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 XXVIII.


Early Local Preachers.

In the previous chapter the introduction of Wesleyanism is briefly touched upon. There were many exciting times in those early days. On one occasion a young man in Bradwell had committed suicide, and as his mental condition was laid at the doors of the Methodists, William Green, of Rotherham, one of the earliest preachers, was prevented from entering the town by friendly outposts at the various entrances, fearing he would be killed as the enemies of the cause had vowed vengeance on the next Methodist preacher who should visit the place.

It has already been said that the first chapel - now a cottage - was built in 1768. At the conference the following year a grant of £9 was made towards the building, and in 1772 there is the record “Brada £5”, and a similar amount the following year. When the present chapel was built in 1807, Bradwell was in Bakewell circuit, with the Rev. William Midgley, a famous man in those days, as the minister, but in 1812 Bradwell became the head of a circuit with a membership of 450. The first superintendent was the Rev. Wm. Bird who had Joseph Lewis as his colleague. At the end of ten years the membership had fallen to 388. Later, even a lower ebb was reached, but in the thirties there was wonderful activity and growth. Chapels were built in the smaller villages, and in 1834 the membership had reached 580. In 1851 the membership had reached 600, the highest ever recorded. At this stormy period of the “Reform” agitation, John Bonsor and Henry Cattle were in the circuit, and it is a remarkable fact that although the neighbouring circuit of Bakewell suffered very seriously, only two local preachers remaining on the Wesleyan plan, such was the loyalty and

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Bradwell Wesleyan Chapel

devotion of the Methodists of the Bradwell circuit that there is not, nor ever has been, a single “Reform” cause within its boundaries. Owing, in a great measure, to the gradual decline in the lead mining industry the membership declined during the fifties to 409, but during the ministry of Richard Smailes in 1860-1 it increased 157 in one year. On the first Bradwell circuit plan in 1813 there were nine local preachers - Barber, Shaw, Robinson, S. Cocker, Bradwell, Fletcher, Walker, John Longden, and --- Crook. These nine local preachers wore fully employed, as the preaching places were Bradwell, Hathersage. Hope, Abney, Hucklow, Tideswell, Edale, Castleton, Thornhill, Gillot Hay, Hag Lee, Peak Forest, Sparrowpit, Litton, Wardlow, Rider House and Fair Holmes.

By the year 1837 Cressbrook, Cockbridge (now known as Ashopton), and Brough had been added to the preaching places. William Blundell was the minister and the other preachers were Booth, Bennett, Wilson, Chapman, Frost, Longden, Cocker, Bradwell, Handley, Somerset, John Frost, Middleton, J. Longden, Eyre, Wheater, Dakin, Clayton, Goodwin, and M. Goodwin, with H. Eyre, J. Harrop, and W. Birchell “on trial”.

By 1862 Derwent Dale and Litton Slack bad been added as preaching places and the local preachers were: John Longden, Snake

Inn; Jonathan Longden, Hope; Ralph Handley, Tideswell; Benjamin Somerset, Bradwell; John Frost, Grindlow; Thos. Middleton, Brough; James Dakin, Castleton; Matthew Goodwin, Peak Forest; Francis Hall, A,shopton; John Eyre, Castleton; Thos. Royles, Litton; Thomas Bramwell, Tideswell; John Darvil, Hathersage; Wm. Roscoe, Priestcliffe; Joseph Robert

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Cocker, Hathersage; Henry Fletcher, Sparrowpit; Wm. Oldfield, Hucklow; George Robinson, Thornhill; John Andrew, Bamford; Thos. Hancock, Hucklow; Edward Howard, Tideswell; Jonathan Eyre, Alport; John Barber, Bradwell; Joshua Evans, Bradwell; Ebenezer Bradwell, Bradwell; with Stephen Dakin, Bradwell; Robert Somerset, Bradwell; and Benjamin Bradwell, Bradwell, “on trial”. Only Mr. Stephen Dakin and Mr. E. Bradwell are now living of these local preachers of half a century ago.

Tideswell Methodists Horsewhipped.

These were trying times at Tideswell for early Methodists there. Such was the feeling there that on one occasion they were publicly horsewhipped by a local magnate named Captain Wyatt. But the cause grew and the first chapel was built in 1810, and served nearly eighty years until the present chapel was built on the site. The chapel at Litton was built in 1834. The chapel at Hucklow was built in 1806.

First Chapel in a Farm House.

But the mother church of the circuit was that at Sparrowpit, where the seed of Methodism was first sown about 1738 by David Taylor, who, when crossing the wilds of the Peak, called at the house of Mrs. Amy Taylor, and there preached. From that day a barn on the farm was thrown open for the Methodist services and the first class meeting in the Peak was thus formed. For more than fifty years the house was thrown open for the public service of the Methodists until a small chapel was built in the adjoining little hamlet of Sparrowpit. The historical farm house is still there. Peak Forest built its chapel in 1852 and it gave to the Methodist ministry Edward White, who died in harness in the United States.

Pioneer's Adventure in Edale.

The story of how Methodism got a foothold in Edale is interesting. Quite a century and a half ago, when David Taylor was travelling late at night through these wills [sic] in a blinding snowstorm, fatigued and almost perishing, he and a companion reached a solitary house, knocked at the door, walked in, and began to shake the snow off their clothes. Thinking the strangers were influenced by evil intentions, the good man of the house. Joseph Hadfield, reached down his sword which hung over the mantlepiece with other armour which had been used by him as a soldier in the Battle of Preston Pars [sic] a few years before.

But his fears were soon dispelled when David Taylor, stepping up to him, exclaimed “Peace be to this house”. Methodist services were commenced in that house forthwith, and a society formed, of which Joseph Hadfield was the first member. In that house, at Barber Booth, James Ridal, a travelling preacher, was born, and a farmstead across the valley is the birth-place of Daniel Eyre and Peter Eyre, both Wesleyan ministers. The house has since been pulled down, but the chapel, built in 1811, stands close by.

Bradwell Preachers Mobbed at Castleton.

The first Wesleyan service at Castleton, in 1765, was held in a house there, by Matthew Mayer, of Stockport, and Benjamin Barber, of Bradwell. It was disturbed by a mob, one of whom beat a drum. After service the preachers and their friends from Bradwell retired for refreshments to the house of Mrs. Slack, but the mob burst into her house, making hideous noises, and as they refused to go when requested, the lady cut their drum end with a large knife. They climbed on the roof of the house, threw offensive matter down the chimney of the parlour where the preachers were at supper, and finally waited on the road leading to Bradwell, and in the dead of the night made such a furious attack with stones on the preachers as to place their lives in danger; indeed, Benjamin Barber was stoned almost to death, and carried the marks of his wounds to the grave. It is remarkable that two days afterwards the leader of the mob, who broke in his master's young horses and trained them to the use of firearms, placed a loaded pistol in his pocket, which by some unknown means went off in the stable and killed him on the spot. Such was the dismay caused by this sad occurrence, and it was so regarded as a judgment from God, that the Wesleyans were never again subjected to such brutal usage. The first chapel at Castleton was built in 1809.

Hope Vicar's Wife at Wesleyan Class Meetings.

Although the Wesleyans had a society at Hope from their earliest days, it was not until 1837 that the chapel was built. From 1843 to 1856 the Rev. Wilmot Cave-Browne-Cave was Vicar of Hope, and his wife, Mrs. Cave, was a regular worshipper at the Methodist Chapel, and frequently sat on one of the forms in the bottom of the building. Indeed, the lady often took an active part in the services, and sometimes attended the class-meeting. Hope gave to the Wesleyan ministry one of its natives, John Kirk.

Prayer Meetings in the Snake!

The famous lovefeast at Alport in the Woodlands has been connected with Bradwell Wesleyanism for a century and a half. John Longden, a local preacher, kept the Snake Inn, and held prayer meetings in the public-house. One Sunday in 1815 he went to preach at Tideswell, fourteen miles distant, but finding on his arrival there that nearly all his congregation had gone to see Anthony Lingard hang in the gibbet at Wardlow Miers, he followed and preached to the multitude beneath the gibbet post. When Cockbridge collapsed

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and killed several men, their bodies were removed to the nearest farmhouse, which was the Wesleyan Preaching House, and as they lay there John Longden preached from Christ's words in reference to the Tower of Siloam - “Think ye that these men were sinners above all men?” Its powerful effect was marked by converting power in the crowded company gathered together under such solemn circumstances. Woodlands Chapel was built in 1862 by the Duke of Devonshire, a monument of the good work done by the Methodists of his territories. The first chapel at Ashopton was built in 1840, and the new chapel in 1897.

A Bamford Centenarian Methodist.

One of the pioneers of Methodism at Bamford was George Wainwright. When 100 years old he worked at his trade - a weaver - at Dore. At the Jubilee of George the Third fifty old men were gathered out of the town and neighbourhood of Sheffield, whose separate ages exceeded that of His Majesty, and to these coats and hats were given as a memorial of the day. George Wainwright was the oldest, and a subscription was opened to have his portrait painted for the Cutlers' Hall, but though the picture was executed it never reached its intended destination. The Methodists of Bamford built their first chapel in 1821, and the new chapel came twenty years ago.

Persecuted at Hathersage.

Hathersage was the place which was first stirred into active opposition to the advances of the Methodist movement in this direction, and it is on record that “a preacher, through violence of persecution, was driven out of Hathersage”, but by and by the seed took root, and in 1807 the chapel was built in the centre of the main street, followed by a Sunday school. The Cocker and Darvill families were among the principal Wesleyans here for more than a century. It was mainly through the liberality of the Cockers that the chapel at Thornhill was built.

Pelting the Methodists at Eyam.

After Mr. Matthew Mayer, of Stockport, had preached at Bradwell one night in 1765, he was invited to preach at Eyam. He went there, and stood by the side of a barn in the presence of a multitude of people who had gathered from different motives. The ringleader of the mob, who had sworn to his companions that he would pull the preacher down, was so struck with he sermon that, as he confessed afterwards, “he had not the power to stir hand or foot”, and Mr. Mayer got off scot free.

But there were stirring times when, the following Sunday, Mr. John Allen, of Chapel-en-le-Frith, attempted to preach at the same spot. Joseph Benson, who was nicknamed by his neighbours “Bishop Benson”, was the first to receive the preacher into his house, as an outrageous mob had assembled to have some fun with the Methodists. Stones were hurled through the windows into the midst of the little congregation, and the preacher narrowly escaped serious injury. Mr. Allen and his friends applied to a magistrate for redress and protection, but without avail, and, encouraged by their attack, the mob again congregated the following week. A narrator of that time says that when the preaching was over “the crowd seemed like lions and tigers let loose”, and as the Methodists dispersed they were pelted with dirt and mud along the streets. “The preacher particularly was the target for mud, stones, and brick bats, but he was stoutly defended by a brave little bodyguard, and providentially escaped unhurt”. Next morning it was resolved, if possible, to punish some of the ringleaders, and the Methodists went to a magistrate who resided at Stoke Hall. But he was a clergyman, and all the advice he could tender to John Allen was “to get ordained and enter the Church”. Joseph Benson was ejected from his cottage for harbouring the new sect, but it was there to stay, for when John Wesley visited the village the year following he wrote: “The eagerness with which the poor people of Eyam devoured the Word made me amends for the cold ride over the snowy mountains”.

There was still opposition from the clergyman, or rather from the Rev. Peter Cunningham, who was curate of Eyam, who succeeded for a time in driving the Methodists out of the place to Grindleford. He went round the parish and prevailed upon many to sign an agreement “not to hear the Methodists any more”, and in a letter to the Vicar of Eyam, the Rev. Thomas Seward, at Lichfield, in 1776, he said: “No more Methodist preachers appear in the chapel at Eyam; the few that resort to them at Grindleford Bridge are such as an angel from heaven would have no influence with. And as I suppose you do not expect me to work miracles, since nothing less will convert them, they must even be left to prey upon garbage, and follow the wandering fires of their own vapourish imaginations”.

There are now two Methodist Chapels at Eyam, and one at Grindleford. Wesley visited the latter place and preached there. The house is still standing.

A Century's Ministers.

The circuit is now in the North Derbyshire mission. Here are the Bradwell circuit ministers from its formation to the present time:-

1812-13William Bird, Joseph Lewis.
1814-15James Johnson, Thomas Hall, John Smith.
1816-17Isaac Keeling, Christopher Newton, James Mortimer.
1818Thomas Gill, Joseph Brougham.
1819James Hopewell.

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1820-1William Brocklehurst.
1822-3Benjamin Barrett.
1824-5John Poole, George Chambers (resigned), Thos. Henshall.
1826William Rennison, Joseph T. Milner.
1827-8Isaac Muff, James J. Topham.
1829John Leigh, Henry Wilkinson.
1830-1William Scholefield.
1832John Gill.
1833John Roadhouse.
1834Thomas Rought, Hugh Jones
1835Henry Tuck.
1836-7William Blundell.
1838John Wright, died suddenly whilst preaching at Peak Forest.
1859-40Robert Totheriok, John B. Dyson, James Emery.
1841-2John Felvus, James Emery.
1843-4Thomas Catterick, Joseph Garrett, Thomas H. Hill.
1845-6Richard Greenwood, E.R. Talbot (resigned).
1847-8-9Moses Rayner, John Nowell (2 years), Joseph Sutton.
1850David Cornforth, Henry Cattle.
1851-2-3John Bonser, Henry Cattle (2 years), S. T. Greathead.
1854-6Thomas Brown, S.T. Greathead (2 years).
1857William Exton.
1858-9-60Thomas Burrows.
1861-2-3Richard Smailes.
1864-5John Archer, George Chambers.
1866-7John E. Doubleday.
1868-9Henry M. Ratcliffe.
1870-1Jonathan Barrowclough.
1872-3-4Edward Russell.
1875-6Joseph Hirst.
1877-8-9Cornelius Wood.
1880-1-2George S. Meek.
1883-4-5William R. Dalby.
1886-7-8James Clegg.
1889-90-1William Henry Hill.
1892-3-4William Dawson Watson.
1895-6-7William Wandless.
1898-9-1900Samuel Goodyer.
1901-2-3James Foster.
1904-9Marmaduke Riggall.
1910-11William Fiddian Moulton, M.A.

OCR/transcript by Rosemary Lockie in February 2013.

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