The Bridlington Methodist Circuit.
The Methodist Church was formed by John and Charles Wesley although they remained members of the Church of England all their lives and did not wish their followers to break from the Anglican Church. John went to Christchurch College, Oxford in 1720; in 1725 he was ordained deacon; In 1726 he was elected a Fellow of Lincoln College, Oxford. By this time Charles was at Christchurch College, Oxford and together with friends the brothers decided to “conduct their lives by rule and method”. They were so methodical in their prayer meetings etc. they were nicknamed Methodists.
John was ordained priest in the Church of England in 1728 and received an annual endowment from Lincoln College, which continued for at least 25 years, he was therefore able to travel. In 1739 we hear of his first ‘field preaching’. He travelled all over Britain and gained many working-class converts, ‘whose spiritual needs had been neglected by the Established Church’. These converts were organised into Societies, then united into Circuits, under a Minister.
The Ministers met together at the first Conference, in 1744, I think in Bristol, at this Conference, the Articles of Religion were drawn up, doctrinal emphases included: Repentance, Faith, the Assurance of Salvation, Social concern and the Priesthood of all Believers. As we can see John Wesley continued to be methodical and well organised but it was not until 1764 that I have information about Methodists in Bridlington.
In that year two brothers came from Newcastle to live at the Quay. They were both zealous and devoted men and attached to Methodism. They procured a room and got itinerant preachers to preach the gospel. They met with opposition but applying to a magistrate it was soon known that places of religious worship could not be disturbed with impunity and they proceeded in peace.
The first Methodist place of worship was a barn or outhouse in Holderness Yard in the High Street and later a Chapel was built in 1775 in St John Street. At the Quay,the first place of worship was a dwellinghouse on the site of which stands the shop occupied by Mr Patterson, the saddler.
In 1791, for Bridlington, three notable things happened, Bridlington became the head of a Circuit, John Wesley died and the Methodist Connexion was divided into Districts. In the York district there were five Circuits, York, Hull, Pocklington, Bridlington and Scarborough. It was in 1795, four years after John Wesley’s death that the Wesleyan Church became a separate communion-it broke away from the Church of England.
A circuit plan of 1807 shows that Driffield, Hornsea and Filey were in the Bridlington Circuit. Driffield became the head of a Circuit in 1809 and at the same time Hornsea joined Patrington. A schedule of 1854 showing facts and figures connected with the Circuit shows that there were 29 places in the Circuit, two in the town and others in the villages.
Chapels had been built in 22 places. Bridlington (The Old Town) had the first Chapel followed by one at The Quay. The Old Town Chapel was replaced in 1884 and is the present St. Johns Burlington Church, the Quay Chapel was built in Cliff Street, renamed Chapel Street in 1795. It was enlarged in 1818 and 1820, improved in 1840 and replaced in 1873.
In the early 19th century there were schisms and the Primitive Methodist Church was formed, Hugh Bourne and William Clowes were two of the leaders. Their aim was to bring the Gospel to people outside of Church Life, they had noisy prayer meetings in cottages and loud singing in the street as part of their movement and they got the nickname The Ranters. Primitive Methodism spread and Bridlington soon had two Circuits, a Wesleyan Methodist Circuit and a Primitive Methodist Circuit.
Two more Methodist Chapels were built in Bridlington both in the Primitive Circuit. The first Chapel was erected near the cliff in 1833 but owing to inroads by the sea a new Chapel was built in 1870, this proved too small and in June 1879 the Bridlington Quay Church, known as the Central Methodist Church was opened. In St John’s Street the first Primitive Methodist Chapel was opened by the Rev William Clowes and the Rev A Smith in 1834, it was replaced in 1877, by the St John’s Methodist Church.
In 1849/50 there was another schism. Some members met first in an upper room in Cliff Street, they formed a branch of the Wesleyan Reformed Church. A Church was built in 1852, this lasted 20 years. In 1865 the members severed their connection with the United Reformed Church and changed to the Methodist Free Church. The Promenade Methodist Church was built in 1872. Many churches were built in the villages there were Wesleyan and Primitive Methodist Churches in Flamborough, Bempton, Burton Fleming, Rudston and Kilham.
Moving into the 20th century, in 1932 there was Methodist Union, the Wesleyan and Primitive Methodist Churches, joined to form the Methodist Church. The Promenade Church joined the Bridlington Quay Circuit. The Circuits on the Yorkshire Coast were slow to accept “Union” and it was not until 1958 that the Bridlington Quay and the St John’s Circuits became the Bridlington Methodist circuit. On paper it looks a bleak picture for the Methodist Church, 16 churches were closed between 1957 and 1999, but the details are not quite so bleak.
In 1957 the Gransmoor and Carnaby Methodist Churches closed but in Carnaby there is an Anglican Church. In 1958 the Bridlington Promenade Methodist Church closed but most of the members transferred to the Burlington Methodist Church, a few went to the Quay Methodist Church. The organ from the Promenade Church was installed in St. Michael and All Angels Church, Orchard Park, Hull, which was built in 1957/58 the architect being Francis Johnson of Bridlington.
In 1960 dry rot was found in the little Methodist church in Sewerby. It was a Wesleyan Methodist Church, built in 1825, but the Wesleyans and Primitives used the Church. The Primitives worshipped in a cottage (25 Main Street) until about 1920 when it was agreed that they could use the Church. Although the services were scheduled at different times members from both churches would be there at all services. A new church was opened in 1962 a few yards from the site of the old church. There have been a number of additions to the church and it was refurbished in 2003.
In 1962 the Methodist church at Kelk was closed. In 1963 the Primitive Methodist Church in Bempton was closed and the members transferred to the Wesleyan Methodist Church in Bempton. In Flamborough there were, until 1968, two Methodist Churches. The Wesleyan Church then closed and the members transferred to the Bourne Church which was renamed Flamborough Methodist Church.
The Bridlington Central Methodist Church, which was where the Iceland store is today, closed in 1968 and the members transferred to the Quay Methodist Church, which was changed to the Chapel Street Methodist Church. The St. John’s Methodist Church closed in 1970 and the members transferred to the Burlington Methodist Church which became St John’s Burlington Methodist Church.
In 1976 Speeton and Thwing Methodist Churches closed but in both these villages there is an Anglican church. In 1979 one of the Methodist Churches in Burton Fleming closed, the members transferred to the other Church and as one church was in the Filey Circuit it was decided that the Burton Fleming Church should be in the Filey Circuit.
In 1985 the Harpham, Haisthorpe, Burton Agnes and Thornholme Churches were closed. In Harpham and Burton Agnes there are Anglican churches. Thornholme is near Haisthorpe so members transferred to the Haisthorpe Church and changed its name to Woldgate Methodist Church. In 1993 the Rudston Methodist Church closed and members transferred to other churches, some to the Rudston Anglican Church.
In 1999 the Chapel Street Methodist Church closed and was sold to the owners of the adjoining shopping Mall. The members transferred to the St John’s Burlington and Sewerby Methodist Churches, substantially swelling the ranks of both and, with alterations and extensions to both premises early in the 21st Century, providing a boost to their activities in the local community.
At much the same time, the Langtoft membership, unfortunately, became very small and the Church was closed in 2004. There is an Anglican Church in Langtoft and the two churches had a good relationship. The organ from Langtoft Methodist was moved to the Anglican Church in Carnaby.
In 2005 the Ulrome Methodist Church had their Centenary Celebrations. In 2006 the membership at the Woldgate Methodist Church at Haisthorpe was low but the people of the village said they would like to have some form of meeting in the Church and the building is now the Woldgate Methodist Church and Community Centre. The building is used not only for the Haisthorpe Community and the neighbouring villages, but by the whole Bridlington Methodist Circuit as well.
In the Bridlington Methodist Circuit there are now eight Methodist churches. The Circuit is in the York and Hull Methodist District. During the 19th or early 20th century Hull became a Methodist District but in 1958 when the Bridlington Circuits joined, the Methodist Connexion decided to have separate Chairman of the Districts (previously a Superintendent of a Circuit would be the Chairman of the District).
At the same time the new York and Hull Districts became one District and, as a matter of interest, the first chairman was the Rev Frederick Pratt-Green of hymn writing fame. There are 31 districts in the British Methodist Church and in the York and Hull District there are 13 Circuits.
The Methodist Church is still organised in a similar way to that of John Wesley’s day. There is an Annual Conference late June or early July (recently it was in Scarborough). There are two Synods in each District every year and each Circuit has at least two Circuit meetings in the year. The Synods and Circuit meetings are usually in the spring and the autumn.