side of the gate and then pump the space between full of water, when the congregation came down the steps they plunged up to the knees in water. Frightened birds also were sent flying amongst the tallow candles to extinguish them. As the people were leaving chapel at night, advantage was taken of the dimly-lighted street and water was thrown over them at the entrance to Wood-lane, and the dresses of the women besmeared with tar. It was stated by William Skinn, that he was converted with the Methodists towards the end of the last century, he heard John Wesley say “Give my compliments to the Mayor of Beverley, and tell him that if he does not do his duty in protecting my followers from the molestation to which they are exposed, I have considerable influence with King George, and King George has an arm that will reach to Beverley.” In 1806 the “chapel and premises” were sold to Mr Thomas Shipstone, hosier, for £420, and used by him as a wool warehouse. It is now converted into tenements.
The first brick of the “new chapel” in Walkergate, was laid by Mr. George Marsden, one of the preachers in the circuit, on the evening of 20th July, 1804. Mr Thomas Wood, of the same circuit, preached on the spot from the text “Upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” The chapel was opened 1st September 1805. A sermon was preached by the Rev. Mr. Averell from 1 Kings, c8. v. 38 and 39. Messrs. Walter Griffiths, William Bramwell, and Samuel Taylor were preachers in the circuit. The site was presented by Messrs. Sampson Middleton and Thomas Thompson. The cost of erecting the chapel was over £1,200 towards which subscriptions were received in Beverley amounting to £409. Collections at Scarborough, York, Bridlington, Howden, Pocklington, and Malton, brought in £200 more. The seat rents for the first year were about £62. In 1820 the rents had increased to £99. There was then a debt on the chapel of £490.
It is related by an old Methodist that a regiment of soldiers passing through Beverley on the way to Waterloo, held a service in the Walkergate Chapel, and one of the captains addressed them. They had a band with them. All of them were slain at Waterloo.
In 1816 a room was taken for a “Meeting House” in Potter’s-hill. In 1822 a chapel was erected there, but, owing to a “split” was lost to the society.
In 1824 the little chapel at the Top-bridge, Beckside, was opened, and used until a few years ago, when it gave place to the more commodious structure in Fleming-gate, the foundation-stone of which was laid 21st February, 1881, and the opening ceremony took place 31st March, 1882.
In 1888 the Walkergate Chapel was considerably enlarged, and has sufficed for nearly half a century.
The Wesleyans began the work of Sunday School teaching in the Preaching House in Wood-lane in 1701. The trustees then were Messrs. Thomas Parker, John Wood, James Skinn, John Barker, Henry Bell, John Andrew, Henry Thompson, John Silversides, and James Longbottom. At that time the yearly seat rents only amounted to about £18, and the quarterly collection to £2 9s. 6d. The stables and a chamber were let off for £6 10s. a year. There was a debt of about £400. The trustees ‘account book’ bears evidence that the society had some difficulty in making ends meet. The financial position was, however, somewhat improved. In April, 1806, after the sale of the Cockpit preaching house, a balance was handed over to the new chapel account amounting to £52 9s. 3¼d.
Beverley became the head of a circuit in 1824, and about that time an attempt was made to break up the connexion. The leading spirit of the movement was a prominent and clever controversialist, Mr. Mark Robinson, who inaugurated the now defunct system designated “Church Methodism.” Mr. Robinson induced a considerable number of leading members to join him. They professed to be dissatisfied with the constitution of the Wesleyan connexion on two grounds, the one, that of its gradual separation from the Church of England; the other, in its government being placed exclusively in the hands of itinerant or travelling preachers, who then assembled in conference annually, and made whatever laws they pleased for the government of the whole connexion. These propounders of a new scheme professed that in imitation of the civil and ecclesiastical government of the country, the people ought to possess a fair proportion of power both in the legislative and executive government of the Methodist societies, and were therefore desirous of introducing an entire system of lay representation. The controversy was fierce and personal. The Rev. T. Galland. M.A., then stationed at Beverley – a liberal in politics and no bigot – very ably defended his own connexion against the “Fly Leaves” which were scattered broadcast, and thousands of which were subsequently sold as waste paper. Mr. Robinson had for his principle coadjutor Mr. Anthony Atkinson who induced a number of persons to subscribe £100 each and a handsome gothic structure, calculated to accommodate 800 hearers, was erected in Landress-lane, on the very site where the congregational schools are now built. A minister from Dublin, the Rev. Montgomery West, occupied the pulpit for a short time, and then came to loggerheads with the “head centres”
Scaum, in the “Beverlae,” published in 1829, says: – “The Church Methodists have received the sanction of the Rev. Archdeacon Wrangham, and several other distinguished members of the Church of England. There is no regularly established preacher at present, but Mr. Mark Robinson (the founder of the system) and Mr. Anthony Atkinson conjointly officiate. There is also a small school-room at the Beckside, at which there is, occasionally, divine service, but there are no members at present in connexion.