Methodism in the Town

Longnor Chapel (122k)

Longnor Village (151k)

(Page 52 to 63. I have split this into 3 web pages by taking out the lives of Cisley Godbyhere (Ferguson) and Mr Johnson. I have also split some of the longer paragraphs to make them easier to read.)

LONGNOR was the next place (after Sytch) where Methodism took root, and not withstanding the apparent barrenness of the soil, it became very fruitful. The state of morals previous to this was at the lowest ebb; being of so profane, sensual and brutal a character, that sin ceased to blush.

The following description is given by Mr. Pinder, in his interesting Memoir of Mrs. Oliver, the wife of Mr. Thomas Oliver. He says : "A slight form of godliness was accompanied with scenes of profaneness. In the face of law, human and divine, the holy Sabbath was specially devoted to traffic, vulgar sports, and brutal dissipation. The few who attended public worship, would bring the market-basket, which was left at the grocer's or draper's shop during divine service; at the conclusion of which, the women used to procure the requisite provisions of the week, while the men repaired to the public house, or to their rude amusement s of wrestling, football, &c., which too frequently terminated in such quarrels as produce battles between the parties. In their weagerness to lose as little time as possible by devotion, the men have been known o take the football into the church; and as soon as the benediction was pronounced, it was thrown down in the very sanctuary; when the conductor of worship would commence the unhallowed sport."

(I think this form of football was more like the "Shrovetide" game still played annually at Ashbourne.The ends of the town serve as "goals", and the teams are not limited to 11 men.)

Preaching was begun in 1769, at the house of a person named Billinge of Stiff Close, about a mile out of the town. Thomas Oliver, the same young man who so cleverly abstracted the Preachers supper at Sytch, and his brother James, went to hear. On their return they were questioned respecting the sermon by their father, who although he did not scruple to engage in a little Sunday traffic, hed the reputation of being an excellent churchman; and we must give him credit for having paid more attention to his bible, than many of his neighbours ; for on hearing from his sons, (who it seems had been better employed at Stiff Close than at Sytch,) the report of the sermon, acknowledged it to be in accordance with the word of God. This being the case on the second visit of the preacher, he formed the resolution of hearing for himself. The result was, he was perfectly satisfied that the doctrines of Methodism were in harmony with the teachings of Divine Revelation, and at the close of the service invited the Preacher to his own house, which from that day to this, has been open for the hospitable entertainment of both Itinerant and Local.

The attempt to stem the tide of licentiousness and crime, by the introduction of preaching and prayer meetings, met with the most violent opposition from the ungodly, who wished to persue the course of folly and vice undisturbed by the warning blast of the Gospel trumpet. Mr. Oliver however, was not a man to be turned from his purpose. Soon after preaching was brought to Longnor, a class was formed, of which he was appointed the Leader ; and to which he had the happiness of uniting both his sions and a daughter. From this time he persued the even-tenor of his way until, "by the will of God, he fell on sleep," September 1785, aged 80 years.

The year before Mr. Oliver's death, the society had greatly propsered, so that there were two additional classes, which with the original one, contained forty-two members.

1st class, Thomas Oliver, jun., Thomas Oliver, Ellen Oliver, Lydia Oliver, James Oliver, Samuel Brunt, Ann Brunt, John Hambleton, Mary Hambleton, Samuel Billinge, Abel Cock, Hannah Ball, Martha Billinge, Samuel Billinge, Thomas Wheeldon.

2nd class, George Redfern, John Brunt, Elizabeth Brunt, Jonathan Tunnacliff, Martha Tunnacliff, Ann Tunnacliff, George Needham, Francis Cheshire, Mary Hambleton, Elizabeth Kirkham, Sarah Miller, William Brocklehurst, Mary Brocklehurst, Ann Billinge, Elizabeth Slack, John Gilman, Sarah Gilman, Isaac Lymar, Alice Ball, Hannah Coates.

3rd class, Joseph Billinge, Ann Bilinge, Isaac Billinge, Ellen Coates, William Brindley, Thomas Needham, Jane Dale.

(The class lists would be 1784, and four years after the Chapel was built.)

Thomas, the eldest son, became not only an active member in his native town, but also in the Circuit. For several years he served the cause by filling the honourable office of Circuit Steward. He possed, and has left a "good name," which "is rather toi be chosen than great riches." He exchanged mortality for life on August 11th 1823, aged 78.

James survived his brother about ten years. He was a useful Local Preacher, above fifty years, and was remarkable for punctuality in attending his appointments. At the time when he began to act as a Local Preacher the journeys were long, and frequent ; and the roads in winter were in that hilliy - almsot mountainous district, in a dreadful state, while the heavy snows not unfrequently covered the walls, and hedges, and sometimes reached the eaves of the houses. His remark on such occasions would be, "my Plan says nothing about the weather, it says I must be there at such a time, I shall be expected, and therefore must go."

He was amiable in his disposition, meek and gentle in spirit, - "patient in tribulation, - and joyful in hope." In the midst of abounding trials the smile of God rendered him happy ; and his religion was an earnest of heaven ; or as Young so beautifully expresses it, in lines which were often on his lips:- "Heaven waits not the last mmoment; owns her friends On this side of death;" -

When the shock of death came upon him, which was in the form of paralysis, he calmly received it by saying : "Cease fond nature, cease thy strife And let me languish into life." His end, which was peaceful, took place on December 7th 1833.

On the day that Mr. Oliver died, was buried Ann Collier, who was a member of society upwards of thirty years. She was naturally, "a woman of sorrowful spirit," but of a benevolent disposition. She bequeathed £100 to the Shetland Missions; £50 to the Local Preachers' Annuity Society ; £100 to the Bible Society ; and the interest of other sums to different local charities.

John Wesley passes through Longnor

On Tuesday August 11th 1772, Mr. Wesley passed through Longnor on his way from Sheffield to Burslem. Say he : "About eight I preached at Grindle-ford Bridge. Before two we reached Longnor. After we had dined, a poor woman came in, and another, and another, with whom we spent a little time in prayer and praise. At the end of the town the chaise broke down. We had two and twenty miles to Burslem ; so I took horse, and making haste vcame hither, a little before preaching time." Traddition says that Mr. Wesley regardede the breaking down of the chaise as a judgement for not preaching to the market people. This seems to be scarcely correct, as he had to preach at Burslem that evening, and had only sufficient time to enable him, by hard riding, to get there a "little before preaching time."

(The life of Cisley Godbyhere, a distant relative of the Olivers of Longnor. The following points are part of the story of Longnor)

Miss Godbyhere was in the habit of occasionally visiting her friends at Longnor. On one of these occasions she was awakened, and brought to a saving knowledge of God.

On her return (to Manchester), she was unable to join the young ladies, in what she now regarded as a sinful waste of time, card-playing. The fact was, the bond of their union was broken, - their sympathies now ran in opposite channels, and a separation became inevitable. Miss Godbyhere came to reside with her relative, Mr. Thomas Oliver, of Longnor. She at once united with the Methodists, and became a truly "burning and shining light."

On a certain occasion, she made a vow to the Lord, that she would visit, and pray with, every family in Longnor. This vow she fulfilled, and met with a kind reception in every family except one, where she was rudely treated by the Master of the house, who thrust her out of the door. It is said that he never prospered from that day.

(Follow link for fuller account of her life.)

Longnor is rich in Methodist incident and character. Mr. William Johnson now claims a brief memorial. (Follow link for account of his life.)

Longnor has the honour of being, the first place in the Circuit which raised a Chapel. It was built in 1780, five years before the Old Chapel in Leek. A new one was erected in 1797.

The society has been favoured with several gracious and reviving showers of divine influence. The most recent of which took palce during the last winter (1852) when sinners were awakened, the church quickened, and a considerable new class was raised, consisting principally of young people, who were committed to the care of Mr. Fletcher.

The Chapel is now undergoing an extensive enlargement. In January last (1853) a few friends were dining with the venerable Dr. Newton, at Mr. Wardle's.. Amongst other topics of conversation, Longnor Chapel was referred to, when our hospitable host expressed his ernest wish that our friends there would make their Chapel suitable to the requirements of the town. Mr. Robert N. Oliver grandson, of the first Thomas Oliver, was present, and replied saying: that unexpectedly £50 had been left to him, and he did not know that he could make better use of it, than to appropriate it to the enlargement of the Chapel." It was then agreed that Mr. Oliver, with Mr. Wardle, should wait on his brother Mr. Thomas Oliver of Bollington. This was done, and the subjoined subscriptions will show the result :-

. .......................................................... £. . s. . d.
Mr. Robert N. Oliver ............................50 / 0 / 0
Mr. James Wardle ................................40 / 0 / 0
Mr. Thomas Oliver ...............................40 / 0 / 0
Mr. Thos. Oliver, junior ........................10 / 0 / 0
Mr. W.C.L. Oliver ...............................10 / 0 / 0
Mr. Brooks ..........................................10 / 0 / 0
Mr. Swindalls .......................................10 / 0 / 0
TOTAL. ..........................................£170 / 0 / 0

A result so noble, will certainly equal the expectations of the most sanguine friends of the undertaking. The Chapel is to be new-fronted, to be extended twqelve feet at the back, to have a gallery on both sides, and in front, and a New Organ. Sir John Crewe has generously subscribed five guinees to this instrument of music. The estimated cost of the whole is about £500.

(End of Longnor extract from the Leek Centenary Book, May 1953.)

(Comment : the New Organ would have been a Harmonium rather than a pipe organ due to the size of the building. )

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First draft September 2000