Gratton Chapel (51k) Gratton Chapel (53k)

Methodist Origins in Gratton

Gratton (map) is a small hamlet about 5 miles north west of Leek. J. W. Wardle quotes a Mr. Dyson for this account.

"In 1811, three poor men from Harriseahead in the Tunstall Circuit, constrained by the love of Christ, came into the lanes about Gratton, and exhorted sinners to 'flee from the wrath to come.' They endured much persecution, but percevered, until an aged Church-woman became uneasy respecting them, and was at length constrained to open her house for preaching.

Shortly after this, Messrs. Samuel, John, George and William Heath, with a Sisiter, and others, were brought under serious concern for salvation, and joined the society. To this their father was at first much opposed, but afterwards became a member of society, and erected a chapel on his own ground. Prior to this, prosperity had rendered the house too small, and preaching was removed to a barn. This rustic Sanctuary was in such a delapidated state, that the erection of the Chapel, which took place in 1824, was hailed as a great boon. It was opened by Mr. Wardle, wituout a collection.

The Preachers are kindly entertained at Mr. Samuel Heath's. Mr. William Heath, referred to above, was a zealous and useful Local Preacher, and a Class Leader. The principles of Christianity were broadly exemplified by him in an eminently consistent, and devoted life. He faithfully served his generation, and then suddenly, but safely, reached the heavenly goal, in May 1841.

The Lord's-day School was one of the earliest in the neighnourhood. At one time when there were no other Schools near, it was in an exceedingly flourishing state, and contained a large number of scholars."

On Sunday August 7th, 1892, Open Air services were held near the chapel, the leaders being Mr. G. H. Glover, a local preacher form Leek, Mr. Austin, a Primitive Methodist local preacher, and the writer of these notes (Mr. J. W. Wardle). Here it was that the latter first became aquainted with the family of George Heath, the Moorland Poet, who had died 23 years before this date, but his father, mother, and his youngest brother, Joseph, still worshipped at Gratton.

An older brother, Mr. James Heath, builder, of Leek, purchsed the cottage in which the poet was born, and restored it in memory of his brother. It is at present occupied by Miss Wood, grand-daughter of the poet's sister, who will be pleased to welcome visitors who are interested in this young man of promise, who died at the age of 26. (That was at the time Mr. Wardle wrote, 1943, and does not apply today. We calculate George Heath's dates as 1843 to 1869.) Through the kindness of his friend, the Rev. J. Badnall, M.A., Vicar of Endon, his first volume, entitled, "Preludes" afterwards changed to "Simple Poems," was published in 1865 - a second edition being called for in 1866. Thus he became known throughout North Staffordshire, and friends gathered round him. He lies buried in Horton Churchyard, and a beautiful Runic Cross was placed over his grave by friends and admirers. In our Circuit Year Book for 1901, is reprinted a sketch of the poet's life, written by the Rev. Edward Murphy for the Wesleyan Methodist Magazine.

Our cause at Gratton is at present (1943) ably directed by the brothers Hall, grandsons of Mr. Charles Dakin, who resided at Gratton for a few years, and arranged Mission Services with the asistance of fellow Local Preachers. (1920 ?) A brief tribute to Brother Dakin's charcter appears in the Year Book for 1923.

We are of the opinion that the "three poor men from Harriseahead" were Primitive Methodist preachers. The geography and method of evangelising suggest this. Further, we believe that the P.M. Travelling Preacher Samuel Heath was almost certainly the same Samuel Heath who was one of the four brothers of Gratton. It is not strange that the Chapel at Gratton was Wesleyan, since the Primitive Methodists in those early days were not seeking to build up a separate denomination. 1811 was the year when Hugh Bourne was put out of the Tunstall Society, and up till then all his labours had been to build up the Methodist cause wherever he had opportunity.

W. Leary in his Directory of Primitive Methodist Ministers has two entries for Samuel Heath covering the 1820's. One goes to America, and the other disappears in the same year, While the list of places for each has some overlap, the differences support the view that they were two separate individuals.

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September 2000