Bradwell: Ancient and Modern

A History of the Parish and of Incidents in the Hope Valley.

By Seth Evans (1912)

Transcriptions by Rosemary Lockie, © Copyright 2013

Chapter XXIX.


The Bradwell Pioneers.

In a previous chapter the introduction of Primitive Methodism is touched upon very briefly. Since that was written the first account book of the newly-formed body has been placed at the disposal of the writer, and is highly interesting as showing the work of the pioneers, under the most trying circumstances.

James Ingham, the Pioneer Primitive Methodist
The Pioneer Primitive Methodist.

The very first entry is one of eighteen pence “for small rules given to members by Brother Ingham”, under date January 12th, 1822. This shows that James Ingham was the pioneer. During the first three months the town was invaded by preachers who were paid small sums for their work. The chief of these was Susan Berry, who, on arrival in Bradwell, was given three shillings, and during the quarter was paid 11s. 5d. for her work. Messrs. Beeley, Fletcher, and Barber were also pioneers this quarter. They were paid a few shillings each. These first preachers were fed and lodged by William Evans, in Smalldale. The only other items of expenditure were for glazing the windows of George Morton's barn so as to make it suitable for a chapel, and numerous payments for candles, in addition to 16s. 8d. for sacramental wine. The total expenditure for the quarter was £7 1s. 11½d., but such was the success that attended the missionaries' work that the receipts were £16 8s. 6¾d. from the classes that were formed at Bradwell (£8 15s. 6d.). Little Hucklow, Castleton, Tideswell, Curbar, Calver Eyam, Bamford, Hope, Edale, Wardlow, Foolow, Taddington, Flagg, Peak Forest, Chinley, Wash, and Chapel Milton.

The movement spread, and during the second quarter, Abney and Rowarth were added to the list of societies, then Grindleford Bridge, Bugsworth, Mellor, Stoney Middleton Great Hucklow, Bagshaw, Pindale, Chapel-en-le-Frith, Monyash, Chelmorton, Thornsett, New Mills, Aspinshaw, Derwent, Furness Vale, Litton Slack, Bretton, Sheldon, Buxton, Simmondley, Whitfield, Kettleshulme, Stone Heads (Whaley Bridge) Marple, Longstone, Hayfield, Glossop, Brookhouses, Birch Hall Houses, Compstall, Mottram, Tintwistle, and Marple Bridge. When, in 1826, this big circuit had a membership of 430, it was divided, and New Mills (with Glossop, etc.) constituted a separate circuit, for on June 26th there is the entry: “New Mills was made into a circuit, and Bradwell took the household furniture and the debt which was £6 14s. 0d., New Mills one half of the books”.

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John Hallam, a Pioneer Primitive Preacher

Goldsmith's Vicar of Wakefield was rich on forty pounds a year, but these early travelling preachers were obliged to fancy themselves rich on much less. Amos Ogden and Joseph Hibbs (who became the Rev. Joseph Hibbs and was known as the Primitive Methodist Bishop of South Wales) had to be content with a shilling a day, while Thomas Fletcher, Samuel Beeley, Humfrey Goddard and Elias Oldfield had two shillings a day. The first regular minister was Jeremiah Gilbert, who had charge of this big circuit at the princely salary of fourteen shillings a week, and he had as his assistant, John Hallam at seven shillings a week. Hallam was a Bradwell lad, who went out into the regular ministry, as also did Joseph Middleton, another native. No wonder that with such salaries there was occasionally a “present” of a few shillings to the preachers. But as things improved, and the cause made its way these regular preachers were employed at 14s. a week each, and they were assisted by a number of local preachers, who were paid two shillings a day while the Peak was being missioned. But when the New Mills circuit was formed in 1826, Bradwell had to be content with one minister - Josiah Partington - at 14s. a week, and Robert Shenton a young man, whose quarterly wage was £3 10s., and £1 10s. was paid “for Robert, Shenton's meals”. Robert Shenton was only here one year, for he entered the Unitarian ministry, and remained a minister here half a century, as noticed in a previous chapter.

Robert Shenton, Unitarian Preacher 63 years
Who left the Primitives and was Unitarian
Preacher 63 Years.

As there was a rapidly increasing adverse balance every quarter, it was found necessary to reduce the expenses, and so Robert Hewson became the preacher in 1827, at the magnificent wage of twelve shillings a week, and he lived in a house at £3 a year rent. But things improved, for his successor, George Tindal, was put up to the fourteen shillings standard, but in order to pay him up when he left, the hat was sent round, private collections made, and the accounts squared up by selling blankets and bolsters out of the house. John Graham was the next preacher, and he had to be content with being paid on account each quarter until there was £11 due to him as arrears, and in order to clear it off when he left the circuit, £8 3s. 3d. was “collected in New Mills circuit”.


When the famous John Verity made his appearance in 1831, he stirred things up. There was a great revival, and the increased membership meant an improvement in the finances, so that the deficiency became a thing of the past, but only for a time, for when two preachers were engaged, financial troubles re-appeared.

John Verity was a most popular preacher. By trade he was a stonemason, and he carved the inscription stone over the old chapel at Castleton. He also preached the opening sermons of that chapel. Here is an interesting entry we came across: “Castleton Chapel was opened Castleton Wakes Sunday, 1833. There are nine Trustees. The debt upon the chapel is £42 10s. The names of the Trustees, and the sum each finds on interest of 5 per cent, is to be received at Christmas are as follow:

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Anthony Gilbert, Tideswell, £5; Wm. Bennett, Tideswdl £5 10s.; Geo. Bennett. Tideswell, £5; John Kitchen, Calver, £5; Mary Andrew, Hathersage, £5; Francis Ayre, Abney, £4; George Rose, jun., Abney, £4; William Derwent, jun., Thornhill £4; Thos. Hadfield, late of Sittinglow, £5; £42 10s. 0d. The deed is kept at George Bennett's, of Tideswell”.


In 1834 there is a minute “That we try to get a female preacher to travel in this circuit as a Second Preacher”. The application was successful for Sister Ann Noble made her advent into the circuit, and remained a year at 3s. a week and her “meat bill”, and she was succeeded by Sister Robotham, who was paid £2 10s. a quarter.

There were, in the early days of the movement, many women amongst the local preachers of Primitiive Methodism, and an occasional glimpse is got at the earliest of these, who tramped over the Peak in hail, rain, wind or snow. In 1833 there is the entry “that Sister E. Bradshaw's name come off the plan, she having left the circuit”.

1834. “That Mary Hawkins be upon the plan, and be represented by a star”.

“That R. Swift and wife have their credentials sent to Macclesfield circuit they having removed thither”.

“That a star be upon the plan for the young females, and they have an appointment or two”.

“That Mary Hawkins have a few appointments on the plan, signified by a star”.

1835. “That we pledge Sister Noble at the ensuing District Meeting”.

“That Sister Noble stop till Christmas, 1835, and that we have a female the last six months”.

“That Hannah Howe be exalted to a full and Credited Local Preacher”.

“That Ann Bradwell's initials come on the plan”.

“That Mary Hawkins Do”.

“That Ann Bradwell's full name come on the plan”.

“That Elizabeth Handford be received upon the plan”.

“That Sister M. Potter have a note of liberty from this meeting to preach amongst us”.

“That the initials of Violet Hill come upon the plan”.

These are sufficient as showing some of those women who occupied the pulpits in the early days of the movement.


The new body was jealous of the conduct of its members and did not hesitate to call them to account at the Quarter Day for any breach of discipline. Thus, the minutes for the “Full Quarter Day”, March, 1833, contain an entry, “That George Maltby's name be left off the plan, he having voluntarily declared that he, the said George Maltby, had left the body, and immediately on his own accord left the Quarter Day”. And the same minutes, which are signed by Thomas Jennings and John Hallam, go on to say: “This is to certify that we have now laid before us every Class paper in the Circuit, and after the most strict examination find them to contain, according to Rule, 206 Full Members and 20 on Trial”.

There seems to have been trouble with another, who had for some years done a great deal of preaching, for at the December meeting in the same year it was determined “that Richard Hamilton be no longer a member nor preacher in our Society in consequence of professing and preaching Antinomist Doctrines, and dooming all to misery who dissent from him”. Evidently Richard had joined the Antinomians, who thought that the law was of no use or obligation, that virtue and good works were unnecessary, and that faith alone was sufficient to insure salvation. It is easy to imagine what a flutter he would create, and how promptly he would be expelled. But everybody were under the strictest obligation to keep the proceedings of these meetings a profound secret, and as somebody had been letting the cat out of the bag - perhaps Richard the delinquent - it was resolved “that every member of this meeting keep secret the business of this and all other official meetings on pain of censure”. Some of the members, however, had no dread of censure, for at the very next meeting there is another resolution that if anyone divulge to others the business of the meeting or any part thereof his case should forthwith be placed before the General Committee.


There were no college men among these early pioneers, they were men who had to earn their daily bread by the sweat of their brow, hence they had to bear with the gibes of fastidious people. But they were urged to improve themselves, and in 1834 the Quarterly Meeting decided “that it be the standing rule of this Society that Local Preachers on Trial preach trial sermons at their Exaltation”, and “that all our Local Preachers be affectionately requested to improve themselves by reading, study, &c., so that there may be no complaints against them, and that their profiting and usefulness may appear unto all”. One of the local preachers William Wagstaff, caused a deal of trouble at this time. Whether he had preached Antinomianism or how he had kicked over the traces is not stated, but he did not wait for expulsion, for “as William Wagstaff has withdrawn himself from our Society we therefore cannot enter into the charges alleged against him”. There had been trouble also with John Hawksworth, for we have it “that J. Hawksworth's name come off the plan in consequence of NEGLECT of PLAN and CLASS”. This is written in capitals, underlined, as if to serve as a warning to posterity.

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One of the brethren appears to have been rather long-winded in his sermons. Of all religious bodies the Primitive Methodists tried to avoid this, hence in 1835 it was decided “that Joseph Taylor have a note sent to him from this meeting, requesting not to exceed 20 minutes in his exhortations”. At the same meeting one or two preachers who did not exactly come up to the standard were taken to task, for we read “that James Howe have a note sent to him cautioning him in the regard of his future conduct”. It is not said what his past conduct had been, but that a Calver worthy was not strictly teetotal is evident from the entry, “That Nathan Cocker, of Calver, have a note sent to him, informing him that in consequence of his repeated acts of drunkenness we cannot allow him to meet as a member in our Society”. This entry clearly shows the attitude of the denomination in relation to intemperance 80 years ago.


Among those who were local preachers, prayer leaders and officers in this circuit during the first fourteen years of the existence of the denomination in this district, from 1821 to 1835, were Susan Berry, Thos. Fletcher, J. Barber, Joshua Beeley, Humfrey Goddard, Elias Oldfield, Joseph Hibbs, John Hallam, James Oven, Samuel Silvester, Richard Hamilton, John Oldfield, Samuel Beeley, Henry Ellis, Thomas Stocks, Israel Brown, Robert Marshall, Thomas Jennings, George Morton, Robert Morton, Ruth Morton, George Holme, George Maltby, Thomas Jennings, William Cocker, J. Howson, George Bennitt (Tideswell), Anthony Jennings, Henry Middleton, Christopher Broadbent. J. Andrew, J. Howe, Thos. Middleton, Robert Calvert. George Gyte (Hope), Benjamin Hill, Joseph Wilson, Mary Hawkins, William Bennett (Tideswell), William Parrett, Thomas Hadfield, Elizabeth Kirk (Castleton), Anthony Gilbert, J. Slack (Tideswell), Joseph Ashton, Wm. Wagstaff, J. Hawksworth, John Cheetham, John Hall, Hannah Howe, Ann Bradwell, Joseph Taylor, Thomas Ashton, Edward Howard (Tideswell), Nathan Cocker, Mary Potter, Violet Hill, Elizabeth Handford, John Clayton, Elias Rowarth, John Bocking Derwent, Wm. Cheetham, Thomas Palfreyman, and Thomas Mosscrop.

John Morton, who entered the ministry, was thrown into prison for preaching at Hereford. He was the author of “The wife that will suit you, and how to win her”; “The Husband that will suit you and how to treat him”; and “Lectures to the Young Men”.


Here is a complete list of ministers to the present time:-

1822James Ingham, formed first Society.
1822 & 1823Jeremiah Gilbert, Jas. Ingham, Joseph Brook.
1823 & 1824Thomas Holloday, John Hopkinson, Joseph Hibbs, John Hallam.
1824 & 1825Andrew Robshaw, Paul Sugden, Abram Harrison.
1825 & 1826John Britain, Joseph Buckle, James Bilson, Joseph Middleton, Robt Shenton.
1826 & 1827Josiah Partington. Henry Stepney.
1827 & 1828Robert Hewson.
1828 & 1827George Tindal, Ruth Morton.
1829, 1830 & 1831John Graham.
1831, 1832 & 1833John Verity.
1833, 1834 & 1835Jonathan Clewer, Ann Noble, John Hallam.
1835 & 1836Joseph Hutchinson. Miss Robotham.
1836Robert Hill, Jesse Ashworth.
1837Robert Hill, Thomas Moscrop.
1838G.W. Armitage, Thomas Moscrop.
1839G.W. Armitage, J. Cheetham.
1840S. Atterby. J. Cheetham.
1841Thomas Charlton, James Oponshaw.
1842Thomas King, James Openshaw.
1843Thomas King, David Holdcroft.
1844David Tuton, James Bottomley.
1845David Tuton, James Bottomley & John Eastwood.
1846S. Smith, J. Davy, J. Taylor.
1847J. Lawley, T. Aspinshaw, Obadiah O.Britain.
1848J. Lawley, J. Unsworth.
1849John Judson, John Standrin.
1851John Judson, John Standrin.
1851John Judson, William Wilkinson.
1852W. Inman, George Smith.
1854James Peet, Joseph Graham.
1855James Peet, James Openshaw.
1856David Tuton, James Openshaw.
1857David Tuton, --- Sutcliffe.
1858David Tuton, William Harris.
1859Thomas Doody, Edward Kershaw.
1861Thomas Doody, John Turner.
1862Thomas Doody, John Turner and David Thomas Maylott.
1862Thomas Parr, John Turner and David Thomas Maylott.
1863Thomas Parr, David Thomas Maylott.
1864Thomas Bennett, Thomas Wilshaw.
1865Thomas Bennett, R.B. Howcroft.
1866Thomas Bennett, Robert Middleton.
1867Thomas Meredith, Robert Middleton.
1868Thomas Meredith, S. Kelly.
1869Thomas S. Bateman, John Glass.
1870Walter Graham, George Morris.
1873Walter Graham, John Glass.
1874Walter Graham.
1875James Hall.
1876William Smith.
1878William Smith and J. Cleaver (Special Missioner).
1879John Hancock.
1880John Hancock.
1881John Hancock.
1882-3-4 & 5George Smith.
1886-7-8 & 9William Henry Mason.
1890 & 1Robert W.B. Whiteway.
1892-3 & 4John Edmund Jones.
1895-6 & 7John Prince.
1898John Hancock.
1899John Hancock.
1900John Hancock.
1901John Hancock.
1902John Hall.
1903John Hall.
1904John Hall.
1905Edward Quine.
1906Edward Quine, John Hancock (supernumerary).
1907Edward Quine, John Hancock (supernumerary).
1908Ralph H. Gent, John Hancock.
1909Ralph H. Gent. John Hancock (supernumerary), Mr. Hillard, H.L.P.

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1910Ralph H. Gent, John Hancock (supernumerary), John T. Pratt, H.L.P.
1911John T. Goodacre, John Hancock (supernumerary), Luke Stafford (supernumerary).

OCR/transcript by Rosemary Lockie in February 2013.

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